'It is beholden upon us as parliamentarians to get this job done, and get it done by Christmas.' ABC Hobart Breakfast Radio Interview, Wednesday 16 November 2017
936 ABC HOBART MORNINGS WITH LEON COMPTON
THURSDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECTS: Yes vote; Same-sex marriage by Christmas; Julian Simpson; Jacqui Lambie’s resignation; Political independent’s success; State Liberal Party tactics; Bruce Englefield and the Devil Island Project; Asbestos Awareness Month.
LEON COMPTON: We've
been lucky enough to have Senator Lisa Singh and Senator Eric Abetz join us
from Canberra for a chat about some of the issues of the week this morning.
Senators, thank-you for joining us for 'Senators in Space'.
ABETZ, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Good morning Leon, good to be back with you.
LISA SINGH, LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: Good Morning Leon, and to your listeners.
COMPTON: Yesterday, Australia's vote was heard in the same-sex marriage survey. Senator Eric Abetz, the Prime Minister says same-sex marriage will be delivered by Christmas. Is he right?
ABETZ: I think so. I think there's a sense around the
Parliament that the Australian people have spoken in relation to this matter. I
have every expectation that same-sex marriage will become law by Christmas.
And, I think that the only matters that remain to be debated therefore are the
issues of what protections to parental rights, freedom of speech, freedom of
religion and conscientious objection – and some of us are working on amendments
– but I don't detect amongst any colleagues that there is a desire to filibuster
or delay anything of that nature. The people have spoken and the question then
is, in our system, that these matters are then put to rest. Having
said that, there was, nevertheless, a sizeable 'No' vote. Nearly 40 per cent
and I think that does need to be considered in the final framework.
Senator, you've just named a lot
of things that need to be nutted out before you think this legislation can
pass. Can that be done between now and Christmas?
ABETZ: Yes. Because
basically those views are part and parcel of the James Paterson Bill. So a lot
of the drafting has already been done and therefore, rather than having to talk
about or put pen to paper, fingers to a keyboard drafting these amendments,
that's basically been done. They'll be circulated I would imagine today or very
shortly, and then when we resume on Monday the 27th of November, we'll finish
the second reading debate – I would think sometime Tuesday – and then go into
committee stage and I think have it wrapped up by the end of that week.
firstly can I just say 'Thank-you' to Tasmanians who voted overwhelmingly for
marriage equality. Indeed, we in Tasmania voted above the national average even
in support of marriage equality. Fantastic result yesterday. I think it does,
as Eric has said, show that the people have spoken loud and clear. This, as you
know, was a process that I don't believe – and Labor doesn't believe – we
needed to spend $120-odd million to go down-
ABETZ: Only $100 million now. They saved $20 million, they
SINGH: That $100 million would have been very well spent,
I'm sure Eric, at the Royal Hospital and in a number of services needed in
Tasmania. But having got there-
ABETZ: The Labor Party have spent this all over the
SINGH: Having got there now. The people now have spoken
clearly for marriage equality so it is now up to us. It is beholden upon us as
parliamentarians to get this job done, and get it done by Christmas. As we speak
Leon, Senator Dean Smith is speaking on – as it's known, the 'Dean Smith Bill' –
Dean is on his feet giving his second-reading speech on why it is so important
to pass this bill. A bill that has cross-party support. A bill that has some
nine senators signed on to it of Liberal, Labor, Green, Derryn Hinch, you name
it! There is whole, wide-ranging support for this bill. And I want to see this
bill passed as it is. That is because it has already been through a very rigorous
Senate Select Committee process, which again was a cross-party committee-
ABETZ: It hasn't. That's wrong.
looked at the issue of religious freedoms. This bill has those protections. So
now it's time for us– as I said – to take that will of the people into the
Parliament and end discrimination, not reintroduce a whole new set of other
Abetz was talking about some possible amendments there. So what happens when
these amendments are put? How long will it take to debate each of the
amendments from those that want to change this bill might want to put forward?
ABETZ: I think the principles are fairly clear and to
suggest that giving people freedom of speech, or parental rights, or freedom of
religion, is somehow to introduce a new discrimination is sadly a
misunderstanding of the fundamental human rights that were enshrined in
international documents, unlike same-sex marriage. Sure, a country can
legislate for same-sex marriage but it has never been recognised as an
international human right. Whereas parental rights, freedom of speech, freedom
of religion have, so the arguments are pretty clear – you either support those
classical, liberal freedoms that are enshrined in the international political
covenant on civil rights etcetera, or you don't, and that's going to be-
But Senator Abetz they clearly
potentially clash based on some of the issues that were raised out of the Paterson
Bill. Freedom of religion for some, people are arguing and have done on
this program, would they want the right to be able to say, "No gays
here"? That is something that Australians – if you extrapolate that to
"No whites", "No Christians", "I don't serve
SINGH: And on
top of that freedom of religion should not be the right to discriminate without
consequences. That is, I think, what the Paterson Bill was about and what
Senator Abetz is talking about.
ABETZ: You clearly haven't read it? Have
you read the Paterson Bill? You haven't.
SINGH: Eric, if
there are further amendments that you want to make, or arguments that you want
to make, I'm sure that you will put them on the floor and they will be voted on
ABETZ: Of course they will.
SINGH: But you
have to acknowledge that this bill has already gone through this process, and
it has got the balance right and if there are further religious freedoms
required they don’t have to be in this bill.
just want to pull you up, Senator Abetz. Both Lisa Singh, and earlier today one
of the Greens Senators for Tasmania said that this bill has been fully debated
through the committee stage. You say that hasn't happened. What do you mean?
What happened was a Senate Select Committee chaired by a Senator David Fawcett
looked at a number of principles but the Dean Smith Bill has not been put
through the Senate committee process.
it has. There was a Senate Select Committee. I've got the report! I can give it
to you if you want? It has gone through a very rigorous process.
ABETZ: The principles, that if we
were to introduce same-sex marriage, what should be some of the freedoms and
other matters addressed. That is what that committee looked at. But look,
having said that specifically, the Senator Dean Smith Bill is there, as is the
Senator James Paterson Bill and we will discuss these issues.
SINGH: I thought the Paterson bill had been withdrawn?
COMPTON: Has he not withdrawn the Paterson bill?
principles enunciated in the Paterson Bill will undoubtedly be moved by way of
amendments to the Dean Smith Bill, because there are fundamental freedoms of
speech, religion, parental rights, that are deserving and worthy of protection.
The Dean Smith Bill itself provides certain religious exemptions, which of
course confirms that there are consequences, and I suppose my concern is that
what government gives, the government can take away, and we as human beings
have certain innate human rights that governments have no business in giving or
taking away for that matter, and that is what is enshrined in the international
treaties on human rights, and they're the sort of rights that I want to see
incorporated in the legislation to ensure that there is an understanding of
these fundamental rights that we as unique individual human beings have as of
right, and not as a result of gift of government.
we'll move on this morning because the community expectation I think, and
certainly the community expectation that the Prime Minister has set, is that
same-sex couples will be able to get married after Christmas. It will be
interesting to see if the Parliament-
sure that will happen, Leon.
it will be interesting to see if it gets delivered in the end. Good to talk to
you both of you this morning, Senators Eric Abetz and Lisa Singh, you're our
guests for ‘Senators in Space’. Look, I just wanted to take a pause. Senator
Lisa Singh, you had some contact with the young diplomat Julian Simpson who has
lost his life in New York overnight, and you just wanted to spend a moment
reflecting on that.
I did Leon. It's very unfortunate news to wake up to this morning. To find out
that a young diplomat named Julian Simpson, he was Second Secretary at the
Australian Mission to the UN in New York, has passed away through an accident
overnight. I knew Julian very well. He looked after me for 3 months last year
while I was at the UN and he's a fine young man and carried out his duties as a
diplomat very well. It's just very, very saddening to hear that Australia has
lost a fine young diplomat and my heartfelt condolences to his family, his
friends, and to the Mission staff in New York.
mornings around Tasmania, back with our Senators up next. Senators Eric Abetz
and Lisa Singh are our guests this morning, joining us from Canberra. Dean
Smith is still on his feet and beginning debate on the marriage bill that is
Look, you are both loveable in your respective ways
Senators, but Jacqui Lambie received an outpouring of emotion and supportable
that would be hard to beat, as she left the floor earlier this week. What are
the lessons about what that tells you about what people want from their
I'm glad you say that we're both loveable in our respective ways, Leon. But
look, there was an outpouring for Jacqui in the Senate chamber, and rightly so.
She has been a courageous fighter for Tasmania, as both Eric and I are, but we
all are in our different ways. Whilst I didn't always agree with everything
that Jacqui stood for and her the positions she took, she fought for Tasmania.
She worked hard and she stood by her convictions. That's what Tasmanians want
to see in their elected representatives and she did that role very well. I
think that the outpouring also though was that it was so unexpected that she
would be leaving the Senate. That of course was because of the fact that she failed
to comply with Section 44(1) of our Constitution, which we are now finding so
many others in this Parliament have failed to do also. I'm not sure if there's
more to come but to lose now two senators from Tasmania certainly is a loss. I
think both Senator Parry and Senator Lambie will be missed. But unfortunately
this is a lesson learnt. If you don't comply with that section of our
Constitution you can't sit in our Parliament. I think it was just such a shock
and it's a shame that she had to go out in this way.
I'm sure you're loveable in your own way as well, thank you. Thank you for
that. Look, the feeling in the Senate chamber, I think, was based on everybody
around the chamber, irrespective of political colour, actually feeling sorry
for Jacqui, and I suppose it underpins that which I have called for before,
namely that for the future in particular, we ought to have, within the
Australian Electoral Commission or similar body, a repository of information from
around the world, and a capacity for advice to be provided to people as to
whether they are eligible to run at a Federal election, because in fairness,
somebody like Jacqui as an independent would not have the resources to employ
lawyers etcetera prior to her election to ascertain all the citizenship status
requirements. But look no matter what you thought of Jacqui, the simple fact
is, she got a quota in her own right at the last election, and nobody will be
able to take that away from her and I for one wish her well, for her future,
whatever that maybe.
it your expectation she'll be back in, that she'll make it back in the
political fray, Senator Abetz?
got a funny hunch that Jacqui is now addicted to public life, and I think she
will look for an opportunity to come back, and my own view is that the seat of
Braddon will be declared vacant in due course and in those circumstances Jacqui
may well run, and if you had a look at the Jacqui Lambie Network advertisement
that was in the paper the other day, and I just read through it out of
interest, the vast majority of her supporters came from the Braddon electorate,
so if she were to have a crack there it would be very interesting to see how
was interesting in the weekend papers, as well, looking through those names and
addresses, there were two parties that were registering for the upcoming State
election, and that was her party, Jacqui Lambie Network, and One Nation. One
Nation came within a whisker of winning a Senate spot at the last election. How
do you think they'll go the next time people have a chance to vote, to both of
look, 141 votes separated the One Nation candidate and Senator Nick McKim. So a
very close run thing, in circumstances where One Nation virtually had a non-existent
and non-visible campaign. So one imagines that if they would have campaigned a
bit harder, had more resource, they may have got a Senate seat. But let’s keep
in mind this was a double dissolution election. Next time round there'll only
be half the senators to be elected, as a result the quota will double, and as a
result it will be so much harder for One Nation to crack a seat.
SINGH: Leon, I think if you
look at the State elections over the years, they very much have favoured the
two major parties. I think in the lead up to this State election, which is only
months away, I'm sure you'll see these other registered parties, getting out
there and campaigning. And that's part of our healthy democratic process. But
at the end of the day I'm very much hopeful that there will be a Rebecca White
Labor Government elected, because Bec White has been hard campaigning-
Senator, I'm going to pull you up there because-
on, Come on, this is the party line-
is going to start talking about strong stable Liberal government and we're
going to be away from where we want to be.
SINGH: Well I don't think One
Nation and the Lambie Network, I don't think will dominate the outcome of the
State election, but I could be wrong.
you think they could win seats in the State election, you don't think so Lisa,
you don't think they're in with a shot of picking up seats in one of the five
elections that will be fought over in the State election?
SINGH: Based on past
history, if you look at State elections, I say that. Having said that, it's
worth acknowledging that Jacqui as an individual herself has a strong
following, and as Eric said, was elected in her own right. So it would be
interesting to see how that would transpire at the State level. We'll have to
wait and see, but I do only go on what my understanding of past State elections
have been and that's been people have wanted a majority government elected, and
that means voting for one of the major parties.
without saying "strong stable, majority Liberal government", can you
please give us an opinion on what role you think independents, or what prospect
independents might have from parties like these, or independently in their own
right, might have at the election?
you've already told the Tasmanian people in that introduction to the question
what is needed, but look, in fairness, I don't think One Nation or the Jacqui
Lambie Network will pick up seats in the State election. Jacqui Lambie might if
she were to run personally in Braddon, but I understand she's not interested in
doing that, and then translating Jacqui to other candidates, that doesn't work.
Senator Brian Harradine found that when he ran, and he had a running mate at
the off elections when he wasn't running. He never got a running mate up, and I
would doubt that either of those parties would win a seat. However, if they
score a few percentage points, it would cannibalise, I think, from Jacqui's
base and the One Nation base, would cannibalise both the Liberal and Labor
vote, and so I think it would be interesting to see how that affects the
outcomes of particular quotas in the various electorates, especially in
Braddon, but that's crystal ball stuff and we'll have to wait and see.
was interesting talking to – we had Andrew Wilkie in the studio and I've
chatted to him a couple of times recently, where he talked about the fact that
he had considered stepping down from a Federal role and doing a “Xenophon” if
you like, and stepping into state politics, had considered it but has decided
no. But it's interesting perhaps, that feeling that it's easier to see what you
might get done fairly quickly as a State rep rather than operating in the
Federal space which is something to reflect on at the moment?
SINGH: Well I very much
enjoyed my time in the State Parliament, but also equally find being in the
Senate just as rewarding. They are different kind of colours of the same kind of
occupation but I think that a bigger picture approach to the country’s needs as
well as your state’s needs. Obviously at the state level you can focus
particularly on the issues of the day at the state level and how you can make a
difference there in liaising with, of course, the government of the day.
They’re both very different but both very rewarding.
mornings around Tasmania – do we need to keep a very close eye to both of you
two now with politicians looking to book study trips over to Moscow in two
years’ time? Exactly the same time as the World Cup will be on. Senators, will
you be onto that?
simple answer: no.
SINGH: But well done Australia for last night.
Abetz we had Doug Chipman on earlier, you would probably know Doug Chipman
he was talking for the first time since the Pembroke race wrapped up. He says
there Liberal tactics not only cost him Pembroke but the Liberal party as well,
he said that the party’s out-of-the-box tactics attacking him were a wrong turn
and not what the members he has spoken to believe the Liberal party stands for.
Is he right?
I think in general terms he is right. I think you asked me last time whether I
agreed with the tactic and I indicated I didn’t. I think what the Liberal party
did was concentrate on Doug Chipman rather than the real threat which is Labor
and the Greens, and sadly a Labor candidate snuck through the middle on that
basis. I think it is a good lesson for us in the coming State election that we
focus on the main enemy, the main target, and that is Labor and the Greens
because dare I say it good majority Liberal government is delivering the
SINGH: Here we go, here are the lines.
you started this.
just trying to play catch up here.
here’s a question for you, if Sam McQuestin was the author of that strategy, he
was also the author of strategies which saw you lose three seats in the federal
election. Is he the right person to lead you to the State election and beyond?
Sam McQuestin is an experienced State Director and in all these decision-making
roles there will be some that are good, some that are not so good decisions and
Sam will have learnt from this and we will move on. The Liberal party did
deliver State Government some years ago. We had the tremendous election result
in 2013 where we won three House of Representative seats, we won the seat of
Lyons where during John Howard’s golden era he was never able to capture the
electorate of Lyons. So we’ve got to put all that into perspective and accept
that there have been some exceptionally good outcomes and some not so good
outcomes. I think that is the nature of political parties and state directors
and parliamentary leaders from all sides.
a moment I’ll ask you if we’re headed to an early election but Senator Eric Abetz,
you wanted to mention Bruce Englefield from the Devil Island Project?
just wanted to pay tribute to Bruce Englefield and the Devil Island Project.
For a guy who came out from the United Kingdom with his lovely wife Maureen.
They set up on the East Coast and revamped the venture into a major tourism
attraction and then in retirement continued to fight for the protection and
preservation of the Tasmanian Devil. These are the sort of unsung heroes,
albeit he was made a Tasmanian Australian of the year for his efforts. Now that
he’s retired from that role after about a decade I just think it is appropriate
that we as a community to acknowledge Bruce Englefield and the Devil Island
Project for the wonderful work they did so selflessly one of Tasmania’s, if not
the, Tasmanian icon.
SINGH: Absolutely, I concur.
you wanted to mention Asbestos Awareness House?
SINGH: Yes, this Friday Leon, tomorrow, “Betty the House”
will be coming to Hobart. It has been brought down by the Asbestos Disease
Research Institute and Asbestos Free Tasmania to educate young tradespeople,
apprentices but also home renovators on what to look out for in relation to
asbestos to keep themselves safe and prevent disease. “Betty the House” will be
in the Hobart Mall from around 11 o’clock onwards so people can come and learn
about this important educational tool in the hope we can reduce the rate of
people suffering from asbestos-related diseases into the future.
can I pay tribute to Lisa because while she was the State Minister in this area
she really took up the cause in relation to asbestos. Asbestos-related diseases
are a scourge, when I was shadow minster federally I sought to cooperate as
much as possible with Labor when they introduced the Asbestos Safety and
Eradication Agency and I think it is something which has bipartisan support but
on occasions such as this it is appropriate to knowledge the efforts of Lisa while
she was a state minister in advancing the cause of asbestos awareness in the
country and I like to think I played my part. Chances are a lesser part than
Lisa did, but together I think we can say this is a matter all Tasmanians
should try to learn about because unwittingly you can become a victim of
asbestos – especially doing handyman work around your older home and those type
of things are worthy of public awareness campaigns. So good on Lisa for raising
awareness on this.
SINGH: Thanks Eric. Thanks for your help too.
that note I’ve got to let you get back to the Senate and continue the debate on
the Dean Smith bill. Thank you both for joining us on Mornings around Tasmania.
SINGH: Thank you.
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