ABC 774 with Jon Faine

SUBJECT/S: Citizenship, Budget, Banking Royal Commission








SUBJECT/S: Citizenship, Budget, Banking Royal Commission


FAINE: Mark Dreyfus QC is the Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for National Security, importantly these days as well. Mr Dreyfus good morning to you again.


DREYFUS: Thank you for having me Jon.


FAINE: You and Bill Shorten insisted you didn’t have any problems, it seems you were completely wrong. Do you accept responsibility for that?


DREYFUS: Of course we regret that there are by-elections coming…


FAINE: Do you accept the responsibility for it?


DREYFUS: We were operating on everybody’s understanding of the law about citizenship. And the High Court has now very substantially tightened the test. All of the constitutional experts commenting yesterday have made that clear.


FAINE: In what way was it tightened? Or did they just have to explain again what they had already explained?


DREYFUS: On the contrary – in the previous case, about Canavan but it was also concerned with Barnaby Joyce, was considering the government’s proposition that complete ignorance of your citizenship situation didn’t affect your eligibility. And you might recall the Prime Minister standing up in the Parliament and saying that Barnaby Joyce was eligible to sit in Parliament and “the High Court will so hold” was his memorable phrase.


FAINE: And he was wrong but so were you.


DREYFUS: And that proved to be completely wrong. The High Court for the first time in the Joyce decision and the Canavan decision, looked at that situation where MPs claimed not to have known about whether they were foreign citizens and sitting in Parliament. We’re in a completely different situation. Since 1992, the decision in Sykes and Cleary, it’s been understood that reasonable steps were what was required. You had to have put in your renunciation papers, provided you had done that by the nomination date, you were eligible to stand. And not only Labor but the Liberal Party acted on that basis and one can point to the Liberal Senator for example, Dean Smith who went into Parliament filling a casual vacancy from Western Australia when he was still a British citizen. But because he had taken the steps, we thought that he….


FAINE: What he thought were reasonable steps, but where are we now? We’re going to have another round of by-elections, we’ve got another round of uncertainty, and we can resolve it as we just discussed with Derryn Hinch, Senator Hinch a moment ago, do we go for a referendum in which case the people are asked to fix it, or do you just have to change your due diligence for future candidates?


DREYFUS: Well certainly all the constitutional experts have made clear over the last 24 hours, it’s going to change preselection processes, they’re going to have to be dragged right back because people will have to put in train getting rid of any dual citizenship issues much earlier and for some countries that can take a very very long time. Even Britain, the average time is around four months. There are countries in the world which take years to do this. The concern that’s been expressed by a lot of experts is that this disadvantages millions of Australians who are dual citizens or may be dual citizens and that’s why there is talk about a referendum.


FAINE: Well it only disadvantages them if they want to run for Federal Parliament. It doesn’t make you ineligible for local government or state parliament.


DREYFUS: No indeed it doesn’t…


FAINE: Most Australians don’t run for Federal Parliament.


DREYFUS: Quite a small number, Jon, run for Federal Parliament but still we want every Australian citizen to be able to participate as fully as possible.


FAINE: All they have to do then is if you’ve got that twinkle in your eye and you’re starting to be ambitious then the party has to say OK, do your paperwork, make sure lock stock and barrel that it’s absolutely iron-clad and otherwise just don’t even pretend.


DREYFUS: And that’s all very well for the big parties, for people that are independents or from very small parties like Derryn Hinch they might be making a decision to run on the spur of the moment. That may no longer be possible if you’ve got any citizenship problems.


FAINE: Alright within your portfolio there were some interesting small details within the budget. The Financial Review today reports that ASIC, despite being supposedly the solution to the problems that the banks are experiencing so clearly magnified by the Hayne Royal Commission, ASIC in the budget got a significant cut in its funding and it’s going to lose as many as thirty investigatory staff despite the government saying it is going to increase its clout.


DREYFUS: And that’s a shocking decision for the government to have made at the very time when all of these problems are being exposed about the banks, this is not the time to be cutting ASIC. It’s also not the time – and this is also in my portfolio – to be cutting the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions’ Budget. It’s only a small cut in this budget but it continues cuts that have been occurring under this government since 2014. We need to be beefing up the Commonwealth DPP, we need to be beefing up ASIC, because it’s those enforcement processes that are going to bring the banks to heel, that are going to get proper behaviour out of the banks.


FAINE: The Treasurer has previously said a few weeks ago, Scott Morrison said that if the Royal Commissioner wants an extension because he thinks he needs more time and can do more valuable work then we would look favourably upon that request, there’s been no sign that the Royal Commissioner is disposed to do so. Does the Labor Party think the Royal Commission should run for longer and if so, why?


DREYFUS: I think that Ken Hayne has shown extraordinary speed. He’s been given a very tight timetable and he is doing his absolute best to bring out the problems and dreadful behaviour that has been exposed through this Royal Commission. I think it’s apparent that he has set himself a timetable with very confident Assisting Counsel that he’s got with him, to deliver within the timetable that the government has given him. Let’s see, and let’s wait to see whether he thinks that he needs more time.


FAINE: Does the Labor Party not have a view on it then?


DREYFUS: We’re waiting to see what the Royal Commissioner, who has planned this Royal Commission, who is doing tight examinations of individual financial institutions one after the other…


FAINE: Arguably at breakneck speed.


DREYFUS: And it might be that it is sufficient for him to draw conclusions and make a full set of recommendations about what changes are needed in the financial services industry. I think we need to be guided by the Royal Commissioner on whether or not he thinks that he has had sufficient time. I am certain that, knowing Ken Hayne as I do, that he will not hesitate to suggest to the government if he needs more time if in fact that’s the case.


FAINE: Thank you for your response on all those matters this morning.