SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
TUESDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2021
SUBJECTS: IBAC; National Anti-Corruption Commission.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General and my guest. Welcome to Drive.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks for having me Patricia.
KARVELAS: Is branch stacking rife within the Labor Party, including at the federal level, as suggested by Anthony Byrne?
DREYFUS: It's not completely clear the exact time period that he was talking about, but certainly, it has been rife. I'm on the record as being absolutely opposed to branch stacking going back many, many years including doing an inquiry and a report for the state party, way back in 1998, trying to eliminate this practice. And what you should note, as you did in your introduction, is that Anthony Albanese, acted straightaway when these allegations came to light last year and suspended the operation of the branch.
KARVELAS: So, have you witnessed it?
DREYFUS: Personally, no. I am opposed to it, and have always acted, to the extent I can to bring it to an end.
KARVELAS: What should be the consequences for such actions?
DREYFUS: You've seen some of the consequences last year. Not only was the Victorian branch of the party suspended in its operations, but the people most closely connected to the allegations last year were expelled from the party, and Daniel Andrews referred this matter himself to the IBAC. That inquiry is the one that is now taking place. It's been many months, as I understand it, making enquiries. It's now holding public hearings, of which we've had the first and second days with my Parliamentary colleague Mr Anthony Byrne, giving evidence.
KARVELAS: Should Anthony Byrne lose his party membership?
DREYFUS: Anthony Byrne was thanked - I really want people to know this - Anthony Byrne was thanked by the IBAC Commissioner, former Supreme Court Judge Robert Redlich, for the assistance he's been to IBAC. Mr Redlich said at the end of Mr Byrne's evidence that he'd significantly enhanced the work of the investigators and Commissioner Redlich said that he'd given evidence that he would say was against Mr Byrne's interests. That he did acknowledge wrongdoing - this is all what I heard Robert Redlich say - he said that "you have acknowledged breaches of a range of party rules, and you've nonetheless come forward with a great deal of acknowledgement about wrongdoing." Now that's very significant. Mr Byrne's role here, in a yet to be completed inquiry, is very much that of a whistleblower. Of course, he's also giving evidence about his own involvement, but he's the reason, it seems to me - and that was clear from the report last year on 60 Minutes and the work done by investigative journalists, excellent investigative journalist Nick McKenzie - it is Mr Byrne's work that has led to this being uncovered.
KARVELAS: Yeah, look, no doubt, but at the same time he admitted the wrongdoing himself. This is vexed, right, because he may have assisted but he also did what we know is against the party rules. So, that doesn't mean you don't get consequences just because you fess up right?
DREYFUS: I think the right course here is to wait until this IBAC inquiry is completed. And it's very important that it be allowed to complete a full examination of all of the circumstances and then further judgments can be made. But right now, it's not a completed inquiry. It's got weeks, as I understand it, yet to run of this public hearing. And let's just see where we end. What I am clear about is if ever there was a demonstration of the need for one of these anti-corruption commissions at the national level is seeing this unfold here in Victoria. We've got a glaring gap, Patricia, at the national level, and I am going to go on talking about this all the way through to the next election because Labor is not only supportive of IBAC and supportive of the New South Wales ICAC in their operations, we want to see a strong and independent anti-corruption commission established at the national level.
KARVELAS: I spoke to Dave Sharma on a panel on Afternoon Briefing on ABC News which I host at four o'clock, a little earlier, and he said he does think that the proposal that's been put forward by his government - he's a backbencher - needs to be strengthened and also needs to create one class so that politicians can be investigated. What do you make of those comments?
DREYFUS: Excellent. I'm really pleased to hear it. Mr Sharma is a very thoughtful Member of Parliament, and he's picked up on a glaring problem with the model that Mr Morrison has been putting forward, since he promised an anti-corruption commission at the national level nearly three years ago, in December 2018. The glaring omission that Mr Sharma is talking about is that Mr Morrison's proposal has two divisions. It has a division for police officers and law enforcement people who can be investigated fully, in respect of whom they can be public accusations and public hearings and public reporting. And then there's another division altogether in Mr Morrison's model for Federal MPs, Federal Ministers and Federal Public Servants, in respect of whom there are to be secret allegations, only investigations when the Government refers a matter to this other division, and no public reporting. Now, that's not my idea of a strong and independent anti-corruption commission, and apparently Mr Sharma has reached the same conclusion so all strength to him. I hope his voice is heard. He's a backbench member of the Liberal Party, but I hope his voice is heard in the party room, and good on him for saying that publicly that the model that Mr Morrison has put forward is nowhere near strong enough, and that's what all of the retired judges who've been commenting have said. That's what the Centre for Public Integrity has been saying. The Centre for Public Integrity described Mr. Morrison's model as the weakest watchdog in the country, if it were to be implemented in the form that Mr Morrison has proposed. So, I am seriously hoping that if we do see legislation for a national anti-corruption commission at long last from Mr Morrison, it won't be the model he's been talking about up until now. It will be truly a strong and independent national anti-corruption commission because that is what is sorely needed in Australia.
KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus thank you so much for your time.
DREYFUS: Thanks very much, Patricia.