Member for Isaacs

ABC AM 3 February 2016

03 February 2016

SUBJECTS: Government farce on Royal Commission secret documents; ABCC; Senate voting reform; offshore detention





SUBJECTS: Government farce on Royal Commission secret documents; ABCC; Senate voting reform; offshore detention

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, PRESENTER: Mr Dreyfus joins me live in the studio, good morning.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Very good to be with you Michael.

BRISSENDEN: Do you think the threat of a double dissolution election is real?

DREYFUS: I think the threat of a double dissolution election is something the PM Mr Turnbull will continue to talk about, it's one of the PM's advantages, and it's perceived to have some tactical importance. But we are ready for a double dissolution election, for a general election, for any kind of election, any time the Liberal party wants to bring that on.

BRISSENDEN: So you would be happy to fight an election on the issue of union corruption?

DREYFUS: I would be particularly happy to fight an election on the issue of industrial relations, on the rights of ordinary working people in Australia. We are in a bipartisan position with the government about union corruption. No-one is in any doubt that Labor absolutely abhors union corruption, I personally hate union corruption. That's why we've put forward policies that are designed to deal with union corruption.

BRISSENDEN: Well why oppose the reintroduction of the building industry watchdog?

DREYFUS: The building industry watchdog so-called, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, is now being tried on again by this government. It tried and failed in 2013 and 2014 to put a bill through the Australian parliament to reinstate this ABCC. Labor has had a very clear policy for a decade now. I was elected to Parliament in 2007 on a platform that said we are going to abolish the ABCC, which does nothing about corruption. It is not an agency which is designed to deal with any criminal matters. It's about the enforcement of the civil law, it's about civil breaches, and as we've made it clear we abolished the ABCC in 2008. It's something that should be abhorrent to right-thinking Australians.

BRISSENDEN: So you don't think this industry that is, as we've seen, has had a fair amount of criminal activity involved in it, standover tactics, bikie gangs, all sorts of unsavoury behaviour you don't think that it deserves to have a standalone regulator?

DREYFUS: As I say, the ABCC is designed not to deal with breaches of the criminal law, it's not designed to deal with corruption, it's designed to deal and when it was set up by the Howard government it was there to deal with enforcing the civil law, the industrial relations legislation. I find it extraordinary that a government which has set up an inquiry into traditional rights and freedoms, an enquiry that the Australian Law Reform Commission is now conducting which looks at laws that abrogate the right against self-incrimination, laws that deal with legal professional privilege, laws that deal with freedom of association, with freedom of speech, has now for the second time introduced to the Parliament a bill which does all of those things. It takes away all of those traditional rights and freedoms. This government and Mr Turnbull need to think hard about whether they are in fact a government as Mr Turnbull likes to say that is interested in traditional rights and freedoms or whether in fact they are pretty selective. And they are quite happy to attack the rights and freedoms of ordinary working people when it suits the interests of their big business mates.

BRISSENDEN: Last week Labor requested to see the confidential volumes of the Trade Union Royal Commission, well now the government's offered them to you and you've declined to look at them. Why?

DREYFUS: Well no, what we said was that the documents, the two volumes, confidential volumes that the Royal Commissioner has said should remain confidential and he's said why, should be made generally available if the government is choosing to use them for the political gaming that it is choosing to use them by showing them to selected crossbenchers.

BRISSENDEN: That's happening.

DREYFUS: It's either confidential or it's not, we told the government last week that what they should be doing, if they are going to give it to the crossbenchers on whatever conditions, it should be made available to everyone who is interested to read them. The government has declined to do that -

BRISSENDEN: Well they have said they would make it available to you.

DREYFUS: They've tried on a game which - making it available to one selected frontbencher in the opposition is not the same as making a document generally available, and on extraordinary conditions that would mean I am not able to tell my colleagues about the contents of the document. We don't do our politics that way and the government shouldn't be either. The government shouldn't be making a game of this royal commission. These confidential volumes don't contain any recommendations for prosecution, don't contain any referrals to the criminal prosecution authorities and they should remain confidential because that's what the royal commissioner said should happen.

BRISSENDEN: It's been reported the government is also discussing voting reform with you to prevent the micro-parties gaming the preference system to win Senate spots. You support that don't you?

DREYFUS: We've had a report done by the Joint Standing Committee on electoral matters which reported in May 2014 which was looking at the circumstances of the 2013 election in which a number of Senators were elected on microscopic proportions of the primary vote.

BRISSENDEN: It would certainly make for a less interesting Senate though wouldn't it?

DREYFUS: It would definitely make for a differently composed Senate, which would probably, if the system were to be changed, not have these pop-up parties. Now the Joint Standing Committee on electoral matters recommended some changes, notably that group tickets should be abolished and that there should be optional preferential voting for a limited number of candidates, rather than the present situation where you either vote above the line or you vote for up to more than one hundred candidates most people find it pretty difficult to fill out a ballot paper like that anyway

BRISSENDEN: But there's no doubt that you'd support that wouldn't you, you want to see less people -

DREYFUS: The Opposition is talking with the Government and we are talking among ourselves as to what is the right way to reform Senate voting processes, we are not in government, it's a matter for the government to put forward that proposal, we are hoping that occurs soon.

BRISSENDEN: Just quickly on the High Court, as we've heard the High Court will make a decision today on whether the government has the power to send asylum seekers to offshore detention centres, back there. Now offshore detention as we know was re-established by the Labor government in 2012, Kevin Rudd struck a deal which established the Manus Island offshore detention centre what happens if the High Court finds this is unconstitutional?

DREYFUS: Well if the High Court finds this is unconstitutional, and I'm not giving a quote as to which way they're going to find, well know that at 10:15 this morning, then those people that Australia has been instrumental in placing on Nauru will have to come back to Australia. But whatever the outcome, it's important that the government deal with the extraordinary situation that this government, not the Rudd government which introduced as you correctly said the policy that if you want to come to Australia by boat, you wont be settled in Australia.

BRISSENDEN: And established Manus Island.

DREYFUS: And established Manus Island and re-established a centre on Nauru, both of which Australia is responsible for, and because we fund it and we train for the running of those centres, we provide the management of those centres, it's very - no-one envisaged when this system was set up, that two and a half years later, people men, women and children would be languishing in these centres facing indefinite detention.

BRISSENDEN: So is it time to re-think?

DREYFUS: Because that's the current situation. There is nothing from Mr Turnbull, nothing from Mr Dutton that offers any prospect to any of those people that indefinite detention is -

BRISSENDEN: But that is the current situation as you said and we've heard some pretty graphic stuff recently. A paediatrician spoke to the ABC 7:30 program last night saying there is a report of sexual assault every 13 days, most of those against children. Clearly it must be time to re-think this policy.

DREYFUS: These are shocking stories that we've heard. The government of course has now been shown up for disgracefully attacking Save the Children.

BRISSENDEN: So do you think the policy should be overturned?

DREYFUS: The policy has been instrumental in bringing the flow of refugees to Australia by boat to an end.

BRISSENDEN: But do you believe it's time to overturn the policy?

DREYFUS: We did not envisage, when we introduced this policy, that two and half years on you would have more than 1,000 men, women and children languishing in indefinite detention. It is time for the government to do a great deal more to end the dreadful circumstances in which these men women and children -

BRISSENDEN: Is it time to end offshore detention?

DREYFUS: I don't think it's necessary to say that, that it is time to end that policy. What does need to be done is that the government's got to do a great deal more so that we don't have people in this situation. Two and a half years is an eternity, particularly for children and this present situation cant be allowed to continue.

BRISSENDEN: Mark Dreyfus thanks for joining us.

DREYFUS: Thank you Michael.