SUBJECT/S: Tax cuts, Press Freedom, Marriage Equality
THE HON. MARK DREYFUS QC MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
ABC RN DRIVE
WEDNESDAY, 3 JULY 2019
SUBJECT/S: Tax cuts, Press Freedom, Marriage Equality
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus is the shadow Attorney-General and he’s with me now from our APH studio, Mark Dreyfus, welcome.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be with you Patricia.
KARVELAS: Just on that big issue that’s obviously going to hit the parliament tomorrow. If the government fails to get Jacqui Lambie over the line, is Labor, if the amendments fail, prepared to vote for the tax package?
DREYFUS: We will be moving our amendments in the Senate and I think it’s now clear to all Australians what those amendments are about. It’s about supporting – well we don’t need an amendment to support stage one – it’s about bringing forward stage two and bringing forward stage two is in line with what every responsible economist including the Governor of the Reserve Bank is saying. We need the government of Australia to act to boost growth. Bringing forward stage two will do that. We’re going to continue to press our amendments in the Senate. We want to improve this tax cut plan so it addresses current economic challenges.
KARVELAS: So if you fail, you will revisit the decision, do you think it’s a wise move to vote the whole package down because you didn’t get your changes?
DREYFUS: We are focused on winning support for our amendments.
KARVELAS: But there’s no indication that you’re about to win though is there?
DREYFUS: We’re going to keep focusing on winning our amendments. We want economically responsible conduct by the parliament.
KARVELAS: But do you think there’s any indication that you’re going to win because I can’t see it?
DREYFUS: Well we are in the process of negotiating with the crossbench and we are going to keep pressing for as long as we can for economically responsible government in this country, not this holding hostage of, by reference to a tax cut that occurs in five years’ time, holding hostage these economically responsible tax cuts which could be brought forward straight away from stage two because we are supporting that.
KARVELAS: Senator Lambie has indicated she’d like Tasmania’s $157 million housing debt forgiven. Is she entitled to try and get a better deal for her state out of this and to try to push for this?
DREYFUS: Senator Lambie is entitled to go after the best possible field for her constituents in Tasmania. Sometimes you hear from Liberals that the senate is meant to be a state’s house, well it sounds to me like what Senator Lambie is doing, she’s going after the best possible deal for her Tasmanian constituents.
KARVELAS: The Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe backed Labor’s call to bring forward stage two of the tax cuts which would lower the 37% marginal tax rate. Would you back the package in full if the government agreed to that?
DREYFUS: What the Governor of the Reserve Bank is making clear is that monetary policy is not enough. We’ve now got down to a historical low of 1% in the cash rate and if ever you wanted a clear indication that the government needs to do more with fiscal policy it’s now. The government should be not only bringing forward stage two of the tax cuts, it should be making the infrastructure investments, and bringing them forward as well so we’ve got immediate payments, immediate cash going into the economy.
KARVELAS: Let’s move on to some other very important issues. The Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader have agreed to work together in a bipartisan manner on constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians, is this a bipartisan commitment to a Voice to the Parliament?
DREYFUS: I think I should first of all welcome, absolutely, the commitment that the government is making to work with Labor on achieving constitutional recognition of our indigenous people in the parliament. It’s more than 2 years since the Uluru Statement, which called for a Voice to Parliament. The government I think, I have to be very direct and say that the government has not yet committed to that proposal, to the Voice, but certainly the government has committed to consulting about the detail of Indigenous Recognition, we welcome that. We welcome the government working on it and we look forward to working with the government, particularly our Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, Senator Patrick Dodson and me as the front benchers, working on this proposal, Patricia. So it’s early days but it’s a very good start at the start of a new government to hear from the Prime Minister that he is prepared to work with Labor on bringing about constitutional recognition of our first peoples.
KARVELAS: What kind of a time line do you think is feasible on this?
DREYFUS: I think there’s no reason why we cannot have a referendum. It would be the first referendum since the republic referendum in 1999, so almost two decades have gone by, we could have a referendum in this term of Parliament, and I’m very hopeful government will see that too and work towards it.
KARVELAS: Just on another freedom issue that is very much on the agenda, media bosses met the Attorney-General and the Communications Minister today, they want assurances that the journalist targeted in last month’s AFP raids won’t be charged, but they didn’t get that. Are you concerned about that?
DREYFUS: I’m very concerned about that. It’s just lip service from Mr Morrison to say that he supports press freedom unless the government rules out prosecuting the journalists who are at the heart of the raid on the ABC, your organisation, and the journalist whose home was raided, that’s Annika Smethurst of the Daily Telegraph. It’s very important that the government show by practical steps that it supports press freedom because the consent of the Attorney-General is needed to make, to carry forward a prosecution against journalists arising from these two raids because they were under the old crimes act provisions. It’s perfectly open to the government to rule out prosecution and they should do so straight away.
KARVELAS: Why do you think they haven’t?
DREYFUS: I don’t know. It leads to the suspicion that this government doesn’t actually support press freedom. It leads to the suspicion that this government is happy to have intimidation of journalists, to have suppression of the public’s right to know, that wouldn’t surprise me because this has been an extraordinarily secretive government, a government that doesn’t actually believe in transparency, a government that’s taken just about every step to withhold information from the public, to supress freedom of information laws. They tried to abolish the Information Commissioner when they first came to office, then they defunded it for a while. They’ve made no progress on reforming whistle blower protections and of course there’s problems with a number of the national security laws which have become apparent over time, a number of the national security laws that this government has passed over the last 6 years. If they’re serious about protecting the public’s right to know and protecting press freedoms, then not only will they agree to Labor’s proposal for a Joint Select Committee but they will also rule out prosecution of these journalists arising from the raids and they don’t need to wait for the result of an inquiry to get to and actually propose some quite simple law reform which is on the list which that’s being presented by the government the media organisations.
KARVELAS: Are there benefits to having two inquiries to this because that’s what’s on the table now?
DREYFUS: Absolutely, our Joint Select Committee is the preferred option because it includes members from the crossbench and is therefore much more representative of the whole parliament. It starts with the presumption of open proceedings whereas the intelligence committee often meets in secret. And most importantly, putting an inquiry into the public’s right to know into the Intelligence and Security Committee immediately securitizes the issue and I just don’t think that’s the right approach. This problem of secrecy, this problem of intimidation of journalists is a much wider problem than simply anything arising in the national security space. Peter Greste wrote to the Prime Minister today on behalf of the Alliance for Journalists Freedom, in a letter that’s come to me. He said this, “A PJCIS inquiry will drape a national security framework over the issue, which is precisely what got us into this difficulty in the first place.” Now, that’s eloquence from Peter Greste, but seriously we shouldn’t have an inquiry into this broad topic which goes to the whole of the Australian Government put into the intelligence and security committee, it’s a much wider issue than that.
KARVELAS: The Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has flagged bringing forward a bill to introduce Temporary Exclusion Orders, Labor expressed concerns about this bill when it was first proposed in February. What changes do you want to see?
DREYFUS: There was a bipartisan report by the six government and five Labor members of the Intelligence and Security Committee back in April. The government said it’s bringing forward a new bill because all legislation lapsed when the parliament was ended for the election. We’re getting that new bill, apparently tomorrow and we’ll see, we haven’t seen the new legislation the government’s bringing forward but we’ll see whether the government is prepared to accept the bipartisan recommendations made by all the Liberal members of that committee including the chair Andrew Hastie. They wanted changes to the government’s own bill as originally presented to the parliament, so did the Labor members and if the government is not going to adopt the bipartisan recommendations of the intelligence committee then it will have to provide a very detail explanation as to why. It would be the first time that the government has ever explicitly rejected a recommendation the intelligence committee if that happens, so we’d be looking for a very detailed explanation indeed.
KARVELAS: Just on religious freedoms, we haven’t got a lot of time on this, but something has been reported in the Guardian this afternoon. The government is proposing to amend the Marriage Act. From Labor’s perspective should that be on the table? Amending the Marriage Act to deal with religious freedoms?
DREYFUS: That’s something new, I read that piece too. It’s something new to see that in addition to what the government had previously flagged in its partial response to the Ruddock panel report, which was that some form of religious discrimination legislation was going to come forward, something a bit like the Sex Discrimination Act which bans discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender identity, there’d be something that banned discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs.
If there’s to be amendments to the Marriage Act that suggests that the government is wanting to revisit the failed amendments to the Same Sex Marriage Bill that passed through the parliament on 7 December 2017, and all of those amendments, a couple of them moved by Scott Morrison when he was Treasurer, all of those amendments were directed at making same sex marriage second class. So I haven’t seen what amendments to the Marriage Act the government has in mind, obviously as always, Labor will responsibly examine any amendments that the government proposes to the parliament. But I would be very concerned if those amendments to the Marriage Act were seeking to do what the amendments that were rejected by the parliament, and resoundingly rejected when the marriage equality bill passed parliament, I’d be very concerned if the government were to revisit them because what they were directed at, I’ll say it again, was making same sex marriage a second class form of marriage in Australia. Labor rejects that.
KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus thank you so much for joining us
DREYFUS: Thanks very much.