SUBJECT/S: National Security; Budget hurting low income families; Marriage equality


MONDAY, 25 MAY 2015


KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda. Joining me now the Assistant Education Minister Simon Birmingham and Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multiculturalism Michelle Rowland. Michelle, first of all to you on this idea of stripping citizenship of those found to be engaged with terrorist groups. What’s Labor’s position on that?


MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: We’ve sought, Kieran, a briefing from the Government as a first position. All we’ve seen at the moment is the media reports and we would like to know precisely what is being proposed. You’ll remember that on this program in January the same issue was being discussed, but I think even from Julie Bishop’s comments she even recognises that this issue is challenging and problematic for a number of reasons and they include not leaving people stateless; the fact that when people go and fight for Daesh they often destroy their passports; and the third is ensuring that we cover everyone responsible, and here we’re talking about dual citizens, so what happens in the event that someone doesn’t have dual citizenship. So they are huge challenges but I think at the end of the day Labor is absolutely committed to doing everything in a bipartisan way to keep our citizens safe. We’ll await that briefing and go from there.


GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, Michelle Rowland alludes to this question of you strip citizenship of someone, they don’t have a second country that they have citizenship with, they’re not dual nationals. They end up being stateless and it’s hard to imagine any country saying okay we’ll welcome you, even though your parents were born here, come here even though you fought with Islamic State – that’s not going to happen.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Sure Kieran. The Prime Minister earlier this year indicated that we were taking a look at citizenship and what we could do in that space to provide another tool in armoury of measures we’re taking to encounter extremism and to deal with the threat of Daesh and of extremism around the world. In relation to citizenship in particular we’re not going to undertake measures that leave individuals stateless. What the Prime Minister flagged was that we would be looking at measures that perhaps removed citizenship from those with dual citizenship and restricted some of the privileges of Australian citizenship for those without dual citizenship. Now obviously that work has been underway, I expect more will be said in that regard and I’m sure proper information provided to the Opposition as we have done at every step of our reforms around counter terrorism and today we’re seeing new important measures to ensure we have streamlined government approaches to counter terrorism which comes on top of legislative packages and more than $1 billion to make Australia safe.

GILBERT: We’re going to hear from the Prime Minister on that later. Michelle Rowland, let’s get to some other issues. Labor’s released this NATSEM modelling today on the effect of this year’s and last year’s Budget on low income families. Can you talk us through what this research has found?

ROWLAND: Well this modelling clearly shows that some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable people in our community are going to be amongst some of the hardest hit. So, even by this Government’s own test, it fails the fairness criteria that itself set out. If you look at single income people with two kids for example on low incomes, they stand to lose over $70 a week and that increases every year. This comes off the back of the ACOSS study also, which shows $15 billion in cuts to families and to people who are the most vulnerable in our community. So I think this clearly demonstrates that for all the talk about fairness in this Budget, it clearly fails that test.


GILBERT: And the numbers suggest that 9 in 10 of the lowest income families, are worse off, 9 in 10 of higher income families are better off, when you put the two Budget measures together.


BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, this of course is modelling that the Labor Party has commissioned, let’s see all the details, let’s see the assumptions that underpin it. What we’ve released this year, Kieran, is a Budget that is very focused on supporting families in the workforce and helping families into the workforce, and the significant measures around childcare assistance, are there to help families, and make it easier for people to get back into work, and many Australian families will be significant benefiters as a result of those changes. And yes we want to make sure that the incentives are there, for people with school aged children to get into the workforce as well, and to be back into the workforce and for the both parties to be participating in work.

Is it fair that the lowest paid families lose 7% of their disposable income, that’s a hell of a lot.


BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, I’m not accepting the figures until we’ve seen all of the assumptions underpinning this, and exactly what the Labor Party have had modelled.


GILBERT: Well let’s go to Michelle Rowland on the childcare issue then, if you’re not going to accept the data, I guess the one thing we know for sure is, this childcare spend. It’s hard to see Labor blocking that. You know how important it is, in your electorate and elsewhere, that people have supportive childcare.


ROWLAND: That’s an absolutely false economy Kieran, to be taking money from vulnerable families, in the form of cuts to family tax benefit, and saying “oh, we’re helping off families, by putting money into childcare.” That is an utterly false economy, it is unfair, and people are very much alive to it.


GILBERT: Let’s finish with another issue, because it is an important one that we’ve addressed, because it’s generated a lot of attention the last couple of days. Even the Prime Minister’s sister last night saying she wants a conscience vote on the issue of same sex marriage, is that going to happen?


BIRMINGHAM: Kieran I’ve been on the record for about 5 years now supporting a conscience vote, supporting change, I believe that there is strong community support for such a change, I look forward to having a discussion in the party room. That the Prime Minister has promised, I would expect that to happen sometime this year, and I’m incredibly hopeful that we will see and conscience vote in the future that enables then, a debate to be had in the Parliament, to see the legislation changed for marriage equality.


GILBERT: And do you think there will be a vote in favour of marriage equality by the end of this year?


BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, I don’t want to speculate on what the Parliament may do, I am simply focused on taking to the party room the view that I’ve expressed for a very long time, and have stood by, and that it is right and proper to have a conscience vote on an issue in which so many members views are informed by religious or moral or ethical beliefs. It’s the right and proper thing to have a conscience vote.


GILBERT: It’s interesting that Senator Birmingham agrees with Bill Shorten and I guess yourself, but not so much with Tanya Plibersek, because Tanya Plibersek wants a binding vote on this issue, where’s Labor at with all of this?


ROWLAND: I support a conscience vote and I think that if a conscience vote was granted to the Government party room, then a vote could be brought on and the matter could be determined once and for all. I think all this talk about having referendum and so forth, I actually think that is not the issue that we should be focusing on, we should be focusing on getting a conscience vote to the floor of the Parliament.


GILBERT: Do you support same sex marriage?


ROWLAND: I voted against the proposition when it came up last time, and I made a commitment, Kieran, to consult my electorate, before making a decision when it comes up again. So I am absolutely committed to doing that. So I think that the proponents of marriage equality, and I think that the public in general should welcome a conscience vote on this issue, and let’s see how the votes fall.


GILBERT: Michelle Rowland and Simon Birmingham, thanks so much for your time.