Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Doorstop Press Gallery, Canberra

8 August 2017

E & OE

Subject: Same-sex marriage and media reform

JOURNALIST:
Are you happy with the result form last night’s party meeting?

FIFIELD:
We had a good and respectful Party Room meeting.  One of the great traditions of our party is that if a colleague, or colleagues want to put forward a proposition they can do so.  Be heard respectfully.  Other colleagues have the opportunity to have their say.  But it was important that we reaffirmed the commitment that we took to the election, that the Australian people would have their say through a plebiscite on the issue of same sex marriage.

JOURNALIST:
Senator will this matter be put to rest by the end of the year.  It seems the Prime Minister wants it done by December 7?

FIFIELD:
We will be having a Joint Party Room meeting discussion today, which will go through the mechanics.  But our objective is to give the Senate another opportunity to consider the matter of a compulsory attendance plebiscite.  That should happen this week.  We will be arguing that case strongly.  If we are unsuccessful we will then look to having a postal ballot so that the Australian people can have their say.  Our election commitments weigh very heavily upon us and we are determined to do everything we possibly can to give effect to them.

JOURNALIST:
Are you confident that a postal plebiscite will hold up to any legal challenge?

FIFIELD:
Look we’re confident that we have a path that is both legal and constitutional.  But obviously our first preference would be to succeed in the Senate and to legislate for a compulsory attendance plebiscite.

JOURNALIST:
Media reform, is that happening this week or next?  Are you going to put the legislation into the Senate and how much support do you think you have?

FIFIELD:
Well the media reform legislation has already passed the House.  It is in the Senate.  We are well underway in the second reading debate.  It is listed for this week.  We may not get to it until next week.  But I am having good discussions with my crossbench colleagues, who across a range of legislation have demonstrated that they are willing to look at good propositions.

JOURNALIST:
Who do you need to get across?

FIFIELD:
Unfortunately we don’t have the support of the Australian Labor Party.  They don’t seem to care about the strength and the health of Australian media voices.  So we are talking to Nick Xenophon’s team, we are talking to One Nation and we are talking to the Australian Greens.

JOURNALIST:
Parliament resumes today, how would you rate the mid-winter break for the government?

FIFIELD:
Look I will leave ratings to of periods to professional commentators.  We are just focused on getting on with transacting the people’s business, which we are endeavouring to do with the plebiscite legislation.  This could have been done and dusted as an issue in February this year, if Bill Shorten hadn’t stood in the way.  And it is important to remember that in 2013 Bill Shorten told the Australian Christian Lobby annual conference that he thought a plebiscite was a good idea.

JOURNALIST:
Going off the Prime Ministers previous statement, he said the idea of a postal plebiscite goes against the Australian democratic values, I mean why is it good for one and not the other?

FIFIELD:
Well our clear preference is to give effect to our election commitment through legislating for an attendance plebiscite.  If the Labor Party don’t allow us to do that then we need to look to options to give effect to our election commitments.  So if Bill Shorten doesn’t like the idea of a postal plebiscite then he can support our legislation in the Senate for an attendance plebiscite.

JOURNALIST:
Thanks Minister.

FIFIELD:
Cheers.

[ends]

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