Lateline E&OE Transcript

SUBJECT/S: Liberal Party’s trade union royal commission











SUBJECT/S: Liberal Party’s trade union royal commission


TONY JONES: The Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus joins us now from Melbourne. Thanks for being there.

MARK DREYFUS: Thanks for having me, Tony.

TONY JONES: Now the accusation that Malcolm Turnbull's overseeing a form of modern McCarthyism sounds a little overwrought. How do you justify that?

MARK DREYFUS: Not at all, Tony. This is a chilling intrusion that the Royal Commission's engaged in, sending a notice to produce signed by the Royal Commissioner to the Victorian branch of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party. It would have required the production of membership records, credit card details, names, addresses, telephone numbers, union affiliation and whether people wanted to - whether members of the party wanted to join Rainbow Labor, which is potentially for lesbian, gay, transgender people not something that they would wish to be made public in any way.


Those personal details of 9,000 members of the Australian Labor Party were called for by this notice to produce. And if we’d wanted - if we were in any doubt about the political nature of this Royal Commission, which I don't think many people would be after the Royal Commissioner was found to have accepted an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser, I don't think there can be any doubt now.

TONY JONES: Well, there must be some doubt because they've now withdrawn it.

MARK DREYFUS: They were forced to withdraw this notice and Counsel Assisting the royal commission admitted that it was an oppressive notice to produce. It's a notice to produce, a demand that should never have been made. It's hard to imagine a more inappropriate use of state power than sending, an arm of the executive sending a notice to produce that can be enforced, failure to comply with it a criminal offence, to the political opponents of the Government of the day to produce membership records with all of those personal details in it.

TONY JONES: Yes, I mean, they do demand all membership forms, including payment details for people who became members or renewed their memberships, but it's only during a two-month period from April 1, 2013 to May 31, 2013. I mean, how could 9,000 people have joined or renewed their memberships in a two-month period?

MARK DREYFUS: May is the renewal month, Tony. It's a very simple answer and it catches people renewing in that month. Many members of the Labor Party, including me, have automatic renewals. They kick in in May. So I'm told that the notice to produce required the production of more than 9,000 peoples’ records just because they were members of the Australian Labor Party. It's massive overreach. It's consistent with what we've seen from this Royal Commission from the day it was set up and it's again confirmation of the political nature of this Royal Commission.

TONY JONES: Now was the Commission seeking to find evidence that some of those members may have had their memberships in fact paid for by money from a slush fund known as Industry 2020? That seems to be the suggestion.

MARK DREYFUS: Well, I'm not going to comment on why the Commission thought it might be appropriate to demand those records of 9,000 Australians' personal details. What I say is that it's a chilling intrusion into their private affairs. It's an extraordinary thing that this Government, uniquely - no Australian Government's behaved in this way. Malcolm Fraser pointed this out early in 2014. No Australian Government has sought to misuse state power to set up not one, but two Royal Commissions that so far has hauled before it the past two Labor prime ministers, and more recently, the Labor Leader of the Opposition.

TONY JONES: Well that actually begs the obvious question - you've called for the trade union royal commission today to be shut down, although it's really only got another couple of weeks to run, realistically. Isn't this just another attempt to damage the reputation of the Commission ahead of the possible adverse findings against Mr Shorten?

MARK DREYFUS: The commission has damaged its own reputation repeatedly. When we look at - just to take one example, the differential treatment of Kathy Jackson. I've mentioned already the acceptance by the Royal Commissioner of an invitation to speak at a Liberal Party fundraiser and we haven't got time to go through the multiple unfairnesses in the way that the Commission has conducted itself.

TONY JONES: OK, but we do - you're right about that. We do have a little time just to reflect on the evidence that was led against Mr Shorten. You couldn't deny that there's been recent evidence contradicting some of what Mr Shorten said under oath. Are you bracing yourselves for the possibility that the Commission will have an adverse finding against the leader of the Labor Party?

MARK DREYFUS: And there's been other evidence contradicting that evidence that you say contradicted Mr Shorten, Tony. What we've said from the outset about this Royal Commission is that it should never have been commenced. It's an inappropriate use of the royal commissions power. If there are serious allegations of criminal misconduct, they should be referred to the police, to the Australian Crime Commission, to the Director of Public Prosecutions. We said that when the Royal Commission was set up. We've said it repeatedly since and nothing has caused me or any of my colleagues to change our minds and I think the public now understands just what a political exercise this has been from start to finish.

TONY JONES: Well it's quite complicated, this particular call for these membership details, because if it is in relation to the investigation into Industry 2020, the commission already made interim findings about that, that it operated without the knowledge of AWU members and it was found that Daryl Melham, who set it up as a slush find, had a personal desire to support the Labor Party, or the Labor Unity faction of the ALP, and the breaches by him of his fiduciary duties owed to the AWU were significant. I mean, are you aware of this? I mean, you're actually a member of the Labor Unity faction. Did you benefit at all from this slush fund money?

MARK DREYFUS: Absolutely not and I've actually never heard of it, so that takes care of my personal interest in it. But it's wrong if there's any actual criminal ...

TONY JONES: You may not have heard of it, but Bill Shorten, Julia Gillard - Julia Gillard in fact spoke at the first fundraiser for it.

MARK DREYFUS: And I don't think she's a member of the Labor Unity faction. Never has been at any point. So –

TONY JONES: But have you followed the evidence against Daryl Melham [sic] in this case and the interim findings against him? Because if they're trying to establish whether or not certain factions have ways of raising money through the union movement in order to further their political aims and their own political ambitions, isn't that a problem?

MARK DREYFUS: We'll have to wait for the findings of this Royal Commission, but even the way in which you're choosing to raise this with me, Tony, is yet another demonstration of the political damage that the Liberal Government has sought to inflict on its political opponents. That's what's been occurring. That's what's been occurring. That's what's been occurring since the terms of reference were written for this Royal Commission and no doubt the Liberals are crowing and pleased with themselves at the way this is playing out. No doubt they were delighted that the Royal Commission, which is now Malcolm Turnbull's Royal Commission, sent this notice to produce to the Australian Labor Party seeking to intrude into the private affairs of 9,000 Australians.

TONY JONES: Alright. We're nearly out of time, but one final point: I appear to have verballed Daryl Melham. I was actually trying to say Cesar Melham, not Daryl Melham. So, I just want to correct that, but just continue your final point.

MARK DREYFUS: Well, this is a royal commission that should never have been started. It's not too late to close it down. Malcolm Turnbull's in charge of this Royal Commission now and he should close it down and any allegations that have arisen that disclose criminal misconduct should be referred off to the AFP, to the Australian Crime Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions, which is what we have said from the outset.

TONY JONES: Mark Dreyfus, we'll have to leave you there. Thanks very much for joining us tonight.

MARK DREYFUS: Thank you, Tony.