SUBJECT/S: Joe Hockey’s out of touch comments; Citizenship; Marriage equality



CALLUM DENNESS: Joining me now is Michelle Rowland, Labor MP for Greenway in New South Wales. Good morning.

Good morning.

DENNESS: The Treasurer is under fire. Yesterday he said that if people want to buy a house they need a good job that pays good money. What’s so wrong with those comments, isn’t he just stating the obvious?

ROWLAND: His comments were ill-conceived and actually quite insensitive because of the fact that people who are working hard in Sydney, and I know people in my electorate who are working hard trying to get ahead, trying to own their own homes, are really doing it tough. So there was insensitivity in his comments, but even putting that to one side, it’s not based on a proper factual presumption. The reality is that if you want to be a home owner in Sydney, even in Western or North Western Sydney where I represent, you are still faced with incredible hurdles in order to get a deposit together, even with interest rates at record lows. You are also faced with the reality of lower wages growth. I went on the Fairfax website and saw one of the interactive functions. For a nurse to buy in a suburb called The Ponds in my electorate where prices are over $800,000 he or she would need a 95 per cent increase in their wage. So for that person, just as one example, it certainly is an issue of unaffordability.

DENNESS: So there’s a clear issue here, it’s particularly pronounced in Sydney, the question then is while Labor makes political capital over the Treasurer’s comments; what are you going to do to address housing affordability?

ROWLAND: We’re looking at a range of measures and we have a discussion paper and taking submissions on that. There are issues across state boundaries as well. Issues such as stamp duty, capital gains concessions for example, and an issue of supply and demand. All those things need to be looked at. But I’ll tell you this; we’re going to have a proper conversation with the Australian public based on facts not based on insensitive comments like the Treasurer has made.

DENNESS: And you’re prepared to look at negative gearing for instance?

ROWLAND: As Tony Burke has said, nothing has been ruled out and all of these issues must be considered in their entirety, not simply thinking there’s a one off solution here or there. I think this is a pronounced issue, and as the secretary of the Treasury has even said, Sydney is in a housing bubble. How we get out of that bubble depends on how it’s managed and if this Treasurer is anything to go by, his form isn’t good at managing this properly.

DENNESS: Liberal MP Dan Tehan suggested that home buyers need to look out of the inner-city and even set their sights on rural areas and regional areas where housing is a lot more affordable. What do you make of those comments?

ROWLAND: People can choose to live where they like in this country, that’s fact number one. Fact number two is even when you get outside of the inner rings of Sydney you are still faced with enormous hurdles. I gave you just one example of an area in my electorate where even buying a new home in these new suburbs will take you close to the $900,000 mark. But let’s be clear; this isn’t just an issue of the inner city or an issue of new homes. This is an issue of housing affordability that affects people right across the whole spectrum and it’s one that I have been getting feedback on, directly over the last couple of days from people who live in older parts of my electorate, more established parts. It goes across ethnicity, people are concerned about their children and their grandchildren being able to get enough money to afford to live. And one of the most fundamental tenets of living in our society is the ability to afford a home.

DENNESS: Moving on now. The Government’s citizenship proposals have been labelled ‘profoundly dumb’ by former Cabinet Minister Amanda Vanstone and ‘plain dumb’ by academic Greg Craven. Why is it that these people who have in the past been aligned with the Coalition, have been a lot more forthright in their criticism of this proposal than Labor?

ROWLAND: I think Amanda Vanstone, for example, has clearly shown that there has been a serious problem with process here and I don’t think that it can be dismissed as some leading current figures in the Government seem to want to do. We’ve had a serious issue of leaking of national security discussions, and we can plainly see from that leaking there is a split within the upper echelons of this Government on what to do on this question. And then when you boil it down, we still as the public and as the Opposition, don’t even know what the actual question is. We have no Bill before us. All we know is what we’re seeing in the media. And I want to be very clear, Labor is very prepared to look at any sensible measures to update the current rules in order to include prohibitions that apply to organisations such as Daesh. And that is beyond question, that is beyond question. But what we need to see from this Government is an actual proposal about what they intend to do on the issue of citizens, and particularly on the issue of dual citizens, and the possibility of statelessness and other issues for example. And we haven’t seen that. I was first asking about this I think sixteen days ago. I still don’t have any more information and there are still no facts that are being provided by this Government on which to give a more insightful analysis. And that is plain wrong.

DENNESS: So is Labor prepared to oppose or block measures it says go too far or are you too afraid of being wedged on this?

ROWLAND: It’s not a matter of being afraid of being wedged, we don’t even know what the question is to start with. We need to see what is being proposed by this Government, we need to see draft legislation. We need to see exactly what they are proposing before a considered view can be formed on that. And I think that the fact that senior people, and Amanda Vanstone is considered to be an elder statesperson within the Coalition, if senior people have serious questions about not only the process but the substance, and when you end up having really unheard of alliances of everyone from Malcolm Turnbull to Cory Bernardi and the IPA on some of these key questions, then I think this Government has a lot of problems.

DENNESS: Is Labor prepared to block legislation, or should Labor be prepared to block legislation if things go too far?

ROWLAND: We need to see what that is first. That really is the starting point.

DENNESS: Because we know with the metadata retention laws for instance, Labor gave its support despite considerable concern in the party room that those laws were too far. There was a view that Labor supported it out of fear of being wedged on national security.

ROWLAND: Labor gave its support because it was put to a full hearing, a full committee of oversight on this matter. There was a consultation into this, there was an inquiry into these key issues and in the end we had a piece of legislation that had been amended and that was unanimous and that’s what Labor ended up voting on.

DENNESS: Okay, Michelle Rowland a final issue. Last time we touched on the issue of same sex marriage on this program you said that you were going to consult your electorate, seek out their views. I understand you’ve been doing that, what sort of sentiment have you picked up from your electorate?

ROWLAND: It has been mixed as you would expect, and no clear view either way if you’re looking at it from a purely quantitative analysis.  I can tell you however on a qualitative analysis, people have been raising with me some arguments that I actually don’t think are particularly convincing. Issues such as, “marriage equality should be voted down because we need to think about the rights of children. Children need a mother and a father and this is the way to ensure that children are brought up properly”. My view, as someone who was raised for most of their life in a one parent family, my view is that as long as children have people who love them and support them then that’s the most important thing. On the other hand I heard from a lady in Seven Hills who told me her son is in the Navy, he is gay, and who am I to deny him the right to marriage equality when he is out there serving his country. I didn’t have an answer to that. So just to give you an idea, a taste of some of the views that have been put to me. They’re some of them and I will keep consulting the electorate and we’ll go from there.

DENNESS: Has this pushed you towards forming a conclusive view on how you’ll vote on this issue?

ROWLAND: As I’ve been going around for the last 18 months, around the country talking about inclusiveness, I find it increasingly difficult to reconcile the whole gamut of inclusiveness and people being part of our society and being able to contribute to it without having a negative approach to marriage equality. That’s a view that I have formed over the last 18 months, but I made a commitment to my electorate that I would go out, listen to their views and as I have a conscience vote that’s how I’ve decided I will exercise that vote and I will keep doing it until a vote is taken, whenever that may be.

DENNESS: It does sound to me, and I don’t want to misrepresent your views here but it does sound like you’re leaning towards voting for marriage equality. You said that the arguments you’ve heard against this aren’t convincing to you.

ROWLAND: That’s correct, but I’ve given you an example of some of the arguments that have been put to me and look, there’s other people who have told me they have no objection to many of the laws or any of the laws that Labor put in place to assure equality on different points, but for them, the stickler is on the issue of marriage. They see marriage as an institution that is particularly defined as between a man and a woman, and for these people their minds are not going to change. So as a Member of Parliament I need to be respectful of all these things, but again at the end of it I realise the way in which I vote is not going to make everyone happy. I just want it to be an informed decision that is also as representative as it can be of my constituency.   

DENNESS: So you’re leaning towards a yes vote?

ROWLAND: If I had to answer your question right now I would say I am leaning towards a yes vote. I will continue however to consult the electorate.

DENNESS: Just finally, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said that it was important to take into account the views of ethnic communities on same sex marriage. He was of the view they strongly oppose this. As someone who represents multicultural interests and a very diverse electorate, what do you make of this argument?

ROWLAND: I think you should never stereotype people based on their ethnicities. I have had people from a variety of cultural backgrounds give me very different views on this matter. Not only in the last couple of days but in the last couple of years. I think it is very wrong to simply pigeonhole people based on their ethnicity for any reason and on this issue of marriage equality I don’t think you should be pigeonholing people either. You need to listen to them, but I think Members of Parliament should inform their views based on what they believe to be right, but also be informed by their constituency.

DENNESS: Michelle Rowland, thanks for your time.

ROWLAND: My pleasure.