Monday’s government-Labor meeting over the proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite ended in a stalemate. But Special Minister of State Scott Ryan tells Michelle Grattan the government has made it very clear it will consider in “good faith” any proposal Bill Shorten and Labor bring forward.
“The meeting was an opportunity for them – even if they didn’t have the power to make formal suggestions – to actually say ‘these are the terms upon we want to come back to you in a week or two’,” he says.
Ryan gives no encouragement to the view that if the plebsicite legislation is defeated, the government could move to a parliamentary vote. “The government’s position I think, and we’ve done this on a number of issues, is to stick with the policy we took to the election.”
Having launched a parliamentary inquiry into electoral matters, which will include an examination of political donation rules, Ryan says he has no problem with corporate donations “in principle”.
“I’m not going to participate or support any measure that seeks to create an unfair playing field in political donations or political participation – and the ludicrous position of the Greens to ban corporations that make a profit but allow unions and non-profit corporations to make political contributions is an example of that.”
Following much debate about the impact of Labor’s so-called “Mediscare” campaign on the outcome of this year’s election, Ryan says he would require a lot of convincing to go down the path of further regulating political speech, through truth in advertising measures.
“My personal view is that I require a lot of convincing because in politics, unlike in say commercial transactions where we do have consumer law that protects people from misleading conduct, politics is a lot more about opinion and interpretation of fact.
"So I think we need to be careful to not have a system that would end up in people needing more lawyers to argue the case of whether something is true or not. That would distract from the fact that this is a political contest.”
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra