Interview with Laura Jayes, The Latest, Sky News
- Minister for Employment
- Minister for Women
- Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
- Senator for Western Australia
SUBJECT/S: Opening of the 45th Parliament, legislation, superannuation, CFA, UFU, Peter Marshall, ABCC, Registered Organisations.
LAURA JAYES: Michaelia Cash thank you for your time.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you.
LAURA JAYES: For this first week of Parliament, of the 45th Parliament I should say. Now 25 bills to deal with in the first week, is that really the entire agenda? Because 23 of these Bills are actually old?
One is actually a thousand days old.
MINISTER CASH: We have a substantial agenda, which we took to the election where we were successful in winning the election and we are now going to commence the 45th Parliament by presenting that agenda to the Australian people.
In particular in relation to my portfolios there are three bills which will be introduced as a matter of priority.
They are of course the two trigger bills to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission, restoring law and order to the building and construction industry and to stand up the Registered Organisations Commission.
The third piece of legislation is our election commitment to protect the volunteer firefighters in Victoria, the 60,000 men and women who would do anything for their state.
We have said as a matter of priority we would introduce our legislation to ensure that the hostile union takeover that is currently occurring is not able to occur.
LAURA JAYES: I will get to those in detail, but why isn’t the company tax legislation on this list of priorities? This was the centrepiece of the election campaign?
MINISTER CASH: We are committed to all of our reforms and further announcements will be made in relation to the bills which will be introduced on Wednesday.
LAURA JAYES: Let’s look at the ABCC bills.
Do you have the numbers for the joint sitting as you see it at the moment?
MINISTER CASH: I am currently speaking to all of the crossbenchers.
A number of them as you know are new to the Parliament they haven’t had the opportunity to vote on the legislation before.
I have been very impressed with how they have been engaging with me and asking a number of questions, giving me the opportunity to answer those questions and to provide them with further information.
I remain hopeful because these bills are in our national interest.
There is no other industry in Australia whereby the rule of law does not apply.
We need to restore the rule of law to the building and construction commission.
But also Laura, this is an industry that employs one in 10 Australians.
We need to do everything that we can as a Government and as a Parliament to ensure that this industry gets bigger and it gets better, restoring the ABCC in a fundamental step in that regard.
LAURA JAYES: We have heard the argument from the Government, but when it comes down to it, this has been languishing on the notice paper for over a thousand days we either get to the point when we have a joint sitting or is the Government willing to be agile, or I should say how agile is the Government willing to be with the likes of the Nick Xenophon party pushing for amendments to the ABCC legislation, would you rule any amendments out?
MINISTER CASH: As always, we don’t control the Senate, in fact there are very few governments who have ever controlled the Senate in the history of our Parliament.
When you don’t have the numbers you get to talk to people on the other side.
Labor and the Greens have made their position very clear.
They don’t care about law and order in the construction industry.
They don’t care about lowering the cost of public infrastructure; they will not support these bills.
In terms of the crossbench of course I will listen to what they have to say.
In the event that we need to negotiate, I am always open to that.
At this point in time, I am in discussions with them.
LAURA JAYES: Those discussions will be long no doubt with the eleven cross benchers and nine you need to get this joint sitting, or any legislation through.
Let me turn now to same sex marriage and the same sex marriage plebiscite.
Nick Xenophon has confirmed that he won’t support it, on top of Derryn Hinch, on top of the Greens and Labor giving a very strong indication that it won’t, what happens now?
MINISTER CASH: Let’s look at the Government’s position.
The Government’s position is very clear.
We have always said that any decision in relation to same sex marriage will be taken by a vote of the Australian people in a plebiscite.
That is the position that we took to the election and we won the Federal election.
Our position remains unchanged.
In terms of Labor, Bill Shorten but a few years ago is in the record as saying that he was not opposed to a plebiscite.
You’ve correctly identified that Labor have not yet come out with a position and I would say to Labor, if you do want to see a vote on same sex marriage, this is the most expeditious way to ensure that the vote occurs.
LAURA JAYES: But they’re not worried about the speed in which this is addressed.
Much of the party is saying it would rather wait for the next term then see a divisive plebiscite.
From the Government’s perspective it’s a plebiscite or nothing?
MINISTER CASH: The Government’s been very clear, but I have to say on that, I think that they are really underestimating the Australian people and the Australian people’s ability to have a debate on this issue.
Bill Shorten consistently says, Labor puts people first, why is it though, in one of his first acts in coming back to the 45th Parliament is to say, on this issue to the Australian people, I am not going to put you first? In fact I [Bill Shorten] am disregarding your opinion completely?
LAURA JAYES: But if the numbers aren’t there for the enabling legislation, is there anything the Government can do?
MINISTER CASH: Our position is very clear.
It hasn’t gone to a vote yet.
There is still an opportunity to speak with the crossbenchers and in particular…
LAURA JAYES: If it fails in a vote, is there anything the Government can do?
MINISTER CASH: Our position is very clear, it is a plebiscite.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, let’s talk about superannuation.
This was discussed in party room today.
Obviously we know there are a few backbenchers concerned about the perceived retrospectivity about the $500,000 component of this, the life time cap.
Is there a chance the government will look at that? That is a suggestion that Labor has put forward as well.
Yes it will mean that it will cost the policy about $500,000……
MINISTER CASH: Let’s just look at the policy.
We took a policy to the election on the principal that we needed a more sustainable superannuation system.
Part of that policy was to look at the very top end and say, there were some concessions there, that have been used by a very few people for wealth creation, so we decided we would tackle those concessions, hence the $1.6 million dollar transfer balance cap, the half a million dollar non-concessional cap etc.
At the other end, and I know you and I have discussed this previously, not as much focus as I would like it on this, looking at low income earners and women in particular, what can we give back to them?
We have put about $3 billion dollars back into the system to ensure that women and carers are able to save for their retirement.
LAURA JAYES: So is that why the Government argues that any changes need to be revenue neutral, is that what you’re sticking by?
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely.
The changes do need to, if there are any, be revenue neutral.
I will point out the policy itself is accepted the premise for the policy is accepted.
There is only one contentious or one part of the policy in which should have been raised, and you are right, that is the half million dollar cap.
I give credit to the Treasurer and Minister O’Dwyer who have been travelling around Australia talking to stakeholders.
LAURA JAYES: It must be pretty frustrating…
MINISTER CASH: No, not at all.
LAURA JAYES: It must be pretty frustrating though because we are now not even on the first sitting day of the 45th Parliament and you can’t even implement your agenda… some of your own…
MINISTER CASH: Hold on, we haven’t even started yet.
LAURA JAYES: Some of your own backbench don’t even recognise your mandate, particularly on super.
MINISTER CASH: The policy itself is overwhelmingly supported, let’s focus on that and lets focus on what we are doing to incentivise low income people, predominantly women.
LAURA JAYES: You’ve got George Christenson in Queensland who has in his electorate, 309 people that that $500,000 cap will affect and he is still willing to cross the floor.
MINISTER CASH: That is why the Treasurer and Minister O’Dwyer have embarked on the consultations they will continue to have these consultations, you are right, if any changes were proposed they have to be within what was identified on budget night, those dollar figures.
LAURA JAYES: Let’s look at the CFA now, basically it’s been pointed out today that there is a big difference between career firefighters and volunteers, have you had a look at the ability for both and how this legislation might affect that.
MINISTER CASH: I don’t think there is a big difference.
Let’s just tackle that head between paid firefighters and volunteer firefighters...
LAURA JAYES: Can I just put to you before you go on that the CFA’s own data suggests that there is a 55% failure rate in volunteer brigades and it’s getting worse, it’s been getting worse since Ash Wednesday.
What is the Government doing to address that?
MINISTER CASH: I haven’t seen the data and I think it is shameful that Peter Marshall…
LAURA JAYES: Why haven’t you seen that data? Have they been keeping it secret from you? Or you haven’t sought it?
MINISTER CASH: That hasn’t been bought to my attention and my understanding is Peter Marshall is going to release this information. Let’s not undermine…
LAURA JAYES: Wouldn’t you be concerned about that though?
There is a 55% failure rate amongst the volunteer brigade.
Is that something you should be concerned about when introducing this legislation?
MINISTER CASH: None of our changes in any way impact safety requirements.
Let’s be very clear, our change which is a very small change, adds an additional objectionable term, an additional emergency management term to the Fair Work Act which says if the terms of an Enterprise Agreement impacts or interferes with the way the CFA manages its volunteers, that will not be able to be certified by the Fair Work Commission.
LAURA JAYES: Shouldn’t an EBA actually affect how volunteers do do their job if there is a 55% failure rate…
MINISTER CASH: Have you seen this information?
LAURA JAYES: I haven’t seen this information, but we have heard from Peter Marshall today...
MINISTER CASH: This is Peter Marshall, let’s just remember he has a vested interest here.
He is the head of this union.
A Labor Minister stood aside over this issue.
A board was sacked over this issue, thousands upon thousands of volunteers have been putting their hands up and saying to the Federal Government, would you please help us because nobody else can.
The CFA have been around for decade after decade after decade.
I think it is a great insult of Peter Marshall to now at the last minute come out and insult these men and women who are volunteers, 60,000 of them, who have the same training as the paid firefighters, who take their jobs incredibly seriously and Victoria would not be able to manage its bushfire season if it did not have these up to 60,000 volunteers.
I go back to what are we trying to do…
LAURA JAYES: You would want to see this data though, if there is a 55% failure rate?
MINISTER CASH: If Peter Marshall has this data, I am already happy to have a look at it.
LAURA JAYES: Will it trigger some amendments?
MINISTER CASH: Remember, our amendment is a very small one, it is merely to Section 12 of the Fair Work Act, if you have an agreement that has clauses in it that inhibit the way that a volunteer organisation manages its volunteers, than that agreement cannot be ticked off by the Fair Work Commission.
LAURA JAYES: It’s up to the state really, to make sure that its volunteer firefighters are up to scratch?
MINISTER CASH: Yes, as you know the CFA is established under a State Act in Victoria.
I will defend all firefighters, in particular the 60,000 volunteer firefighters who give up their time and their money because they are passionate about giving back to the community.
LAURA JAYES: Just one final question, we have only got 7 sitting weeks before this year…
MINISTER CASH: How many Fridays until Christmas?
LAURA JAYES: Let’s not go there. Were only in August aren’t we?
What do you expect to pass by the end of the year?
The Government you say has a full agenda here, the company tax isn’t on this list of 25 bills you have got a lot of negotiating to do between now and the last sitting week in December.
MINISTER CASH: We have.
However our agenda is clear, our mandate is clear and we will ask everyone, whether you are Labor, the Greens or the crossbench in the Senate.
LAURA JAYES: What will you get through by the end of the year?
MINISTER CASH: We have a very ambitious agenda and as far as I am concerned, in my portfolios, certainly putting through the Senate again, the ABCC, the Registered Organisations and the CFA bills they are what I am focused on.
LAURA JAYES: We will keep an eye on those three. Michaelia Cash thank you.
MINISTER CASH: Thanks for having me.