SUBJECT: Omnibus Bill; Marriage Equality; Political donations
KIERAN GILBERT: Here in Canberra though we're turning our attention back to the resumption of Parliament this morning. With me is Labor frontbencher, Shadow Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland.
Thanks very much for your time. I want to ask you first of all about the omnibus savings measures, where is Labor at on that? It seems those on the left of the party want Labor to block the change to the clean energy supplement for welfare recipients.
MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Kieran, we'll be going through our normal processes, through the Shadow Cabinet and the Caucus. But we've made it very clear that we support Budget repair that is fair.
We are also very committed to ensuring that the bottom line of the commitments that we took to the election are met. And I believe that we were right to really scrutinise this Bill closely considering we found a $100 million error in the sums.
So, we'll be going through our normal processes but it is certainly not lost on anyone in the Labor Caucus that need to have fairness in our decisions but also the issue of Budget repair is one in which we said we would work constructively with the Government.
GILBERT: And the bottom line, so the bottom line commitment remains, whatever you took to the election in terms of the overall savings, you'll stick to that?
ROWLAND: That is the commitment that we made and we have every intention of meeting that.
GILBERT: Even if there might be some movement in terms of that supplement for welfare recipients?
ROWLAND: Kieran, we'll go through out normal processes for this and that will not take, you know, a large number of days. But as soon as we've done that we'll have a much clearer picture.
GILBERT: On the plebiscite for same-sex marriage, do you think if the Government consults Mr Shorten and your team more, that you'd be more open to backing a public vote of this issue?
ROWLAND: I know that was one of the criticisms from within the Government itself about the process that's been undertaken, that there's been a lack of consultation.
I think there's two points there: firstly the lack of consultation also appears to be an issue clearly within Government members. There's the issues, you know, with their own processes, whether or not their own internal committees have had time to consider this and recently we've seen the issue of public funding being raised.
But Labor has made our position very clear about this. We think that MPs should do their job and again we were talking about Budget repair, this plebiscite will cost anything from $160 million to a quarter of a billion dollars. There you go, there's savings right there and if you add what's been reported to be a $10 million commitment to the yes and no case, there's another $20 million.
GILBERT: But if it does fall over, and I know Mr Shorten's going to move a Bill this week in relation to legalising same-sex marriage, if that fails which we expect it will, what's your message then for members of the same-sex community, those that want to marry their partners who can't because Labor won't back the plebiscite, because this would be legalised within, within months.
ROWLAND: Well I think there's two points there, the first is: we took a very clear position on the plebiscite to the election that we thought this was not the right way to go. But the second point is that we remain willing to work with the Government to make this a reality and quite frankly the quickest way you can do it and the most effective way for MPs to do their jobs is through the Parliament.
GILBERT: But if you don't get there and you are willing to work with the Government then that leaves open the option of a plebiscite.
ROWLAND: Look, we'll take it from there. We'll see whether the Government is actually willing to consider all these issues that they're currently having to deal with, with the issue of the plebiscite. I mean this has blown up more problems than I think they had ever envisaged and if they would care to consult with Labor more on this we'd be very happy to provide some guidance.
GILBERT: On the issue of political donations, this really wasn't the centre of the controversy last week, was it? In terms of Sam Dastyari, that was a one off really in terms on an MP claiming an expense from an entity, whether it be foreign or otherwise, that's not a common practise is it?
ROWLAND: Well I certainly wouldn't think so and as Sam himself said he certainly wasn't thinking when he asked someone else to pay his bill.
But Labor for some time has been prosecuting this case for donation reform and the issue...
GILBERT: It's not just a detraction from the...
ROWLAND: We're on the record of wanting to do this...
GILBERT: The Dastyari controversy?
ROWLAND: We're on the record as being wanting to do this for a very long time, including lowering the disclosure limit to $1000, banning foreign donations, having real time disclosures and I think these issues arose primarily because it raised questions of public trust in the system. And as a marginal seat holder, let me tell you it is very expensive to run campaigns, but equally you need to have transparency there.
So I think that this is an important issue that needs to be considered. We're not the only people saying it, for goodness sake Tony Abbott is showing more leadership than the Prime Minister on this issue. So we would like to see it happen.
GILBERT: What the Prime Minister's saying is that he wants the joint standing committee on electoral matters to look at the whole set up, rather than a knee jerk reaction on one front, why not pursue that?
ROWLAND: Well he's welcome...
GILBERT: Makes sense doesn't it?
ROWLAND: He's welcome to do that but we've had countless inquiries into this matter and in fact had what we thought was a deal some years ago on this package, if you cast your mind back. And now we have Malcolm Turnbull calling for bans on union donations, for example, even though the High Court has found that to be unconstitutional.
Look, I don't want a system, and I'm sure the public don't want a system, where your wealth determines whether or not you can be a Member of Parliament. And I think that the increased transparency that will flow from what Labor is proposing will go a long way to satisfying some of those concerns the public have with the process.
GILBERT: Shadow Communications Minister, Michelle Rowland appreciate your time, thank you for that.
ROWLAND: Thank you.