Interview with Laura Jayes, The Latest, Sky News

  • Minister for Employment
  • Minister for Women
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
  • Senator for Western Australia

SUBJECT/S:   Same-sex marriage plebiscite, ABCC Legislation, Registered Organisations, John Howard OM AC, 50% Representation of females in Parliament.

LAURA JAYES:  Senator Michaelia Cash, thank you very much for your time.

MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you.

LAURA JAYES:  Once again we are back for the sitting of Parliament and what seems to be at the forefront of at least Labor’s mind and dragging the Government this way is the same sex marriage plebiscite. We are on the debate and that cycle again, can I just ask you as this seems to be one of the arguments from Labor. What is the point even having a plebiscite if some of your side are already saying that they are going to ignore the result?   

MINISTER CASH: The very clear policy that we took to the 2016 election was that if we were re-elected and we were, the question of whether or not there should be same sex marriage would be decided by the people through a plebiscite.

The people voted for us and in doing that they are obviously voting for the plebiscite.

That’s our commitment to the people of Australia. We are not going to dangle - “guess what you get to vote on same sex marriage” and the minute we are elected renege on that promise. We made a clear commitment and we are following through with that commitment.

LAURA JAYES:  But will all members of the government abide by the result of this plebiscite if it is yes? We have some members of government who won’t vote in parliament.

MINISTER CASH: I will give you the example of myself, I am someone on the record who is not supporting same sex marriage. However I have also clearly stated that if the plebiscite was to be successful I would support the passage of the laws through the parliament.

There are a number of us on the record who don’t support same sex marriage, but have said we would vote for the passage of the legislation if the plebiscite is successful. 

LAURA JAYES:  Should it be binding on all members?

MINISTER CASH: That is ultimately a decision for the liberal party through our normal processes.

LAURA JAYES: Should it be binding on Cabinet perhaps?

MINISTER CASH: Again, a decision for the Liberal party through our normal processes.

LAURA JAYES: Cabinet is this meeting tonight, we are not meant to talk about Cabinet, what goes on inside Cabinet - it’s kind of like fight club I know - do you expect this to be sorted out this week, because it is dragging on and it shouldn’t be. As Scott Morrison pointed out today, the number one agenda item for the Government, but while we have so many unknowns about how a plebiscite might happen, it is really drowning out the rest of the agenda.

MINISTER CASH: I am going to disagree with you there - I don’t think this is the number one agenda for the Government. We tabled a number of Bills in the Parliament last Wednesday, in relation to my own portfolios, the employment portfolios I am looking at the passage of the CFA legislation, the restoration of the ABCC and the standing up of the Registered Organisations Commission. Scott Morrison is focused on budget repair. This is another issue if we were elected and we were, it was always going to be an issue that needed to be discussed after the election and that is the process we are currently going through.

LAURA JAYES:  Okay, as someone who is a stated non-supporter of same sex marriage, what do you think about this idea of funding both sides of the debate? Should it be funded? Should there be a nominal amount, whether it be $5 million, $10 million?

MINISTER CASH: That is something that is now going to be deliberated on in the Cabinet and ultimately then the party.

LAURA JAYES:  You would be urging the Prime Minister to sort this out sooner than later?

MINISTER CASH: I think we would all like to see it sorted out sooner rather than later. In terms of funding, again that is something that will soon be discussed by the Cabinet, the party room and ultimately debated by the Parliament, but I do note that both the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have stated on the record, in terms of the issue of funding, if it is decided that there will be public funding, it must be done on an equal basis.

LAURA JAYES:  Do you think there should be public funding? 

MINISTER CASH: I will leave those deliberations for the Cabinet.

LAURA JAYES: The Senate has been filibustering for most of the day, is it going to have something to do tomorrow? 

MINISTER CASH: We have not been filibustering, we have been debating the very important address and reply. But certainly Mr Shorten and Labor have been well and truly playing games in the House of Representatives. There were two pieces of legislation that were non-controversial, in particular, the Registration of Deaths Abroad Bill, that unfortunately, Labor decided that they would deny us the third reading of the bill because they did not want it to go through the Parliament.

They are just being silly, we are obviously waiting for the Bills to come up through the House of Representatives, because as you know, the Parliament was dissolved, the Bills need to be re-introduced to the House of Representatives and we have done so.

My understanding is we now have passage of those Bills; at least one of them through the House of Representatives and it will be given to the Senate this afternoon. 

LAURA JAYES:  What about the three Bills you have carriage of, the ABCC legislation has been on the notice paper for more than a thousand days, I know it’s now in the committee stage, but can you see that passing by the end of the year?

Are we going to have a joint sitting or are the senators acquiescing to your request?

MINISTER CASH: In relation to the three IR bills, all three have now been re-tabled in the House of Representatives, as is the right of the Senate and in particular the new Senate, they are able to refer those bills off to committee which they have done so.

All three are reporting back to the Senate in October, at which time we will commence debate in the Senate, through the balance of the year.

I will continue to negotiate with the crossbenchers and again I have been very pleased with the way that they have been negotiating in good faith with me.

LAURA JAYES: You need Nick Xenophon on board and he is still putting forward his lists of demands for amendments, are you still open to those?

MINISTER CASH: I have always said I will have a look in good faith at all amendments that are presented to me, this is an important piece of legislation…

LAURA JAYES:  Having a look or considering seriously…

MINISTER CASH: Having a look and seriously considering.

For me the fundamental principle is, this industry is the third largest industry in Australia, it employs over a million people. It supports hundreds of thousands of small business, 8 per cent of our gross domestic product and yet it is marred by unlawful behaviour, bullying, intimidation and thuggery.

We want this industry, the building and construction industry, to be the best that it can be, to be as productive as it can be, to create as many jobs as it can. That’s how I approach any negotiations I have - this bill is an important bill and we do need to get it through the Senate.

LAURA JAYES: Finally, this has been brought to the forefront because of John Howard’s comments last week about his, probably stating the obvious, that he doesn’t think women will actually reach 50 per cent in Parliament because of the role they still play at home in child bearing and raising a family.

The Liberal party at the same time has given an undertaking to have 50 per cent representation in Parliament within 10 years it’s not a quota it is a target, it is important with targets to make sure it is actually achieved.

How is it going to be achieved?

MINISTER CASH: Our Federal executive have endorsed a 10 year gender equity programme, as you know we are not a centralist party, so we now work with each of our state and territory divisions. In the first place, they will be encouraged to conduct an audit – who, what, when, where and why. Where are they within the Liberal party, in what positions are they?

We will then determine how we move them through those positions and ultimately into Parliament. There will be reporting mechanisms so the state parties will be required to report back to the Federal Executive.

It really is an exciting time there has been a fundamental shift not just in political parties, but certainly across Australia in the way that we look at gender equity, there is the understanding that equality is good for the bottom line.

I am delighted that not just in politics but across the board all of Australia is now looking at, and embracing how we can get equal representation.

LAURA JAYES:  But does it mean, essentially, that women need more support to get into Parliament?

MINISTER CASH: Very much so. Part of our 10 year gender equity programme is state based mentoring schemes. Mentoring as you know, in so many areas of life is so very important.

That is another component of the programme, identifying people who have been in Parliament, who have left Parliament to mentor young people so that they are aware of what they are getting themselves into, but also how to actually travel through the political party.

LAURA JAYES:  Do you think the men in the Liberal party are as on board as the women?


LAURA JAYES: Why do you say that?

MINISTER CASH: I have talked to so many of them…

LAURA JAYES: I’m not discounting it…

MINISTER CASH: I have talked to so many of them and the fact that our Federal President, is a man and he has embraced our 10 year gender equity programme. Our Prime Minister is well known for decades of commitment to gender equality.

A number of our State Presidents are men and I have discussed this with them and they’re excited by this opportunity. I am delighted that we are embracing it – 2025, there is a lot of work to do, but we are undertaking that work.

LAURA JAYES:  Minister thank you for your time.

MINISTER CASH: Always great to be with you.

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