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SUBJECT/S: Barnaby Joyce dual citizenship, media reform







SUBJECT/S: Barnaby Joyce dual citizenship, media reform

EMMA ALBERICI, HOST: Mark Dreyfus joins me now from Canberra. Good to have you back on the show Mark Dreyfus. So it was Penny Wong’s Chief-of-Staff Marcus Ganley who contacted a Labour MP in New Zealand to raise questions about Barnaby Joyce and his citizenship status. How is that an appropriate exercise for your side of politics to be engaging in?

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks for having me Emma. And in answer to your question, I don’t think you should waste any more time on it. It’s an irrelevancy. And if there has been a single communication between a member of staff of the opposition and the opposition over in New Zealand, that wasn’t what caused Barnaby Joyce to be a New Zealand citizen. It wasn’t what caused his potential ineligibility to stand for election. It wasn’t what caused the government of Australia to refer their own Deputy Prime Minister to the High Court of Australia for a determination.

ALBERICI: But from your side it was a bit of a gotcha moment wasn’t it?

DREYFUS: Well, this has come from the government referring their own Deputy Prime Minister to the High Court. And is Julie Bishop really suggesting that relations with New Zealand are somehow compromised? This is turning a constitutional crisis into a diplomatic incident. And I am actually shocked at the way our Foreign Minister has behaved here, and all of the government in trying to blow this into something when there was in fact nothing. The answer was given by the New Zealand Internal Affairs Minister saying that the government of New Zealand was alerted to this by Australian media enquiries. That’s where it ends Emma.

ALBERICI: Mark Dreyfus would you support a citizenship audit of the entire Parliament to put this matter to bed once and for all?

DREYFUS: This is a provision in the constitution Emma which has been here since Federation. This is not…

ALBERICI: Can I draw you back to my question? Wouldn’t that solve matters?

DREYFUS: No. Because we’ve had all sorts of nonsensical claims made in the last several weeks, apparently again with the government putting forward ridiculous nonsense to cover up its own inadequacies and its own incompetence. And there’s no reason to do an audit of all 226 members of the Federal Parliament.

ALBERICI: Well don’t you think the public might have a different view? Given we’ve already seen five come under a cloud in just the space of the last month or so? It’s turning into a bit of a farce isn’t it? And now we hear that you’ve got several on your own side, Susan Lamb, Tony Zappia, Justine Keay and Maria Vamvakinou – why aren’t you giving the evidence to support the assertion that they are all legitimately in the Parliament?

DREYFUS: We don’t have to Emma, because we’ve got a really rigorous process. I’ve been involved in this process for several elections…

ALBERICI: Hold on a minute, you went across the ditch to try to discover Barnaby Joyce’s proper citizenship. Now do we have to get into this unedifying situation where the other side are potentially going to go seeking clarification from various foreign governments – the Greek government, the Italian government and so on to determine whether your own people are sitting in the Parliament validly?

DREYFUS: You should assume, and all Australians should assume, and the government should know that Labor has actually already done all that in an incredibly thorough way.

ALBERICI: So why not just produce the documents and prove it?

DREYFUS: The five who are now referred to the High Court of Australia are two Greens Party Senators and a One Nation Senator, and two members of the coalition government. The Deputy Prime Minister and a former cabinet minister. There are no Labor members referred to the High Court, and I don’t think there are going to be any members of the Labor Party referred to the High Court because we’ve been incredibly thorough Emma.

ALBERICI: You don’t think, but can you be 100 per cent certain?

DREYFUS: No-one can ever be 100 per cent certain about anything in this life.

ALBERICI: Then why not go seeking the documents? It does seem a little odd.

DREYFUS: It doesn’t seem odd at all Emma. I’m afraid that all you’ve got is the coalition throwing dust. Christopher Pyne and other senior ministers throwing names about of Labor members because they think they can distract attention from the incompetence on the other side.

ALBERICI: Well you could put the matter to bed but you’re choosing not to. Now, George Brandis makes a point of a precedent in Sykes v Cleary where the High Court stated that a candidate in Parliament wouldn’t be disqualified under Section 44(i) providing they’d taken reasonable steps to renounce any foreign citizenship prior to nominating for election, presumably also prior to discovering once you’re in the Parliament. Now isn’t it entirely plausible that Barnaby Joyce could argue that same point that he just didn’t know so how could he take reasonable steps?

DREYFUS: That’s going to require a reinterpretation of Section 44 and the making of new law by the High Court. It’s an ironic thing Emma that the conservatives in Australian politics have railed against judicial activism for decades – now they seem to be wanting serious judicial activism to write some new law about Section 44 in order to save their Deputy Prime Minister. Ignorance of the law, generally speaking, isn’t a defence. And I don’t see anywhere in the previous judgments of the High Court of Australia anything which supports the suggestion that Barnaby Joyce, as a citizen of New Zealand based on facts that were totally within his knowledge – such as his father was born in Dunedin New Zealand – why he should be held not to be caught by Section 44. The decisions so far have all been about the members of Parliament concerned needing to take reasonable steps and mostly, they’ve been held not to have taken reasonable steps. And we’ve read very carefully those judgments. We have based our actions for now more than two decades on making absolutely certain anyone…

ALBERICI: So you’re calling into question the advice of the Solicitor-General?

DREYFUS: Not at all, although I would say, George Brandis has misled the Australian Parliament and the Australian public about Solicitors-General advice in the past in relation, interestingly, to the citizenship bill in 2015. Until the Solicitor-General’s advice is made public, we won’t know what the Solicitor-General has said.

ALBERICI: OK on the media reform bill that’s been discussed this evening – Labor won’t support it. Why not?

DREYFUS: We won’t support what seems to be a dirty deal done with One Nation. We don’t know the details but..

ALBERICI: Well that dirty deal, as you call it, wouldn’t need to be done if Labor supported the bill presumably.

DREYFUS: We’ve said we support the removal of the reach rule but we don’t, and we made this clear from the start, support the removal of the two-out-of-three rule. That’s our position, we are very concerned about concentration of media ownership. It’s been our concern for decades. We retain that concern.

ALBERICI: And yet Mark Dreyfus sorry for the interruption, we’ve seen players like the Daily Mail, the Guardian, New York Times, others are coming into our market to provide more voices into that news landscape reporting about Australia. So you’ve got more voices, not less coming in. Why deny, why retain this two-out-of-three rule given we’ve got so many new voices, not to mention social media and the like where we know 85 per cent of Australians are now getting their news from the likes of Facebook?

DREYFUS: It’s a very good thing that we’ve got those new voices. But I think we’ve got as well, Australia remains one of the most concentrated media markets in the world. That’s why there’s still a use for the two-out-of-three rule. And what we’re concerned about now is this deal that seems to have been done by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party with the government which is basically an attack on the ABC. And that’s a real concern to us.

ALBERICI: I couldn’t possibly comment. Mark Dreyfus thank you for your time.

DREYFUS: Thanks Emma.