SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC TV AFTERNOON BRIEFING
MONDAY, 26 OCTOBER, 2020
SUBJECTS: End of Victorian COVID lockdown; ASIC; National Integrity Commission; Stacking of AAT with Liberal mates; Incident at Doha Airport.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: I'm joined next by the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus who joins me to talk about, well, this issue, but a few other issues that have happened in the Federal Parliament today as well. Mark Dreyfus, welcome.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good to be with you, Patricia.
KARVELAS: What do you make of the timetable for reopening announced by the Victorian Government? Of course, you're also a Melbourne based MP, is this the right plan for Melbourne?
DREYFUS: I think that this is the right plan for Melbourne. Of course, I'm pleased, along with everybody who lives in Melbourne, everybody who lives in Victoria. And I’d pay tribute to the immense effort that Victorians have made over the many, many weeks that - I can say that, you know, it's been many, many weeks, Patricia. And I'd pay tribute to Daniel Andrews and his Government for the resolve that they've shown, and the steadiness that they've shown, which is getting us out of the shocking prospects that we were facing back at the end of June.
KARVELAS: Look, it was certainly looking pretty dire at the end of June. And things have changed quite dramatically with this announcement. But it has been a really long period. And we keep hearing how many jobs have been lost. In fact, I spoke to Paul Zahra from the Retailers Association a little earlier who said a lot of these jobs won't be coming back. This is going to be a tough road ahead for Victoria.
DREYFUS: It's going to be a tough road ahead but the Victorian Government's done the right thing here. I compare what we were experiencing at the end of June, which was around 500 cases a day with, say, France, which was also experiencing around 500 cases a day at the end of June. Yesterday, France recorded, just in one day, 52,000 cases, Victoria recorded zero. And that's the way, that's the comparison we have to make. We could be in a disastrous situation. From the health point of view, we're not, of course. We're facing a difficult economic situation and I'm confident that the resolve that Victorians have shown in facing up to the pandemic they're going to show similar resolve in facing up to the economic difficulties that we will work through together.
KARVELAS: We know now that November 8TH is the date that the Premier has outlined for reopening the whole of Melbourne so that that ring of steel is gone, and that we can freely move around Victoria if we are Victorians. That should be the date too, Mark Dreyfus, that the other state borders are opened up to allow Victorians to travel to New South Wales or South Australia? Should that be kind of the date that everyone aims towards?
DREYFUS: I'm not going to second guess the health advice. I’m not going to second guess what decisions are being taken by the other state governments. Certainly the Federal Government, if you listen to Mr. Hunt, or Mr. Morrison, they'd be saying, of course, the restriction should be lifted. But I'd be encouraging all governments to listen to the health advice that they're getting.
So let's hope that I won't have to quarantine any more to go to Parliament. Let's hope that the state borders are all going to be open, and that we can start travelling again. We won't be able to travel internationally, Patricia, anytime soon. But if we can all start spending money on travel internally in Australia, that'd be a great thing and keep those tourism businesses alive.
KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus, what have businesses in your electorate been telling you about the problems that they're facing? Because there has been criticism that the Victorian Government's taken too much of a cautious approach and has kind of delayed in the last couple of weeks. Are businesses giving you that feedback?
DREYFUS: Some businesses are very worried about their future. Businesses are worried about, to some extent, the patchiness of JobKeeper, the wage subsidy scheme that the Morrison Government put in place which has shut out casuals, for example. Businesses are worried, in some industries, that they haven't had any special support. People who work in the arts are terribly concerned that they've been pretty much shut out from support by the Federal Government. People in the tourism, the travel agents industry have said to me that they were the first to be shut down, it looks like they're going to be the last to come out. They are looking for special assistance.
So it depends a bit on which industry you talk to. Everybody is looking forward to the reopening. And mostly people I talked to in my electorate are saying we need to get on top of the health issue. We need to stop the rate of infection and after that we can start thinking about getting our businesses back together again.
KARVELAS: While I've got you it would be remiss of me not to ask you some other news of the day There's been some significant news today. What's your reaction to the resignation of deputy ASIC Chairman, Daniel Crennan?
DREYFUS: Mr Crennan has taken responsibility for his actions, I wish Mr. Morrison would start taking responsibility for his actions a bit more often than he does. He likes to duck. And I'd say Mr. Crennan’s taking responsibility.
KARVELAS: Should the ASIC Chairman James Shipton also resign?
DREYFUS: He stood aside until December. It's pretty hard to see how you could possibly justify, particularly for someone that's heading up a watchdog agency, it's pretty hard to see how you could justify getting $115,000 odd of your taxation advice expenses paid as part of your job.
KARVELAS: Will Labor support Helen Haines' private member's bill for a federal integrity commission?
DREYFUS: I'd congratulate Helen Haines as an independent, as a crossbencher, bringing forward a bill. And I do support the principles behind Helen Haines’ bill. We will be supporting bringing that bill on for debate and I'll be taking this bill to my colleagues for their approval. But good on Helen for doing all of the immense amount of work she's done to put together this National Integrity Commission bill. What's revealing is that everybody in the Parliament, with the exception of the Government, now supports having that debate about a National Integrity Commission. The Government said nearly two years ago now, Patricia, that they were going to act and that they were going to do a National Integrity Commission. And right up until now, three years after the Government said they'd started on this, we've seen precisely nothing from this Government. Shockingly, last week, we learned that the legislation is ready to go. It's been sitting on Christian Porter's desk since the 23rd of December last year. And I'd say that the Government time's up, the Australian people want to have a National Integrity Commission. You've got the bill, release it, let's have the debate about it. let's determine whether or not the model that the government has set upon is the right model. But let's get on with it.
KARVELAS: Will Labor commit to an independent and transparent process for the appointment of all officials to government roles?
DREYFUS: We had in place a transparent process for things like the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, for appointments to the federal courts. I know that we had that in place because as Attorney-General I was responsible for making the appointments to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, to the Federal Court, to the Federal Circuit Court, to the Family Court of Australia. And under this Government it's become what I'd call a black box where nobody knows what methods are used to appoint people, other than that if you are a member of the Liberal Party, if you're a former Liberal MP or a former Liberal staffer, you’re odds on to get appointed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. We can see that because they've appointed more than 70 Liberal staffers, former Liberal MPs, failed Liberal candidates to the AAT as if it was some kind of Liberal job agency.
KARVELAS: What do you make of this really disturbing incident at Doha airport where women, including Australians, were subjected to these invasive medical checks?
DREYFUS: Shocking, Patricia, it's a gross violation of the rights of all of those women. Rightly, the Australian Government has made a protest to the Government of Qatar and Labor joins with the Government in expressing outrage on behalf of all Australians.
KARVELAS: Does what happened to these women constitute sexual assault?
DREYFUS: I'd have to see the detail of exactly what happened but it sounds like it. And certainly it was invasive. Certainly it was a gross violation of their rights. Everybody travelling on an international aeroplane deserves to know that they're not going to be subject to this kind of treatment.
KARVELAS: The Federal Government has been waiting on a report from Qatari authorities for almost three weeks. Is this moving too slowly?
DREYFUS: Much too slowly. But as I say, the Australian Government, Marise Payne, have expressed the deep concern that would be shared by every single Australian who has learned of this incident, at the treatment that was given to the women on that plane.
KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us.
DREYFUS: Thanks, Patricia.