SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
6PR MORNINGS LIAM BARTLETT
TUESDAY, 3 MAY 2022
SUBJECTS: Federal election campaign; National Anti-Corruption Commission; Witness K & Bernard Collaery: Pensioner Deeming; Addiction Counselling; Electorate of Isaacs.
LIAM BARTLETT: Well, the campaign rolls on. Today here in the studio we play host to the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Mark, good morning.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Great to be with you Liam.
BARTLETT: Nice to see you here. You were here for the launch, obviously, and have been able to get out and about on the hustings in between times.
BARTLETT: It's a shame your leader couldn't stay.
DREYFUS: He's been here so many times since the last election, I think we've all lost count.
BARTLETT: A great answer. But it was a bit strange. I means he was saying how important WA was and he jumped on a plane as quick as he could and raced up to Brisbane for a May Day Rally.
DREYFUS: I think this is the first launch of the Labor Party campaign in Western Australia since about 1940 and that gives you a very good idea of the importance that we attach to Western Australia.
BARTLETT: Do you think it's working?
DREYFUS: Well, we'll find out on the 21st of May. But I've been getting a very good reception as I've been going round in, in Pearce, in Hasluck, where I've been launching the campaign in Tangney on Sunday afternoon, after the big launch on Sunday morning. And we're getting a very good, very, very good reception.
BARTLETT: Your big thing as Shadow Attorney-General, our big thing is the Anti-Corruption Commission, or an integrity commission, however you want to dress it up. And the fact that we should have one. I mean, you had the chance, you had the legislation from the government, but you would reject it, you didn't think it was enough did you?
DREYFUS: Not just us, but every single commentator, every lawyer, retired judge who've been campaigning about this for three years since the Government promised to do it before the last election has condemned the Government's model as a sham, as a cover up commission. So that's why we didn't support the Government's model. But it's a ridiculous excuse that Scott Morrison's put forward for not doing it. He says Labor won't support it so I'm just going to take my bat and ball and go home. It's not an excuse that I've seen the Liberals using for say, industrial relations legislation - Labor opposes it, so we won't do it. You can see how ridiculous it is. We think there needs to be a strong, independent National Anti-Corruption Commission. We are committed to doing it. My Leader Anthony Albanese has committed to legislating on this before the end of 2022 if we are elected on the 21st of May. By contrast, Scott Morrison and Christian Porter broke the promise that they made to Australia at the last election.
BARTLETT: Well, look, let's face it, it's become such an issue, it's become such a spotlight that no matter who wins government that they will have to pass something won't they? Whichever party wins or forms government will have to do something about it?
DREYFUS: Now, you would have thought that the Liberals would have done it over the whole of the last term. They went to the last election firmly committing and promising to do a National Anti-Corruption Commission. They have broken that promise. So I'd have to say they're running away from it at a million miles an hour and we can see why when you look at the corruption in this government. When you look at the way, any time standards are broken by any minister in the Morrison Government, Mr. Morrison runs away.
BARTLETT: Now let's talk about that because one of the sticking points is the retrospectivity. That's how I how I understand it, that the Government didn't want, once this body was instigated, was installed, they didn't want it to be able to look backward. But you do is that correct?
DREYFUS: Absolutely. And I think anyone listening can understand how ridiculous it is for a government to say, we're going to set up an anti-corruption commission but it won't be able to look at anything that occurred before the anti-corruption commission is set up. Not one of the eight - and we have eight anti-corruption commissions in every state and territory - not one was set up on that basis. And it is a ridiculous suggestion. Of course, it has to be able to look into the past if it gets a complaint. It might be about someone that's currently in politics who did something five years ago, or did something 10 years ago. It's got to be up to the independent commission to decide if it is going to investigate.
BARTLETT: Is that the key Mark? Is that the key? Does the complaint have to be about a sitting politician?
DREYFUS: No, we want this to be a very broad-based, independent commission that can look at serious and systemic corruption of any aspect of public administration at the national level and they could be a minister or a Member of Parliament or a senior public servant.
BARTLETT: How far back could it go?
DREYFUS: It's up to the commission and I think as someone that used to be a barrister - I used to do court cases for a living - the longer ago it is the harder it is to prove something. I think common sense tells everyone that I would not expect the commission to be looking into a complaint about corruption that occurred 50 years ago, but they may very well look at something that occurred 10 years ago.
BARTLETT: Or 20, maybe?
DREYFUS: Or possibly 20 if it's very serious, and the person’s still there, or the practice is still going on, that might be a reason, even if it's quite some time ago for the commission to look into it.
BARTLETT: But they would independently assess?
DREYFUS: Their call.
BARTLETT: It's their call,
BARTLETT: But you're happy. I mean, obviously, assuming statute of limitations over particular potential crime or criminality, but you're happy for them to go back as far as you like?
DREYFUS: And we don't have a statute of limitations on crimes. It's going to be a matter for the commission to look into it. You've only got to look at what's happened with anti corruption-commissions in every state to see that very often. They've looked back into the past. Sometimes it takes a long while for someone to come forward. Sometimes it takes a while for people to summon up the courage to blow the whistle on a bad practice that they've seen occurring.
BARTLETT: And well, whistleblowers are not easy to find, as you know, and they need to be protected. Take the case of Bernard Collaery, the lawyer representing, a former former Attorney-General of the ACT.
DREYFUS: He is a very eminent Australian lawyer, a former Attorney General of the ACT, yes.
BARTLETT: Now that whole case with Witness X and the Timor Leste a case, I won't go back into detail, but can you say, will you completely absolve him or have any problem if you're elected, you become Attorney-General?
DREYFUS: I am not going to get ahead of myself. If we win the election and I become the Attorney-General, it's obviously something I'm going to look at and be talking to the Director of Public Prosecutions about. Because it is an extraordinary case that the Commonwealth has spent more than $4 million, had more than 50 preliminary hearings, and still no trial date has been set for Mr Collaery to come to a trial. That's a very, very unusual thing. I've been waiting for Senator Cash as Attorney-General or her predecessor, Mr. Porter, to explain what was and is the public interest in that prosecution proceeding.
BARTLETT: Right, so clearly, you feel very strongly about it?
DREYFUS: Well, it's a concern to see such a huge expenditure of public money prosecuting an eminent Australian lawyer who's in his 70s, about allegations of disclosure of events that themselves occurred more than 20 years ago. And all prosecutions, whether they be national security prosecutions or any other kind of prosecutions, have to be in the public interest. It's one of the filters that the Director of Public Prosecutions puts on her decision to prosecute. In this case, because it's a national security offence, the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, Mr. Porter at the time, decided to give his consent to the prosecution proceeding. But that's now years and years ago. We're still in the situation of no trial date having been set, an extraordinary amount of money spent, and it's not clear to me, I haven't seen a cogent explanation, as to why that's in the public interest.
BARTLETT: I don’t think anyone has and you're making the case, you're making the case, so why don't you commit yourself? Why don't you commit yourself?
DREYFUS: I have to get into government first and have a briefing.
BARTLETT: Well, you know, you don't. You can make promises. You made a million promises for the last three weeks. Why don't you make one about a real person and a whistleblower, as you rightly say, is completely justified?
DREYFUS: Here we have a current prosecution, and that is before the criminal court. So I can comment from the outside, but I'm not going to comment on the substance of the trial. That's something that will have to await a change of government and appropriate briefings been given to me. But just one other concern I'd mention to you Liam, it's an extraordinary case where the Commonwealth Government goes to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court and says this trial has to take place in secret.
BARTLETT: You could stop all that?
BARTLETT: You can stop all that, withdraw all the permission when you're Attorney-General.
DREYFUS: I’m not going to preempt a decision that I might choose to make if we win the election.
BARTLETT: Alright. I look forward to that interview when you are indeed, if you are. Let's go to the phones Mark. Graham is on the line Graham, Mark Dreyfus, Shadow-Attorney General listening to you.
CALLER: Yes. Good morning, gentlemen. With this coming election, pensioners no doubt I think it's acknowledged to have a strong voting voice. I'm a little concerned that the deeming rate, which is currently two and a quarter percent, can never be achieved by any pensioner, because it's out of the ballpark. Even if you were to have, for example 2 or 3 million or more, you couldn't even get one and a half percent. And I think this is a bit fair, unfair, sorry and unjust, particularly. It may only be 1% difference, and it's not a lot of money. But this is the criteria that set to reduce pensions. For those for a lot of a lot of voting people. Is that something, why has no party looked at it? And is that something that the Attorney-General could look at?
DREYFUS: I don't know that it'll be a matter for the Attorney-General, but it's not something I'm ducking. My leader Anthony Albanese has given a very clear commitment that we will be looking in every budget at the true value of all government benefits, which of course includes the old age pension. I'm very proud to have been part of the last Labor Government which increased the age pension by the largest amount in 25 years. And I think it shows what our attitude is, we want pensions and government benefit schemes to be adequate. And I hear your point there, Graham about the deeming rate. Thank you,
BARTLETT: Graham, thanks for your call. Hello, Paul.
CALLER: Good morning. Hey, gang, Liam, Hey, Mark, I’m just ringing up about these elections and all the spending and money and everything going on, but I haven't heard much money being spent on addiction. And I've actually been on the radio a few years ago about this, but it seems to be deaf ears. I do a 12 step program, I’m a recovering alcoholic, haven’t had a drink for over 20 years. I see a lot of addiction. I see lots and lots of meth addiction today. It's a pandemic as well. But I'm a believer in emotionally speaking skills years and years ago, for alcoholism. And you could hear a pin drop in schools, you know, I can't see what the government said is pretty basic. But I could have 10 recovering addicts that could share in schools two schools a day. So there's over 10 schools a week plus, so every year 500 to 600 to 700 schools like a service around the state. And, and they could share their experience strength and hope show where rehabs and all that sort of stuff could probably cost the taxpayers over a million dollars a year because I've worked with veterans for nothing. These people because they're helping people. And
BARTLETT: I'm hearing you, I'm hearing you. I'm sorry, I've got to get the other callers. But I mean, in defence Mark Dreyfus not that you need any defending I mean, that's something that's a line item within a bigger budget, isn't it?
DREYFUS: Of course, but all governments should be working on addiction. Good on you, Paul, for the work that you've been doing over these years talking to kids. I think we can educate.
BARTLETT: That's what you need, isn't it? It's that sort of almost almost anti role-modeling. It's people like Paul explaining their position and telling telling kids the reality of it.
DREYFUS: ‘I've recovered, and you can avoid it’, because it's a great message.
BARTLETT: We've got the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus here in the studio. Daniel's on the phone Mark. Hello, Daniel.
CALLER: G’day Liam, g’day Mr Dreyfus. I just wanted to say I really, really hope that Labor gets in, because I think getting a federal ICAC is pretty much the biggest issue for myself. I really think the confidence that people have in politics and politicians has never been so low and we need to get that back up there. So I think that's kind of combined with maybe looking at media diversity, as well as maybe even election advertising sort of cut offs would be a fantastic sort of way forward with that. But I was just wondering what the federal ICAC that Labor's proposing, would that tie in with the state ICACs? Ie being able to identify something at the state level, through their federal investigation, and be able to refer it to the state bodies?
DREYFUS: Of course. Daniel, it's really heartening to hear your support for a National Anti-Corruption Commission. I've heard this in every state of the Commonwealth and that's because Australians have become familiar with this idea. If you've got an anti-corruption commission operating in your state or territory you know that they work. You know that they build confidence in the administration of government. And, of course, there would be, to answer your question, cross referrals. So, and I've seen the state ICAC, the IBAC it’s called in Victoria, stopped short, because there's no federal body for it to refer a complaint that it's been given that relates to federal government. So of course, we want a system where if the federal body receives something that relates to say, the state of Western Australia or the state of Victoria, it could refer it on to that anti-corruption commission in that state and the same upwards or across. If one of the state bodies gets hold of something that relates to federal government, it should be able to refer it.
BARTLETT: Makes perfect sense doesn't it. Mark, a question that was posed in the Australian today, can you call yourself a local member if you're not really a local?
BARTLETT: You've got a list there. You're one of 16 MPs, 10 of them are Labor, who live outside their electorate. Now in your case, you live in Melbourne, which is in the seat of Higgins.
DREYFUS: Indeed, I do.
BARTLETT: A Liberal seat.
DREYFUS: I've lived there in that same house for 35 years.
BARTLETT: But your electorate office is in Mordialloc.
DREYFUS: It is.
BARTLETT: In your seat of Isaacs. It’s a fair commute.
DREYFUS: It's eight kilometres from my home to the northern boundary of my electorate.
BARTLETT: But not to your office.
DREYFUS: And a bit further to my office. It takes about 28 minutes and I do that every day I'm in Melbourne.
BARTLETT: You never got any flack for not being a local?
DREYFUS: No. I said very clearly that, because of the age of my family at the time I became a Member and my wife's wishes that we were not moving and I announced that before I ran. I've been elected five times by the people of my community in Isaacs and I reckon I've given very good representation to our community. Not every Member of Parliament lives in their electorate. It's not a requirement that you live in your electorate.
BARTLETT: It's not.
DREYFUS: It might be desirable.
BARTLETT: It's not a rule.
DREYFUS: But I've lived all my life in South East Melbourne, and my electorate is in South East Melbourne. The fact that I don't live precisely in the electorate I don't think that's affected my ability to be a good representative for my community.
BARTLETT: You’re a sensible man for saying yes to your wife.
BARTLETT: That's where you went right. Thanks for coming in today.
DREYFUS: It's been a pleasure, Liam.
BARTLETT: Good luck in the election either way.
DREYFUS: Thank you.
BARTLETT: Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Attorney-General on the Morning Program.