ABC RN Breakfast

SUBJECT/S: Australian embassy in Israel, anti-discrimination protections, Nauru.



SUBJECT/S: Australian embassy in Israel, anti-discrimination protections, Nauru.
FRAN KELLY, HOST: Mark Dreyfus, welcome back to Breakfast.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning Fran, thanks for having me.
KELLY: Before we get to religious protection and discrimination, the Prime Minister, we read today, is flagging a major shift in Australia’s approach to the Middle East. Labor’s also reviewing its policy towards a two state solution. Would Labor ever support relocating the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
DREYFUS: There’s been long standing bipartisan agreement on this Fran, which is that the embassy should not be moved to Jerusalem until final status negations for Jerusalem that are part of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. It’s an extraordinarily desperate act by a desperate Prime Minister who thinks he might actually lose the blue ribbon seat of Wentworth which the Liberals have always held.
I can’t believe that in the face of his own denial, his own rejection, as recently as July that the embassy would be moved, the rejection by the former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that the embassy would be moved and the rejection of the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Frances Adamson, of moving the embassy, that the Prime Minister would float this thought bubble, it’s another day, another thought bubble from a desperate Prime Minister and it should be seen as what it is.
KELLY: Is it a policy worth considering though? I spoke to Dave Sharma earlier, he’s the Liberal candidate for Wentworth of course, but he’s also a former Ambassador to Israel. He has long argued that Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory, therefore, this position is worth considering.
DREYFUS: West Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory.
KELLY: I beg your pardon; West Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory.
DREYFUS: Yes, West Jerusalem is Israeli territory. It’s been behind the green line since 1948 and no one’s in any doubt about that. But other than the US and I think Guatemala, no other country has seen it as appropriate to make this move and it’s not appropriate at this time for Australia to make this move.
KELLY: So you don’t agree with Dave Sharma that it could be made and it could be justified and it makes sense in the fact that it is the de-facto capital anyway of Israel, that it could be set as long at it’s done in tandem with a restatement of support for prioritising a two state solution?
DREYFUS: Sure, we know that the Parliament of Israel, that the Supreme Court of Israel, that the government departments of Israel are all located in West Jerusalem but that’s been so since the start of the State of Israel and what’s extraordinary is that it’s clearly prompted by this by-election. And we have now a Prime Minister who’s prepared to throw off decades-long established bipartisan policy on Israel - and it’s very important that we maintain bipartisan policy on Israel, it’s in Australia’s interest and it’s in Israel’s interest that that bipartisanship should be maintained - that the Prime Minister is prepared, desperate for a few more votes, and I’m not sure if it would get him any more votes, but that he should be prepared to overturn the previous Liberal Government rejection of this, his own rejection of this, prompted clearly by the Wentworth by-election. It’s a disgraceful performance and he needs to reconsider.
KELLY: The Prime Minister’s also flagging an inquiry into the Iran nuclear deal and whether Australia might change its position or withdraw support for that deal. How do you think the rest of the world might look at this position?
DREYFUS: I’m not going to judge or speak on behalf of the rest of the world. It’s difficult to speak on behalf of the rest of Australia. But I don’t think the rest of the world would look kindly on Australia, which is a middle power that has a long standing history of supporting multilateral agreements and international cooperation across the world. I don’t think the rest of the world would look kindly on a new Australian Prime Minister, desperate to win a local by-election, overturning long standing policy. The support for the Iran deal, which was expressed by Julie Bishop as Foreign Minister and by Frances Adamson, the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs, is bipartisan policy and the new Prime Minister has not given a reason as to why he wants to go down he same path as the United States. Bear in mind, Australia is not a party to the Iran agreement, we stand on the sidelines, importantly, potentially as a middle power, and we should be expressing our support for long-standing multilateral arrangements.
KELLY: Mark Dreyfus, let’s go to the push in the Parliament to end the exemptions from discrimination law when it comes to religious schools expelling students, not accepting gay students, there’s bipartisan support for that. The Prime Minister says there will be a time and a place to fix the issue of teachers.
Why is Labor in a rush to do this? We’ve known about this problem since you created the religions exemption back in 2013.
DREYFUS: Fran, we’re very pleased that Mr Morrison has accepted the offer extended by Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition, last Friday, to work with the government in removing the exemption in relation to children in religious schools. But we’re very disappointed that straight away, Mr Morrison is rejecting our suggestion that we should also be working on removing the exemption for staff in religious schools.
KELLY: Well he’s probably a bit confused, you only introduced it five years ago?
DREYFUS: Well, that’s a dishonest distraction that’s been put forward by Mr Morrison and the Liberals. What we did, and we’re very proud of what we did in 2013 was create additional protection in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity and simply continued exemptions for religious schools and religious institutions that have been in place since 1984 when the Sex Discrimination Act was legislated. And just since you mentioned it Fran, I think that it’s an example of how community values, community attitudes have shifted quite a distance since 2013. At the time in 2013, we were proud to create additional protections in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity but didn’t think that there was appropriate support for changing the exemptions at that time. What we’ve now seen in response to the leaking of the Ruddock Report last week, is a wave of community opposition to the suggestion that there should be exemptions for religiously run schools in respect of students, or staff, and that’s why we’re wanting to work with the government on both. It’s very disappointing that the government has chosen not to release the Ruddock Report and it’s equally as disappointing that Mr Morrison is not telling the people of Australia or the voters of Wentworth what he plans to do on religious freedoms. The government has had this report for five months Fran. It’s long past time to tell the people of Australia what its planning to do in this area.
KELLY: So what will you do next week, likely when this legislation is introduced to end the discrimination against students? Will Labor try to amend the bill to extend that protection to teachers? What will you do? Will you pass this bill?
DREYFUS: The question of the exemption for staff, teachers and other staff working in religious schools is a complex one. That’s why Bill Shorten last week called for a conversation on this matter. If the government’s not prepared to work with us then we’ll obviously take whatever can be achieved through bipartisan work and that’s in relation to children and we’re going to continue that conversation Bill spoke of with religious schools, with religious organisations that run schools, as to how to deal with this complex problem. Because I want to make this clear Fran, we recognise in Labor, the need to protect religious schools’ right to run their schools in accordance with the tenets of their faiths. While it’s one thing to state the very clear principle that no one should be sacked because of who they are or who they love, no one should be refused to be hired because of who they love, equally schools have the right to conduct their schools in accordance with the tenets of their faith. And that’s no different to saying that all schools are entitled to have rules that govern the conduct of staff, all staff, not just teachers, in the way in which they relate to students, in the way in which they go about their work at the school. So it’s that interaction, Fran that has to be worked through.
KELLY: Can I just ask you finally on the issue of Nauru, there’s a groundswell in the community to get the children off Nauru and bring them here to Australia. We’ve now got three Liberal MPs calling for that. Pressure is building within Labor, the South Australian Labor Leader Peter Malinauskas says Nauru is a complete disgrace and a stain on Australia. Can Labor credibly go to the next election with a policy to maintain offshore processing with some vague promise to find third countries to take these people?
DREYFUS: It’s not a vague promise but can I just say this is a significant….
KELLY: Well we don’t know which countries you’re going to find.
DREYFUS: It’s a significant admission by these Liberals that the government’s handling of Nauru has been chaotic and confusing and inconsistent in relation to medical transfer processes. These centres on Nauru and Manus were established in 2013 as temporary processing centres.
KELLY: Is it time to bring these people to Australia on a temporary basis until we find those third countries? Is that the only humane response?
DREYFUS: They were never intended to be places of indefinite detention. There has been a failure of successive Liberal governments over 5 years which has resulted - the failure to negotiate with third countries - and that’s resulted in them being in places of indefinite detention and that’s got to be brought to an end, but in particular, we need to have much better processing in relation to medical transfers. It shouldn’t be necessary for children to apply to the Federal Court of Australia to get an order just to be brought here for medical treatment
KELLY: Mark Dreyfus, thanks very much.
DREYFUS: Thank you very much Fran.