Transcript - Sky News PM Agenda - Wednesday 9 August

SUBJECTS: Marriage equality; Postal plebiscite; Electricity prices; Dual Citizenship.


ASHLEIGH GILLON: Joining us live from Canberra is Liberal MP Craig Laundy and the Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, good to see you both, thank you for your time. Craig let’s start with you, I understand you are personally against same sex marriage what do you make of the push we have seen today to make this plebiscite about more than just gay marriage?  We saw Tony Abbott urging people to vote no if they don’t like political correctness, the Australian Christian Lobby says the plebiscite is really a referendum on free speech and on Safe Schools. Is it fair to confuse those issues on the postal plebiscite your Government is now going forward with?

CRAIG LAUNDY:  Look Ash, I think it is a very clear issue about whether Australians think there should be a change to allow same sex couples to marry, that is you are right I have a personal opinion, however I have said before and I will say today again, we are putting this to the Australian people as we promised at the election and I intend to respect their will at the outcome.

GILLON:  But is it responsible when colleagues of yours, like Tony Abbott for example, are making this a broader issue about political correctness instead of the actual right of a couple of the same gender to get married?

LAUNDY:  Well Ash, as I said, I think it is a very straight forward issue and I intend to answer the question that I am asked in the manner I have and I think that the majority of Australians, unlike my Labor opponents, I trust that they are able to have a sensible discussion on this topic and then to a postal vote on whether they think the Act should change. 

GILLON:  Now Joel, you don’t trust Australians to keep this away from becoming a nasty debate?

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA:  It has become high farce Ash, and that is the way people I talk to in my electorate see it.  I mean $122 million of tax payers’ money.  What my councils, local councils wouldn’t give for just some of that money for local infrastructure projects.  The opinion polling has been very clear and consistent over a long period of time.  It is very clear that the majority of Australians are ready for the change.  There is no reason, other than some silly claim to be keeping an election commitment, to have this plebiscite which Tony Abbott and even Craig Kelly on your station earlier, have made clear they don’t feel bound to. 

GILLON:  Joel though, to be fair, Labor needs to own the history of this debate, Labor didn’t do anything about this issue when you were in government.  Labor voted in the Parliament to reject a national plebiscite which would have offered a more legitimate result with much higher turnout.  Labor isn’t blameless here.

FITZGIBBON:  As many have pointed out before me Ash, we make big decisions in this Parliament on a daily basis, matters of life and death, matters affecting very large parts of our economy, matters affecting our public health system, without going to the people.  We know what the majority of people feel on this issue.  The Parliament has a job to do and it simply should just do it.  The idea of spending $122 million of tax payers’ money on an “opinion poll” that members of the Government aren’t even committed to respecting is just plain dumb - silly.  We should have the Parliament make a decision and move on as quickly as possible.

GILLON:  Craig, picking up on the point that Joel made there about the binding or otherwise nature of this postal plebiscite, what’s your personal position on this?  If you do see a yes vote returned are you willing to vote for this in the Parliament?

LAUNDY:  Yes, short answer.  I believe if we are to take this to the Australian people, and I disagree obviously with Joel that it is not silly to keep your election promises, especially given recent history in not just this country but overseas.  I think we should do all we can to keep our election commitments, which is what we are doing.  But if we go to the Australian people and we ask them what they want us to do, I think the only fair and reasonable thing, post that is to respect their will and that is what I intend to do.  I have a certain position, however should the result of the postal plebiscite be different I will be voting the way of the Australian people.

FITZGIBBON:  That may be true of Craig Laundy but other Members of the Government, including Tony Abbott and Craig Kelly earlier, have made it clear they do not intend to respect the outcome of this very expensive plebiscite.  This is a waste of time and it is a waste of money.

LAUNDY:  I disagree and also I don’t know what Craig Kelly has had to say but historically Tony Abbott has mirrored my position on this, as have other senior conservative MPs over the last 48 hours.  And Ash, let’s not, again you can play politics if you want with this issue, the outcome, the reason we have to go this way is because we can’t get the plebiscite through.  We could have a vote on this if we could get it through.  However, if the answer to the postal plebiscite is yes, this Bill will pass Parliament and any representation that it won’t is just a further attempt to muddy the waters and play politics with the issue.

FITZGIBBON: But Craig you have had a number of failures in the Senate including of course all the zombie measures. You didn’t turn around and take them to a plebiscite to resolve them you accepted the will of the Parliament and moved on and that’s what you should be doing here.

LAUNDY: Look Joel, we took an election commitment. We were very clear and open.

GILLON: Speaking of (inaudible)

LAUNDY: Ash I agree with you, we’ve talked about it (inaudible)

FITZGIBBON: You’ve had plenty of broken election promises, plenty of them.

GILLON: Let’s move on because I can tell our viewers are telling us they are getting pretty sick of this debate and are happy that some resolution at least has been come to finally. Of course we have the next few months of this campaign beginning in earnest. Let’s look at some of the issues around today. One in particular affecting a lot of viewers in terms of hip pocket costs. We saw the Prime Minister meeting with some of the big power chiefs. Joel you’d welcome these moves today wouldn’t you by the Prime Minister to get power companies to agree to be more transparent with consumers about the better deals that are out there? This is the sort of real, practical measure surely that could have a real impact on household bills.

FITZGIBBON: Well I certainly wouldn’t unwelcome them, you can’t reject anything that might make any improvement to energy prices whatsoever but it’s about this much of the problem Ashleigh that’s the point. The fact we have so many discounted arrangements in the energy retail sector is that we have got a very competitive retail sector. The problems are further down the value chain and they all go back to one cause and that’s the lack of an energy policy in this country now for at least four years. We have had a drought of investment and that’s what the Prime Minister needs to really focus on. For me today was all about showmanship and trying to demonstrate the Prime Minister is doing something about the problem when we all know what he did today is only going to have a miniscule effect on what people are facing out there in voter land.

GILLON: Craig from my understanding, the electricity chiefs present at the meeting this morning they did all point out that implementing the Finkel recommendations would be the best way to try to start controlling power prices. Isn’t Joel right that the measures announced today are really just tinkering at the edges? Yes people should be aware they can get a better deal but the bigger problem here with this sector is the lack of certainty and how that is impacting investment decisions?

LAUNDY: Look that is definitely a problem Ash and is something we are working through as a party through the proper processes to implement. However, no Joel is not right, this isn’t tinkering at the edges, you’ve got practices sitting inside this industry where you are signed up at a particular rate, the contract comes to an end and you’re not notified and you’re moved to another rate. You’re talking about some families, examples given today that could save up to a thousand dollars a year. I disagree with Joel, that’s not minute. You’ve got practices here that the power companies have to keep us and the ACCC informed of what they are attempting to do to look after customers. They also have to make simple fact sheets available so their deals are easy to understand, especially in terms of start and finishing dates. They have to keep in touch with customers as those finish dates approach. No they are not small issues at all because what you have seen and in my neck of the woods in Western Sydney through the Daily Telegraph running the campaign over the past couple of weeks, you’ve seen the predatory practices at times and as the Treasurer said today, the two things they have going for them is a lack of awareness and the inertia. These are common sense initiatives that will make a real difference to the hip pockets of families throughout Australia and I think they are important and I applaud them.

GILLON: Just one final issue before I let you get back to the Parliament. I’m keen for your thoughts, we’ve today for an audit of every MPs citizenship status. It seems doomed to fail with Labor and the Coalition not supporting the idea, but why shouldn’t MPs and Senators be forced to offer proof they are indeed eligible to sit in the Parliament considering the recent series of events we’ve seen. Three Senators have dual citizenship problems and potentially another in Malcolm Roberts who was referred to the High Court today as well. Joel do you have any problem with offering up some proof you are indeed an Australian citizen alone in a bid for transparency on this issue?

FITZGIBBON: Well I don’t see any merit in making the circus any more bizarre than it already is Ash. There are systems in place. People are entitled to defend their positions and other people are entitled to challenge people’s positions. The system I think is working. People are being challenged on their dual citizenship or their compliance with section 44i. I don’t think we need to fuel that circus any further.

GILLON: So essentially we are saying though in that sense that we should trust politicians to do the right thing and do the checks and balances before they are elected. Craig, I’m not sure too many Australians would be willing to do that and just have blind faith in the system considering the recent history?

LAUNDY: Look Ash I think there are a lot of people who don’t trust politicians all that often, but the processes my party has in place, the Liberal Party in NSW of which I am a member, they are the questions you get asked as you stand to be a candidate and you go through the process. If other parties have procedural issues they need to look at, then they should definitely look at that, but to have an audit, again costing the tax payer money, again the taxpayer should rightly insist that we as potential members of Parliament standing for election are aware of what the laws are and we comply with them and I think that’s the simplest way.

GILLON: Good to end on a unity ticket. Craig Laundy, Joel Fitzgibbon, good to chat with you this afternoon. I appreciate that, thank you. 

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