SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
2SM MARCUS PAUL IN THE MORNING
THURSDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Western Sydney Airport Land Rort; National Integrity Commission.
MARCUS PAUL, HOST: I've been calling for this for ever and a day. I think we are now starting to get a bit of movement around the country, and hopefully more and more people coming on board with the idea of a federal ICAC. We know in New South Wales we have an Independent Commission Against Corruption. There's also a corruption watchdog in other jurisdictions, although some lack bite, as Malcolm Roberts said in the last half hour, particularly the one in Queensland. But Mark Dreyfus, who's the Federal Member for Isaacs and the Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Constitutional Reform, well, he says we need a National Integrity Commission now more than ever. Questions on a whole range of issues need to be answered. And I'm happy to say that Mark joins us on the program. Good morning, Mark. How are you?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning, Marcus. It's good to be with you.
PAUL: Thank you. Where do we start? Au pairs, sports rorts, forged letters and the latest, this ridiculous situation where we see land being overvalued by at least 10 times, for a political donor to the Liberal Party on a federal level out there at Badgerys Creek, at Nancy Bird Walton Airport. I've gone through that story in detail. But again, it's more ammo, I think, for the cause. And we do need a federal ICAC or Integrity Commission.
DREYFUS: We absolutely need a federal ICAC or Integrity Commission. We need it now. We've needed it for years. Labor has been calling for it for years, you've been calling for it for years. As every month that goes past we get another reason why we need an independent commission that can investigate corruption, investigate rorts, and get to the bottom of things because this Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, is not in the least bit interested in ever getting to the bottom of things. He just wants to cover things up.
PAUL: Well, I think, sadly, for Scott Morrison, that’s become clear in a whole range of issues most recently. I mean, I don't like the idea when, in Parliament, we have - I don't care who it's coming from, whether it's you know, in the Senate, or whether it's in the House of Representatives at Question Time - I do not like the idea of a Prime Minister turning his back on people who are asking questions when it relates to the expenditure of our money, public money. Whether it's on issues regarding, you know, the aged care sector or other things. I mean, these issues need to be addressed. It's our money. Australian taxpayers deserve greater transparency with what we're currently getting.
DREYFUS: I couldn't agree with you more Marcus. We've got issue after issue, where ministers are putting themselves above the law, where ministers and departments seem to be misusing public money. And all we get from Mr Morrison is ‘nothing to see here’.
He's got his own Statement of Ministerial Standards, which talks about the need for ministers to act - these are his words – “at all times to the highest possible standards of probity”. Well, we are not seeing that. Month after month there’s new scandals and the only response we ever get is, ‘there's nothing to see here’ or worse.
What we got yesterday, on the shocking airport land rort, was Mr Fletcher, who I think was the minister at the time, saying there was no ministerial involvement. Now, that’s not good enough. Ministers are responsible. This bloke won't even say that he wouldn't have made the same decision himself when I think any ordinary person can see it's an outrage. It stinks the idea that you would pay, using public money, ten times the value of this piece of land.
PAUL: I don't know whether I buy that, to be perfectly honest. I don't know whether it was Mr Fletcher, or whether it was you know, a bloke who likes to, you know, allegedly forge letters. I don't know who it was but surely somebody at a high government level other than a bureaucrat would have seen this deal. And what makes it even worse, of course, is the issue around donorship to the Liberal Party at a federal level by Leppington Pastoral, that company out there. That's what makes it even smellier in my view. Now I've got, I have no problem at all, with the Leppington Pastoral Company. If they want to donate, they can donate, but they shouldn't be given what appears to be certain favouritism. I mean, who on Earth just allows one valuation on a plot of land? I call it the golden triangle of Leppington, because there must be gold in them there hills, there has to be for this land to be valued at almost, as we say, ten times the value, and to have just one valuation given by the vendor themselves, Mark.
DREYFUS: Total Marcus, and shockingly…
PAUL: I don't get it, I don't understand, and for Mr Fletcher yesterday to throw the bureaucrats under the bus and completely pass the buck. I mean has he been taking lessons from the Prime Minister on this?
DREYFUS: The Auditor-General's report makes shocking reading because there were early evaluations at much lower levels valuing the land somewhere between $1 and $3 million. And then, all of a sudden, out of the blue, there is this completely anomalous valuation, putting it up close to $30 million and these people get paid $30 million for their piece of land. We need to get to the bottom of it. That's what an independent commission would do.
And yes, it's true that not every one of the independent commissions against corruption that we have in every Australian state has got all the powers you’d want them to have. But it's a lot better than nothing, which is what we've got at the federal level at the moment.
What's worse about this is that Mr Morrison and his Attorney-General, Mr Porter have promised this independent commission for more than two years now and we've seen precisely nothing. Not even an exposure draft of a bill, nothing. They promised it before the last election, nothing has been seen. And they claim that they've been working on it for three years. What's absolutely apparent, I think, to everyone in Australia is they don't want to establish an independent commission because they know what it would be looking at, it would be looking at the rorts in their own government.
PAUL: I'm going back to September 2017 I think it was or even earlier, when this promise was made by the current prime minister ahead of the last federal election, you're right, it was an election promise.
DREYFUS: And where is it? And people need to keep demanding it because it's quite apparent that this Prime Minister is prepared to walk past just about any scandal. Prepared to deny that any of his ministers has ever done anything wrong. It's absolutely vital right now that we have an independent commission that can look into those matters.
PAUL: All right. Well, it's good to have you on the program Mark. We will talk further on this. I mean, what's to come? I mean, I'm still waiting on an outcome of a look in to sports rorts. You know, the issue with the alleged forged letters from Angus Taylor's office. What about the au pairs situation? There are so many things that questions remain unanswered for. We deserve better and I try to be on this program as apolitical as I possibly can. We know from your side of politics, a number of Labor people have found themselves foul of the law in New South Wales and are now doing time behind bars. This should be aside from politics, no matter who you are, you know, what colour you knock on to your mast. It doesn't matter. All public servants should be accountable from the Prime Minister down.
DREYFUS: I couldn't agree with you more Marcus. The time's up. We need a National Integrity Commission and we need it now.
PAUL: All right, good to have you on the program. We'll talk soon. Thank you.
DREYFUS: Thanks, Marcus.