SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
TUESDAY, 1 JUNE 2021
SUBJECTS: Christian Porter abandoning defamation action against the ABC; Covid-19 outbreak; Government’s failure on Aged Care.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There must now be an independent investigation to ensure that Christian Porter is fit to continue to serve as a Federal Cabinet Minister. Now that Mr. Porter has abandoned his defamation proceeding there will never be the legal proceeding, the court case that the Prime Minister used as an excuse when he fobbed off questions about the allegations against Mr. Porter in the Federal Parliament back in March.
We're back where we were before the 15th of March, when Mr. Porter commenced this defamation proceeding against the ABC. We're back where we were, which is that the New South Wales Police were not able to pursue their investigation, the Australian Federal Police have never investigated the allegations, the South Australian Coroner has not commenced an investigation and perhaps may never commence an investigation. Mr. Morrison has not investigated these matters, in fact, he didn't even take the trouble to read the document that was sent to him. And no part of the Federal Government has investigated these allegations. It's simply not good enough that what one journalist this morning described as the most serious allegations ever made against a serving cabinet minister are now to be swept aside.
Mr. Morrison's trying on in his usual obfuscation by saying that matters been dealt with. That's what he's saying this morning. Well, we need to be very clear about this, these allegations have not been dealt with. They have not been investigated. The matter simply can't be brushed away by Mr. Morrison. If it's good enough for the High Court of Australia to have an eminent Australian come in and investigate serious allegations against a former Justice of the High Court of Australia then it should be good enough for Mr. Morrison to immediately put in place an independent inquiry into, and I repeat, Mr. Porter's fitness for office as a cabinet minister. This is not just about whether or not he should have continued as Attorney-General. This is about his fitness for office as a cabinet minister. That matter remains in doubt because these serious allegations have not been investigated. Labor is calling for Mr. Morrison to stop hiding, stop making excuses, show some leadership, do what is required of you and that is institute an independent investigation.
JOURNALIST: What would such an inquiry achieve?
DREYFUS: An independent inquiry would offer the only route to potentially assess the substance of these allegations and assess whether Mr. Porter is fit to continue in office. These are deeply serious allegations and they have not been investigated.
JOURNALIST: Should the Government be making it mandatory for aged care workers to get vaccinated?
DREYFUS: We have to follow the health advice. I know that that matter is being considered but the reason why that question is being raised is that the vaccination generally, the whole vaccination rollout, is a shambles. Vaccination in aged care has been a shambles and particularly, vaccination of aged care staff has been a shambles.
It's simply not good enough. This is an emergency. We need to see Mr. Morrison stop hiding, stop making excuses, stop pretending that everything's okay. Stop with the nonsense that he goes on about in Parliament saying ‘I'm fighting the virus’. He had one job this year which was to get this vaccination rollout right and he hasn't got it right. It's a shambles. And yes, of course, we should be thinking about if it's the right thing to require aged care workers to have a flu shot then we certainly should be thinking about whether those aged care workers should be required to have the two COVID shots. This is a question which has come up because some 685 aged care residents died last year. We know that there are problems. We've got to do more.
JOURNALIST: What did you think of Christian Porter's characterisation that the outcome yesterday was an embarrassing backdown for the ABC?
DREYFUS: I think the words that Mr. Porter used were ‘humiliating backdown’ and frankly, it's unhinged for Mr. Porter to have said something like that. This was his defamation action. He decided to sue the ABC and he has decided to abandon his defamation action. He's abandoned his defamation action without getting an apology, without getting a retraction, without getting any damages and without getting any of his costs paid. That is not something that you can describe as a ‘humiliating back down’ for the ABC. It wasn't the ABC who decided to take these proceedings it was Mr. Porter and Mr. Porter has now abandoned his case.
JOURNALIST: The ABC says that both parties agreed not to pursue the matter.
DREYFUS: Of course. That's what happens when one plaintive withdraws a case, there's an agreement on the terms on which the case is then to be abandoned. And the ABC sensibly for defendants - I spent 30 years of my life doing this sort of litigation - sensibly for a defendant, the ABC has decided that it won't go further with the matter. But Mr. Porter decided to sue here. Mr. Porter brought this case Mr. Porter claimed that he was going to stand in court and give evidence on oath. Well, that's never going to happen. Mr. Porter claimed that the ABC had the choice as to whether to plead truth and then they could go into the witness box and give evidence on oath. Well, the ABC did plead truth and we are never going to see anyone give evidence in this case because Mr. Porter has abandoned his case. He's abandoned it without getting damages, he's abandoned it without getting an apology, and he's abandoned it without getting any retraction. The article remains online for anybody to read.