Press conference, Melbourne

SUBJECT/S: Chris Crewther; Scott Morrison v Malcolm Turnbull


SUBJECT/S: Chris Crewther; Scott Morrison v Malcolm Turnbull
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Another day, another Liberal MP under a constitutional cloud and a Prime Minister who doesn’t seem to care. Chris Crewther, the Member for Dunkley, used the Parliament to spruik the benefits Gretals Australia was set to gain from the federal grants that they had recently received. A year later, this same member of Federal Parliament – Mr Crewther, the Member for Dunkley – bought $25,000 worth of shares in that same company. It’s beyond belief that any MP after the 18 months that we have had, with a focus on section 44 issues, with Senator Day being ruled ineligible because of the very same section of Section 44 that comes up here, after that happening, after the issues that are being raised about Mr Dutton, after the issues that are being raised about Dr Gillespie, it’s beyond belief that another Liberal MP could have gone out and bought shares in a company that has received funding – grants, his own words – from the federal government. We are talking about a very serious constitutional issue here. Which, regrettably, the Prime Minister Mr Morrison has completely dismissed with a wave of his hand. He says he has no concerns. On what basis could he possibly say, after this matter was raised in this morning’s newspaper – on what basis could the Prime Minister possibly say he has no concerns? Has he already sought advice from the Solicitor-General? Or is he making his own sophisticated legal judgement? A bit like the previous Prime Minister saying that “the High Court will so hold”. Perhaps we’re getting that again from the new Prime Minister. It is arrogance in the extreme from a desperate Prime Minister. It is disrespect for our constitution. The truth is that Mr Morrison is absolutely terrified of losing the tenuous grip that he has on power. He’s running a protection racket for both Mr Dutton and Mr Crewther instead of showing the leadership that Australians are looking for. I’d add that this whole murky saga is yet another reason why Australians need a National Integrity Commission, which Labor is committed to. It’s what Australians want. We need more transparency in Australian politics, we need to restore confidence in our system of government. Mr Morrison must, he simply must, refer Mr Crewther and Mr Dutton to the High Court, so that the doubts that have now arisen about their eligibility to sit in the Parliament can be resolved by the High Court of Australia.
JOURNALIST: You’re suggesting that the Prime Minister needs to take action here and that he’s holding on to power by this, do you think that Bob Katter’s right in saying that the politics shouldn’t be about this sort of rubbish and he in fact will be supporting the government on this?
DREYFUS: I don’t think we’ll be taking advice from Mr Katter about our constitution. This is a serious matter, all these questions about section 44. We’ve had a whole run of them now in this term of Parliament. All of them are serious. The constitution must be obeyed. I don’t think that any Australian would think otherwise, I find it bizarre that Mr Katter would have made that comment. And it’s equally concerning that the Prime Minister of Australia should say, about a serious constitutional matter, that he has no concerns. Apparently straight away, within hours of this story appearing in the newspaper this morning.
JOURNALIST: Is this issue significant enough do you think to bring down the government?
DREYFUS: All of these issues about section 44 are significant. It’s always necessary for every member of Parliament to ensure that they are eligible when they nominate for Parliament and to ensure that they continue to be eligible for the whole time that they sit in Parliament. It’s their duty, for Parliamentarians when they are sworn in, swear to uphold the constitution of Australia. And I say again, it’s extraordinary that Mr Crewther, the member for Dunkley, after the 18 months that we’ve had of focus on a number of different parts of section 44 including the part of section 44 which Mr Crewther seems to have contravened, it’s extraordinary that Mr Crewther could have gone ahead and bought shares in a company which he himself had spruiked in the federal Parliament. Mr Crewther in his own words said, this company received federal funds. And it’s not a small amount of federal funds either. It’s something in the order of half a million dollars. It’s extraordinary that Mr Crewther should have conducted himself in this way. It’s equally extraordinary that the Prime Minister of Australia, with a wave of the hand should say “I have no concerns”.
JOURNALIST: You’ve called on the Prime Minister to take action but will Labor be trying to convince the six crossbenchers to support Labor in this?
DREYFUS: It’s first necessary for the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Morrison, to treat this seriously. It should be, simply without question, that any time a doubt arises, serious doubt, about the eligibility of an MP to sit in the Parliament, there should be a referral to the High Court of Australia. There’s a very serious doubt that’s arisen in relation to Mr Dutton. There’s very serious doubts arisen today in relation to Mr Crewther. And the proper response of a Prime Minister that didn’t want to show contempt for our constitution would be to refer both of them to the High Court of Australia.
JOURNALIST: Interesting story today about Alex Turnbull and Justin Milne, any thoughts on that?
DREYFUS: I haven’t actually seen the story so I can’t comment.
JOURNALIST: There’s a suggestion that Alex Turnbull had actually phoned Justin Milne after leaks from the ABC and suspension of a prominent ABC journalist. But I’ll move on and ask you about the ongoing diplomatic relationship you could say between Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison – what are your thoughts on that?
DREYFUS: Well this is just continuing chaos between Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull. We’ve got Mr Morrison being directly contradicted by Mr Turnbull in public for having suggested that the basis on which Mr Turnbull was sent as the government’s representative to meet with the Indonesian President was not correct. What an extraordinary thing that the Prime Minister of Australia should try and limit, simply to suck up to Alan Jones on 2GB. What an extraordinary thing that Mr Morrison should try and misrepresent the basis on which his predecessor was sent to Indonesia. It’s now clear, and I know who I will be believing here, it’s now clear that Mr Turnbull was sent on the basis that he would be discussing the move of the embassy, that he would be discussing trade, and worse – it’s not just his word, he had a detailed written brief from the government that he was to use in his discussions with the Indonesian President. So again, a desperate Prime Minister trying to cover up the chaos and division that continues within this government.
Thanks very much.