ABC AM with Michael Brissenden > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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22-August-2016

 

ABC AM
with Michael Brissenden
7.10 am
22 August 2016

E & OE

 

BRISSENDEN:

Senator Fifield, good morning.

FIFIELD:

Good morning Michael.

BRISSENDEN:

So the CFA legislation is likely to be among the first of the bills put to the new Senate, it will be a bit of a test of the new Senate won’t it?

FIFIELD:

Well I think we can be optimistic about the new Senate. The Crossbenchers have good will. We’re looking forward to working with them. And this is a really important piece of legislation. We took it to the election to make clear that what the Andrews Government was seeking to do, by giving union control over the CFA isn’t something that we could allow to pass.

BRISSENDEN:

Labor and the Greens of course, we assume, won’t support this. So you’re going to have to get support from the Crossbench – have you spoken to them? How much support do you have from them?

FIFIELD:

Well Michaelia Cash has been talking intensively with the Crossbench and something that I know as Manager of Government Business in the Senate is that Government Ministers should never speak on behalf of Crossbenchers. We should let them speak for themselves and make their own account.

But it’s really important to recognise that what the Victorian Government is seeking to do, is to hand control of 60,000 CFA volunteers to the United Firefighters Union. The CFA has served and protected Victorians for over 70 years. And what the Andrews Government is seeking to do is to destroy the culture of the CFA, is to mess with one of the great firefighting organisations. It works. It works well. They should leave it alone. And what we’re going to do is make sure that the volunteers are protected – that any term in an enterprise agreement that would impede an organisation from deploying volunteers to the best advantage is knocked out.

BRISSENDEN:

Of course the other big bill that will be coming to the Parliament soon, early, among the first, will be your omnibus budget savings bill, which is the six and a half billion dollar budget savings measure. If Labor doesn’t give it full support, which is still questionable at this stage, will you be able to get it through do you think?

FIFIELD:

I can’t see why Labor wouldn’t give it its full support. All this bill seeks to do is to pass through the Australian Parliament savings measures that Labor themselves took to the election.

This is a very peculiar situation where Labor are claiming hurt feelings over the fact we haven’t spoken to them about their own election commitments. If there’s one thing you should be able to take at face value, it’s the commitments that the Labor Party themselves took to the election.

BRISSENDEN:

They just say they want to actually see what’s in it first before they make any commitments. That’s not unreasonable as Katy Gallagher said?

FIFIELD:

Obviously as with all Members and Senators they will see the legislation. It will be introduced in the ordinary course of events. They’re welcome to have whatever briefings they want, but what they will be briefed on is their own election commitments. This is one of the most strange episodes I’ve seen in Australian politics.

 

BRISSENDEN:

What room is there though, for any amendments if they do decide that they won’t be able to support at all but would put forward some amendments? Is that going to be countenanced by the Government?

FIFIELD:

Michael, what I don’t understand is the proposition that Labor may not be able to support all of their election commitments. That’s what the Omnibus Savings Bill is. It’s those savings measures which we and the Labor Party both support.

BRISSENDEN:

So it’s all or nothing is it?

FIFIELD:

Look, obviously we go through the usual parliamentary processes. We have the committee stages of bills and any Member or Senator is entitled to move amendments. But I wouldn’t be expecting that we would see amendments from the Australian Labor Party because otherwise they would be seeking to qualify and change their own election commitments.

BRISSENDEN:

Alright, this Senate is going to be difficult for you isn’t it, as Manager of Government Business in the upper house, it’s a bit of a challenge for you. Do you actually thing you’ll be able to get much done in the next few years?

FIFIELD:

I guess by nature as Manager of Government Business in the Senate I’m a legislative optimist. You’ve got to be in this business. But we did get some good outcomes in the last Senate. We managed to repeal the Carbon Tax legislation and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax legislation. We got some other good outcomes. And I’m confident that we can get some good outcomes in this Senate as well.

Importantly this Senate is a reflection of what the Australian people wanted. We amended the voting system for the Senate to make sure that when someone walked into the ballot box and they cast their vote, that the outcome actually reflected their intent. So it’s a Senate that I’m looking forward to working with.

BRISSENDEN:

One of the issues that was taken to the election is the same-sex marriage plebiscite. It does appear over the weekend it seems that will no longer happen this year, there will be a delay. Was it unrealistic to think that you could have done it this year?

FIFIELD:

Well we’re honouring our commitment. We always said that a decision on same-sex marriage would be made by a vote of the Australian people – that will happen. We always said it would be in a national plebiscite – that will happen. And we always said that it would be held as soon as possible. So our commitment hasn’t changed. But yes, late last week, there was advice provided by the Australian Electoral Commission to the Special Minister of State that strongly recommended against the conduct of a plebiscite this calendar year. But we always said, when talking about this commitment, that we want to do it as soon as possible, as soon as practical, as soon as we can. Also recognising that legislation would always first need to pass the Parliament.

BRISSENDEN:

And just finally, these stories that have emerged about Chinese donations to political parties, particularly in Victoria, your state. How appropriate is it that companies with links to Chinese conglomerates are funding political parties?

FIFIELD:

I think all political parties in Australia comply with the relevant electoral laws and all companies should comply with the relevant electoral laws. What happens after every federal election is that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is tasked to review the conduct of the election and all matters relevant to the election can and will be considered by that committee.

BRISSENDEN:

Ok, Mitch Fifield we’ll leave it there, thanks very much for joining us.

FIFIELD:

Thanks Michael.

BRISSENDEN:

Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Mitch Fifield.

[ends]