ABC 774 with Raf Epstein

SUBJECT/S: National security; marriage equality





MONDAY, 21 AUGUST 2017                                                           

SUBJECT/S: National security; marriage equality

RAFAEL EPSTEIN, HOST: Mark Dreyfus good morning.

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning Raf, thanks for having me.

EPSTEIN: What do you make of the government’s report, is it worthwhile asking shopping centres to look at this? Do they need to be told?

DREYFUS: Of course it’s worthwhile Raf. This builds on work that’s been going on now for many years, the Australia-New Zealand Counterterrorism Committee has been encouraging owners of places of mass gathering, councils, state governments are responsible for places of mass gathering – to consider what security steps need to be put in place because this kind of running down, use of vehicles in attacks has been around since before Nice. Nice is a particularly horrific attack which prompted this report to be carried out, but you could look at Israel, where there has been running down of pedestrians – a wave of them, dozens of attacks since October 2015 and other countries in the world as well. We have to always make these assessments and I think the report – as I heard Andrew Colvin, the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police saying earlier today, raising awareness in venue owners and people responsible for public places, it’s worthwhile.

EPSTEIN: How much responsibility should government accept for an attack inside a shopping centre, owned by a private company?

DREYFUS: Private property is private property, but equally, governments, state governments are responsible for policing and criminal law enforcement everywhere, whether on private or public property. We have to work together. This is a partnership between government, federal government, state government, local government and private property owners to make every place that Australians gather as safe as possible.

EPSTEIN: How much of a difference can it make? There’s a criticism of the concrete bollards in Melbourne that if you’re really determined one car could be used to move the bollards aside and one car could be used for an attack. There’s always a way around a security measure isn’t there?

DREYFUS: Sure, and no one can suggest that there’s anything we can do to be 100 per cent safe from every possible attack, just as we go about our lives we’re not safe from accident and incident and we have to keep this in perspective. But if there is this particular type of attack that’s been devised, certainly some of the places where we have particular concentrations of people and frequent mass gatherings, I think we can think about how to make them safer. As the report points out, it doesn’t have to be ugly bollards, it could be very heavy benches that look nice or a range of artwork that also doubles as a security device. There’s things we can do to actually improve our public spaces as well as making them more secure. I don’t see the bollards as more than temporary.

EPSTEIN: Some people say that this is a drastic change in our lives. The queues in our airports. The drastic change to the look of our streets. The long wait you might have to get into the MCG and the Docklands. Is that in some way either giving in or not addressing the cause of the problem?

DREYFUS: You always have to address the cause of the problem and not just address the symptoms. But we also have to think about what makes the Australian way of life and the freedom that we enjoy so wonderful, and at all times look at preserving those things, not giving up. Again I’d quote Andrew Colvin saying this morning that we can’t have a policeman on every corner, but there are limitless things you could do that might be said to improve security. But we’d end up living in a security state, a police state, and I don’t think that’s what any Australian wants. We have to keep things in perspective. We have to do the things we can but at the same time keep an eye on what it is that’s good about our way of life.

EPSTEIN: Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Minister for National Security. He is the Shadow Attorney-General. He is part of Bill Shorten’s Opposition. It is 19 minutes to 9 o’clock. Can I ask you Mark Dreyfus, you, Bill Shorten and the Premier Daniel Andrews were speaking about same-sex marriage yesterday and the postal survey. The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, says the Catholic Church would probably fire a gay man or a lesbian woman if they were to marry, if that legislative change went through. Is that fair enough?

DREYFUS: There’s already exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act that allow religious bodies and schools, educational institutions owned by religious bodies, to refuse to hire someone whose views - and the relevant thing here would be on homosexuality - at all. And those exemptions have been in the law for many years.

EPSTEIN: So legally it’s permissible, but ethically, is that okay with you?

DREYFUS: I am not a practitioner of the religion that’s wanting to fire people, but at the moment we have protections for those particular religions, and Archbishop Hart knows that those exemptions are already there in the law. It’s a distraction to the debate about marriage equality to raise this question about hiring and firing. That’s already part of our law. There are already exemptions.

EPSTEIN: Is it a distraction or is it a direct consequence? Because if that law were to be enabled, let’s say that the survey returns a yes and the Parliament votes yes, none of which are givens, but if that happens, that flows into a public conversation and into legislation, doesn’t it?

DREYFUS: I’d suggest that anyone that’s openly gay, won’t be employed in a Catholic parish school already, because those exemptions are used by the Catholic system, and it’s a distraction from the actual arguments about marriage equality, which we need to get on with in this country, to raise this point. I think you’ll see, if this ridiculous $122 million postal survey goes ahead, and we won’t know until the High Court has heard a challenge to it on 5 and 6 September, if it goes ahead, you can expect to see from those campaigning for ‘no’, all kinds of irrelevant arguments. This is one of them. The argument needs to be about equality. It needs to be about rights for all Australians, and I’m hoping that we can stick to that and not have irrelevant, perhaps I could say scaremongering introduced into the debate, and this point that they could fire people if they get married in a same-sex marriage, that’s one of the irrelevancies.

EPSTEIN: Are you confident that the survey will return a yes? The polls are usually between about 60 per cent and 80 per cent yes that Australians support same-sex marriage. Are you confident the survey will return that?

DREYFUS: Because this is such a novel device and is absolutely rigged against the yes case, I can’t say I’m confident but I can say that I’m confident that every one of my colleagues who are going to be out there campaigning for the yes case, are going to everything we possibly can to ensure that the survey, if it does go ahead, reflect what the polls have been saying have been saying for many years, which is that a substantial majority of Australians favour marriage equality.

EPSTEIN: Thanks for your time.

DREYFUS: Thanks very much Raf.