Sky News AM Agenda Interview with Kieran Gilbert

Release Date: 
12 August 2015
Media release

Topics: Same-sex marriage, Emissions Reduction Target E&OE…

KIERAN GILBERT:
Alan Tudge thanks very much for your time. It was obviously a robust debate last night. A number of your colleagues, 16 frontbenchers, arguing in favor of a free vote. If they cross the floor, they lose their jobs now in terms of if this private members bill on same sex marriage gets to the parliament.

ALAN TUDGE:
The Westminster system has always held that view, that frontbenchers are bound by the party's positions. Backbenchers within the Liberal Party are not, of course, and they can cross the floor as they have done so in the past and there won't be repercussions.

That is in fact different to the Labor Party, where any member of the Labor Party who crosses the floor is expelled from the Party.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Can your frontbench colleagues abstain if they like or do they have to vote in support of the government position?

ALAN TUDGE:
That's a question I don't know the answer to. Of course they can't vote against it, but I don't know the answer to that question.

KIERAN GILBERT:
I guess on this issue that gets back to the point of why there isn't a free vote on an issue which many argue and many of your own colleagues believe is a conscience vote, more in the context of the party of Menzies, the man who argued that each of your colleagues should be able to vote on their own conscience.

ALAN TUDGE:
That's true but at the same time my view, and I think the view of most members of the Party Room, was that we wanted to maintain the faith with the Australian people. At the 2013 election, we said to them that we would have a party position maintaining the current definition of marriage.

We reaffirmed that party position for this term of parliament but we also made a very fundamentally important decision. That is, we will likely take to the next election a commitment that we will hold a plebiscite in the next term of parliament should we be reelected.

That will give every single Australian an opportunity should we go down that path.

KIERAN GILBERT:
I'm told there was no such commitment agreed to within the party room yesterday. There was no commitment and there is no policy right now. The Prime Minister's talking about essentially ideas at the moment but hasn't locked in a policy, a commitment.

ALAN TUDGE:
We had this party room discussion as you know which went for five or six hours. Out of that party room decision, we decided we would investigate that possibility.

KIERAN GILBERT:
So investigate it…

ALAN TUDGE:
There was some consensus around that as well…

KIERAN GILBERT:
It wouldn't be a referendum though…

ALAN TUDGE:
It could either be a referendum or it could be a plebiscite. Either way, every single Australian under such a model would have the ability to have their say on this question.

I personally think this is a terrific idea because if we are to change the law to change the definition of marriage we would be changing in essence a 2,000 year old institution. Therefore it would be quite proper, just as Ireland did it, to allow every single Australian to have their say.

KIERAN GILBERT:
But they needed to change their constitution. We don't so a referendum would seem a bit odd in this circumstance. A plebiscite sure, fine, have a vote, that makes sense but a referendum would seem a bit odd here. Why do we need to change the constitution?

ALAN TUDGE:
Either way, it would give the opportunity for every Australian to have their say and I think that's a good thing and I hope that most Australians would welcome that opportunity for every single one of them to have their say on whether or not we should change the definition of marriage.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Only a few months ago the Prime Minister said it should be a matter for the parliament off the back of the Irish vote. Now he's changed his mind. Is this just trying to placate the conservative wing of your party and base within the electorate?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think to the Prime Minister's credit, he led this process. He said 'let's have a full discussion in our party room and let the party room decide what our ongoing position will be'. So I give credit to the Prime Minister for doing that and it was an exceptionally good process.

I think it was our party room at our best because every single member of our party room had the opportunity to have their say. And at the end of it, we got to a relatively unified position from what could have been a very divisive issue.

KIERAN GILBERT:
I guess there's still some doubt as to what that position is though, as much as you're categorizing it as that's the direction but to me it seems there's still a fair bit of doubt as to what the government's going to come up with because as I told you earlier, my understanding from your colleagues is that there was no commitment made by the party room to this course of action which you are asserting is the one the Prime Minister's going to pursue.

ALAN TUDGE:
There was a strong indication that we would be investigating this as a possibility to take to the next election.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Let's move on and look at the climate change issue and the carbon emission reductions. Is this credible on the international stage?

ALAN TUDGE:
Of course it is. We've committed now to a reduction target of between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels. That lines up in amongst all the other comparable developed countries. It's almost exactly the same as Japan, very similar to the United States, just a little bit below Europe and well above China, Japan and South Korea.

KIERAN GILBERT:
The sources have told me that the New Zealanders wanted to get their target out there before Australia. They did not want to be seen to be coming in after Australia because we're seen a laggards on this. Even the Kiwis are saying that, that they didn't want to come in after us because we are being seen by the OECD and the rest of the international community as being laggards on it.

ALAN TUDGE:
First of all, let's have a look at our results. We have absolutely delivered upon our Kyoto 1 target, we will absolutely deliver on our Kyoto 2 target. Many countries have not done that. Secondly, our Emissions Reduction Target for 2030 will fall very squarely within the range of those developed countries including New Zealand.

Their target is minus 30 per cent, ours is minus 26-28 so we're splitting hairs in terms of the difference there.

KIERAN GILBERT:
It's something that you believe will stack up credibly given our ranking as the highest emitter per capita in the world?

ALAN TUDGE:
I do and I'd just point out this other fact actually Kieran on that, yes we do have a high per capita emissions rate at present but our target for 2030 will have the largest reduction of any wealthy country in the world on a per capita basis. It will be a 50 per cent reduction per capita.

KIERAN GILBERT:
Mr Tudge, appreciate your time.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Kieran.

[ENDS]