Insiders

SUBJECT/S: Citizenship; Sam Dastyari; marriage equality

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY

MEMBER FOR ISAACS

 

 

E&OE TRANSCRIPT

TELEVISION INTERVIEW

ABC INSIDERS

SUNDAY, 10 DECEMBER 2017

 

SUBJECT/S: Citizenship; Sam Dastyari; marriage equality

 

BARRIE CASSIDY, HOST: Mark Dreyfus welcome to Insiders.

 

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Great to be here Barrie.

 

CASSIDY: So the allegation there is that Labor tried to muddy the waters, that you’d loaded up the list with Coalition MPs, when the case against them is flimsy at best.

 

DREYFUS: I found that an extraordinary outburst. We’ve had a lot of that from Malcolm Turnbull this week, bordering on unhinged. Let’s think about this Barrie. We’ve got chaos. A mess. It’s been going on since June. And every Parliamentarian should be focused on restoring the confidence of the Australian people in the constitutional legitimacy of our Parliament. And that’s what Labor and the crossbenchers agreed on with this motion. We referred four of our own, a crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie, and four Liberals, and regrettably, the vote was tied 73 all. And the Government, by voting against it, has guaranteed the uncertainty and the lack of confidence is going to go on right through the summer.

 

CASSIDY: Alright. That’s a reasonable argument if you actually had a case against any of these four. But they say there is no case?

 

DREYFUS: Well, we say there is no case against the people that have been identified on the Labor side. Mr Feeney is in a different category. He’s dealt with his Irish citizenship but he can’t find the papers for his British citizenship. So we’ve referred him anyway because he asked to be referred to the High Court. But the other three, we say they took reasonable steps and there is a disagreement on the law Barrie, between the Government and the Opposition –

 

CASSIDY: Let’s talk about those you’ve named on the Coalition side, then we’ll come back to those on your side. Nola Marino for one. She has produced a letter from Italian authorities saying that she did not have Italian citizenship. Why is that not good enough?

 

DREYFUS: This is the point. Only Malcolm Turnbull really could have managed to convert what was meant to be a disclosure system into a concealment system. Nola Marino produced that after her initial disclosure because we’ve referred to a list of Coalition MPs that we say, didn’t make proper disclosure. And she’s still not dealt with – sorry to go to the detail – but she’s still not dealt with her US citizenship issue. Why we set up this disclosure system - Labor suggested it, the Government went along with it - was to put to rest all of the doubts and suspicions that have been raised, some by barristers, some by journalists, since June this has been going on Barrie. And we’ve got to sort it out. So Nola Marino has not dealt with her US citizenship issue and neither have the other Coalition MPs that we’ve referred to dealt with properly the doubts that have been raised.

 

CASSIDY: Now David Feeney. You can see though without that document he’s in trouble.

 

DREYFUS: We don’t know what the High Court is going to make of the situation he finds himself in. It’s a demonstration of the thought that was put in that he knows exactly what was required to be done in 2007 when he joined the Parliament. And his problem is that while he can locate a document relating to the Irish citizenship that he may have had, he can’t find necessary documents in relation to the other citizenship. And we’ll see what the High Court does with that.

 

CASSIDY: And he would’ve known that all throughout this debate, wouldn’t he? That there was a missing document?

 

DREYFUS: I can’t speak for David. But it’s perhaps significant that he’s one of almost 100 Labor MPs who has got this difficulty. And for everybody else, they’ve been through this rigorous system, as did David and we think they are okay.

 

CASSIDY: But it only took one to blow apart Bill Shorten’s holier than thou argument up until now.

 

DREYFUS: I was standing next to Bill when he was asked about this in a bit of the press conference you showed just a moment ago and he very frankly said that had he known then, when he expressed the complete confidence, he obviously wouldn’t have said it. He would’ve chosen his words more carefully.

 

CASSIDY: If David Feeney were to lose his spot, would he be preselected for the by-election?

 

DREYFUS: I think we’re getting bit ahead of ourselves there Barrie. We’ve got to see what the High Court says first, and I’m not going to make the mistake the Prime Minister made of predicting confidently what the High Court is going to do.

 

CASSIDY: What about the politics of it though? It would be hard to hold that seat wouldn’t it? Given what happened in the Northcote by-election?

 

DREYFUS: I’m not going to get ahead of ourselves Barrie.

 

CASSIDY: Alright. Katy Gallagher. What do you feel about the ACT Labor Senator? How do you feel about her prospects?

 

DREYFUS: We think that Katy Gallagher took the reasonable steps the High Court has spoken of in repeated decisions. And when you think about it Barrie –

 

CASSIDY: Why has she referred herself if you think she’s got a good chance of winning it?

 

DREYFUS: Because she, like the rest of us in Labor, care about the constitutional legitimacy of the Australian Parliament and we want this cleared up. We want this mess to end. And as you heard Katy say in the Senate, she believes that she has got a clear case that she was eligible to stand for Parliament. But she wants it cleared up. And the High Court will clear this up. We are confident that she has taken the reasonable steps that British law required, because that is what this is always about – it’s about the foreign law. And we will see. The High Court is going to deal with this in February –

 

CASSIDY: And when they do, do you see this as a precedent for the others? For the other Labor members named?

 

DREYFUS: Not really Barrie. Each case has to be determined on the particular circumstances of the candidate or member concerned and Josh Wilson is a different case again. He was preselected the day before nominations closed. He knows he’s a dual citizen. He hadn’t thought he was going to be a candidate. You might recall that we ended the candidacy of our previous preselected candidate for Fremantle. He did everything possible, as quickly as he possibly could – but he only had 24 hours. He sends off the papers. The Government’s suggesting that he wasn’t eligible and we say, on what the High Court has very clearly said, he was eligible because he took the reasonable steps.

 

CASSIDY: In his case I can see that you take the reasonable steps, but at what point - he had no earlier opportunity to do it. But Justine Keay did. She was preselected 12 months out or something. It took 12 months before she got around to starting the process. Will that be an issue?

 

DREYFUS: Well that’s making my point. Each person’s circumstances are a little bit different, or even a lot different.

 

CASSIDY: Does that make her situation more difficult? Because –

 

DREYFUS: I don’t believe it does. But that’s our view. We’ve got advice from a British expert, a British barrister, who’s an expert in British nationality law. And we believe on the basis of that, she, and all of our others took the reasonable steps that are required. And that’s the matter the High Court will look at if the Government persists in asserting that there is some problem. Again, I say that we need to clear this up. We can’t go on with this lingering uncertainty with the constitutional legitimacy of our Parliament left in doubt because the Government has refused to do the right thing.

 

CASSIDY: Yes, and this frustrating partisan debate that goes on and on, when the public just wants it resolved.

 

DREYFUS: Well I don’t know how you can say this is a partisan debate from Labor’s point of view or the crossbenchers point of view. We put forward a proposal which would have gone a very long way to clearing this up and the Government has knocked it back. It is continuing to play partisan politics –

 

CASSIDY: People at home hear, week in and week out, a partisan debate.

 

DREYFUS: Well we’ve tried not to make it a partisan debate. We’ve tried very much to approach this..because it’s about rebuilding confidence of the Australian people in the Parliament.

 

CASSIDY: It it’s not a partisan debate, why did you throw Josh Frydenberg’s name into the mix. Because his mother fled persecution in Europe. He was a son of a stateless Holocaust survivor.

 

DREYFUS: Take it from me, Barrie. I have exactly the same horror of the Holocaust in my family too. And I understand, as well as anyone, what that horror was. We didn’t single out anybody here. I referred to a group of Liberal MPs - Nola Marino, Mr Falinski, Julia Banks, Alex Hawke, also Josh Frydenberg – who have not made, to our mind, adequate disclosure. If a member of the public –

 

CASSIDY: Why did you even put him on that list in that context? Why not a bit of generosity and just leave him alone?

 

DREYFUS: It’s about the way the constitution operates. And it’s not for me to say – because I’m deeply sympathetic to Josh’s circumstances – that the constitution shouldn’t apply to him. I’m very much hoping that he can demonstrate by just giving some of the material facts, or releasing the legal advice, that he’s got nothing to be concerned about. But at the moment, his disclosure statement says nothing. It says that his mother, who escaped the Holocaust, was born in 1943 in Hungary – and that’s all it says. It says that he’s got legal advice. He doesn’t say what it says –

 

CASSIDY: But then you raise it, but then don’t put him on the list for the referral? So what’s the point?

 

DREYFUS: We put up there, four - and the cross-benchers said there should be at least four of the Liberals. There is going to be, I hope, clarity provided by Josh Frydenberg in the coming weeks. But certainly over the next several weeks, right through until the Parliament sits again in February, there is going to be this continuing uncertainty which the Government had an opportunity to come with Labor, come with the cross-bench and clear up.

 

CASSIDY: Speaking of continuing uncertainty. Sam Dastyari’s future – it’ll now go before the privileges committee of the Senate. Is this going to drag on? You know the Government won’t let go of this one?

 

DREYFUS: Well so it seems but Sam Dastyari has paid a heavy price. He’s lost his job – his senior position in Labor twice now in two years. And has made a very serious mistake and embarrassed us all.

 

CASSIDY: We saw one unnamed Labor person quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying that Sam Dastyari’s position is untenable. Is that a view shared within the Labor party? 

 

DREYFUS: Well he’s paid a heavy price now twice.

 

CASSIDY: But untenable? His position to sit in the Senate is untenable?

 

DREYFUS: He’s paid a heavy price now in losing his position twice.

 

CASSIDY: Do you think Bill Shorten will stand firm on this?

 

DREYFUS: Bill Shorten has made his own view incredibly clear that he is very very unhappy with what Sam did, with the mistake that Sam made. And that his career is, I think Bill’s phrase was ‘going nowhere fast’.

 

CASSIDY: And just finally, it was such an historic moment this week when the same-sex marriage bill went through the Parliament. How was it for you?

 

DREYFUS: It was a fantastic moment. It was a wonderful way to end the year, Barrie. And a great moment for Australia. And the joy right around the country that people have responded to this event tells us how much it has meant to millions of Australians. It was a great privilege to part of it, to be on the floor of Parliament when this happened.

 

CASSIDY: Thanks for your time this morning.

 

DREYFUS: Thanks very much Barrie.

 

ENDS