Parliament House doorstop

SUBJECTS: Encryption; Anti-discrimination law; National Integrity Commission



SUBJECTS: Encryption; Anti-discrimination law; National Integrity Commission

JOURNALIST: Will Labor support the encryption bill on an interim basis just applying its powers to counter-terror functions?
DREYFUS: I’m not going to pre-empt what the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security is going to decide. We’re going to be meeting again today, we’re going to have a further hearing later this afternoon. But clearly the government has put forward a demand to the committee that it accelerates its hearings, the committee is taking that seriously. What did emerge clearly yesterday however is that the press conference that the Prime Minister and Mr Dutton gave last Thursday wasn’t prompted by any requests by ASIO or briefing from ASIO.
JOURNALIST: The government argues that the Integrity Commission bill is so wide it could possibly capture even journalists. What do you make of that?
DREYFUS: The government needs to put up a bill, if it’s serious about what it claimed yesterday is its position, and that is that it’s saying that it now supports, after all of the denials – a bit like Morrison’s position on the banking Royal Commission – he voted to opposed that 26 times, he’s repeatedly said we don’t need a National Integrity Commission, now yesterday for the first time because the government’s lost its control of the House of Representatives, we see the government supporting a National Integrity Commission. If it’s true that the government was working on a bill when Mr Turnbull was the Prime Minister, then let’s see that bill. Let’s not have this discussion that we don’t quite know whether the government is coming or going. We’ve got Morrison saying that this is a “fringe issue”. It’s clearly not a fringe issue this is an important issue which we should be working on together as a Parliament. I’m hoping that the government will come to its senses and accept Labor’s offer to work on a bipartisan basis to create a National Integrity Commission.
JOURNALIST: Protections for students and teachers against discrimination. What are you doing in this space?
DREYFUS: Again, disappointing that Mr Morrison, having promised the people of Australia before the Wentworth byelection that the government would move to abolish the exemption that’s there for religious schools in relation to students, that means that at the moment under Australian law LGBTI students can be discriminated against. That exemption should be removed. Mr Morrison promised to remove it. He said we would do it in the last sitting week. It didn’t happen. The government brought forward two draft bills that weren’t acceptable. Since we’ve heard nothing further from the government, we need to break this deadlock. Labor will put our own Private Members’ Bill. It’s a very short bill, it makes a short amendment to section 37 and removes section 38(3). I’d call on the government either to support the Private Members’ Bill that we’re going to give notice of today or bring forward their own bill.
JOURNALIST: This could be the last sitting fortnight before the election. Is it really good enough to pass the encryption bill on an interim basis if it could be a year before you can come back and clean it up?
DREYFUS: I don’t think that the Australian Parliament, even if an election is held in the next few months, is going to take a year to be reconvened. I know that Tony Abbott waited 99 days after the 2013 election to convene the Parliament but the constitution says we’ve got to sit 100 days after the election. So it won’t be a year. Just putting that to one side, Labor will not be supporting bad law. Labor will not respond to the government’s demand that the Intelligence Committee accelerate its processes by just waving through something that’s inadequate. There are a number of problems that have been identified in the committee’s inquiry process up to now. There’s some serious suggestions made by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and by the Commonwealth Ombudsman for changes to the government’s bill. Tech companies have identified other changes they say need to be made. I’m not going to pre-empt the committee’s discussions which are going to be continuing today.
JOURNALIST: What are those principal sticking points though? What do you see as the flaws in the bill?
DREYFUS: I’d point you to the 80-odd submissions, some of them very lengthy that have been made by tech companies, by the Australian Industry Group, by defence industry companies in Australia, by privacy advocates, by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and others. All of which point to problems in the bill, all of which complain the government didn’t consult properly before it brought the bill into Parliament. And we will be working to make sure that if something can go forward, it as far as possible deals with the problems that have been identified. At the same time as noting the urgency that the government wants to put on this.
JOURNALIST: Which of those does your party think are the problems…
DREYFUS: I’m not going to pre-empt the discussions that are currently occurring in the committee.