THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
2CC WITH MARK PARTON
WEDNESDAY, 18 DECEMBER 2013
SUBJECTS: Human Rights Commission; MYEFO.
MARK PARTON: He's the Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus. He also happens to be a Queen's Counsel. He has questioned the Abbott Government's appointment of Tim Wilson as Human Rights Commissioner. He's on the line now. G'day Mark.
MARK DREYFUS: Good morning Mark.
PARTON: Did you see this coming at all?
DREYFUS: No, and I think you would have to be concerned about any appointment of someone who wants to abolish the body that he had been appointed to apparently also without consultation
PARTON: What do you think they hope to achieve by installing Tim Wilson then?
DREYFUS: I'm not sure. All you can tell about this government is the statements that Senator Brandis has made as Attorney-General. They've been few and far between but his announcement yesterday of Tim Wilson's appointment suggests that Senator Brandis has got a very narrow conception of human rights.
He has referred in his press release to just one of the 53 articles of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and says that Tim Wilson is going to focus on that one article and he only picks out one bit of that and that is the article of course that deals with free speech. Now we can all accept the importance of free speech but I want to look beyond the rhetoric of this government to what they are actually going to do and judge them by their actions and so far their actions suggest that they don't have much commitment to human rights.
PARTON: We would all love to think that in this day and age appointments like these and diplomatic appointments and others are bipartisan that the right people are picked for these jobs. Does that ever happen these days?
DREYFUS: Well it does and that is why we have advertising for these sorts of positions, we have an open process, we have a consultative process and certainly that is the process I followed with all of the appointments that I made while Attorney-General.
I would call on Senator Brandis to explain who he consulted with and who he spoke to about this appointment because certainly there was no advertising and the President of the Human Rights Commission said yesterday that she was not consulted.
PARTON: Is it possible, I mean, George Brandis operates a little differently than you. He comes from a different ideological place than you. Is it possible that in his heart of hearts he believes that Tim Wilson is the best man for the job?
DREYFUS: I don't know what George Brandis believes. I'm going to judge him by his actions and his actions so far are is that he's working on repeal of important prohibitions on racial hatred, that's section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
He's been part of a government that's re-establishing and rushed a bill through Parliament, through the House of Representatives last week, to re-establish a repressive Building and Construction Commission which has got in it major attacks on the rights of workers in a particular industry - and that ought to be in fact the first thing that Tim Wilson looks at in his job when he starts as Human Rights Commissioner if he's in fact to be looking at freedoms. He should be looking at what the Abbott Government is doing in the building industry.
PARTON: But those things that you mention, I think it was pretty clear to voters in the election in September that these are the sorts of directions this government would be heading in. Is it a bad thing that they're undertaking what Australia wanted them to do?
DREYFUS: Well I don't accept that the attack on rights and freedoms that we see in this Building and Construction Commission Bill which is more repressive than the former Building and Construction Commission is what this Government said it was going to do.
I don't accept that the cutting of funding to legal assistance organisations which emerged yesterday is what this Government said it was going to do. They're not the Government they said they were going to be and I think Tim Wilson's got the job cut out for him if he's going to be a defender of freedoms. I hope he will be. It's just that nothing in his record suggests that he's got the kind of broad conception of human rights that you need to have for this job and as you pointed out in the introduction Mark - this is a bloke whose called for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission. It's hard to imagine how that could be an appropriate person to appoint.
PARTON: Treasurer Joe Hockey stood before the nation yesterday and delivered some, some dire news, some economic news and prophecies of doom and he knows how to put on a show, does Joe Hockey.
HOCKEY: If we do not [inaudible] very substantial budget reform it will rise to 667 billion dollars over the next decade. This document also forecasts economic growth to remain below trend.
PARTON: So we're in the poo and apparently it's, it's your fault Mark.
DREYFUS: Well unfortunately for Joe Hockey, Peter Costello took away the ability of governments to engage in this kind of game playing.
We've got a Charter of Budget Honesty, we've had released a statement before the election, pre-election, on the economic outlook from, not the government, but the Secretary of the Department of Treasury and the Secretary of the Department of Finance who explained the fiscal position of the Commonwealth and what you've seen yesterday, anyone who actually reads the document will see that about 60 per cent of the increase in the deficit is directly caused by decisions made by the new government and the rest is caused by revenue reductions in the out years of the forward estimates.
We've got an attempt being made to blame everything on the former government that's not really available to Joe Hockey anymore because of the Charter of Budget Honesty.
PARTON: Irrespective of who was in power right now though, this week, if somehow you blokes had won, I dare say we would have been getting similar rhetoric because whatever happens there has to be some changes. If we continue going down the path that we're going now, we're going to find ourselves in diabolic strife in a number of years, aren't we?
DREYFUS: Well that's the job of government, to make decisions as we go, to respond to changes in economic circumstances. A number of the commentators have made the point that this is the first time you see a Treasury document that's not referring to the China boom, which is coming to an end. But equally, a number of the commentators rightly pointed to the very strong economic circumstances of Australia and that's what you won't hear from Joe Hockey. That he's inherited from our government a situation where we have a AAA credit rating from the three major credit agencies, where we have low inflation, low interest rates and relatively low unemployment and relatively low debt by world standards judged against other developing economies.
PARTON: Yeah, I just-
DREYFUS: -They're the important things.
PARTON: I just don't buy that whole, and don't worry about it, I've had a number of discussions with Andrew Leigh about it, but that, continuing the argument of relatively low debt as compared to other nations.
DREYFUS: Why not Mark? It's important to compare our circumstances with other developing countries and if it is the case, as it is the case, that we've got relatively low debt, that's important. And the problem for Joe Hockey is that it pricks his balloon of concern about debt which is one of the things they ran so hard with in Opposition and started their dishonesty in Opposition which regrettably they're carrying forward to being a dishonest government if they continue to talk about the economy in this way.
I'm very concerned to see a Treasurer going out just before Christmas and in effect, talking down the economy and overemphasising negatives, rather than looking at the strengths of the Australian economy and they are many.
PARTON: Mark, thanks for your time this morning.
DREYFUS: Thank you very much Mark.