SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
WEDNESDAY, 28 JULY 2021
SUBJECTS: Covid-19 and Morrison Government failures on vaccines and quarantine; Labor’s National Anti-Corruption Commission; Federal Election.
OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Right now, a special guest in the studio. We don't get many federal pollies in Perth at the moment due to border closures and COVID-19, but the Shadow Attorney-General finds himself standing here in the Perth live studios. A very big welcome to Mark Dreyfus. Welcome to the program.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Very good to be with you Ollie, it's great to be in Perth.
PETERSON: And how does that happen? Because you are a Victorian MP, borders are closed, so some of our listeners might be thinking how are you here?
DREYFUS: I've come here after visiting my daughter in the Northern Territory where she works, and a little bit of leave up there. As I was due to come back to Melbourne my staff said don't come, stay in Darwin, work from out there, and then you will be able to go to Perth as planned. And that's happened and it's been very good to be here all week in Perth. I've got a lot to do. I've had a couple of deferred trips to Perth over the last year because of COVID
DREYFUS: And I've somehow managed to negotiate to get here. Can't say much for the Perth weather this week, but it's really good to be here.
PETERSON: We have not turned it on for you but that's good to know that there's no preferential treatment, despite the fact that federal politicians are of course exempt from border closures. There'd be a few raised eyebrows if you jumped the state border lines
DREYFUS: We're not actually exempt. I applied for a G2G earlier in the year and didn't get one. And this time when I applied they said, 'come in, you've been in the Northern Territory for the last few days, and that's fine'.
PETERSON: Okay, good. Nice to have you here. Nevertheless, what actually brings you though to Perth at the moment?
DREYFUS: I'm here to meet with, certainly the State Attorney-General John Quigley, who I like to meet with in person, a range of government ministers, and most importantly to visit all of the Community Legal Services here in Perth - the Aboriginal Legal Service, some of the Community Legal Centres, the Environmental Defender's Office who do such great work on behalf of the community. I think there's no substitute for coming and meeting people in person Ollie, and you can't quite do it on a Zoom call, you can't quite do it on a phone call. Coming here and meeting people is very good.
PETERSON: Of course you'll say the only poll that matters is election day but, gee they're looking good for the Labor Party.
DREYFUS: We hope so. We think we've got a very, very good offering for the Australian people at the next election. We are not going to refight the last election. We come to the election with a very, very positive vision for the future for Australia.
PETERSON: And key on your agenda at the moment, as the Shadow Attorney-General, you're pretty keen to press ahead with the national integrity commission, more or less a federal corruption watchdog. How would that work? What would it look like?
DREYFUS: I think Australians are very familiar with this idea now because every state, and both territories already has an independent anti-corruption commission. Here in Western Australia you've got a Corruption and Crime Commission.
DREYFUS: They've got different names in different states. We want to establish a National Anti- Corruption Commission because the Commonwealth absolutely needs one. It'll be powerful, it'll be transparent, it'll be independent. We think the Australian people have had enough. They've seen scandal after scandal, you could name Sports Rorts, the recently uncovered car park rorts, the airport land scandal in Western Sydney, to name but three. There's a whole lot. I think Australians have had enough of it. They want to see what they've already got at state and territory level, which is a powerful anti-corruption commission.
PETERSON: The steps were there from the former Attorney-General Christian Porter, how much further though will your national integrity commission go?
DREYFUS: The Liberals have promised, because they, I think, also sensed ...
PETERSON: The mood for change.
DREYFUS: ..the mood for change and the wish of the Australian people to have a powerful National Anti-Corruption Commission. They promised one at the last election, they haven't delivered. All that we've had from the former Attorney-General was some, he put forward a kind of draft model that everybody who's interested in this area condemned as hopelessly inadequate, as not actually grappling with the problem of corruption, not dealing with, in particular, federal ministers and federal parliamentarians. They were pretty much going to be exempt.
DREYFUS: That's not good enough, and they need to have a general, far-reaching commission that can put its nose into every aspect of Federal Government.
PETERSON: So there's no fear, no favour here, if you're a pollie, you're also under the microscope? Because that's a question I've just got from Jeff on an email, he says, "Can you please ask Mark Dreyfus can we have an integrity commission into the federal pollies and their senior staffers. If not, why not?"
DREYFUS: Well it would extend to all politicians. It would extend to federal ministers, it would extend to their staff, everybody that is involved in administration of Australia in the Federal Government. That's what we should have and the models that have worked in the states - it's not uniform across Australia there are differences between states and territories with these anti-corruption commissions - the model we are looking at, which we have outlined in a set of principles that we've published this week make it clear that it would be far-reaching, broad-ranging and would be able to look at every aspect of administration.
PETERSON: Okay. Also this week as well your Leader Anthony Albanese he's now said negative gearing changes are off the table. So, the Labor Party's starting to position itself for a Federal Election and looking towards the future, so those questions that have been put under a cloud for a little while about negative gearing which obviously Bill Shorten took the last election as well, that's off the table?
DREYFUS: Off the table. Absolutely off the table. We want to give certainty to the Australian people so that they know that the arrangements that they have made for their tax affairs are going to continue to be their arrangements, and we want people to know that the legislated tax cuts are the tax cuts that will occur. We're going to fight the next election on our vision for the future of Australia and we have plenty of ideas about how to build back better after this pandemic.
PETERSON: "Build back better" - could that be the slogan that we continue to hear trotted out by Labor politicians over the next 12 months or so?
DREYFUS: It's certainly going to be the sentiment Ollie. We're very clear that we've got ideas about what the Australia that we want to live in, in future years, should look like.
PETERSON: Has COVID been more kind to the Australian Labor Party in 2021 than it was in 2020, politically speaking?
DREYFUS: I think COVID has been very unkind to the whole world, Ollie, and it's been particularly unkind to parts of Australia. I come from Melbourne which has had a total of six months of lockdown, so I don't know that talking about COVID being kind to anyone, including political parties, is quite right. We've got something to say, Ollie, about the way in which the Federal Government, Mr Morrison, have responded to the pandemic. Australia as a whole has done quite well in terms of keeping deaths down - we've had some tragic deaths, mainly in aged care - but most of that is due to strong actions by state premiers and very little of it is due to anything that Mr. Morrison has done. Mr Morrison's effort here in Western Australia has been to back in Clive Palmer in his challenge to Mark McGowan's border restrictions. Now I hope that Western Australians remember that when they go to the polls.
PETERSON: Mark McGowan, obviously a rock star, he's a superstar in Western Australia, he's probably Anthony Albanese's biggest asset towards West Australians voting Labor.
DREYFUS: I'm pleased to hear it.
PETERSON: Well, he is. I mean, there's already campaign posters anyway for federal candidates with a picture, not next to Albo, but next to Mark McGowan. So perhaps Albo and the Federal Labor Party need the West Australian Labor Party and Mark McGowan more than they need you.
DREYFUS: We work with state Labor parties, we work with state Labor governments. I'm looking forward to campaigning side by side with Mark McGowan at the next federal election.
PETERSON: Anthony Albanese, he's been on message though and it's obviously cutting through - the race that is required for COVID-19 vaccinations and hotel quarantine. Are they the big political failures at the moment that you see with the Morrison Government's handling of the pandemic? And this is why I say before, has COVID been kind to Labor in 2021 because of the situation and lockdowns continuing in New South Wales for example?
DREYFUS: We're going to do our job Ollie, and point out the failures of the Morrison Government. We're going to point out the failures on the vaccination rollout, we're going to point out the failures on national quarantine, to replace the temporary travel hotels that have been used for quarantine. And it's not just Labor politicians that are talking about this. If you listen to Gladys Berejiklian in New South Wales and her senior ministers they are saying exactly the same thing. They are very unhappy about the rate of the vaccine rollout. We are 38 out of 38 developed countries in the world. We're last in the OECD. It's shameful for a country as rich as our own that we haven't been able to vaccinate our population. Mr Morrison's got to get on with it. It's vital, because that's the way out. And it's not just me saying that. As I say, Gladys Berejiklian has pretty much said exactly what I've just said over the last few weeks.
PETERSON: If you win the election, are you energised yourself to want to be the Attorney-General? You had a stint previously, a short stint, but you're excited to potentially be the next Attorney-General?
DREYFUS: Hugely. This is what we are in politics for. We are in politics to get into government so that we can contribute to a better Australia. I've got a lot of ideas about what should happen in the Attorney-General's portfolio. I'm very much looking forward to the next election, and very much hoping that the Australian people will give us their trust so that I can get on and get back to being Federal Attorney-General.
PETERSON: Because there was some speculation you may be approached and appointed to the Victoria Court of Appeal. Do you want to put that all to bed? You're ready to get into another session of Federal Parliament?
DREYFUS: Absolutely. I have absolutely no desire to be appointed to a court anywhere in Australia. I want to be in the Federal Parliament representing my electorate of Isaacs in South-East Melbourne, and, I hope, serving as a front bencher in an Albanese Government.
PETERSON: Because the chatter from, you know some disgruntled Labor MPs, or those on the fringes, it seems to have gone a little bit quiet recently. I know your old mate, the so-called "Idiot for Hunter" Joel Fitzgibbon, he's pulled his head in Mark Dreyfus?
DREYFUS: He's no longer on the front bench.
PETERSON: Former front bencher.
DREYFUS: He's a former front bencher. I think we are a very unified team. Unified behind Anthony Albanese and unified in our desire to win the next election.
PETERSON: Well I appreciate your time this afternoon in the Perth live studios and we hope to see you over here in WA more and more.
DREYFUS: Thank you very much, really looking forward to coming back.
PETERSON: That is Mark Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney-General.