ABC News Breakfast

SUBJECTS: Discrimination exemptions; Scott Morrison; National Integrity Commission; encryption; Kelly O’Dwyer



SUBJECTS: Discrimination exemptions; Scott Morrison; National Integrity Commission; encryption; Kelly O’Dwyer
VIRGINIA TRIOLI, CO-HOST: Mark Dreyfus, good morning and thanks for joining us.
TRIOLI: Can I start with news released by your office? Labor is going to introduce a Private Member's Bill - I will clarify whether you're doing that today - to remove exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act. The government said they were going to do this, but you said they were dragging their heels?
DREYFUS: Absolutely, they're dragging their heels. The Prime Minister promised to do this in the week before the Wentworth by-election. He said there was no room in a modern Australia for this exemption in relation to students at religious schools. He said that this would be legislated, to remove the exemption, in the next sitting fortnight. That didn't happen. And we need to move it forward. We haven't heard again from the Government with a further draft. They did put up two drafts to us in the sitting fortnight that the House of Representatives had when we were last here. And it's now time. So, of course, the Government should bring forward its own bill. But if they won't, we're going to give notice today of a Private Member's Bill that implements a Senate committee report that was tabled yesterday. Disappointingly, not only does Mr Morrison seem to be walking away from the promise that he made - saying one thing and doing another - but Liberal senators dissented from that Senate committee report, which made a very clear recommendation that we remove this exemption for students. We need to get on with it. I think that the people of Australia expect the Prime Minister to keep his promise.
TRIOLI: A lot to get through. I just want to quickly clarify: It's possible, isn't it, that your mention of this might actually prompt the bill, or some form of a bill, to come forward in the next few days?
DREYFUS: Absolutely.
TRIOLI: Scott Morrison indicated he intends to make the next federal election a one-on-one contest, if you like, between him and Bill Shorten, whose personal popularity, I guess everyone has to acknowledge, has never quite matched the Labor support. Is that your Achilles heel?
DREYFUS: Absolutely not. We are a united team. We've had Bill Shorten excellently leading our party for five years, with Tanya Plibersek as his deputy leader, and a very, very strong frontbench team. We've spent our time in Opposition developing policies. We are ready to govern, and I think that the people of Australia can see that we are ready to govern, led by Bill Shorten. I'm very much hoping that, over the next six months, we round off the set of policies, the very full set of policies, that we have been working on that we can show the Australian people. And what are we offered by contrast? A divided rabble from this Government, who can't even answer the simple question of why Malcolm Turnbull is not now the Prime Minister of Australia. Scott Morrison goes from bad to worse every day, ranting and shouting in the Parliament, ranting and shouting at press conferences, and I think the Australian people will see the very, very clear choice that we are presenting to them at the next election.
TRIOLI: OK. So, if it's personality-on-personality, Scott Morrison versus Bill Shorten, you say, "Bring it on"?
DREYFUS: Bring it on.
TRIOLI: OK. On the ICAC, we are learning that the Government was working to convert the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity into an anti-corruption body before the leadership change. So, given that you've got the Independents who are working on this in the lower house, and the support of Labor, I guess you'll all come together in some kind of compromise now?
DREYFUS: Well, I very much hope that the Government accepts the offer that Labor has had on the table since 30 January this year, which is to work with the Government in a bipartisan way to establish a National Integrity Commission. I thank the crossbench for bringing forward a bill, but it's, again, another example of how the division and chaos in this Government is preventing them from getting on with the job of good government. If it's true that the Government was working on a bill when Mr Turnbull was Prime Minister, that's three months ago - what happened to it? Why hasn't the Attorney-General brought that forward for public discussion, for discussion with Labor? We need to get on with this. The Australian people, I think, deserve to have a National Integrity Commission. It's something that we can do to restore confidence in our politics, in our system of government. The time's up. And Mr Morrison needs to get on with it.
TRIOLI: Now, you've publicly floated the idea of splitting new encryption laws, in order to hand more powers to security and intelligence agencies, possibly before Christmas. As Attorney-General-in-waiting, if you like, explain to us how you don't have any concerns that are for Australian people, in addition to the data retention laws that we have, that this doesn't cause more concerns for us about our privacy?
DREYFUS: Oh, I think there are concerns, and that's one of the things that has been shown by the committee's two hearings - public hearings to date. And by the very many weighty submissions that the commission has received. There are concerns. There are concerns from the Australian defence industry, from the Australian tech industry, from global tech companies, about the way in which the Government has drafted this bill. It's pretty extraordinary that the Government, having not set a date for the completion of the committee's inquiry - and this is, of course, a committee that's chaired by a Government member and has a Government majority on it - we're going to be deliberating in the committee as to whether or not to accept the Government's demand that the inquiry be accelerated. We'll be having more discussions today. But one thing that emerged yesterday that's clear is that the Prime Minister's ranting press conference, which he did with Mr Dutton last Thursday, wasn't prompted by any request from ASIO, it wasn't prompted by a briefing from ASIO. But at the same time, this is a bill that is dealing with an urgent problem that the agencies identified over four years ago. The Government finally put this bill into the Parliament on, I think, around 20 September. And we'll work with it as best we can. I think I can say that everyone should be assured that Labor will not support bad laws. Labor will work in our usual bipartisan fashion on national security matters. I'd call on the Government not to try to politicise this or any national security bill.
TRIOLI: I'm gonna jump in, Mark Dreyfus, because my question went to the splitting of that bill that, I guess, you believe would protect people's security and privacy, but still give the security agencies what they need. I guess we have to take it on faith that you've got that split - you would have that split right?
DREYFUS: Well, the split was actually directed - that's an idea. I can't pre-empt what the committee is going to decide, but the split is directed at whether or not we can get legislation, in some way, in some part, in place before Christmas.
TRIOLI: Before Christmas, yep.
DREYFUS: Which is what the Government wants to do. Your concern about privacy is dealt with by ensuring that there are appropriate safeguards and oversight. That's always the way in which Australians' privacy is to be protected. The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, have both made suggestions as to how the bill should be amended. That might be something the committee will recommend to the Government, if we land a report in coming days.
TRIOLI: Following the landslide in Victoria, it would be in Labor's best interest for Labor's culture warriors to take their culture war to the next election?
DREYFUS: I don't think that the Liberal Party in Victoria, or, indeed, the Liberal Party nationally knows whether it's coming or going. We've seen reports today that Kelly O'Dwyer in a crisis meeting yesterday said her party was homophobic, climate change-denying and anti-women. I couldn't say it better myself. I think she may have been talking about part of the Liberal Party. Certainly she wasn't talking about herself or some of her colleagues, but that idea that the Liberal Party is homophobic, climate change-denying and anti-women is clearly right in respect of a whole range of people on the far right of the Liberal Party, who regrettably seem to be calling the shots.
TRIOLI: Alright, we'll leave it there. Mark Dreyfus, thanks for joining us today.
DREYFUS: Thanks very much.