ABC RN Drive

SUBJECT/S: Refugees, Tax Cuts and By-Elections






TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2018

SUBJECT/S: Refugees, Tax Cuts and By-Elections


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Well Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General and joins us tonight, welcome to the program.


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks for having me Patricia.


KARVELAS: The UNHCR is calling for proper care and immediate solutions on Manus and Nauru, seven people have died as I said in offshore detention – should that solution be to bring asylum seekers to Australia?


DREYFUS: What we need is to end indefinite detention because that is what detention in Manus Island and Nauru has become. These places were set up as regional transit processing facilities and regrettably have become places of indefinite detention. It is almost five years, it will be five years in July since the Rudd Government set up the - and I was part of the Cabinet that made this decision - set up the facilities on Manus and Nauru and not in our wildest nightmares would we have imagined, did we imagine, that nearly five years on some of the people who were transferred to Manus and Nauru would be still there. And that’s because Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton have abjectly failed to work on third country resettlement.  


KARVELAS: Well they have worked on third country resettlement; they have been trying to resettle them, they have got the US deal; the point is they have not found enough spots. What makes you say that Labor would have found all of these positions?


DREYFUS: The Obama administration graciously provided the opportunity of 1250 people going to the US, that’s proceeding very slowly but it is proceeding but this Government, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has rejected the offer made by Prime Minister Key of New Zealand to take 150 people a year had they accepted.


KARVELAS: Sure, but even 150 wouldn’t do would it?


DREYFUS: Well if they had accepted when the offer was made and it has been very vigorously renewed by the new Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, 600 people who are now on Nauru and Manus wouldn’t be there they’d be in New Zealand - similar arrangements to the taken by Prime Minister Howard dealing with the Tampa refugees – it is extraordinary that this Government has just rejected it.


KARVELAS: To be fair Labor hasn’t supported the New Zealand offer the entire time, so your 600 figure has an error in it because you’ve only changed your policy recently on that.


DREYFUS: I am making the simple point…


KARVELAS: But you couldn’t get to 600 because you didn’t even support New Zealand taking the numbers originally.


DREYFUS: Patricia, we are not the Government we don’t make the decisions, this Government needs - and it’s actually impossible from Opposition to work on third country resettlement, only the Government of Australia can reach agreements with other countries, only the Government of Australia can commence negotiations with other countries, it would be quite wrong for us in opposition to try and approach regional countries to progress this. The Government has failed to progress it, which has led to the actual situation of interminable detention nearly five years for these people and that’s not what should have occurred. We are against indefinite detention.


KARVELAS: So should there be a time limit on offshore detention?


DREYFUS: We don’t think there should be any set limit, we are not proposing any set limit. 


KARVELAS: Well Ged Kearney came on the program yesterday and said at National Conference, which is in July, end of July for Labor party, she will be pushing for a time limit on offshore detention.


DREYFUS: We have had a target in our platform for a long time and it’s totally appropriate that any Government should have a target but unfortunately this Government seems to accept indefinite detention and that’s what Ged Kearney was talking about in her excellent first speech yesterday. It’s what Labor generally is very concerned about. We cannot support indefinite detention and we need to hear from the government what else it is doing to end the extraordinarily long period which has produced dreadful consequences, produced the deaths of  seven people on Manus Island. This Government needs to be doing much, much more than it has been doing.


KARVELAS: If you’re just tuning in, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus is my guest. Now it was a big story today and Labor made a big deal in Question Time about what you called a secret deal between the Government and One Nation on company tax cuts. What’s your evidence that there is a secret deal?


DREYFUS: Mathias Cormann said that there was a deal and refused to give any details of it in estimates and the Prime Minister answering questions in Question Time also said that agreements had been reached with Pauline Hanson and One Nation but he’s not prepared to give any details of it either.


KARVELAS: Well we know apprentices were in that deal and One Nation says it wasn’t in the budget, the Government says of course that they were waiting for their support on corporate tax cuts before they delivered the apprentice numbers but what else do you know about it?


DREYFUS: Well we know they have delivered to One Nation’s agenda with their attack on section 18C. That they’ve delivered to One Nation’s demands in other respects, we wanted to know what else has been written into the budget that reflects this secret deal with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and it’s pretty extraordinary for the Government of Australia to be doing these deals. Of course they’re secret because the Government is not giving any details of it and for the Prime Minister of Australia and the Finance Minister to say, oh we don’t have to tell the people of Australia anything about it. Perhaps it’s like the Coalition agreement with the National Party which the Government has also refused to make public, perhaps this is another coalition agreement but it is secret with One Nation, we just don’t know and it’s entirely appropriate that all details of deals like this with Pauline Hanson be made public.


KARVELAS: Does this make One Nation more competitive in a seat like Longman in Queensland if they’ve abandoned the corporate tax cuts? Is this a political decision, do you think that ultimately it does make One Nation more competitive?


DREYFUS: I am not going to comment on the motivations of One Nation, I’m going to say….


KARVELAS: No you can comment, not on the motivation but whether it makes One Nation more competitive?


DREYFUS: We’ll be saying to the voters of Longman look at Pauline Hanson’s record, which is that she has voted with the Abbott and Turnbull Governments pretty consistently, over 90 per cent of her votes have been in favour of the Government. She’s backed in Turnbull’s cuts to schools, Turnbull’s cuts to hospitals, Turnbull’s cuts to the pension and that’s what we will be telling the people of Longman and I hope that they vote accordingly because I don’t think the people of Longman support cuts to schools or cuts to hospitals or cuts to the pension.


KARVELAS: Labor and the Coalition have agreed on changes to the candidate nomination process for elections. So just share with me why do we need new regulations to help candidates fill in forms better?


DREYFUS: The High Court set a new precedent in the decision in Katy Gallagher’s case which has now raised the bar, if I put it in lay terms, that instead of the situation which has been understood by the Liberal Party and the Labor Party that you had to take reasonable steps before the nomination date, now you have to get to the position of…of having completed, your renunciation of any other citizenship you may hold before the nomination date. We negotiated with the Government last year for a disclosure process that covers Members of the House of Representatives and Senators. This is a similar process, the Government has not made public the precise form of the regulations but it’s been reported that it’s a disclosure process and that’s appropriate. It’s a disclosure process that would cover all candidates and they would be published before an election starts, before an election is held. Details for all five parts of section 44 not just the citizenship part but details about bankruptcy, being a public servant, having a pecuniary interest in a contract with the Commonwealth or serving a current sentence of imprisonment which are the other disqualifications and I think that’s appropriate and it may help because certainly post the Gallagher decision it’s got a lot harder for people who have the possibility of dual citizenship to run for parliament.


KARVELAS: The changes would include a checklist to help people comply with section 44 of the Constitution. Do you expect that to work?


DREYFUS: Well as I understand it from what’s been reported it’s more than a checklist, it will require disclosure of not only where you were born but where your parents were born and where your grandparents were born because you can acquire citizenship in a whole range of ways as I think everyone has learned who has taken an interest in this matter. There’s millions and millions of Australians some of whom want to run for Parliament who potentially are dual citizens and may be dual citizens without even knowing it. Having a disclosure process like this will I suppose concentrate the mind of people running for Parliament and that’s a good thing it will direct their attention to the need to check if they’ve got potentially a problem of dual citizenship. And I think one thing is certain the High Court’s decision in the Gallagher case has moved back by many months the time at which people need to start thinking about whether or not they’ve got a dual citizenship problem because if you are unfortunately a dual citizen of a country that has complex or very lengthy renunciation process you’d better start early. The High Court’s now required that you have completed that renunciation process before you nominate.


KARVELAS: So does that mean this needs to pass these regulations before super Saturday?


DREYFUS: These regulations are proposed, from what’s been reported, to be put in place by Senator Cormann as Special Minister of State, they will take effect immediately. They are subject like all, most regulations, to disallowance but we will not be disallowing them because we think this is an appropriate course to take.


KARVELAS: Do you accept though if they delay the super Saturday date being set because that’s been the hold up, hasn’t it?


DREYFUS: Well that’s what has been said. We are a bit puzzled as to why it’s taken so long to set the date for the election because on the previous by-elections, caused by the resignations of Barnaby Joyce from his seat or the resignation of John Alexander from his seat the by-elections were held very, very quickly indeed.


KARVELAS: But the regulations weren’t being set up in that case.


DREYFUS: Well these regulations aren’t going to cure ineligibility, they’re not going to deal with the constitutional problem. They’re simply going to help people think harder about whether or not they’ve in fact got a problem. We don’t think that this needs to hold up the setting of the dates for these by-selections and we are hoping that the date is set very, very soon.


KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus many thanks for your time.


DREYFUS: Thanks very much Patricia.