E&OE…

KIERAN GILBERT

Let’s go to Zed Seselja now, the Assistant Social Services Minister joins me.  As Tom said quite rightly, not a long time to wait now for this judgement but a lot is at stake here for the Government isn’t it?

SENATOR SESELJA

Well look, it’s obviously important but we will see what the High Court has to say.  The Government is very confident of our position.  You know, the activists are trying to do everything they can to stop this. The activists in the Senate, through Labor and the Greens and others, and of course the activists who have brought this to the High Court.

We’re very confident that the High Court will uphold the validity of this postal plebiscite.

KIERAN GILBERT

If it does, how does that play out in the campaign?  Do you think it will adversely impact those advocates that you talk about, those activists?

SENATOR SESELJA

Well there’s been a desperation not to give the Australian people their say, let’s be fair.  Whether that’s through pushing for it to be blocked in the Senate, whether it’s now bringing this court case.  The advocates for same sex marriage have been very keen for the Australian people not to have their say.  The Australian people have indicated many times, they want to have their say, and we’ve taken that to an election.  We shouldn’t forget that.  We took this to an election, we were very clear on our election policy and we are now seeking to implement our policy,

Should the High Court rule in our favour, of course it will be time for some questions to be asked of Bill Shorten because Bill Shorten is trying to have it both ways.  He’s saying he will argue very strongly for a yes case, he is entitled to do that, but he will absolutely ignore the result if it’s a no vote.  That is untenable for the alternative Prime Minister of Australia to say yes it’s very important to campaign, very important for people to vote yes…

KIERAN GILBERT

But if there’s a clear no vote, you think he should honour it?

SENATOR SESELJA

Well, of course he should.

I mean over time, and I think journalists are going to have to start asking this question and they haven’t yet.  Bill Shorten, alternative Prime Minister, how can you ignore the will of the Australian people through a public vote.

KIERAN GILBERT

Well he says it’s a flawed process.  That would be his argument.

SENATOR SESELJA

Well the High Court, if it rules in our favour, will be taking away from that argument.  That argument just got a whole lot weaker, should there be a ruling in our favour today.

KIERAN GILBERT

In relation to the broader campaign, do you feel that this has helped your side of the argument, you’ll obviously be voting no in this postal survey.  Do you think that this case has taken a bit of momentum out of the opposing side, those that want to legalise same sex marriage.

SENATOR SESELJA

Well, they seem to have put a lot into stopping the Australian people having their say and I think that may be indicative that they are concerned about what the Australian people will say.  In the end we don’t know. But will that create momentum? Who knows?

I think one of the things that has created momentum, Kieran, is some of the extreme tactics of the pro same sex marriage camp.  Things like trying to kill the livelihood of a doctor simply because she has a different view to others.  I mean we have seen time after time that bullying.

KIERAN GILBERT

They did retract that.  They saw that for what it was and that was a stupid idea.

SENATOR SESELJA

Perhaps eventually they saw that because there was quite a strong community backlash.  And there has been quite a strong community backlash to the bullying and harassment that has taken place.  Whether it’s the Australia Christian Lobby having death threats when they have conferences and the like.  I mean this has been going on for some time.  So I think those sort of tactics are very much backfiring.

KIERAN GILBERT

You’d have to concede there’s been elements of distasteful campaigning on both sides.

SENATOR SESELJA

I think you’re always going to get unfortunately in any debate, and this would be whether you have a plebiscite or you don’t have a plebiscite, of course there are always extreme views on both sides of a debate unfortunately.

But I think what we have seen on the left and on the yes case is far more institutionalised bullying.  You are always going to get a couple of extremists who will say really really stupid things but I think we have seen some institutionalised bullying by elements of the yes case.

KIERAN GILBERT

You and some of your fellow Senators, and Independent Senator Lucy Gichuhi, moved a motion noting that dads4kids had aired a TV ad celebrating Father’s Day.  What was this all about?  Because this organisation has campaigned against same sex marriage and issues like that.  You were concerned that they had to declare this as a political ad.  Why wouldn’t they if they do campaign on issues like that?

SENATOR SESELJA

Well, they never have had to before.  This ad is not about same sex marriage or anything else, it’s about fatherhood.  It makes, I think, a very non-contentious pitch to say that fatherhood is important, that we should celebrate fathers on Father’s Day and it’s great if fathers can be the absolute best fathers they can.  That’s never been considered political before, Kieran, but Free TV Australia deemed that it actually now is political.

KIERAN GILBERT

But if the group runs campaigns separate to that on political issues, why wouldn’t they also have to authorise other ads? Is that not appropriate?

SENATOR SESELJA

Well, if they were making a political message.  But inherent in that is that Free TV Australia is saying an ad about Father’s Day, and I would encourage people to look at the ad, and these ads have run over many many years without authorisations, how is that political?  Look the Senate passed this motion yesterday and I was pleased that they did.  Labor and the Greens of course they argued against it, somehow claiming that this is political.

And, I mean, how far do we go?  So any group that’s ever expressed a political view at any time, every time they express a public view it has to have an authorisation tag on it?  I mean that’s going to be pretty absurd if we were to apply that.  I think this goes to the sort of stifling political correctness that we’re seeing in a whole range of areas of Australian public debate at the moment.

KIERAN GILBERT

Let’s look at one issue before I let you go on the idea of removing GST off power bills.  It would be a popular move if you went down that path.

SENATOR SESELJA

I will leave that to the Treasurer to consider.

I would make this point Kieran, when it comes to the energy debate.  Every move that the Coalition Government has taken has been about energy security and putting downward pressure on prices.  Whether that’s getting rid of the carbon tax, whether that’s the gas reservation policy, Snowy Hydro 2.0, working with the electricity companies, encouraging the extension of the Liddell plant.  We are doing everything we can to push prices down and keep energy secure.  Labor’s policies, the 50% renewable the South Australian experiments are all about putting prices up.

KIERAN GILBERT

Do you feel that companies are being as constructive as they should be?  Like AGL, which has been in the headlines the last 48 hours?

SENATOR SESELJA

Let’s wait and see.  AGL’s position appears to be they want to get out of coal in 2050, I think, but they’re saying that they want to maybe get out of Liddell in 2022.  I know they’ve got ads saying ‘we’re getting out of coal’ and they’re all very nice ads.  I suspect that should they prematurely close this and people’s power prices go up and the electricity is turned off, the ads running against them might be somewhat less friendly.

KIERAN GILBERT

Zed Seselja, appreciate your time. Thanks

[ENDS]