SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
THE WEST LIVE
FRIDAY, 13 AUGUST 2021
SUBJECT: Commonwealth’s $1 million bill for supporting Clive Palmer’s challenge to WA.
BEN O’SHEA: As every West Aussie knows Clive Palmer dragged Mark McGowan into court last year in an attempt to tear down WA's hard border. Mr Palmer wasn't on his Pat Malone in this challenge, he got little help from the federal government. Well guess what? Now we know how much taxpayer money ScoMo's mob spent doing it. Joining me now is Federal Labor Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Good morning, Mark.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good morning, Ben.
O'SHEA: How long have you spent trying to get these numbers from the Morrison Government?
DREYFUS: We've spent a year ever since Mr Morrison and Christian Porter intervened in the High Court challenge that Clive Palmer had brought against Mark McGowan's border restrictions. In the end, of course, they were embarrassed into withdrawing, but not before they'd done a lot of damage, not before they'd spent, as we now know, more than a million dollars of taxpayers' money backing in Clive Palmer. It is actually disgraceful, and what was more distressing was that they took a year. We started asking straight away 'how much are you spending on this?' And they hid the figures, pretending that somehow it was against the public interest to reveal that. We now know it was more than a million dollars.
O'SHEA: On what grounds could they say that it was against the public interest to know how taxpayer money is being spent?
DREYFUS: I've never understood that proposition. They invented a sort of excuse, which is, in addition to spending all this money actually running the case, hiring Queen's Counsel and hiring solicitors and hiring expert witnesses to side with Clive Palmer, they, because of the late withdrawal, were ordered to pay some additional costs - wait for it - to Clive Palmer and Western Australia. And they argued that because they were still resolving exactly how much to pay in costs to the other parties it might somehow prejudice that negotiation. Well, that's just a nonsense. It's got nothing to do with it. We know that Clive Palmer ended up with more than $40,000 in his pocket courtesy of Mr Morrison and Mr Porter.
O'SHEA: Hang on. I just need to clarify that, just for everybody listening at home. So, after the Federal Government pulled out of this case with its tail between its legs, they've ended up putting money in Clive Palmer's pockets?
DREYFUS: Yes, over $40,000 paid to Clive Palmer.
O'SHEA: I can see how this gives the Labor Party some pretty good mileage over here in Western Australia. Certainly, Mark McGowan has made a lot of the situation and speaking to Anthony Albanese, I know that he has as well. The Morrison Government say that Labor is politicising a health emergency. What do you say to that?
DREYFUS: That's laughable. This is taxpayers' money being spent to harm the health of Western Australians. That's not politicising, that's just holding this shocking government to account. This prejudiced Western Australia, and you don't have to take my word for that, you can take Justice Darryl Rangiah's word. He was the Federal Court judge who heard part of this case. I'll read out to you what he said in his judgment. "The prejudice to Western Australia has not been caused by the withdrawal, but by the Commonwealth, having intervened in support of the Palmer party's case in the first place." So think about it, I don't think that's politicising a health crisis as Michaelia Cash was trying to say in the West Australian today. This is the Labor Party holding this dreadful government to account. I think Western Australians are entitled to be up in arms about what the Federal Government's done here and I'm very pleased that finally we've dragged the full cost of this disgraceful piece of litigation out of them.
O'SHEA: At the time Christian Porter said ‘well, this is just standard practice, it’s constitutional law and the Federal Government typically gets involved in these types of cases'. Does that argument hold legal water?
DREYFUS: No. Christian Porter's being deliberately misleading. I was the Federal Attorney-General for a time in 2013 and I used to practice, and from time to time appear in the High Court. The Commonwealth does not intervene in every constitutional case. The Commonwealth chooses to intervene in some cases, quite a small proportion actually, and when it does it intervenes in support of one party or another. And that's what the Commonwealth did here. The Commonwealth wasn't just taking some dispassionate constitutional point, the Commonwealth was intervening to the tune of more than a million bucks to help Clive Palmer tear down Mark McGowan's border restrictions.
O'SHEA: And now Mr Palmer, of course, is threatening legal action against Mark McGowan and our Chief Health Officer Andy Robertson, to try and stop the vaccine rollout. I'm sure this is something that the Federal Government's probably going to stay well clear of.
DREYFUS: They should be calling out Clive Palmer, as has Mark McGowan, for a deranged position. Everybody in Australia needs to get vaccinated. Of course, Mr Morrison should be calling out Clive Palmer for this absurd behaviour, but he won't because he wants Clive Palmer to back him in with another $80 million in advertising like he did at the last election. We've got a cowardly Prime Minister, I'm afraid, Ben. He's not prepared to slap down his own backbencher, a government backbencher over in Queensland who's talking anti-vaxxer nonsense. He's not prepared to say anything about Clive Palmer's nonsense and it's a great shame we've got, regrettably at the moment, a Prime Minister who is no leader,
O'SHEA: And in talking about Mr Porter, we found out this week that Tracey Roberts, the Mayor of Wanneroo in Perth, is going to be standing against him in that seat. How much do you think Federal Labor will use Mr Porter's involvement in this case brought by Mr Palmer in a federal election should that arrive sometime between now and next April?
DREYFUS: We will be reminding voters in Pearce, and our great candidate Tracey Roberts will be reminding voters in Pearce, that Mr Porter was elected to represent the voters of Pearce in Canberra, but he went to Canberra and betrayed Western Australia. Of course we'll be using it against Mr Porter. He deserves to have this used against him because his behaviour, and that of his boss Mr Morrison, was disgraceful.
O'SHEA: I'm sure you won't get much of an argument from many West Aussies. Federal Labor Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus thanks for joining me on West Live.
DREYFUS: Thanks Ben.