SUBJECT/S: Marriage Equality, Bill of Rights, Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial Sector.
THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC RN DRIVE
TUESDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2017
SUBJECT/S: Marriage Equality, Bill of Rights, Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial Sector.
PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Mark Dreyfus thanks for coming on the show.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks for having me Patricia.
KARVELAS: You’ve heard the audio there, Sam Dastyari has previously said it was mumbled, not prepared. Clearly it was prepared and it wasn’t mumbled. What do you make of what you just heard?
DREYFUS: I’ve heard it just now for the first time, it’s a tape of a press conference.
KARVELAS: That’s right and now we’re able to hear it, previously we weren’t able to hear it. It’s pretty clear it’s very out of step with Labor policy.
DREYFUS: And that’s why Senator Dastyari lost his job in the executive of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party last year. Because he said something that was at odds with Labor Party policy.
KARVELAS: He told us at the time that it was mumbled and answered incorrectly. Clearly from this audio it was prepared and it goes a lot further than just mumbling something doesn’t it.
DREYFUS: I think you need to look back at what Senator Dastyari said when he lost his job in the executive of the Labor Party. He said that what he said was at odds with Labor Party policy. That’s why he’s not now a member of the executive. Possibly in the tape I’ve just heard for the first time, it’s more clear, less clear, it’s still a tape of a press conference. And the main problem was why he resigned. Because he said something that was at odds with Labor Party policy. I don’t think anything is changing because of the tape you’ve just played me then.
KARVELAS: I’ll tell you why I think it does change. Because Senator Dastyari’s remarks were not mumbled, they were prepared. And far more outspoken than he has previously admitted. That’s the difference. And clearly that difference means particularly after today’s revelations, which have not been denied by the Labor Party in any of the statements I’ve seen, clearly it means that his position is untenable doesn’t it?
DREYFUS: Let’s look at what the allegations from today’s Fairfax story were. The allegation was that Mr Dastyari said something to Mr Huang when he went to see him, to say I’m not going to have anything more to do with you. And what he’s said to have said was to the effect that ‘your phone might be being bugged’ and he has said very clearly, this was reported in the Fairfax story, that he – Senator Dastyari – was not in possession of any national security information. He had not received a national security briefing, and as a consequence there has been no breach by him in relation to any leak of national security information. I think there’s actually a bigger concern Patricia, in the Fairfax story this morning, which extraordinarily Malcolm Turnbull, George Brandis and Julie Bishop – the Foreign Minister, Attorney-General and Prime Minister of this country have all brushed over – in the Fairfax story it’s revealed that there has been a leak of national security information from presumably somewhere within the government, and none of these senior ministers, Prime Minister down, have even commented on that. And that’s the real issue here.
KARVELAS: Well I don’t know if it’s the real issue, it’s part of the issue…
DREYFUS: Sorry, it’s part of the issue, and it should be dealt with too. And I would be hoping to hear some concern expressed by ministers about it.
KARVELAS: With respect Mark Dreyfus, you are not a government minister. A government minister that comes on RN Drive will be grilled on that. You are going to be grilled on your own side of politics. The allegation is that Senator Dastyari told the Chinese businessman that his phone could be tapped and that the pair should talk outside to avoid being listened to. Is that appropriate behaviour?
DREYFUS: I think it’s a mistake, and I think that Bill Shorten has made it very very clear in the warning that he’s given to Senator Dastyari today, that he is on his last chance. And I don’t think anyone would suggest that it is other than a mistake that has been made here by Senator Dastyari. Least of all me.
KARVELAS: OK so on this issue of his last chance – since those remarks were made in that statement by Bill Shorten, it is pretty clear, and also by comments made by the Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek where she says he’s on his last chance – we now have more revelations. Finally the audio – which I’ve got to say a lot of journalists have been hunting for – the audio of that press conference where it is quite clear that Senator Dastyari had prepared a statement which was very detailed, which was completely at odds with Labor Party policy. Aren’t his chances over now?
DREYFUS: Well, this is conduct that has occurred in the past. The press conference that you’re talking about was in 2016. It’s what – that very press conference was what led to Senator Dastyari’s resignation. It’s the reason why he’s not now a member of the executive of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party. And as you know – you’ve just played it to me, it’s the first time I’ve heard it – and we’ll have to have a look at that. But it’s not a new event. He was at odds with Labor party policy.
KARVELAS: What is new though….
DREYFUS: Which he accepted.
KARVELAS: Is that he said he mumbled, but he didn’t mumble, it was a prepared statement. I think that’s significantly different.
DREYFUS: And I’m going to compare what he said last year with what he said on that tape that you’ve just played me. But I’m certainly not going to draw conclusions on air. And I think we need to get that context clear. He is not now in the executive of the Labor Party. Because he said some things at this very press conference, of which there is now audiotape, which were at odds with Labor Party policy. The main point of this remains that same point. He was at odds with Labor Party policy, he was a member of the executive. Members of the executive can’t do that. And he has ceased to be a member of the executive.
KARVELAS: But given that now we know – and I appreciate this is the first time you heard the audio – it has just broken in the last 10 minutes or so. Given now we do know that it was a prepared statement, should his tenure in the Labor Party, should he be re-looked at? Should his position be re-looked at by Bill Shorten?
DREYFUS: Bill Shorten’s been very clear today. He’s warned Senator Dastyari that he’s on his last chance because of what is reported in the Fairfax papers this morning.
KARVELAS: But there’s now more evidence post that comment by Bill Shorten.
DREYFUS: I’m not going to hang, draw and quarter someone on air, Patricia, without hearing first of all what Senator Dastyari might have to say, and without looking at the circumstances. Your listeners however should bear in mind that he has already been punished, paid the price for being at odds with Labor Party policy on the South China sea last year. This tape that you’ve just played to me is a tape of the very event that he lost his job for.
KARVELAS: Does he have more questions to answer as a result of this tape? Now we have some evidence of exactly the kind of words he was using?
DREYFUS: You clearly think so Patricia because you’ve been posing the questions just now in this interview. And what I’m going to do when the interview’s finished, when I get off air I’ll be listening to the tape and I’ll be looking into it some more.
KARVELAS: OK. You were in the Senate chamber when the same-sex marriage bill passed today. Tell me about that moment.
DREYFUS: It was a great moment. We are – in Parliamentary terms – we are halfway through achieving marriage equality in Australia. And to have seen the bill that’s been prepared by the Liberal backbenchers go through the Senate without substantive amendment – obviously there are some consequential or technical amendments prepared by a couple of Commonwealth departments which is what you get when a private Senators’ bill is passing through not prepared by the government but by a private Senator – they are all appropriate. We agreed with them as did everybody else. But other than that, none of the quite offensive amendments that were put forward by a range of Senators were successful. The bill will now come to the House effectively unamended as the acceptable compromise that it is. Based on a consensus report by an all-party Senate committee back in February this year. So we’re really making progress. I am very, very hopeful that marriage equality will be achieved in the House of Representatives next week. The only shame of it is that Prime Minister Turnbull cancelled the House of Representatives this week. Otherwise we could have been debating marriage equality in the House this afternoon and tomorrow. But that’s not now going to happen because the Prime Minister ran away from Parliament. I’m just hoping he doesn’t run away from Parliament by cancelling it for next week, when we really do need to get this done. We can get this done, and perhaps the last thing – and this is really a call to right-wing members of the Liberal Party – don’t think that you can delay marriage equality any further. I don’t want to see amendments moved in the House of Representatives because we’ve already had that debate. And there are clear numbers for passage of this bill that’s now passed the Senate and will be coming to the House of Representatives. There is a clear majority in the House of Representatives to pass it. We shouldn’t have any further delay.
KARVELAS: No amendments of course mean that none of the conservatives’ safeguards around religion and schools were part of this bill. They were unsuccessful. Do they have a chance in the House still?
DREYFUS: No, and just to get this in context. There are already safeguards, a lot of them, for religious views and religious practice in the bill that has now passed through the Senate. This all-party consensus bill. And we’ll be opposing any amendments because they will just be a repeat of the amendments that have failed in the Senate. Can I say, Dean Smith and his colleagues on the backbench of the Liberal Party who prepared this bill have worked incredibly hard to ensure there are safeguards, that there is protection of religious views, fitted in the context of existing Australian law for the protection of religious freedoms. And whatever right-wing members of the Liberal Party might want to say more generally about religious freedoms, those are matters that can be put to the panel, chaired by Phillip Ruddock that Prime Minister Turnbull set up last week. It would be pre-empting the outcomes of that panel process for them to try and tack on to this marriage equality bill the things that they want to say about religious freedoms.
KARVELAS: The Prime Minister has asked the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to look at the operation of Section 44 of the constitution. This is of course how so many politicians have been ruled ineligible to sit in the Parliament. Do you see this as the first step towards a referendum on the issue?
DREYFUS: The terms of reference are a little strange, in that they talk about the Parliament amending section 44(i) of the Constitution, that’s not of course how we – it might be that the first step for a constitutional change is a bill in the Parliament, but then it has to go to a referendum. But I think having the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters look at Section 44(i) and Section 44(iv) and (v), they are the ‘office of profit under the crown’ and pecuniary interest provisions, is a good thing. The terms of reference are wide enough that we’ll be able to look, or the committee will be able to look and inform the rest of the Parliament about what changes need to be made. I’m actually very interested in whether or not there can be perhaps legislation passed or processes set up to enable the Australian Electoral Commission to, in an orderly way, help people who want to nominate for election to the Australian Parliament to deal with citizenship issues in advance, to renounce whatever dual citizenships they have and in one sense it’s going to be following processes that we’ve had in the Labor Party for a couple of decades now. The real surprise to me out of this citizenship debacle and possibly constitutionally illegitimate government that we find ourselves with, is that the Liberal Party and the National Party, the other parties of government in Australia seem to have had no processes at all for dealing with these problems. So if the only thing that comes out of this JSCEM inquiry is setting up some processes to make it clearer, to help candidates for office get rid of their citizenship difficulty, that will be a good thing. I don’t think we should be looking necessarily to a constitutional change anytime soon because we all know the difficulties there are in achieving a change to the Australian constitution. And there would be other things Patricia that I would rather do that have got a higher priority for constitutional change than this one. I think there are some things we can do procedurally that will at least minimise the chance of this kind of debacle occurring again.
KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus many thanks for your time.
DREYFUS: Thank you for having me Patricia.