Subject: (Removal of Citizenship; NATSEM Modelling; Marriage Equality)


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

MICHELLE ROWLAND: We’ve sought, Kieran, a briefing from the government on the issue 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 I think, even 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 DASH 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.

KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, Michelle Rowland alludes to this question of…I guess you strip citizenship off someone if 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 “ok we’ll welcome you even though your parents weren’t born here. Come here even though you fought for Islamic State.” It’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 our armoury of measures we’re taking to counter extremism and to deal with the threat of DASH 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’d 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 understand or expect that more would 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, as you just heard from Julie Bishop, new important measures to ensure we have streamlined government approaches to counter-terrorism which comes on top of legislative packages and more than $1B in funding to make Australia safer.

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

MICHELLE ROWLAND: Well this modelling clearly shows that some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable people in our community are going to be 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. I think this comes on the back of the ACOSS study also, which shows $15B 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. 

KIERAN 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.

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

KIERAN GILBERT: …Is it fair that the lowest paid families lose 7% of their disposable income?

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

KIERAN GILBERT: 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 that is in your electorate and elsewhere that people have supported such an expensive out of pocket outlay.

MICHELLE 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 families by putting money in to childcare” That is an utterly false economy, it is unfair and people are very much alive to it.

KIERAN GILBERT: I do want to finish with another issue because it is an important one that we address because it has generated a lot of attention in 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?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, I’ve been on the record for about five 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 a conscience vote in the future that enables then a debate to be had in the Parliament to see the legislation changed for marriage equality.

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you think that there’ll be a vote in favour of marriage equality by the end of this year?

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

KIERAN GILBERT: It’s interesting Senator Birmingham agrees with Bill Shorten and 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?

MICHELLE 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 referenda and so forth…I actually think that that is not the issue we should be focussing on, we should be focussing on getting a conscience vote to the floor of the Parliament…

KIERAN GILBERT: …But do you support marriage equality?

MICHELLE 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 about when it comes up again. So I’m absolutely committed to doing that, so I think that the proponents of marriage equality- and I think the public in general should welcome a conscience vote on this issue and let’s see how the votes fall.

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