with Michael Brissenden
22 August 2016
E & OE
Fifield, good morning.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
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?
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.
So it’s all or
nothing is it?
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
Fifield we’ll leave it there, thanks very much for joining us.
Government Business in the Senate, Mitch Fifield.