PM Agenda with Davis Speers

SUBJECT/S: National security; One Nation.












SUBJECT/S: National security; One Nation.


DAVID SPEERS, HOST: Mark Dreyfus thank you very much for your time. There’s plenty in the coroner’s report into the Lindt café siege two and a half years ago, is there anything that stands out to you as a concern when it comes to the way various police and intelligence agencies are working together?


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think that it’s a very thorough report and we’ll be studying the recommendations very closely but obviously what it’s saying in the broad is we need to work harder on coordination, we need to work harder to make sure that whatever resources are available from all of our agencies including the Defence Department, or the ADF, they are available too and be ready to make sure that the right resources are deployed. And that’s one of the messages from this report.


SPEERS: Well the government says it’s reviewing call-out powers at the moment for when the defence force can be called in and whether it’s too cumbersome at the moment, the process getting various approvals. Is that an area you think needs to be streamlined?


DREYFUS: It is, it’s something Bill Shorten drew attention to in a national security speech last November actually talking about making sure that the defence forces are available in appropriate circumstances.


SPEERS: In this incident, the Lindt café siege, do you think Defence should have been more heavily involved?


DREYFUS: I’m not going to second-guess the coroner about this, that’s not one of the things that he actually said. He did however make recommendations about other things and one of the matters that I hope people pay attention to is his recommendation on correspondence, such as the letter that was sent by Man Haron Monis to the Attorney-General, some two months before the siege.


SPEERS: Which the government, the Attorney-General, now says yes obviously he regrets that wasn’t passed on to ASIO, they have put in procedures to ensure any of that sort of correspondence goes to ASIO now. But he also makes the point that this is not something the Coroner has found could have stopped, necessarily.


DREYFUS: Not necessarily, but the Coroner does say that there needs to be processes in place right across the government that makes sure that letters like this, which are early warning, go to ASIO. This after all, was a letter to the Attorney-General, seeking advice on the legality of Monis communicating to someone he called Caliph Ibrahim, the head of the Islamic State, the so-called Islamic State, and that should have rung alarm bells, there should have been processes and it should have gone to ASIO, perhaps something different might have occurred.


SPEERS: When we talk about the coordination and the interoperability of agencies, where do you stand on the idea of an overarching Homeland Security Department, or Home Affairs Department?


DREYFUS: We don’t think the case has been made, or even close to it. I know, from my time as Attorney-General, and from the time since on the Intelligence Committee, that our agencies work on a daily basis at coordination and in no way are we convinced that some overarching department or some bigger bureaucracy is going to improve the level of coordination.


SPEERS: Would it potentially make things worse?


DREYFUS: Well, I’ll just say the case has not been made for an overarching –


SPEERS: But you’re open to it if the government decides to go down this path.  


DREYFUS: No I’m saying at the moment, the case hasn’t been made. What I see is agencies working on a daily basis at coordination and very very conscious of the need to coordinate. This has been so since the 9/11 attack in the United States.


SPEERS: There’s one aspect of the Coroner’s Report about the AFP potentially not sharing pretty important reports with the New South Wales Police on the day. These were tactical intelligence reports. Two of them where it seems the New South Wales Police wanted a bit of advice on what might have been in the backpack that Monis had. The sort of bomb it might be, what they thought at the time. The Coroner says there’s no evidence two reports were provided to New South Wales for weeks. How concerning is that?


DREYFUS: That’s concerning. The Coroner has identified a range of failures, communication failures, coordination failures. This one wouldn’t have in any way been helped by any Federal Department of Homeland Security, because it is actually coordination or information sharing between Federal Authorities and the state.


SPEERS: Let’s move on from this to what’s been going on around One Nation this week. We’ve seen a leak, a recording of a conversation in which there’s discussion from Pauline Hanson Chief of Staff James Ashby about over-charging for campaign materials. And then essentially fleecing the tax payer as a result. They didn’t end up doing this. Labor has been pursuing this in Senate Estimates this week. What have you established?


DREYFUS: We’ve established that the Prime Minister, contrary to what he said in Parliament on Monday, which was that he was seeking advice from the Australian Federal Police and the Attorney-General about these very serious allegations of potentially breaches of the Electoral Act, defrauding the Commonwealth. That’s how serious it is. He was seeking that advice, it turns out in evidence given yesterday and today, that no such advice was sought by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General said he had not been, his advice had not been sought and extraordinarily, the Australian Federal Police said that the only reference of the matter to them came from Labor Senator Murray Watt from Queensland, who has of course written formally to the AFP. Commissioner Colvin said in estimates this morning that he has not had any discussions with anyone in the government and the Prime Minister’s got some explaining to do here. 


SPEERS: Do you give them any leeway in the space of these three days they have been fairly preoccupied with national security matters?


DREYFUS: No. It is always possible to point towards events that are occurring. The Prime Minister has got a large staff, he’s got all of the Government. This is him dragging his feet. It would seem that he’s more interested in One Nation’s votes in the Senate than in actually investigating or getting on investigating what are actually serious matters. This goes right to the heart of our democracy. That we’ve got a political party which is on tape as at least discussing defrauding the Commonwealth, breaching our electoral laws and at one point in the tape which is open to suggestion - they might have done it before.


SPEERS: There is no evidence yet that they did do it. So that would have to established first –


DREYFUS: Of course -


SPEERS: So what offence are we talking about?


DREYFUS: We are talking about breaches of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We are talking about obtaining financial advantage by deception. Fraud offences because if they had carried through with what was being conspired about there, they would have been obtaining cash that they were not entitled to – taxpayer money which they were not entitled to.


SPEERS: Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus thank you.


DREYFUS: Thanks very much David.