Parliament House doorstop

SUBJECT/S: Gun laws, the ongoing failure of George Brandis, ABCC legislation




SUBJECT/S: Gun laws, the ongoing failure of George Brandis, ABCC legislation

MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We’ve had extraordinary revelations today that Malcolm Turnbull is prepared, it seems, to water down Australia’s best-in-the-world gun laws, in order to get through his anti-worker legislation in the Parliament. There’s been bipartisan support in Australia for the gun laws that we have which restrict high-power dangerous weapons, provide for Australians to be assured that the number of guns in our community is being reduced. The idea that Malcolm Turnbull would seek to trade away those best-in-the-world gun laws, that are the envy of the developed world, in order to get through an unnecessary piece of legislation is just extraordinary, and I would call on Malcolm Turnbull to rule out any change to Australia’s gun laws, particularly in that form of political horse-trading that’s been reported on today.

The other matter that I wanted to speak about was the extraordinary, continuing, disastrous performance of the Attorney-General of Australia. Australia needs an Attorney-General that we can have confidence in, and we certainly do not have that in George Brandis.

I wrote to him on Sunday, seeking his assurance that the Solicitor-General had provided advice on the latest counter-terrorism bill that’s been introduced to Parliament. This is the Post-Sentence Detention Bill, or High Risk Terrorist Offenders Bill, and instead I got back from George Brandis equivocation.

The reason I wrote to him of course was that last week in the Senate Committee, it was confirmed that George Brandis had misled the Parliament, not just in relation to the changes of the law that he’s made in relation to the Solicitor-General, but also misled Parliament in relation to the Citizenship Bill. There were reports on Monday that the government is considering using that citizenship legislation for the first time, and last week we learned that the Solicitor-General had not been asked to advise on the Citizenship Bill that was introduced to Parliament and went through the Intelligence Committee. Rather, he was asked to advise on a piece of legislation, that was to use the Solicitor-General’s words “materially different”.

So it was perfectly appropriate for me to seek to do due diligence on the latest of the counter-terrorism bills, by seeking an assurance from the Prime Minister, that this time this bill, because the High Risk Terrorist Offenders Bill has also been the subject of concerns raised about its constitutionality, that this time the Solicitor-General has been asked to advise on the bill that is now before the Parliament.

Extraordinarily, the answer that came yesterday, not from the Prime Minister but from George Brandis, was that the Solicitor-General had looked at an earlier version of the bill, exactly the same problem that occurred with the Citizenship Bill and has not, it seems, been asked to look at this latest counter-terrorism bill.

Labor is here doing due diligence. Labor is here making sure that legislation that passes through the Parliament is both workable and constitutional. That when we are seeking to make our citizens safe, and that’s of course the purpose of all national security legislation, we do so in a workable way, we do so in proper way, and we do so in a constitutional way. And I reject utterly any suggestion that there is anything other than Labor seeking to do our work as Parliamentarians, our work as a responsible Opposition, keeping Australians safe, continuing the bipartisan position we have taken with the government throughout in relation to each of the six pieces of national security legislation that have been considered by this Parliament since August 2014.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has accused you of risking national security over these attacks on George Brandis. What do you say to that?

DREYFUS: That is an absurd suggestion. The only risk to national security, the only risk to the confidence that Australians can have in our national security system, is this government and the cavalier attitude that’s been demonstrated by George Brandis and the cavalier attitude indeed that’s been demonstrated by the Prime Minister.

In seeking to brush away serious concerns about constitutionality, seeking to rely on misleading the Parliament about the work that the Solicitor-General does. The reason why George Brandis wheeled out the Solicitor-General’s advice and claimed that he had had the advice of the Solicitor-General on the Citizenship Bill, was to provide assurances, was to allay the concerns that have been raised. It’s now clear that that was false, that the Solicitor-General did not advise on the bill that went through the Parliament, and I am simply seeking, and Labor is simply seeking, to do due constitutional diligence on the Citizenship Bill and now on this next piece of counter-terrorism legislation.

It’s absurd and ridiculous and shows a desperate Prime Minister that he would resort to that really base allegation. 

JOURNALIST: There’s video this morning showing some of the abuse that goes on, on work sites by union officials. Do you accept that it’s time for this industry to have some oversight?

DREYFUS: The industry has massive oversight right now, in the form of the Fair Work Commission and in the form of really rigorous laws that control the behaviour of unions and union officials. We have said throughout that the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation is not necessary, that during the time we had the ABCC in Australia, that productivity actually fell, that workplace accidents increased, deaths increased on industrial worksites. Why on earth you would seek to introduce that unnecessary regime again, only the government can explain, but it is basically it seems, part again of this government’s anti-worker, anti-union agenda. That’s all it is. It’s a government that is infected by ideology, driven by politics, and Labor will be rejecting this legislation as we have in the past.

JOURNALIST: What should happen to that union official?

DREYFUS: I haven’t seen the video that’s being referred to.

Thanks very much.