SUBJECT/S: Citizenship referrals, same-sex marriage bill

TONY BURKE, MANAGER OF OPPOSITION BUSINESS: We're back now for what should be our second week of work here in Canberra. But because of Parliament being cancelled last week a whole series of pieces of legislation and work that was meant to be done last week won't get touched at all until next year. 

The Government in cancelling Parliament last week thought they were going to avoid chaos. This Government is able to deliver chaos all on its own. It doesn't need Parliament to help with that. But today the Parliament will have to make a very significant decision because there is a change in the way this place is going to operate. Mr Turnbull has made clear that we will no longer have the practice where referrals are made to the High Court on the basis that members of Parliament come forward and indicate that they want their cases checked by the High Court. He said now those decisions will be made by rival political parties and he's already flagged his intention for the Liberal Party to move motions of that nature against Labor and against the Xenophon team. 

We can't have a situation if they are the new rules, where the new rules apply to the benefit of the Liberal Party and no one else. At the moment the Government is going down a path where the Parliament will be able to refer members of the Labor Party or the crossbench to the High Court but will not be able to refer members of the Liberal or National parties anymore to the High Court if those motions are moved by the Labor Party. we need to have a change resolved by the Parliament today that at the end of this week any member of Parliament can move that somebody should be referred to the High Court and if the majority of the Parliament votes that way then the referral will happen. 

It is born to rule to the extreme to have a situation where the Liberal Party can refer its opponents to the High Court but nobody else can do the same back to the Liberal Party. It's not a surprising approach from Mr Turnbull but it's completely unacceptable and we’ll be pushing in the Parliament today to make sure that we don't have yet another example of one rule for Mr Turnbull and another rule for everybody else. 

JOURNALIST: It’s been reported this week the Attorney General will release some federal legislation banning foreign donations also makes and change the around espionage law. Do you think there is room for change there? 

BURKE: Well in terms of the ban on foreign donations, I'm not across the specifics of the espionage proposal you referred to there but in terms of foreign donations it's been Labor policy for a long time that we wanted to get a law of that nature through the Parliament. There are a number of donations that have been high on the news over the last little while where from donors where the Labor Party has simply already said we won't receive their money and the Government has continued to leave open the possibility of taking money from those particular donors. 

But on the principle itself of banning foreign donations, it’s been something we've been trying to get the Government to the table on for a very long time 

JOURNALIST: On same-sex marriage, it’s reported the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott may have some amendments to put forward in the house this week. Do you expect the bill to be changed substantially in the house?

BURKE:  I'm concerned that if we have amendments in the House of Representatives we could very easily get to a situation where the Senate has approved marriage equality in one form, the House of Representatives has approved marriage equality in a different form and we get to the end of the year and we still don't have the change. Now if the Parliament becomes so broken that that's the outcome I don't think the Australian people are going to be terribly impressed at all. Nor would they be right to be. So my view was always that the issue of these amendments should be dealt with in the Senate. Labor Party members have a conscience vote on the issue of marriage equality itself. A number of the amendments that were moved in the Senate and I don't know if identical amendments will be moved in the Reps, but a number of the amendments that were moved in the Senate dealt with issues that were not, in fact, a problem. They were seeking to create amendments to protect people from things that simply don't happen as a result of marriage equality legislation.

The charity's amendment is an example of that that has been referred to. And so if we have a situation where amendments are being moved because they serve a political purpose rather than actually making any difference on the ground then I'd be surprised if the Parliament carried amendments of that nature. Thank you.

Tony Burke