Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
Date: Tuesday, 11 October 2016
MATHIAS CORMANN: After the successful passage yesterday of legislation to protect firefighting volunteers from a hostile union takeover, today the Labor party has the opportunity of supporting our personal income tax cuts for hard working families. Today we have legislation in the Senate to ensure that middle income families don’t move into the second highest income tax bracket. We call on the Labor party today to facilitate swift passage of personal income tax cuts for hard working families around Australia.
Happy to take questions.
QUESTION: Minister, does the Coalition have a plan B if the plebiscite doesn’t go ahead?
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is very important for Bill Shorten to get out of the way on this issue and let the Australian people have their say. We went to the last election promising the Australian people that they would have their say on the issue of whether or not the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act should be changed. This is a matter that we are committed to put to the Australian people. There is no excuse for Bill Shorten not to facilitate that from happening. What is he worried about? Why is he so scared of the Australian people? Why does he not trust the Australian people with making this decision? We call on Bill Shorten today to get out of the way on this issue, to support the plebiscite bill which will come up in the Senate later this week. That is the best and fastest way to resolve this issue once and for all.
QUESTION: The public funding for both sides, is that negotiable?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have put our proposal on the table. We have made a very conscious decision to include public funding into the proposal. That is the proposal that we have put on the table. That is the basis on which we are putting forward legislation in the Senate later this week. Our message to Bill Shorten is, don’t be frightened of the Australian people. Allow the Australian people to have their say on what the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act should be into the future.
QUESTION: Senator Birmingham last night though indicated that compromise could be a possibility over public funding. Are you saying he is wrong?
MATHIAS CORMANN: What I am saying is that we have put forward the Government’s proposal for a plebiscite, consistent with what we said we would do in the lead up to the last election. It is now important to get on with it. It is now important to vote on the plebiscite bill so that the plebiscite can take place in February early next year. We went to the last election promising to the Australian people that we would give them a say on whether or not there should be a change to the definition of marriage. There is an opportunity now for the Parliament to facilitate that plebiscite taking place. The only person standing in the way of the Australian people having their say on the future definition of marriage is Bill Shorten. Today, he has got the opportunity to show some leadership in the caucus and to call on his Labor caucus to support the plebiscite legislation when it is coming before the Senate later this week.
QUESTION: Are you more confident in passing more workplace laws in the Senate after the CFA bill last night?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We are very pleased that our legislation to protect firefighting volunteers from a hostile union takeover was successfully passed by the Senate last night. I congratulate my friend and colleague Michaela Cash for the work that she has done with, in particular the Senate crossbench, in relation to this. We are not taking anything for granted. We do have some further important workplace relations reforms to come before the Senate. In particular our proposal to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which is an important productivity enhancing measure. An important measure to bring down the cost of construction, boost economic growth and help facilitate stronger job creation. We still have the registered organisations legislation to impose the same standards on registered organisations as apply to company directors. We will take every piece of legislation one at a time. We are not taking anything for granted. But we are certainly very satisfied that yesterday, the Senate supported our legislation to protect firefighting volunteers from a union takeover.
QUESTION: Just on the plebiscite, let’s just say some how it goes through and that same sex marriage is legalised. What do you say to bakers who do not want to bake for homosexual couples’ marriages.
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are getting way ahead of yourself. The question this week is a question for Bill Shorten on whether or not he trusts the Australian people to have their say on the question of whether or not the definition of marriage should be changed. Our message to Bill Shorten this week unequivocally, is get out of the way, let the Australian people have their say. The Australian people want to have their say in relation to the future definition of marriage. This week, Bill Shorten is able to allow the Australian people to have their say on this issue. If the Labor party votes in favour of the plebiscite legislation this week, there will be a plebiscite in February. The Australian people will have their say. Whatever the Australian people decide in February will be legislated by the Parliament on the other side of that plebiscite.
QUESTION: Well it is an issue for the day Minister, because it is going to the party room today and that is a part of the draft legislation, that people that do not make cakes for gay couples could be prosecuted. Are you comfortable with that?
MATHIAS CORMANN: You are quite wrong. What has been released by the Attorney-General is an exposure draft. Should there be a successful vote at a plebiscite in February next year, there would be legislation to give effect to the decision of the Australia people at that plebiscite. There is an exposure draft here, which is a starting point for discussion on how that legislation should be finally settled. There is a process to be followed for that to be finally determined. This is a draft. This is the beginning of the conversation. So that is quite a wrong characterisation of yours.
QUESTION: You say it is the beginning of discussions, Mr Birmingham said yesterday that maybe public funding could be one of the things that you negotiate on. What about self-enacting legislation, if Australia says yes to the plebiscite it just automatically passes, it something you guys would consider?
MATHIAS CORMANN: If the Australian people were to say yes in February in relation to the issue of same sex marriage, I have absolutely no doubt that the Australian Parliament would follow that decision by the Australian people. Whatever the Australian people decide at a plebiscite would be respected by the Australian Parliament. The question this week is a different question. The question this week is a question for Bill Shorten. Will he trust the Australian people to pass judgement, to have their say in relation to the future definition of marriage or does he have such little trust in the Australian people, is he so scared of the decision that the Australian people might make at a plebiscite that he will get his Labor caucus to vote no on even having the plebiscite. Our message to Bill Shorten is if you are genuinely interested having this issue resolved swiftly, if you are genuinely interested in having this issue resolved as early as possible, then voting in favour of the plebiscite this week is the best way the achieve that.