ABC Radio National Breakfast

Subjects: Mal Brough and Malcolm Turnbull’s judgement, citizenship










SUBJECTS: Mal Brough and Malcolm Turnbull’s judgement, citizenship


FRAN KELLY: Mark Dreyfus, welcome to Breakfast.


MARK DREYFUS: Good morning, Fran.


FRAN KELLY:  So as we heard there, Mal Brough, the Minister, told Parliament he was selectively edited. Turns out the question is not materially different. Is this a sacking offence though, to say you’ve been misquoted?


MARK DREYFUS: Well it’s what Mal Brough has been doing now for a couple of weeks. We’ve been asking him questions every Question Time. He’s been slithering and sliding around giving different answers on each day. Some days he says ‘you can’t ask me questions because I’m under investigation’. Other days he’s been trying on the untenable position that he was exonerated by a Federal Court decision to which he wasn’t even a party. But yesterday he went to a new low which was blaming journalists, alleging falsely it turns out that there had been a selective editing of a question that he had asked.


FRAN KELLY: I don’t know that politicians accusing journalists of getting it wrong is a new low and certainly I’m asking again is it a sacking offence?


MARK DREYFUS: He appears to have misled Parliament and we’ve said all along that he should not have been appointed. But at the very least he must stand aside -


FRAN KELLY: Why? What are you specifically accusing him of?


MARK DREYFUS: He is under investigation by the Australian Federal Police, extraordinarily the Australian Federal Police executed a search warrant at his house. I cannot remember the last time a serving minister in the Government of the Commonwealth was the subject of a search warrant executed on his own house, and we’ve got a code of conduct published by the current Prime Minister. Because that’s the form, when prime ministers come in they republish the standards of ministerial conduct that they expect of their ministers. Malcolm Turnbull’s own standards of ministerial conduct say that when there’s a prima facie case, and it absolutely appears there’s a prima facie case against Mal Brough, then he should stand aside until the investigations are complete.


FRAN KELLY: As I understand it though there is no prima facie case. He’s not facing a charge of anything. The police are searching for evidence to see whether there’s wrongful procurement of material, isn’t that the issue?


MARK DREYFUS: He’s been – he hasn’t yet been charged but the standards of conduct are very clear about that. If he was charged he would have to stand aside but even before he is charged, if there’s what is described in the guidelines as a prima facie case, or a clear case, he should stand aside then too. On his own admission, on 60 Minutes, he procured James Ashby to obtain copies of the diary of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and he’s slithered around in Question Time but it’s absolutely clear that that’s happened. He’s the Minister for government integrity, Fran, and perhaps you might argue for another minister he doesn’t have to stand aside just yet, but the Minister for government integrity, the person that’s responsible for standards in the Electoral Commission, in the Parliament, in relationship to the staff of members of Parliament, that’s one of his responsibilities, it’s a long list. We need someone that is absolutely beyond reproach and I’m afraid that Mal Brough has shown himself to be not that. He’s shown himself to be someone that cannot even answer a straight question. He’s never given a full account of his involvement with the grubby Ashby affair and it’s long past time that he should have been stood aside. If he --


FRAN KELLY: Are you calling for him to resign or stand aside until the police investigation is over?


MARK DREYFUS: We say both, he should never have been appointed. It should have been apparent. This is a question of judgment for Malcolm Turnbull. He shouldn’t have been appointed in the first place when this investigation was ongoing, and it’s clear that it was ongoing, it had been ongoing for many months.


FRAN KELLY: So Malcolm Turnbull knew that there was a police investigation going on that involved the Minister?


MARK DREYFUS: Channel 9 had reported that there was an ongoing investigation. I don’t know exactly what Mal Brough told Malcolm Turnbull. That’s a matter for Malcolm Turnbll to tell the people of Australia what he knew before he appointed this man. But Brough seems to have been appointed to reward him for his part in the plotting that brought down the former Prime Minister. He shouldn’t have been appointed, but since he has been appointed, at the very least he should be stood aside by this Prime Minister, if he won’t stand aside himself, until this investigation is complete. It’s a really scandalous state of affairs.


FRAN KELLY: It’s still unclear, though, what has gone on. James Ashby himself, the man at the centre of this, the man who did copy the diary, who passed copies of the diary on. He gave some interviews yesterday, he said it was another MP, it was Wyatt Roy, LNP MP Wyatt Roy, who asked him to get Peter Slipper’s diary. Now Wyatt Roy has denied that, he’s said he simply said could you diarise things. But James Ashby is presumably the only one who really knows who asked him to do this and he’s now pointing the finger at Wyatt Roy. 


MARK DREYFUS: I don’t know what James Ashby’s motivations are and I’m not seeking to inquire at the moment into what Wyatt Roy did. What’s very clear is that there are texts passing, which are public, passing between James Ashby and Mal Brough in which Brough says I couldn’t read clearly the diary entries that you sent me, can you send me other copies, clearer copies, to my email address? And gives him his email address. Now I don’t know how much more is needed to provide a clear case. This is why the police are investigating. This is why they are looking into whether Mal Brough committed not one but two serious criminal offences. And they are very serious criminal offences, Fran, they carry a potential penalty of two years’ jail.


FRAN KELLY: Mal Brough does make the point though, that he is being implicated in the whole Slipper affair when he has been cleared by the Federal Court in 2014 and he read out an excerpt of that finding and I’ll read it to you. Quote, this is the judges in the Federal Court:


“We are also of the opinion that there was no basis for the primary judge to conclude that Brough was part of any combination with anyone in respect to the commencement of these proceedings with the predominant purpose of damaging Slipper in the way alleged or at all… There is absolutely nothing untoward about those matters.”


On that basis was the Prime Minister justified in appointing him?


MARK DREYFUS: On the contrary. This is – and I’m sure Malcolm Turnbull would understand this very well as a former lawyer. This was a case that never went to a hearing. The trial judge decided to strike out James Ashby’s claim against the Speaker on the basis that it was an abuse of process. That was appealed by James Ashby, saying it’s not an abuse of process. The issue the Full Federal Court was looking at was the motives that James Ashby had in – Mal Brough was not a party – and in the course of the judgment the two judges who set, in the Full Federal Court, who set aside that trial judge’s finding of abuse of process, actually commented that Mal Brough received extracts from the Speaker’s diary. That’s what the focus of the criminal investigation is. The Full Federal Court was not a criminal case, it did not include Mal Brough as a party, and it is a nonsense for him to be suggesting that he was cleared by anything the Full Federal Court has said.


FRAN KELLY: It’s fourteen to eight, our guest is the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Mark Dreyfus, on policy matters now, legislation to strip dual national terror suspects of their Australian citizenship in the Parliament. Labor will support the Bill, it could go through the Parliament by the end of the day, and yet the Government has refused to give you or the crossbenchers its advice from the Solicitor-General explaining the changes. You’re just taking the Government’s word for this? The crossbenchers are refusing to do that, why are you?


MARK DREYFUS: We’ve been forced to rely on the Government’s assurances that the Bill as amended is constitutional. That’s been the issue that’s been raised by very many eminent legal academics, practising lawyers, other people interested in this subject, since the Bill was first produced. The Government has refused a request to provide the two pieces of legal advice that the Solicitor-General has given and we do have no option but to accept the assurances, written assurances, from the Attorney-General that the Solicitor-General has advised that this Bill will, in fairly qualified language I might say, but that this Bill will pass muster in the High Court.


FRAN KELLY: And what about the notion that Nick Xenophon and Richard Di Natale and others say, why would be shipping these people, keeping them out of Australia, won’t that just allow them in the words of Nick Xenophon to set them, give them free range with their sick twisted minds to do damage to Australians and other innocents abroad?


MARK DREYFUS: There is a need for the Government of Australia to have an array of means to keep Australians safe. Labor’s view – this was a difficult consideration and we worked through this in the hearings of the Intelligence Committee – Labor’s view is that the particular mechanisms that are provided by this extension of the Australian Citizenship Act are appropriate mechanisms for the Government to have available to it.


FRAN KELLY: Okay, Mark Dreyfus thank you very much for joining us on Breakfast.


MARK DREYFUS: Thanks very much Fran.