JOURNALIST It looks as though we are heading towards a July 2 election. How much of a risk is this for a Government, such a long campaign?
JULIE BISHOP There was going to be an election in the second half of 2016 in any event. What has happened overnight is that the Senate has again rejected the Australian Building and Construction Commission laws. We want to re-establish this watchdog on construction sites across Australia, and now that the Senate has voted it down again, the only way to re-establish it is for there to be a joint sitting of the parliament, that would pass the laws and that comes about through a double dissolution election. So one option available to us is a July election, but of course we’ve had a double dissolution trigger for some time because the Senate has also rejected the Registered Organisations bills, so when the Senate is in deadlock with the House like this the only way to pass our laws is for there to be a joint sitting.
JOURNALIST Is the ABCC a big enough issue, an important enough issue do you believe for Australian people to warrant a double dissolution?
JULIE BISHOP There was going to be an election in the second half of this year anyway – August, September, October – there is an option to have a July election now. The establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission is exceedingly important to bring back the rule of law on construction sites across Australia. Construction employs about a million Australians, it’s absolutely fundamental for our economic growth, for our jobs of the future and yet the unions and the union officials are running riot on construction sites. The Heydon Royal Commission found that it was essential to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission to bring the rule of law back on construction sites and stop the bullying and thuggery and intimidation and corruption that has been occurring. So it’s fundamental to our plan for economic growth and for jobs growth in Australia.
JOURNALIST How important is now the May 3 Budget for the Government to outline a sales pitch to voters in the lead up to July 2?
JULIE BISHOP The annual Budget is always important, it’s part of our economic plan for jobs growth and for future economic growth across Australia, so it’s an important piece in our overall economic plan.
JOURNALIST It’s more important than ever this time around, given that we are heading to a poll, the Government is neck-and-neck with Labor or slightly behind?
JULIE BISHOP The Budget in an election year is always important and federal elections are always close, so this is no different from any other Budget in an election year.
JOURNALIST But I suppose it comes down to what sort of sweeteners can the Government offer the electorate when you’ve got the Treasurer talking about people needing to live within their means and the Government needing to live within their means?
JULIE BISHOP As you know, Labor inherited from the Howard/Costello Government the best set of financial accounts in living memory, yet we inherited from Labor in 2013 some of the worst – record debt, record deficit. So we’re still having to manage the complete incompetence of a Labor Government in handling the nation’s finances. So of course we’re constrained because Labor trashed the Budget, ran up record deficits, record debt, and we’re having to live within that environment. But only the Coalition can be trusted to manage the Budget effectively.
JOURNALIST Bill Shorten made it clear the Labor Party run on healthcare and education, what will the Government run on?
JULIE BISHOP The Government’s plan for the future will be laid out in the Budget and it will be part of our overall plan for more jobs in Australia. We’ve announced recently the continuous ship build program, which means that we will be building ships in Australia which is great for national security but also for ensuring that we have an advanced manufacturing base in this country and the skills that are needed for those jobs. So it will keep building on our plans for economic growth and for jobs.
JOURNALIST We’ve seen an adjournment in the 60 Minutes case in Lebanon, where are we with that and what’s your understanding of the current situation?
JULIE BISHOP I spoke to our Ambassador to Lebanon just a while ago and he confirmed that the investigating judge has adjourned the matter for a couple of days to enable the parties and their lawyers to try to negotiate some solution, and that would obviously be the best outcome in the interests of the children and the interests of the parents and we obviously want to see all Australians detained brought home to Australia as soon as possible.
JOURNALIST Foreign Minister, thank you.
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