TRANSCRIPT: Interview - Sky News Peter Van Onselen and Paul Kelly


SUBJECTS: Marriage equality, Citizenship legislation changes, Murray-Darling Basin, Trump/Turnbull transcript, Constitutional recognition for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Australians

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Time now to get an opposition perspective on the week ahead indeed the rest of the year for that matter from the Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke he joins us live here in the studio thanks for your company.

TONY BURKE: Good morning.

VAN ONSELEN: Got to start on same sex marriage obviously. The Liberal Party they're having a meeting at 4pm tomorrow, the Parliament will then kick off on the Tuesday after that. There's been some talk that if there were to be a vote that went against the Prime Minister on same sex marriage, you know, with this group of Liberals crossing the floor, that that could become a confidence issue for the Turnbull Government would Labor look to pursue that?

BURKE: Look there is, there’s some precedent on this. Christopher Pyne used to use it all the time, daring parliamentary votes in the House of Representatives during the hung parliament and some governments, the Government that my seat is named after, the Watson Government. The Government fell after the loss, a loss on the floor of the House of Representatives on industrial relations law. Our position on this though is very simple we will not use this issue as an issue of confidence in the government.

VAN ONSELEN: In no way shape or form?

BURKE: In no way shape or form. If it gets..if it's happening we're not going to say ‘there you go the Parliament has lost faith in the Government’, if it were to happen we would not follow up immediately with a motion of no confidence in the Government. We don't want the Liberal Party room to be able to claim that people who are trying to get legislation through in a similar form to what many members of the Labor Party are trying to get through that, in any way what they are doing is beyond the simplicity of getting a law through the Parliament. That's what it is and so…

VAN ONSELEN: So if there was, for argument's sake, if this went to a vote, if Liberals crossed the floor, if same sex marriage got up, if they were there for dissenters from Coalition ranks. Conservatives that were basically wanting to bring down the Government as a result of this they were so irate. You will not support such a motion?

BURKE: We will not use this issue as a vote of no confidence in the Government. We will not. 

VAN ONSELEN: You would not support even an outraged, conservative, Liberal who was bringing a motion of no confidence?

BURKE: Not off the back of this motion. Not off the back of this. There could be other times during a term where any opposition is going to leave its options open but we want to be able to give an absolute guarantee to those members of the Liberal Party who are pursuing this, that if anyone puts to them this would amount to a vote of no confidence in the Government, it would not.

PAUL KELLY (THE AUSTRALIAN): What is a Labor’s view on the credibility and legality or possible legality of a postal vote plebiscite? And would Labor leave open the option itself of taking legal action to test this issue?

BURKE: On the legality aspect of that you’d have to go to Mark Dreyfus and I haven't discussed this with him. I know he's floated some of the legality challenges that he sees. It would depend in part on exactly how the Government did it and what agency was put in charge of it. Our problem with a postal plebiscite is the same as our problem with the plebiscite generally.

If you're in support of changing these laws it's on a principle of equality and you don't get equality by saying on this one issue there’ll be a hurdle that we don't apply to any other Australian law. You don't deliver equality by saying ‘yep, here's equality but the pathway is going to be completely different’.

KELLY: Do you think that there could be some risk with a postal plebiscite that the ‘no’ vote might actually get up? I mean it seems as though this sort of mechanism might have an inbuilt bias towards the ‘no’ vote. 

BURKE: It might or might not but ultimately under any proposal for a plebiscite it makes no difference to how members of Parliament vote afterwards anyway. No one said that they'd be bound by it. There are a couple of individuals here and there but by and large people say ‘no, no, no I’ll vote the way I intend to vote’. So it serves no purpose. Any public support, when you ask people about the plebiscite you'll get some people initially saying ‘yeah we should have a say’ and even in the interview beforehand there was reference made to let the Australian people decide. Well they don't get to decide under any of these plebiscite models. The decision still goes back to the members of Parliament because that's what the Constitution demands.

VAN ONSELEN: What about the idea though, the idea that a plebiscite, whether that’s a postal or a full plebiscite, it gives the MPs a snapshot of what the community thinks. Party’s poll all the time, MPs have you know survey responses with their electorates all the time. If there was a guarantee from the Government that there would be a vote in the Parliament post a plebiscite no matter what the plebiscite outcome, isn't it just good because it's extra information?

BURKE: No. In terms of what the public think on this issue the polling evidence has been so widespread I don't think there's much doubt as to where the Australian public is at. But if you get right back to the simplicity of the principle, if this is about delivering equality then the pathway to it should not be a hurdle that is not put in the way of any other law. We've regularly over the years had changes to the Marriage Act including a change to the Marriage Act under the Howard Government on exactly this issue. How did it happen? Legislation was introduced and members of Parliament voted. That's how it was done. The precedent on this exact issue of whether or not you  need a plebiscite to be able to decide it has already been settled and was settled and the Howard Government where the decision was the members of Parliament will vote and make their decision.

KELLY: I appreciate that in Westminster systems we have a system of Parliamentary representation where Parliamentarians take the decision. Occasionally there is however, resort to  plebiscites on particular issues and although it's a different issue, Bill Shorten of course has proposed a plebiscite on the republic in the first term of a Shorten Government. So would you agree that occasionally, depending upon the issue, plebiscites do have a degree of utility?

BURKE: The plebiscite with respect to the republic and it's not rhetoric or anything like that to say it's fundamentally different, but it is fundamentally different as it is about achieving constitutional change and we've already seen exactly how the republic referendum failed last time where two issues were effectively put to the Australian people at the same time. The model and the question of becoming a republic and the concept of that plebiscite is simply to put to the Australian people first the threshold question of ‘do you or do you not want to have an Australian head of state’ Because the next stage will only be decided by a vote of the Australian people. What we're talking about with respect to marriage equality is the opposite. The final decision doesn't rest in a referendum, the final decision must rest in the members of Parliament. That's what the Constitution demands.

VAN ONSELEN: How does Labor feel about this private member's bill with some of the details that we've seen. This group of five Liberal MPs and one senator are putting together you know things like the religious exemptions for example?

BURKE: Look the actual copy of the bill is not something that I have and I'm not sure if members, if any members the Labor party have it. 

VAN ONSELEN: But you would have seen the reporting?

BURKE: But the report is something where my understanding is very broadly based, people would see that as the best pathway to get something through the Parliament. And so yes you would find some individuals who would put the exemption slightly differently. Yeah you'd find some individuals but I don't think…

VAN ONSELEN: The reporting seems to suggest that Labor might have a problem with some of the religious exemptions that have been included in this private member's bill.

BURKE: I don't think you would find a situation where any problems that any individual's had, this is without having seen the bill, okay? I would be deeply surprised if any concerns that people had or where they might have drafted it differently, would be strong enough to cause them to subsequently vote against a bill when they were supporters of marriage equality. I don't think the threshold will reach that.
KELLY: Just changing the subject to the Murray-Darling. We've had the revelations about water theft and we've seen a very cross party stand by the South Australians calling for a judicial investigation. Labor wants a form of judicial inquiry. What action will you take when the Parliament resumes to pursue this issue?

BURKE: It will begin in the Senate. The resolution that, you know it's not often you get Penny Wong, Cory Bernardi, Sarah Hanson-Young all standing side by side with Nick Xenophon as well. It’s unusual for that to happen even for any two of them to be in the same place at the same time. The resolution they are talking about that will be moved in the Senate will seek the concurrence of the house. So if that resolution is successful in going through the Senate it will then come to the House of Representatives and we will be keen for there to be a vote immediately in the House of Representatives on that resolution. And if the Government seeks to simply defer it, which means kill it, because whenever they defer something like this it never comes back. There'll be a division and every member of the Liberal and National parties will be forced onto the floor of the Parliament to determine whether or not they believe a judicial inquiry needs to occur. Including members of the Liberal Party in South Australia who’ve previously been vocal, claiming that they would be supportive of trying to make sure that the plan was implemented.

KELLY: Do you think you've got any chance at all of getting that resolution actually passed in the House of Representatives?

BURKE: Look there has been plenty of times when I've got stuff through on the House of Representatives when people thought it was impossible, we had a good day three of this term. You know, I will always always push for it. But there's a number of members of Parliament particularly Liberals from South Australia, Christopher Pyne being one of them, and he would ordinarily be responsible for the resolution that will be moved on the floor. 

KELLY: So you're going to really turn up the heat on these South Australians?

BURKE: They can't walk away from this. Be clear on this, if the Government says ‘oh yes we support the plan, we will implement the plan’. The plan is only meaningful if you have integrity to the water market that it’s been built on. You need the water market that it's been built on to have integrity otherwise the plan, it's nice, it delivers something but it doesn't in fact deliver on its objectives. The water market needs to have integrity and the problem here is the inquiry that the Government… First of all Barnaby said it’s a matter for the states. He then walked away from that and said ‘oh but we will have an investigation anyway’. But the investigation is being conducted by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. It doesn't have the power to subpoena documents, to compel witnesses, to do a full investigation of what's been happening at compliance level for state bureaucrats. It simply doesn't have the powers to do that. New South Wales ICAC has the powers to do some of that with respect to state jurisdiction but not for the Commonwealth involvement. Only a judicial inquiry implemented through the COAG process will have the capacity to call whatever witness they need to call and get whatever documents they need to get to get to the bottom of the extent to which we've been seeing water, paid for by the taxpayers to improve the health of the Murray, being sucked back up by a few wealthy cotton growers and put into their personal dams.

KELLY: This week we saw the publication of the famous or infamous Trump Turnbull transcript of the phone conversation earlier this year. How concerned is Labor that there's still not much progress on the United States taking these refugees from Manus and Nauru? How concerned are you about this whole process and also the timing involved?

BURKE: If I deal with the timing first and then the process. On the timing itself the thing that needs to be acknowledged here, we often go directly to what the conditions are on Manus or Nauru. The truth is even if the conditions were what one might regard as perfect, if you have indefinite detention you will always get the mental health challenges of people in those circumstances. So any delay, not simply the delay during the United States agreement period but any extended delay carries a very real cost and resettlement is something that needs to be prioritised. In terms of the process with the United States, I don't want to talk down that process. We want to work. It's important that it works for the integrity of our own systems and also obviously for the personal outcomes of the people involved.

There is one part of that phone conversation which does concern me greatly. Which is where the Prime Minister made reference to the fact that you don't actually have to take many, it's just a matter of processing them. I’m not sure why that was said. I’m not sure whether that simply reflected frustration in the middle of a difficult phone call and was words that ought not to have been said. But it is certainly a very different message to what the Australian people have been told and what we understood to be the agreement.

KELLY: But surely, surely that particular point when Turnbull is making that particular point. Surely that’s just a reference to the fact that the United States, at of the end of the day, has a vetting or screening process. 

BURKE: I hope that’s all it means. I hope you're right on that and as I say we want the agreement to work and I hope that was simply a reference to who knows what your own assessment processes will turn up.

KELLY: How did you feel reading the transcript about the way Turnbull managed Trump? There are different interpretations of this, what’s yours? 

BURKE: I don't know that you actually can pick the tone of a conversation from the transcript in that sense and I'd love to be able to read more into it and you know we could do a dramatic reading of it and we could we could come out with all sorts of outcomes. We do know that the claim that it was a great conversation and they were getting along famously, even the best actors in the world couldn't take that script and perform it that way. So we do know that their public explanation of what happened in that conversation clearly wasn't true. Exactly how traumatic the experience was for the participants on the day I think we can only guess.

VAN ONSELEN: How concerned should any world leader be about their inability to have a private conversation with Donald Trump because of leaks out of the White House? You know, I have to say I found it extraordinary being able to read a word by word, blow by blow transcript of the United States President talking to the Australian Prime Minister like that. I don't know if that's happened like that before but it was compelling reading. 

BURKE: Yes. There are two things that you need in the international system. You need confidential conversations to be possible and you need predictability and consistency in how nations behave. In the first few months those two concepts haven't been as strong as we need them to be from from our most important ally.

VAN ONSELEN: Far from it.

KELLY: How would Bill Shorten manage Donald Trump?

BURKE: I think at the moment leaders around the world are all answering that as best they can. 

KELLY: But how do you think he would? What sort of approach do you think he would take?

BURKE: In terms of the approach I think the approach that you take is to provide those principles that I just described. By making sure that you yourself as a nation, that you're predictable, to make sure that you’re able to provide confidence for conversations. To make sure that your policies are clear your approach is clearly you're a known commodity. In terms of presenting that as ‘how do you manage someone else?’ I don't think any description of claiming to be able to manage Donald Trump is in any way helpful.

VAN ONSELEN: Stay with us we're talking to the manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke. We're going to continue doing so a lot more on the agenda for the return of the second half of the Parliamentary year. We will talk about some of it when we come back.

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VAN ONSELEN: Welcome back you're watching Sunday Agenda. We've been speaking previously earlier in the program to Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman. We're talking at the moment to Tony Burke the manager of Opposition Business. A reminder coming up later in the program we will go across the ditch. They've gotten an election of their own coming up in around about seven or eight weeks' time and there is a new leader of the opposition a new leader of the Labour Party. Our New Zealand bureau chief set down with her and gives us a bit of a snapshot of what to expect in that election but as I mention at the moment Paul Kelly editor at large of the Australian and I are speaking to the manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke. 

KELLY: One of the issues, top of the list when the Parliament resumes will be the Government’s citizenship changes. We know Labor has taken very strong stand against them. What's the basis for Labor’s opposition? 

BURKE: There’s twenty to thirty different individual changes in that bill and we've referred the whole thing to a Senate committee. But the reason we've decided that will be opposing the bill and if the Senate inquiry turns up with a few small things that are worth doing telling the Government to bring that back in separate legislation, is because we fundamentally oppose two of the measures. The delay and the new English language test. 

The delay sounds reasonable when people hear it. Peter Dutton says ‘well, we'll just make it instead of waiting one year you'll have to wait four’. The truth is though, you already have to wait four years. But your period as a temporary resident is counted and only one of those four years needs to be as a permanent resident. When you demand, as the Government's legislation does, that you have to have all four years as a permanent resident, you need to think what that actually means in the real life experience. 

Some people arrive as permanent residents, very few, not a massive number but some people arrive initially as permanent residents. For them, the four year change makes absolutely no difference. But if you arrive on a temporary visa which many people do, temporary work visas, temporary student visas, series of temporary visas. It may well be two of those visas or more before you ever get permanent residence. So what it means is the delay isn't a change from one year to four. For many people it means they will be here for more than a decade before they're asked to pledge allegiance to Australia or before Australia tells them they fully belong. 

VAN ONSELEN: But in fairness on that I mean we get to the second element of your concern, but on that one, if they are here in a temporary capacity the fact is it's still four years that you wait when you've decided that you permanently want to be in Australia, what's wrong with that?

BURKE: I think that in terms of the real life experience that's a mistaken belief as to how it works. There are a very large number of people who…there are some people who arrive temporarily and only later decide ‘oh no I think I’ll stay’. A large number of people who come on temporary work visas get a temporary visa when they couldn't get a permanent visa. So a large number of people who are wanting to move to Australia and live in Australia…

VAN ONSELEN: Why is that? Why can’t they get a permanent?

BURKE: It's just different requirements and so you get a very significant number of people who want to live in Australia and you know it takes them a while to be able to get a permanent visa. The the challenge though is what's the reason for the delay? And the reason for the delay is meant to be, like for having the current four year delay and even what Peter Dutton is proposing, is that someone has had time to work out what they think of Australia and that Australia has had time to work out if they should be here. That argument holds the same whether you’re here on a temporary visa or a permanent visa. But it certainly doesn't demand you'd be here for more than a decade.

KELLY: To what extent do you think this is become a bit of a grassroots issue. What’s your impression from migrant communities? Is there much awareness of this bill, is there much concern?

BURKE: The concern is probably more strongly on the second issue which I will come to in a moment than than this one. The English language test. I've got to say, with the community meetings that that I've been watching and have been attending. And there would have been across the different community meetings including a group of other people who were conducting them as well, is probably in the order of about ten thousand people I know of who have attended them so far.

It is a bigger grassroots movement than happened on the 18c issue on racial hate speech. A much bigger issue in communities. The reason for that is what the Government's doing, I think the prime reason is what the Government's doing on the English language test. And once again when you hear Peter Dutton speak what he says at first instance sounds reasonable. Where he says ‘well people should have competent English’. And we ask most people should someone's English be competent to be a citizen, yeah that sounds reasonable. But competent has a very specific legal meaning it refers to level six on the IELTS test. Now that is the same level of English demanded for overseas students to get university entrance here in Australia. It's university level English. A large number of Australians born here will never reach that level of English. It's a comprehension test you have to be able to write an essay. A listening test as well as four different stages to it. It is a difficult English exam and a level of English that is way above what many people even who've been speaking English their whole lives will ever reach. 

KELLY: Do you think the government has misjudged grassroot opinion on this issue?

BURKE: I think they think they've misjudged it badly, badly. Because he's the thing, even for somebody who is not one of the members of the communities affected. If you talk to Australians who have lived here their whole life, if you say ‘do you think people should speak better English?’ They'll often say yes. You say do you think the government should only let people stay here if they've got university level English? People will say that’s snobbery.

VAN ONSELEN: But they can still stay here. They can stay here as a permanent resident they just can’t stay here as a citizen. 

BURKE:  That’s right. And that's the change. What you've just described there is why this is a fundamental change different to any of the laws we've had certainly in the time that I've been in Parliament. 

VAN ONSELEN: But are you cynical about that? Is that because you think this is politics?

BURKE: Can you hear me out on this? This is where this change is a real change in how we operate as a nation. Because the fact that everybody we're talking about is a permanent resident means for the first time in generations Australia will have an underclass of people who live here their whole working life and are never told they belong. 

An underclass of people who will live here their whole working life and will never be asked to pledge allegiance to Australia. Now there are many countries in the world that operate with an underclass of non-citizens. Australia does not. Australia has worked on the basis that if you are here is a permanent resident there is a pathway to citizenship. We already effectively have an English test because the test you have to sit for is in English. It just demands conversational level English which everybody is able to reach. The moment you set it at a level where some people with their best effort will simply never reach, you change the character of how we operate. I had someone a community meeting in Perth a couple of weeks ago who said to me he said I'm a skilled migrant highly sought after, Australia wanted me and Canada wanted me. And he said to me if I'd known, like he said I'll be able to pass a level six university English test, but my wife wont. If I'd known I was coming to a country where I was going to be fully welcomed and my wife was not, he said it breaks my heart to say it but I would have chosen Canada. 

KELLY: So do you think this can become an election issue within migrant communities?

BURKE: It is. It already is because it is a sense of betrayal and I haven't used this language but I've had people interject during presentations say it sounds like a dictation test. And we know exactly what they're referring to when they make that reference. Add to that there are many countries throughout the world which have English as an official language.

But the only countries where you don't have to get to university level English is if you come from New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the U.K. or Ireland. The five countries of all the countries with English is an official language the five countries with a predominantly white population are the only countries where you won't have to sit this test. And you can imagine the volcanic reaction that many communities are having to that. 

VAN ONSELEN: Why is that?

BURKE: I don't know.

VAN ONSELEN: On this issue, that the broader issue of English proficiency and you talking about an underclass, is Labor one, cynical that this is a political move because migrant communities which once upon a time predominantly voted Liberal are now predominately voting Labor? And two, is Labor concerned that if you create an underclass, that that can disenfranchise, and almost ironically for the party of national security, according to the opinion polls the Liberal Party, that could of itself create the kind of anti-Australian sentiment in that underclass that you’re talking about.

BURKE: I think it is a massive political overreach from Peter Dutton. I think Peter Dutton thought and if you watched him in Question Time before he released the legislation he was claiming ‘oh Labor is divided, you're all over the place, you're tearing yourselves apart’. No we were just waiting until we saw the legislation and once we saw the legislation we voted unanimously to oppose it. Unanimously.

KELLY: Do you think to that there is the prospect that the Liberals might be divided on this issue?

BURKE: Well put it this way, it is a bigger community level of community opposition than we saw an 18c over the Racial Discrimination Act. Much stronger, and people feeling it in a deeply personal way. Now I don't see how members of the Liberal Party who were willing to stand up over 18c and say ‘this is not what our electorates want’, will be silent on this one and if they are silent on this one their communities will notice it. 

And I don't think any one will be fooled by the national security argument that you just referred to. I remember asking when I was given the briefing from the department, what the advice was from the national security agencies. Did a ASIO recommend this? No. Did the A.F.P. recommended it? No.  Did defence or any of the national security agencies recommend this? No. 

VAN ONSELEN: Sorry to interrupt, I was actually thinking the reverse. I was thinking they're already here as permanent residents anyway if they are then blocked a path to citizenship, I would have thought if anything there is a bigger risk that that creates a national security issue amongst a class of people that are saying this country won't let me fully pledge allegiance therefore you might drift the other way.

BURKE: I can't see how it's good for them or good for the country. The reason I don't draw that formal link is I won't be reckless the way Peter Dutton has been and claim a national security conclusion without having checked with the national security agencies.

VAN ONSELEN: It is not an unreasonable premise.

BURKE: No, no. I’m not I'm not arguing against you. I'm simply saying as members of Parliament what we should do and certainly the Minister responsible who is now actually responsible for these national security agencies. You don't claim it's a national security issue if the only report that has recommended it is one written by Connie Fierravanti-Wells and Philip Ruddock. And that's all they've got and how can it be a national security issue when everybody you're talking about is a permanent resident already here. If they are a security problem, why are they here? Why do you wait until the citizenship moment before you check that?

KELLY: Now a few issues outside your portfolio. Bill Shorten has yesterday committed Labor to advancing the indigenous recognition referendum in terms of an advisory body in the constitution and also committed to pursuing a treaty process. Can I ask you do you think the Australian public is now ready for this step in the context of a treaty?

BURKE: What I think, and I'm going to answer it in a slightly different way, if you don't be too frustrated, as I go through simply because when the Uluru statement came out. It wasn't what we were expecting it wasn't what we were expecting and I think the question that we all have to ask is if we're serious about trying to deliver a level of justice and if we're serious about a level of self-determination and accepting that we're going to act differently in the future to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities than what history has shown then we have to also work on the basis that the process won’t always be the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities adopting our ideas.

Sometimes the pathway will be the reverse. So the statement when it came came out, wasn't at all what I expected and I think most members of the Labor Party and the government were in the same position. But what you can't do then is just say well that makes it too difficult. I think we have to work on the basis if that's a destination that the state has recommended and then through the through the council what's come back to us. Then that's what we need to pursue, that's where we need to get to and I don't want to take a snapshot of the Australian people in any point in time and say ‘ah that's where they're at that, that makes it too hard’. I think of what happened with the apology and all the objections that were there when the apology was first raised. What would it mean for this that and the other. A lot of those objections were, that they weren't necessarily people being malicious. A lot of them were people weighing it up and thinking ‘oh no I think this is a bad idea’ and yet we got there ultimately with overwhelming support and a sense of relief from the Australian people. 

KELLY: I appreciate the point you are making but but Bill Shorten did commit to the Makarrata Commission proposal as well which is clearly putting this in the context of a treaty. Now, one of the questions here of course is a treaty between who? Who are the parties to the treaty? But again do you think the public is actually ready for this sort of discussion and for a referendum in the context of a coming treaty?

BURKE: Ready for the discussion? Yes. Are any of us at the conclusion or the exact words? No, no. But that's what the process is about and I think the only way we're going to get there in a really constructive way is to accept that's what's being called for, that's the destination and that's what we're going to work towards. Rather than presuming at a snapshot in time at the beginning of the conversation, are aspects of this complex and difficult? Therefore do we give up? No. 

VAN ONSELEN: Why risk Indigenous recognition in the Constitution by tying it to a treaty? Why not achieve one and they maybe try and get the other over time? 

BURKE: That would have been my starting point. But once again. You then weigh up, well hang on, how meaningful is it if I'm then once again saying to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities well I hear what you saying but you've got to do my way. And I’ll tell you what the order should be. Now, I think my judgment is pretty reasonable. But let's face it, in a similar way to on marriage equality I don't think you deliver equality by having an unequal pathway to get there. On this I don't think you do something about a history where a lot of mistakes have been made on one side and a lot of harm caused on the way through by saying, once again, if my judgment is different to yours, we're going to go with mine. I don't think that's the way through. 

VAN ONSELEN: Just finally Tony Burke you're putting your manager of Opposition Business hat on again with this last question. When you do get your hands on the private member's bill that the group of five Liberals are looking to put forward to their party room. If Labor can tolerate it and likes it enough to be prepared to support it are we going to see games this week? You've won Parliamentary votes before by outmanoeuvring the Government. Could same sex marriage be moved into law in a way like that?

BURKE: Tim Wilson has made the statement that he would not vote for a motion moved by the Labor party.

VAN ONSELEN: This is my point though. You don't necessarily need all of them, you've won votes with none of them in the past so you might only need one or two of them to be able to make same sex marriage a reality if you outmanoeuvre a Government that has shown itself infinitely capable of being outmanoeuvred.

BURKE: I don't know how often you get lucky with Christian Porter and Michael Keenan heading off early. You get some days like that. But right at the moment where there is a change that many members of the Labor party have been pushing for for a long time and where we have argued that it needs to be done through the normal, sensible process that's not a time to be playing games when we've actually got members of the Liberal Party saying ‘okay we want to find a way through here’. 

So that's not to say there won't be a range of issues where the Parliament will be tested in different ways but right at this moment, on this particular issue, we're making sure we give those members of Parliament the space within their own party to be good to the words they’ve said publicly

VAN ONSELEN: Tony Burke appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us today 

BURKE: Good to be back.

Tony Burke