THE HON MARK DREYFUS KC MP
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
NINE TODAY SHOW
THURSDAY, 8 JUNE 2023
SUBJECTS: Brittany Higgins; Nazi hate symbols ban.
KARL STEFANOVIC: Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus joins us now from Melbourne. Good morning, Mr. Dreyfus. Appreciate your time. You say the government settled this compensation payout by the letter of the law. So why is there zero transparency?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: The decision that I made to settle this claim was entirely in accordance with the Legal Services Direction that's applied to the settlement of this kind of case for decades. And it's absolutely standard that in some cases, there's confidentiality. That's what's happened here.
SARAH ABO: But I mean, we're talking about taxpayer funds, shouldn't there be more transparency?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's very common for the Commonwealth to settle claims on the basis of agreed confidentiality. It's very often in the Commonwealth's interests that there be confidentiality and often in the case of sexual harassment claims there is a desire on the part of the claimant to keep the matter confidential.
STEFANOVIC: Is it unusual for compensation to be paid before an outcome?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That's the basis of mediated settlements, Karl and I think most of your viewers would not be surprised to know that most claims in Australian courts are settled without a trial. It's absolutely the norm for there to be mediations before trial so as to attempt to settle the dispute.
STEFANOVIC: So, you're comfortable. There's nothing to hide, right in regards to that.
ABO: We're talking about the government being implicated here as well. We've seen some of those text messages that have been exchanged between David Sharaz and Katy Gallagher, for example, in saying she messaged me, she's angry and wants to help. It sounds like the now Finance Minister might have some questions to answer here.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I don't agree. I made the decision here as Attorney-General to settle this claim that was brought against the Commonwealth. It was a decision that I made absolutely in accordance with the Legal Services Direction, and the Finance Minister had no part to play. Again, that's standard. It's the Attorney-General who is in charge of litigation against the Commonwealth and has to approve settlements.
STEFANOVIC: So Katy and the Prime Minister, no one else in Labor has any other questions to answer in relation to that?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Indeed not.
STEFANOVIC: Senator Linda Reynolds says that she's referring all this to the new anti-corruption commission, you worried about that?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No, it's entirely a matter for anyone who wishes to refer something to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which I'm really pleased is going to commence operations on the first of July. Just like we said at the election we were aiming to have a National Anti-Corruption Commission up and running by the first of July. It will be up and running on the first of July and it will be independent. It'll be a matter for the National Anti-Corruption Commission to decide what and how it will investigate.
ABO: It does just seem a little bit murky, Attorney-General. I think you'll concede that but let's move on now. And this swastika ban, what's prompted you to step in here? Obviously, there have been calls across the country for a move like this.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There's been a rise in this kind of far right violent activity. We think it's time for there to be a federal law, which I'll be bringing to the Parliament next week that will ban the public display of Nazi symbols and trade in items which bear these symbols and it'll mesh with state and territory laws. Most states and territories over the last year or two have legislated a similar ban.
STEFANOVIC: So how will it then mesh in Victoria, where it's been most prominent?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There's already a law in Victoria. Our law will not just ban the public display of the Nazi Hakenkreuz and the Schutzstaffel, that's the SS symbol, it will also ban trade in items that bear the symbols. That's something that state and territory laws don't do. We think it's appropriate for the Federal Government to pass the law of that kind because we've got responsibility for import and export. We want to see an end to trading in this kind of memorabilia or any items which bear these Nazi symbols. There's no place in Australia for spreading of hatred and violence and anti-Semitism and this law is going to send the clearest possible message.
STEFANOVIC: I think it's so very good law and I guess you wonder sometimes why didn't come sooner? I'm glad you're doing it. So, what happens from a practical point of view? What happens if one of these pelicans in Victoria comes out with any kind of memorabilia or does a salute when this law is an act is enacted, what happens?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: They can be charged and if convicted, they can be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail, which is a penalty that we think indicates the seriousness that we think this needs to be treated with.
ABO: All right, thanks very much for your time Attorney-General. A lot on your plate, that's for sure. Appreciate your time.