SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 1 JUNE 2015
SUBJECT/S: Marriage equality; Citizenship law changes; Budget
KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda. With me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge. To you first Alan Tudge on the same-sex marriage issue: do you feel that there is a group within your party or a momentum within your party towards marriage equality?
PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER ALAN TUDGE: I think some people have shifted but I don't know where the numbers sit. I think if a vote was taken, it would be very close. But at the moment, we're absolutely focused on getting the Budget measures through the Parliament. That's our unashamed focus at the moment. The Budget was just handed down only seven sitting days ago, it's got some important measures which we want to introduce into the parliament– particularly the small business tax cuts and the instant asset write-off for small businesses which will turbo -boost that sector of the economy.
GILBERT: Are you cynical about the Opposition Leader's timing?
TUDGE: I am a bit cynical, because I think that Bill Shorten is under pressure as a leader and he doesn't want to discuss our small business package. He doesn't want to discuss jobs and he doesn't want to discuss national security measures. I think that he's a leader who is under pressure and wants to talk about anything else other than those issues. Hence he's putting forward this same-sex bill.
GILBERT: Andrew, your response to that?
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER ANDREW LEIGH: We've said that we will back the small business package. That's just up to the government to bring it to the Parliament. But at the same time as the Parliament is putting through bipartisan Budget measures, it can also deal with marriage equality. I've had a constituent write to me saying that she wants to be able to tie the knot with her same-sex partner before her grandmother passes away. Another constituent has written to me to say that he's been in a committed relationship with his partner for 40 years and he doesn't see why he needs to wait any longer. It's been nearly three years since Stephen Jones' motion was defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives and it's appropriate that Parliament again looks at this given that we're now the only advanced English-speaking country not to support same-sex marriage.
GILBERT: Are you worried though that you have pre-empted what could have been a bi-partisan effort? That there's Coalition members like Warren Entsch who feel like they've been gazumped here?
LEIGH: I don't know what agitation has been taking place in the Coalition party room. I do know that Tanya Plibersek's Private Members Motion has been looking for a Coalition sponsor for 14 months now. No Coalition member has put their hand up as co-sponsor, and so it's appropriate that we push a little further on that.
GILBERT: Ok, Alan Tudge – what's your view on same-sex marriage? Which way would you vote if there was a conscience vote?
TUDGE: That's a decision for the party room, whether or not we have a conscience vote. Traditionally we haven't but the party room itself will decide. I'd just emphasise this point, Kieran. We are only seven sitting days since the Budget was handed down. We've got a huge agenda which we need to focus on. The small business community want us to get these measures through the Parliament so that they can immediately go and purchase up to $20,000 worth of assets and immediately write them off this financial year. This is the importance of that measure. We're going to talk, I imagine, about national security issues and that, again, is an urgent matter for us to deal with in this parliament.
GILBERT: So would you support same-sex marriage if there was a conscience vote? Have you reached a decision on that, or not?
TUDGE: I've traditionally held the view that marriage is between a man and a woman but the bill is not before the Parliament for us to consider. There'll be plenty of time for each of us to discuss with our communities what to do there.
GILBERT: Ok, let's look at the issue of citizenship and stripping the citizenship from people accused of terrorism. Does Labor support the principle of stripping citizenship off a dual national who is engaged in terrorism?
LEIGH: Kieran, first of all we don't know what the Government's proposal is. We have a seven-page discussion paper when it's been over a year since the Government first raised the issue. When we have a clear proposal from the Government, we will give a considered Labor response. But at the moment all we have is backbiting and leaks from the Coalition Cabinet. Australia signed up to a convention against statelessness in 1973 and if you want to make sure that there is less instability in the world, increasing statelessness is not the right way to do it.
GILBERT: So in principle, you don't support this idea?
LEIGH: I'm not sure what the idea is, Kieran. We do not have a concrete proposal from the Government. Certainly Labor is willing to look at sensible proposals around dual citizens. The question, as I understand it, turns on people who only have Australian citizenship and the extent to which they might have access to another country's citizenship. But as Julie Bishop apparently asked in Cabinet: if Australia was to take away citizenship from someone, why would any other country take them?
TUDGE: Andrew, the proposal is very clear. The proposal is that if you are a dual citizen and you are undertaking terrorism activates, then you can have your citizenship revoked. Because in essence, it is modern-day treason. Now, we won't render a person stateless, these are for dual nationals. That's the proposal on the ground. Now there's no reason why the Labor party can't, in principle, support that. At the moment we're getting all of this wishy-washy language from the Labor party and no clear statement from them. This goes back to the former debate. Labor don't want to discuss this. Why aren't we discussing national security, and why isn't Labor supporting, in principle at least, revoking citizenship for dual nationals – those who are committing terrorism activities abroad against Australia's national interest?
GILBERT: That's pretty clear, that description of what the Government is doing. Your response to that component - beyond the sole citizens, but on the dual nationals?
LEIGH: Alan is going to the less controversial part of the proposal, which is to do with dual citizens. At the moment, if you fight with a foreign power against Australia you automatically lose your citizenship. The question that is raised in the discussion paper is: should that fighting for a foreign power rule be extended to fighting for a group like Daesh? I think it's certainly reasonable, in the current age of terrorism, to look at expanding that category of foreign power. But the conflict in Cabinet was over a different issue. It was over the sole citizenship issue. There, we really need to see some precise proposals. I can understand why six Coalition ministers were arcing up in Cabinet when all they had was a discussion paper which –
TUDGE: The decision of the Cabinet, which was overwhelmingly supported by the party room, is that if you're a dual national and you commit a terrorism activity abroad, then you're acting against Australia's interest and –
GILBERT: But Andrew has seemed to indicate that Labor will back that.
TUDGE: Well this sounds like a new policy from the Labor party and that's good if they are going to back, in principle, this measure. Because that's the concrete measure that's on the table and I'm pleased if that is the case, Andrew, because Shadow Minister Dreyus did not seem to support that view.
GILBERT: But you've put out a discussion paper which has still got a fair bit of ambiguity around it. And there's this issue that Andrew has pointed to, which is that you've got six ministers, Cabinet ministers, in his words arcing up about it.
TUDGE: There's two proposals. The concrete proposal which the Cabinet and the party room have decided upon is for dual nationals. If you're a dual national committing terrorism activates, you can have your citizenship taken.
GILBERT: Ok, and it sounds like Labor is going to support that.
TUDGE: The second proposal which has been put in the discussion paper for broad consultation with the community is that if you are an Australian citizen but you are able to avail yourself of citizenship elsewhere and are conducting terrorism activates or supporting terrorism, then you could also lose your citizenship. Now, that would be consistent with the model in the UK, which has been in place since 2006. We are absolutely serious about cracking down on terrorism and this is, in essence, modern-day treason.
GILBERT: Ok, let's get Andrew's response to that. Given it is based on the UK model and the overwhelming number of the Prime Minister's backbench, at least, support this tougher line as well; if you polled the electorate you'd get a fair bit of sympathy for this as well, you'd think?
LEIGH: Kieran, you need to start from the bedrock that Australia, in 1973, signed a convention against statelessness. So whatever we do needs to be consistent with that. We're happy to look at carefully considered proposals. But I don't think you ought to be surprised that Labor wants to move methodically on questions of national security and to see precise, considered reforms. Frankly, that's the approach that –
GILBERT: Are you worried that you're going to be painted as wishy-washy, as the government is trying to do?
LEIGH: Not in the least, Kieran. I mean, if we're talking about sensible ideas such as extending the notion of fighting for a foreign power against Australia to fighting for a terrorist group against Australia, then certainly we can have a conversation about that. But if it's thought-bubbles based on hastily cobbled together discussion papers which could breach our international obligations then we'd be as concerned as - let's face it - even Barnaby Joyce in Cabinet…
TUDGE: With respect Andrew, this is not a thought-bubble. This is based on the model which has been introduced in the United Kingdom and which has been in place since 2006. They've exercised this on 27 occasions, and it appears to be working. So the proposals in the discussion paper are based on measures already in place. It's not a thought-bubble; what it is is an absolute determination and a very clear message to those people who want to support terrorism against Australia's interest that you can lose your citizenship if you do that.
GILBERT: Alright, we're out of time. Andrew Leigh, Alan Tudge – thank you.
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