So from one of the leading moderates in the Government, Simon Birmingham, to a conservative minister in Assistant Minister for Social Services, Zed Seselja.
What do you make of the remarks of Senator Birmingham? As I pointed out at the start, a clear message to fellow moderates and supporters of marriage equality, of which you’re not one. But he’s sending a message to them… Pull your heads in.
Well look he is. And I think Simon Birmingham speaks for the Government when he says we have a very clear policy that we took to the election and we should honour that policy. And that all members of the Coalition, be they on the frontbench or the backbench, should consider the fact that only a little over a year ago members of the Liberal Party supported us, handing out ‘how to votes’ for particular policy. One of those policies was a plebiscite on the issue gay marriage and we won that election and should now be implementing that policy.
I welcome certainly of course, my colleague Simon Birmingham’s comments because he speaks, I think, on behalf of the entire Government and this is an issue that we should be honouring our promises on just as we should on all other issues.
And he said, quite bluntly, while they have got the right to cross the floor they need to cognisant of the consequences of doing so. And that was in the context of a question put to him about Eric Abetz’ concerns and the suggestion that it would have grave issues for the authority of the Government and the Prime Minister.
Well look, I’m not going to get into the weeds of all that. All I would say is, people who voted for us, people who hand out ‘how to vote’ cards for us in our party would expect that we would honour the promises that we take to the people.
Now one of the promises was around allowing the people to make a decision on gay marriage. We’ve been very clear on that. The Prime Minister was very clear on that. All Members and Senators who went to the election had that as the policy of the Coalition.
But Tim Wilson on this program earlier in the week said that he believes he has honoured that by supporting the plebiscite when it went to the Parliament. And he believes that promise has been fulfilled in that sense. Further to that, those that want a Parliamentary vote point to the comments of Tony Abbott back in 2015 where he said, when he announced this plebiscite idea, that members of the Party room would only be bound for one term.
Well look, a couple of points…
One, we went to an election with Malcolm Turnbull as the Prime Minister with a promise. That promise was, we would allow the Australian people directly to make a decision in relation to same sex marriage.
Now Tim Wilson and every other Member and Senator and Candidate for the Liberal and National Parties had that as the promise that they took.
When it comes to this idea of it being discharged I would simply make the point, when it’s come to other election promises, for instance on the ABCC, we were knocked back in the Senate and we kept pushing for our policies. We didn’t turn around, in that case, and adopt Labor policy, and nor should we in this case. I think overwhelmingly, that is the view of the Coalition party room.
Obviously there are some individuals who are flirting with the idea of crossing the floor, but I would just make the point that adopting Labor policy which is the free vote in this Parliament, which is the opposite, or certainly quite separate and distinct from the policy that we took to the election.
But what about what Tony Abbott said when he announced the policy in 2015 that you would only be bound for one term beyond that i.e. This term you would be allowed a conscience vote if it wasn’t successful previously.
Well a couple of things…
Tony Abbott did not take us into the last election. Malcolm Turnbull took us into the last election. And very clearly our policy that we took to the Australian people was there wouldn’t be a vote in the Parliament until we had directly put it to the Australian people. So if we were to turn around now and effectively adopt Labor policy on that then of course we would be not keeping faith with the Australian people. Remember it was only one year ago we took this policy to an election. Of course we should stick to it.
Is it possible some people might defect to the crossbench? If these moderates… well not all moderates, some of them are conservative members of the Liberal party in Dean Smith and Tim Wilson… If they cross the floor and support a parliamentary vote now is there risk that some of your colleagues might defect to the crossbench in protest?
Well look, I wouldn’t’ be getting into those kind of things. Obviously individuals can make their own decisions. I don’t believe that is what’s going to happen. I believe what will happen is that we’ll stick to our promise. We’ll put this to the Australian people directly, through a plebiscite. And that should be our policy.
And the people who are saying we need to get on with other issues, I agree with them, absolutely. We’ve got a policy. We should stick to that policy and focus on growing the economy, the 240,000 jobs we’ve grown, National Security and the great works that’s being done there, all the other efforts that are being made to improve health and education and deliver for the Australian people are going on right now. But of course, when we have these kind of public comments of course it distracts from that message.
But you keep saying you should honour the commitment on the plebiscite but Xenephon, Hinch they’re both quoted this morning as saying they’re not going to budge, they’re not going to vote for it. So the only other option is the postal plebiscite.
Well let’s wait and see. But we said we would allow the Australian people to have their say directly on this issue through a plebiscite and we should honour that. And that’s the Government’s intention.
Finally, on the Melbourne Institute report. This is known as the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study. Over 10 years, really quite dramatic falls in home ownership, particularly for those under the age of 40. In Sydney aged 18-39 the percentage of those owning homes went from 31% to 20%. In Melbourne from 36% to 21%. And in that second lowest quartile of income earners, home ownership also falling dramatically. Are we a nation of two halves almost now?
Well obviously that is very concerning. The Coalition Government and I personally, and I think all of us, will want to see Australians to have the opportunity to own their own home. It’s the great Australian dream. And unfortunately, particularly in some of our large cities in recent years, it’s gotten harder. I acknowledge that. And that’s one of the reasons, if you look at the last budget, we had a series of measures that are aimed at addressing that. But there’s no doubt that the supply of land and the choking of the supply of land in a lot of large cities and not having the infrastructure to service that land supply has been critical. So State and Territory and local governments have a lot of work to do. We have said we will assist those governments in all sorts of ways and announced a range of measures. So yes, it is a very important issue. It’s one that we are cognisant of and it’s one we want to continue to work with States and Territories on.
Minister, thanks for your time.
Senator Zed Seselja , Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs
Media and Community Affairs Adviser
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