ABC RN Breakfast

SUBJECT/S: Andrew Hastie; National Integrity Commission








SUBJECT/S: Andrew Hastie; National Integrity Commission


HAMISH MACDONALD,  HOST: Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus joins me now from our Parliament House studios. Good morning to you.




MACDONALD: The Prime Minister is seeking advice from the intelligence agencies about the implications of Andrew Hastie’s speech. How much damage has he done in your view?


DREYFUS: Well that’s a matter that’s still to be determined. And the Prime Minister is quite right to be seeking advice from our agencies but it’s obvious that when someone in the position of the Chair of the Joint Intelligence and Security Committee of the Australian Parliament uses publicly information obtained from US agencies that is going to raise concerns and potentially leads to some loss of confidence in our ally in the way in which it shares information with us. That’s the concern, it’s quite right that the Prime Minister is talking to our Australian agencies about what the impact is going to be.


MACDONALD: Can we be clear about your view on this – was he wrong to do what he did?


DREYFUS: It’s been reported today that Mr Hastie did not seek any permission from US agencies or warned them, give them advance notice of the proposed use of information that he gained from US agencies. And that’s a real concern. It’s not something that I can recall ever having occurred from any previous chair of the Intelligence Committee. I’ve been on trips as a member of the Intelligence Committee and as Attorney-General and obtained information from briefings from the FBI, the CIA, the NSA in the United States or their like agencies in the United Kingdom. It’s always in confidence and speaking for myself I wouldn’t have dreamed ever of using information that I’d obtained in that manner.


MACDONALD: Should there be consequences? Should he step down from the Parliamentary Security Committee?


DREYFUS: Well that’s a matter for the Prime Minister who I’m sure is taking advice and seeking counsel about that matter.


MACDONALD: You’re a member of that parliamentary committee though, you must have a view, does this cause a problem for the operations of that committee? It is a relevant question for you, not just for the Prime Minister.


DREYFUS: The question that arises is one of trust. And I have to say that the Prime Minister is more in possession of information, obviously, than me as a member of the committee. But the committee have received highly classified information from Australian agencies, sometimes…when it visits US agencies, and members of the committee go, as has just occurred or sometimes to the UK, equally highly confidential information and sometimes classified information is given. And it assists us in our work. There’s got to be a question of trust there about knowing that those confidences will be respected. But it is a matter for the Prime Minister Hamish.


MACDONALD: Can intelligence agencies, Australian or otherwise, trust Andrew Hastie with this sort of information?


DREYFUS: We need to have the Prime Minister explain exactly what has happened here. I accept the Prime Minister’s statement that Mr Hastie did not warn him before he made this speech in Parliament this week. And it’s for the Prime Minister to determine what the impact has been.


MACDONALD: But you say the question here is a matter of trust. Can these agencies trust Andrew Hastie? You must have a view if that’s what the issue is here.


DREYFUS: There is a question of trust, that’s obvious to anyone who’s looking on here. We now read in the media this morning that US authorities are concerned, US authorities were not consulted by Mr Hastie before he made his statement in Parliament. That’s obviously a concern.


MACDONALD: To look at this from another angle though, these details were already in the public domain that were subject to a defamation case. If you had watched or read any of the reporting around this issue you would have heard these things before. Why is it such a problem that he took these matters to the Parliament in that way?


DREYFUS: What’s new here is the direct statement by the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the Australian Parliament that he got this information from the US authorities. And that’s to give a status to his assertion to the allegation that he’s aired in the Parliament that he didn’t have before. And I’m certainly not commenting on the defamation case. I don’t think that assists. The matter is before the courts, it has been as you say there have been published allegations by Fairfax and the ABC, they’re the subject of a defamation action. And that will take its course.


MACDONALD: There has been a formal rebuke from the Chinese foreign ministry. Is that a cause for concern?


DREYFUS: I think that everything about the management of our relationship with China is potentially a cause for concern. There has clearly been friction in the relationship. And certainly I would have expected, before the Chair of the Intelligence Committee made a statement like this that they would have consulted with the Prime Minister of Australia or perhaps the Foreign Minister.


MACDONALD: The critique that you’ve provided us with this morning on Andrew Hastie’s actions is at odds clearly with some members of your own party. The Deputy Chair of the Committee Anthony Byrne gave leave in the chamber to allow Andrew Hastie to table the FBI documents. He did so it seems with some enthusiasm, to quote “leave is most definitely granted in support of my friend and colleague”. Additionally Michael Danby has praised him for having the guts to stand up and do that. Why is your party divided on whether this was the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?


DREYFUS: We’re not divided, and I can tell you that there is absolute unanimity right across the frontbench of the Australian Labor Party that we were right to raise the questions that we raised in Question Time yesterday. They were entirely appropriate questions directed at the Prime Minister as to what has occurred here. The Prime Minister accepted them as entirely appropriate questions and he is looking into this matter. Can I just say to you Hamish there is absolute unanimity right across the frontbench, on those questions that we asked yesterday.


MACDONALD: The frontbench maybe but not throughout your party. It’s obvious given what you’ve said this morning and what….


DREYFUS: You’ll have to direct your question to Mr Byrne or if you want to, to Mr Danby. I can’t speak for them.


MACDONALD: But you are aware of opposition within your own party to this critique?


DREYFUS: Well, there’s no critique even from Mr Byrne or from Mr Danby about the concerns on trust, about the concerns on the effect on our ally. I think if you look closely at Mr Danby’s comment even he says that he’s not fully aware of the details and of course he’s not. He wasn’t on the delegation to the United States, he doesn’t know anything about what Mr Hastie did with US authorities. We don’t have the full details either but Mr Danby I think was quite careful to say that he doesn’t know the full details. Now that’s what needs to be explored, that’s the explaining that needs to come from the Prime Minister. We need to know whether Prime Minister Turnbull has spoken with Mr Hastie, or whether he has reprimanded Mr Hastie, and indeed whether he’s reprimanded Mr Hastie and indeed what Mr Turnbull proposes to do about this.


MACDONALD: Is it a problem for you that it now appears we have the government and the opposition brawling over national security issues when generally speaking there is a fairly bipartisan approach to these sorts of matters?


DREYFUS: I don’t think we are brawling with the government on national security issues. I think there’s a like concern shared by the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister about the need to ensure that we retain the confidence of our ally the United States and the agencies of the United States. That’s the paramount consideration here and I haven’t seen even a chink of separation between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition on this. So there’s no brawling, Labor is continuing to work constructively with government members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Intelligence and Security and with the government generally on landing the bills on foreign interference and foreign influence that are before the Parliament at the moment.


MACDONALD: Chau Chak Wing has donated about $4 million to the major parties in recent years. Bill Shorten said last June that Labor should stop taking his money after warnings from ASIO. Has that occurred?


DREYFUS: Absolutely. The Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten was very clear that we would not be accepting any foreign donations and that includes from Chau Chak Wing. And we have not received any donations not just from Chau Chak Wing but from any foreign source since June last year.


MACDONALD: Labor separately to this wants to set up a National Integrity Commission. If we had one in place right now would there be grounds to investigate the bribery allegations against Chau Chak Wing?


DREYFUS: The National Integrity Commission Hamish is directed at particularly corruption, maladministration and integrity matters in public administration. So it’s particularly directed at governmental corruption. Think of matters like the wheat for oil scandal or the Securency matter which came up this week when someone pleaded guilty at long last in relation to some charges there. Both those matters just to take them as a couple of examples, would have been investigated far sooner had we had a National Integrity Commission and it’s extremely disappointing to hear the Attorney-General Christian Porter rejecting Labor’s offer to work with the government on creating a National Integrity Commission. We had thought late last year from statements by the Prime Minister and statements by Porter that they were looking favourably on the report of the Select Committee and there were bipartisan recommendations that the government investigate the setting up of the Integrity Commission. Those hopes have been dashed and that’s extremely disappointing but it remains an absolutely firm commitment by Labor that if we are able to win government after the next election, we will establish a National Integrity Commission.


MACDONALD: Mark Dreyfus, thank you.


DREYFUS: Thank you Hamish.