SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
THURSDAY, 29 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: End of Victoria COVID-19 lockdown; Qatar; National Integrity Commission.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI, HOST: You may have caught up with the news that the Government of Qatar has said publicly it regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedom of any traveller. That was caused by a decision to invasively and very personally, examine women who were transiting through Doha International Airport following a newborn baby who was found in the bathroom there. It's turned into a massive international fight here and the Australian Government is under pressure to take a stronger step in relation to Qatar over this as well. Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Constitutional Reform and the Member for Isaacs and joins us now. Mr Dreyfus good to talk to you again, good morning.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning, Virginia. Good to be with you and I hope everyone in Victoria is thanking each other for coming out of lockdown. It's a great step forward.
TRIOLI: It's been a really hard time, but everyone here has done an amazing job. Mark Dreyfus what exactly should the Government do? And is there anything a government like an Australian government can do in relation to government like the Qatari one over this particular matter?
DREYFUS: There's plenty. I actually can't fathom why Scott Morrison and Marise Payne haven't done anything about this. They should have been on the phone to their Qatari counterparts weeks ago - they've known about this since the start of October - to make expectations clear. That's the least that they could do and instead they're sitting back waiting for a report. We need, just for starters, a proper apology to the Australians who have been violated in this way.
TRIOLI: Just to jump in there, and just to correct the record, I mean Marise Payne has said, and she's made it very clear, that they have expressed the outrage to the Qatari Government so it’s not true to say they've sat back and done nothing exactly?
DREYFUS: Through officials. She hasn't… this is my point, that this is a government to government matter. We need to have the Foreign Minister on the phone to the Qatari Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister, the Australian Prime Minister, on the phone to the leader of Qatar.
TRIOLI: And should there be some formal consequences? If you're in charge, if you are the Attorney General, you had a position, a role to play in this, what would you say the Australian Government should do, either in response or even formal retaliation?
DREYFUS: Let's not talk about retaliation let's talk about what should be done to obtain redress for the women whose rights have been violated in this way. A proper apology would be the starting point and then examining whether some other redress is possible. And that's something the Australian Government needs to be doing on behalf of these Australians. It can't be left up to the individual women concerned to take whatever action might be possible under Qatari law. This is a matter that the Australian Government needs to take up.
TRIOLI: Is it a crime? Have those officials of the Qatar Airline, and these Qatari officials, have they committed a crime?
DREYFUS: I have no doubt but had this occurred in Australia it would be a crime. It's an assault. Whether it's a crime under Qatari law, I don't know. But again, that's a reason why this needs to be dealt with at a government to government level.
TRIOLI: Is it a crime under international law?
DREYFUS: I've got no doubt that it's a breach of international human rights law, and again, how that applies in Qatar, that a matter that people will have to look into. But I say again, the Australian Government needs to look after Australians. The Australian Government needs to be making representations to the leaders of Qatar and getting a proper apology, not just an expression of regret, and getting redress if that's possible.
TRIOLI: Is this one of those circumstances where the outrage is, of course, completely well understood and there's every reason for it, but at the same time, any government has to do a rather careful diplomatic dance here and this government is caught in that particular pincer situation?
DREYFUS: They're a long way off being caught. Of course governments need to act in a diplomatic way. But this government, as so often before from Scott Morrison, very quick to talk but very slow to act. He hasn’t done anything,Virginia, that’s the problem. So yes, we need to be diplomatic. Yes, there’s a need for reserve and caution in the way in which governments talk to each other. But what we don’t need is inaction from Mr Morrison, the sort of inaction we’ve seen in so many other situations. Loves to hold the press conference, loves to express outrage, but that’s where it stops. We still haven’t had the Foreign Minister of Australia picking up the phone to her counterpart and we still haven't had the leader of Australia, our Prime Minister, picking up the phone to the leader of Qatar and that's what should be happening.
TRIOLI: For the record we did ask Marise Payne on the program this morning and she was not available to join us. Mark Dreyfus is with you, the Shadow Attorney-General. Before I let you go it's been fascinating to see an inquiry underway here in Victoria with IBAC and of course ICAC in New South Wales has revealed the startling revelations that it has in the last few weeks as well. What has happened to our much-delayed federal integrity commission, what's the status of that?
DREYFUS: Precisely nothing. The Prime Minister and Christian Porter, the Attorney-General, held a press conference on 13th of December 2018, it’s almost two years ago, saying that they were going to do a national integrity commission and nothing has happened. We learned at Estimates last week that they've had an exposure draft sitting on their desks, an exposure draft of the legislation that's needed, sitting on their desk since the 23rd of December last year, and all we've had is a pathetic excuse that because of COVID it can't progress. Now that's a nonsense. The Government has shown itself perfectly able to do many things over the course of this year non COVID related. It should do this as well. The time's up is what I say. I want to see a National Integrity Commission created in Australia and the demands for it is growing ever louder, every day.
TRIOLI: Good to talk to you this morning Mark Dreyfus, thanks so much.
DREYFUS: Thanks, Virginia.