ABC NEWS RADIO BREAKFAST
FRIDAY, 5 JUNE 2015
SUBJECTS: Monis letter; citizenship.
BENSON: Mark Dreyfus what questions need to be asked, what questions would justify the recalling of the Senate committee to ask new questions that seemingly have already been resolved?
DREYFUS: Just for starters, Marius, we need to know why Senator Brandis and the Government took over a week to correct the record when they had managed to mislead both houses of parliament - the Senate in estimates last Wednesday week, the House of Representatives last Thursday week. It is a pretty extraordinary effort to mislead both houses of parliament one day after another and the whole Australian community.
BENSON: But Julie Bishop did set the record straight yesterday?
DREYFUS: We need to know what happened in the Attorney-Generals department. We already know, now, what we did not know a week ago, which is contrary to what the Government said - the inquiry, the Thawley/Comley inquiry, was not provided with the Monis letter and the Attorney-Generals departments response.
The centrepiece of the intemperate attack that Julie Bishop launched on me personally and the Labor Party in Question Time last week rested on that notion that the letter had been provided. We need to know, I think, more about the whole handling of this letter in the first place. Clearly, there has been extraordinary political sensitivity - it has been treated as a matter of great political sensitivity by the Government and that is not good enough. Just as, as I said, right at the outset, the handling of the letter has been not good enough.
BENSON: Can there I leave the handling of the letter and go to another question, which is the Government's plans to strip citizenship from dual citizens, at least, who fight for IS in the Middle East. Labor is fully in support ?
DREYFUS: We need to see the bill. We have said, and the Opposition Leader, has made it clear, I have made it clear right from the first time that this was raised, that of course circumstances have changed. We have now got non-state armed groups involved. What the Citizenship Act has said since 1948 about an Australian with dual citizenship taking up arms in a war against Australia is something that can and should be looked at again. What we have also said from the outset that the Government needs to produce a bill. The Government needs to produce the detail so that everyone in Australia can see what it is that the Government is proposing. Are they proposing that a judge should make the decision or that a Minister should make this decision? Are they proposing that a decision should follow a conviction or are they saying that it should be merely on suspicion?
BENSON: If the bill involves deporting people from Australia who support IS action in the Middle East, would you support that stripping citizenship from people in Australia, not fighting in the Middle East, but in Australia and deporting them ?
DREYFUS: Don't just talk of it as deporting here Marius. What the Government is talking about is stripping Australian citizens of their citizenship and it may in fact be not able to deport them. It might be that no country is prepared to take a person that has been denounced as a terrorist in Australia and stripped of Australian citizenship. So, lets concentrate on what the Government is saying it wishes to do which is to strip Australians of their citizenship. At worst, that might appear to be on some kind of Ministerial whim for unclear reasons. That is why we are pressing for the detail of this and we are going to keep pressing for it, even though and we need to get this clear Labor stands together with the Government on keeping Australians safe but that doesn't mean we cant query and question the methods the Government is proposing to achieve that end. There are two bits to this and I have been very concerned, in particular, to listen to the way in which the Prime Minister has been very keen, it seems, to try to pick a fight with Labor over this when there is no cause for doing so. I think he needs to produce the bill, I think he needs to produce the detail and then we can have the proper discussion.
BENSON: Would you support unilateral powers in the hands of the Minister alone?
DREYFUS: As was commented upon by Greg Craven, the vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University yesterday, a noted constitutional lawyer, that to him would directly offend the separation of powers. These are powers that under Australia's constitution, when you are talking about punishing Australian citizens, and on any view stripping of citizenship is a punishment, that is something that should be in the hands, I think, of a judge.
BENSON: Not the Minister alone?
DREYFUS: Certainly not the Minister alone as you put it. That was the comment made by Greg Craven and he is not alone either on this yesterday.
BENSON: Mark Dreyfus, thank you very much.