15 November 2017
Transcript - #2017220, 2017

Interview with Craig Zonca, ABC Brisbane

SUBJECTS: Same-sex marriage survey; citizenship; positive economic data results; Queensland election

CRAIG ZONCA:

Scott Morrison good morning to you.

TREASURER:

Good morning Craig good to be here.

ZONCA:

You voted no. How will you feel if a yes vote is the majority that gets announced by the ABS, as the polls indicate?

TREASURER:

First of all let me say on the marriage survey congratulations to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The response rate to this marriage survey has been quite extraordinary. I think it has exceeded everyone’s expectations and I think the way it has been conducted has been very professional and been carried on in largely a very positive tone. So that is fine and that is good. But as you say the results will come out and we will have a very clear read from the Australian people about what they would like to see happen and then the Australian Parliament will make that happen.

ZONCA:

So you voted no in the survey.

TREASURER:

I was also probably the strongest supporter of having a plebiscite because I thought it important to get a very clear steer from the Australian people…

ZONCA:

But will you follow that very clear steer from the Australian people?

TREASURER:

Well I will do two things. I will absolutely respect the outcome of what the marriage survey is today and I will also completely act in accordance with my convictions…

ZONCA:

But what does that mean? That could be mutually exclusive.

TREASURER:

Well I don’t see why it needs to be.

ZONCA:

Well you said your own personal convictions, they could be different to the results of the majority of this survey.

TREASURER:

There will be results that will come down by electorate today as well as overall and I have always said that if indeed it is carried then there would be nothing I would do that would prevent that ultimately from occurring. I think that is important. That is the outcome that we need. The point I am making about what this process has done is this, we will find out today whether Australians want the Parliament to go ahead and legislate for same-sex marriage to be legalised in this country and if that is the result then that is what will happen. There then remains a debate to be held in the Parliament and that is not a partisan debate. That will be a conscience debate. So the differences of views that may be held in the Parliament as the bills are finalised and they go through the Parliament, that will be up to the conscience of individual members. It won’t be up to the inside the Liberal party, inside the Labor party, inside the Greens party, inside the One Nation party. Every single member will have the right to get up, to make their case, to move amendments and in my case I am in favour of strong protections for religious freedom in this country.

ZONCA:

But in saying that why then bother with spending $122 million on having this survey if then you say it is up to the conscience of each and every member inside Parliament House, you could have already done that.

TREASURER:

No what I am saying is, if the marriage survey comes back a yes today then a same sex bill will be passed by the Parliament this year. That is what will happen…

ZONCA:

And you will vote yes for it?

TREASURER:

That will be the outcome and that’s the right thing to happen…

ZONCA:

And you will vote yes?

TREASURER:

But the content of the bill, the content of the bill will be a matter to be determined by the Parliament, not along partisan lines and I will want to see strong religious protections in that bill and I will be supporting amendments that seek to do that.

ZONCA:

How deep will that drive divisions inside the Coalition?

TREASURER:

I don’t think it will drive divisions at all…

ZONCA:

It won’t?

TREASURER:

Because this isn’t a partisan issue. This is now the Parliament acting with 150 members in the House and 76 members in the Senate actually now going to work and working through a bill to achieve what the Australian people may have asked them to do and I suspect that will be the outcome but if it’s not then obviously the debate will be moot.

ZONCA:

Because commentators suggest it is going to be a showdown in the party room between people like yourself and the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

TREASURER:

I think that’s rubbish. The Prime Minister and I have long understood each of our views on this topic, we remain the closest of friends and we are completely respectfully of each other’s positions and I think that will be the nature in which the debate will proceed in the Parliament with the clear understanding that this must be legislated if it comes back with a yes vote today, this must be legislated before the end of the year. I completely support that outcome. It will be legislated by the end of the year but it is important that the Parliament then does its part of the job and that is finalise a bill. That bill in my view needs to have strong protections and there are a couple of issues that have been raised. Those protections include one, that parents should be able to withdraw their children from instruction in schools that might go against their religious beliefs that might flow from today’s decision if that’s what occurs. Two, that organisations that currently receive public support or charitable status under the tax act should not have that withdrawn based on continuing to have a view that is consistent with their religious convictions and thirdly, that if people continue to hold, as they indeed will consistent with the religious convictions traditional views, then they shouldn’t be discriminated against. And I think they are fairly fair points.

ZONCA:

Scott Morrison, do you support any of the bills that are currently on the table from your Liberal colleagues? Would any of those that are currently on the table get your support through the House?

TREASURER:

I don’t believe currently the Smith bill contains the protections I just outlined but I am confident that the Parliament will be able to work through this issue and consider the good faith amendments of people who are trying to ensure that we don’t replace one form of discrimination with another.

ZONCA:

Ok so you don’t support the Smith bill what about that from James Paterson?

TREASURER:

It’s not clear that bill will even get to the floor of the Senate and these matters will be determined in the Senate before they get to the House. But the areas of protections that I think are important, some of those are canvassed in the Paterson bill. Whether that is the best way to canvass them or not in those specific words are a matter for the Parliament to determine. But I am staying at the principle level here, I think Australians if they return a yes vote today will expect to see this job to be done by the end of the year and I support that job getting done by the end of the year. At the same time I think Australians would support ensuring that in doing that we don’t put people who have strong views, religious views in this area, don’t allow a new era of discrimination to start where people can’t get appointed to boards, are sacked from their jobs, [inaudible] if parents pull their kids out of instruction in schools or organisations lose charitable gift status or have public funding cut, I don’t think they want to see that happen either.

ZONCA:

But isn’t it fear mongering as well Scott Morrison?

TREASURER:

No I don’t think it is.

ZONCA:

Is there really any danger of that happening under our current laws and protections in Australia?

TREASURER:

You can’t assure me that that won’t happen.

ZONCA:

You talk about parents having the right to pull their children out of a school if they don’t agree with the education…

TREASURER:

Not out of the school, I am saying out of a particular class…

ZONCA:

They can do that now.

TREASURER:

They want to keep going to that school but they might want to withdraw those children from that class and there should be alternative arrangements for that school for those children to have other forms of instruction during that time. I don’t want the case for example of a young person who might not be a Priest, a Pastor or an Imam or anything like this, if they are teaching scripture in a school for example and they are sitting there in a scripture class and a child comes up to them in that scripture class, it could be a Baptist scripture class in a public school and they said ‘what do you believe marriage is?’ Now that young person says what the traditional view of marriage is. I don’t think they should be up for any anti-discrimination or vilification on the basis of expressing that view. I think what we have to be careful of as legislators is that if we make this change, and we would be making it on the basis of the clear expression of the Australian people, then we just make sure we get it right.

ZONCA:

We have been speaking about whether it is a yes vote that gets the majority when the results are announced at 9am, what if it is a no vote?

TREASURER:

That’s it.

ZONCA:

That’s it?

TREASURER:

Well that’s what we said. We said there would be a plebiscite, there would be a marriage survey and if it was passed, if there was a yes, then the government would facilitate a bill coming forward and that is what we will do and if it is a no vote we said that we wouldn’t.

ZONCA:

What if it is split 50-50?

TREASURER:

I don’t think that is going to happen, one of the reasons being I just commended the ABS on a very good process they have run so I think that is a bit of a red herring.

ZONCA:

The results to be delivered by the ABS at 9 o’clock this morning. Of course there has been so much going on in federal politics over the last few weeks…

TREASURER:

Just before we move off that Craig I think ultimately today it is important there be grace. I think this is a big decision that is coming back today, it will mean an enormous amount to a large amount of people. It will mean for other people potentially disappointment but I think what we should do today is celebrate the fact that the Australian people have been given a clear say on this and I think we will move forward with that clear knowledge and I think Australians will treat each other with grace and respect.

ZONCA:

And Chris just wants clarification and sent through this text: ‘politicians should they be voting on how their electorate responds to the same-sex marriage survey or should they be voting along conscience lines’? Just a clear yes or no.

TREASURER:

I can’t speak for any other member of Parliament. All I know is I will be giving due regard obviously to what comes back in the overall survey and what happens in my own electorate and I will be putting that together with my own convictions as an individual sitting in the House of Representatives and I will make a decision based on that.

ZONCA:

So can I ask if your electorate votes…

TREASURER:

I am not getting into hypotheticals today.

ZONCA:

But if your electorate…

TREASURER:

No I am not getting into hypotheticals today.

ZONCA:

Well I am just trying to get an understanding…

TREASURER:

You are trying to get me to respond to a hypothetical. I am not going to do that. What I am saying is I have set out the ground rules for how I am going to make my choice and I will honour that.

ZONCA:

It is a question, that is what I am getting you to answer.

TREASURER:

No it is a hypothetical, I am not answering it.

ZONCA:

Federal politics there has been a lot going on. The dual citizenship space which has just gone on and on and on. Is there going to be an end to it Scott Morrison?

TREASURER:

Well there is from the government’s point of view. Our members have taken their decisions, John Alexander has resigned and he’s facing a by-election and we already have Barnaby Joyce doing exactly the same thing, in accordance with what the High Court found, in New England. So, Government members have done exactly what I think you’d expect them to do but the Labor party doesn’t want to do that.

ZONCA:

But are we still going to see more Government members declare themselves as dual citizens between now and the first of December?

TREASURER:

I don’t believe so but the declarations will come back in accordance with what the Senate has passed and indeed what the House will pass and that will provide the opportunity for all that to be ventilated. But what I do know is the Government has acted in good faith, the Government has sought to bring this to a conclusion, Bill Shorten has sought to keep kicking it on for his own political opportunity and he’s not seeking to resolve it, he’s seeking to be very shifty about it.

ZONCA:

Would you acknowledge that it has really diminished the credibility of politicians in Australia? Because of what’s gone on and it’s dragged on?

TREASURER:

I think it’s been a very bewildering and mysterious period. This could have come up in any Parliament over the last 60 years, 60 years. I’m quite sure there have been large swathes of parliamentarians who sat in the Parliament since our citizenship act was passed, who would have fallen foul of exactly the same provisions, if not more significantly…

ZONCA:

But it’s happened during your term.

TREASURER:

It’s just happened. They are events – as they say – events, they occur and in politics you have to respond to those events and deal with them, and that’s what the Prime Minister has done. The Prime Minister is bringing this to a conclusion, Bill Shorten is seeking to continue the uncertainty and to exploit the uncertainty and that tells you everything about the opportunist that Bill Shorten is. He’s shifty and he will use events for his own purposes, not for the national interest.

ZONCA:

In saying that, what about how the public sees this debate? They see politicians fighting amongst themselves and not talking about the issues that affect them on a daily basis.

TREASURER:

Well, you have not asked me yet one question on the wage price index that comes out this morning or the employment data that’s coming out tomorrow. I think people all have to take responsibility for what they focus on as being the big issues in Australia. I’ve been wanting to talk about the economy consistently all through this…

ZONCA:

But you’ve got a Parliament where Barnaby Joyce is still facing a by-election, John Alexander now facing a by-election in his seat of Bennelong – that puts the numbers very tight within the House, within the chamber. So, can you actually get anything done at the moment given the current state of play?

TREASURER:

We’ve had a 180 bills, or thereabouts, pass since we were elected at the last election in a Parliament that people said that nothing would be able to be done. So, we’ve had people telling us for some period of time now that this is a Parliament which you can’t get things done and we keep getting things done. But to go back to your broader point, yes, I do think the Australian people are confused by it. I think they’re frustrated by it, I think they’re fed up with it, I think they’d like to see it come to an end and I think that’s why the Prime Minister has taken the right decision to do exactly that and those who want to keep whipping it up and extending it and prolonging it – like Bill Shorten is seeking to do – then I don’t think that is actually addressing what the public wants to see the politicians do.

ZONCA:

Will it force a general election?

TREASURER:

No.

ZONCA:

It won’t?

TREASURER:

Of course not, why would it?

ZONCA:

Is it forcing people to One Nation?

TREASURER:

I have no idea. But I don’t know why those two things would be related?

ZONCA:

Because the credibility of politicians being called into question by – within the minds of the public and we’re seeing…

TREASURER:

One Nation Senators have had to stand down so I don’t understand what the point is?

ZONCA:

Absolutely, but here in Queensland, we’re in the middle of a state election campaign as you well know and we’re seeing One Nation poll extraordinarily well – particularly in regional areas – as a form of protest vote against the major parties. Is this current drama pushing more people towards One Nation.

TREASURER:

No, I don’t think the citizenship issue and the points you raised are related. What matters in Queensland to Queensland voters is the future of jobs and prosperity in Queensland. You’ve got a premier in Queensland who says one thing to people in North Queensland about Adani and another thing to people in Brisbane about Adani and that tells you one thing, you can’t trust her. For those who want to see Adani go ahead, they can’t believe her. For those who want to see it stopped, they can’t believe her either. It’s actually not about Adani, it’s about the Premier, she can’t be trusted on this.

ZONCA:

As you talk about the premier, your LNP constituents in Queensland are losing votes to One Nation if the polls are to be believed. How do they get them back?

TREASURER:

The election’s still some days away and I think Tim Nicholls has set out a very clear plan for the Queensland economy in particular. Yesterday, I was up with one of his candidates in Brisbane, in that seat we were talking to small businesses and not only had they been benefitting from the small business tax cuts the Turnbull Government has put in place but for small businesses in Queensland, they get the support of the payroll tax relief. Now, that’s a plan to grow the economy and that’s good for jobs in Queensland and the Queensland economy, frankly, is not performing as strongly as it could and that’s a letdown for the national economy. You only have to go to the other side of the tweed to see a state economy that is booming on the basis of strong economic management by a Liberal government. Now, I would love to see that happening in Queensland, it would be great for the national economy if the Queensland economy could actually get into a higher gear and have a premier who has a plan to grow the economy.

ZONCA:

Scott Morrison, for the LNP to take office after 25 November and they’re in a position where One Nation hold the balance of power, should they form minority government with One Nation?

TREASURER:

Again, you’ve got on the hypothetical and the speculation, but…

ZONCA:

This is a reality we would be facing in a week’s time.

TREASURER:

Queenslanders will make their decision, okay? About who they vote for and who they’re going to return to the Queensland parliament and then people will have to make decisions about the best interests of Queensland after that time. I won’t be making those decisions, I’m not the leader of the LNP in Queensland, Tim Nicholls has got that job down pat and is doing a fantastic job. So, first, people have got to vote and the message from the LNP is to make the LNP their first choice. Make Tim Nicholls your first choice. You want the Queensland economy to go ahead, you want it to restore itself to the rightful place that I think it should have in the national economy then Tim Nicholls and the LNP is the right decision.

ZONCA:

Scott Morrison, thanks for your time this morning.

TREASURER:

Thanks, Craig, it was good to be with you.