Radio National Drive with Patricia Karvelas

SUBJECT/S: Passport cancellations; Duncan Lewis; Sydney siege; Uluru; Margaret Court











TUESDAY, 30 MAY 2017 

SUBJECT/S: Passport cancellations; Duncan Lewis; Sydney siege; Uluru; Margaret Court


PATRICIA KARVELAS, PRESENTER: Mark Dreyfus welcome to the program. 


KARVELAS: You’ve provided bipartisan support to this measure of cancelling these passports. Why have you done that? 

DREYFUS: We think that this is a measure that seems very useful, the Leader of the Opposition stood up in Question Time immediately after the Foreign Minister had announced this and said that in principle Labor will support it, we have to see the legislation obviously. But you’ve only got to look at the numbers. 800 Australians on the Child Offenders Register travelled overseas in 2016 alone. Very many of them to destinations in South East Asia which are known as destinations for child sex crimes. And if we are cancelling passports for preventing people from going overseas for reasons like them being bankrupt or reasons like Australians intending to fight with ISIL, then I think we should extend it to child sex offenders.

KARVELAS: Many Australians may be surprised to learn that this doesn’t exist already, let alone that it’s a world first. Do you think this will be considered by other countries? Is it genuinely a world-first practice that would really change the landscape around these issues?

DREYFUS: We’ll have to look at what the legislation is going to say. I’d pay credit to Senator Derryn Hinch who put this to the government. And I say again, you’ve only got to look at the startling statistic, the sheer numbers involved – we’ve got a Child Sex Offenders Register here in Australia to protect the Australian community, and this is now us saying we’re going to protect the world community from people who are child sex offenders. We know the recidivism rate, that is the repeat offence rate for people in this category and I think that requiring them, which seems to be the government’s proposal, to seek permission to go overseas and have a very good reason to justify it is a small step that we can take.

KARVELAS: What about people who’ve not been convicted? Is enough being done to stop these people from travelling overseas to commit child sex offenses?

DREYFUS: Well you won’t be on the child sex offenders register unless you have had a conviction recorded against you. People that are going to abuse children overseas – it’s a vile crime, but unless we know of some involvement, there’s not much that authorities can do. What we can do however is engage with the people who are known and convicted child sex offenders and deal with them.

KARVELAS: And there won’t be any appeal to this, which is an interesting insertion into this law that I heard Derryn Hinch talk about. Do you think that’s wise?

DREYFUS: Well I don’t think you can have a government decision that’s not subject to appeal. As I say, we have to look at the legislation, but just as people can appeal against cancellation of passports or adverse security assessments which lead to cancellation of passports, I don’t think it’s within the power of the federal Parliament to legislate to create a government decision that’s not able to be appealed.

KARVELAS: So you object to that element because Derryn Hinch is talking…. 

DREYFUS: I’m just saying it’s a constitutional question Patricia. You can’t set up a government decision maker, in whatever form, and then say you can’t appeal to the courts. There is always a right of appeal to the courts, at least for what’s known as an error of law.

KARVELAS: Derryn Hinch talked about making that a condition or putting that inside the legislation. That’s something Labor may contest on the basis that it is unconstitutional?

DREYFUS: We have to always make sure our legislation, all laws are constitutional. That’s why I say it’s in principle support and I’m sure it’s not beyond the wit of the government to follow Senator Hinch’s very good proposal and bring in a law which is going to enable us to prevent as far as possible, convicted sex offenders from travelling overseas. Exactly what the appeal rights might be, that’s going to be a bit of detail that’s subject to discussion but I’m sure that can be got right too. 

KARVELAS: Just on counter-terrorism, you say that the government should stand up for ASIO head Duncan Lewis, after he was asked by Pauline Hanson in Estimates about Islamic extremism being linked to refugees. But don’t his answers stand for themselves?

DREYFUS: His answers were clear, and what’s been concerning is that four days since Duncan Lewis, the boss of ASIO appeared at Senate estimates and slapped down Pauline Hanson for some ridiculous suggestions she made in her questions, we’ve had attacks on the Director-General of Security by no less than coalition backbenchers including the former Prime Minister. And that’s a step too far. We need to have the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General stand up for the Director-General of Security and not allow these absurd attacks to be made on him. I know whose judgement I trust on these matters and it’s certainly not coalition backbenchers. It’s the Director-General of Security, a former Special Operations Commander, a former Ambassador to NATO and the person who is receiving all of ASIO’s intelligence. That’s the person whose judgement matters here.

KARVELAS: Pauline Hanson is quite within her rights to ask those questions, that’s what the Estimates process is all about isn’t it?

DREYFUS: Of course she’s entitled to ask questions, what she’s not entitled to do is suggest a connection between refugees and terrorism which doesn’t exist and that was the purpose of her questioning. And very directly slapped down by the boss of ASIO, and it’s very helpful to have him do it. To explain to the Australian community - this builds confidence in ASIO for the Australian community to know they are not going to be pursuing fear-mongering as a basis for their intelligence operations, that they’re not going to be pursuing prejudice as a basis for their intelligence operations, they’re going to look at actual capacity for violence and that’s what they should be doing.

KARVELAS: Just on the Sydney siege which has been a big story for a very long time but of course this week too, with the Four Corners second part last night, and of course the inquest findings last week, Andrew Hastie – former SAS of course, now Liberal MP – says in the future if something is regarded as a terrorist incident Defence should be called in. Is that something Labor would support? 

DREYFUS: We have to make absolutely certain that the full resources of our defence forces are available for events like this. It’s something that in fact Bill Shorten mentioned in a speech last November talking about these issues. That’s what I think Andrew Hastie is saying. He’s not saying in all situations we have to immediately go to the defence forces and the tactical operations response people in the Army, he’s saying we’ve got to have procedures in place where they can be called in and called in quickly when it’s appropriate to do so. And that’s why in a sense we have – one of the lessons to be taken out of the coronial report on the Sydney siege – that there were mistakes that were made. And one of the issues that we’ve got to now nail down and I’d be expecting that the government, the defence forces and Australian police forces are right now talking through how to make sure that if defence resources are needed in the future they can be got in quickly.

KARVELAS: The inquest into the Sydney siege laid blame on the psychologist Police consulted during the Sydney siege saying he was not qualified to advise on groups like ISIS. His own submission to the inquest described any criticism of his work as ‘grossly unfair’. Has he been unfairly singled out? 

DREYFUS: There’s a really good example of learning a lesson. Let’s leave the personal criticism to one side altogether. The point that I understand the Coroner to be making here is ordinary sieges, or ordinary hostage-taking situations, which have got some known pathology about them, and you would expect the psychiatrist to understand in an ordinary situation, it all changes when you’re in a terrorism situation or a quasi-terrorism situation, whatever the Sydney siege was, where you’ve got someone who was clearly – well – deranged in some ways but certainly motivated to some extent by a religious fervour, you are going to get potentially different outcomes and that’s the lesson you need to take. Where you’ve got someone that is waving the ISIL flag, who has made public statement in the lead-up to this siege, and it’s a point my colleague Anne Aly, a counter-terrorism expert and the member for Cowan, she’s made in a couple of public comments on the Sydney siege report since the report was delivered. She says, rightly, different psychiatric considerations apply, different judgements have to be made, different risks are arising and that’s why we have to learn lessons from every event like this. That’s why we have coronial inquiries.

KARVELAS: Just on the Uluru statement, as the Shadow Attorney-General issues of law and the constitution are pretty central to the work that you do. Is Labor going to get behind the idea of a constitutionally-enshrined Indigenous body to consult the Parliament?

DREYFUS: We’re going to listen to what the Indigenous consultation which is now concluded at Uluru, it’s the last of some 12 Indigenous consultation meetings conducted by the Referendum Council right across Australia. We’re going to listen to what occurred there, we’re now going to wait because we’re in a process for how the Referendum Council is going to deal with these indigenous consultations and their outcomes, in the report that the Referendum Council is going to make to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition at the end of June. And that will be a further stage in what has now been a pretty long process, but I’m not going to take the Uluru statement or anything that was said in these Indigenous consultations as the last word on the subject. What I am going to do is listen, and everybody in Labor is going to be listening to what these opinions are that have been expressed by the Indigenous community. On the specifics of it, the two things that they’ve put forward, one being a call for a body, an Indigenous body which will provide input to Parliamentary processes, and the other being this notion of a Makarata council to work on treaty and agreement making, obviously they are both ideas that can be, I think, incorporated into the constitutional project or the constitutional change project that the Referendum Council has been set up for.

KARVELAS: So you don’t think they go too far or, stretch too far or are too radical. 

DREYFUS: Well one of them is not a proposal for constitutional change at all… 

KARVELAS: No, that’s right. 

DREYFUS: That’s the Makarata Council, that’s an agreement-making or treaty-making proposition and obviously we need to take that idea very seriously and look hard at it. On the other, there is a constitutional question about how to incorporate the body that’s being sought, the voice of Indigenous Australia that is being sought, whether that could be included in the constitution. And that’s something the Referendum Council will be advising us on. What is important is that all of the other things that are being considered by the parliamentary committee that looked at this some time back and the expert panel that looked at this some time back, they’re still there, they’re on the table, they need to not be forgotten in the process as well and that’s the changes to the race power, the removal of the racist provision in the constitution section 25, the possibility of a formal statement of recognition of Australia’s first peoples, they all need to be still there and I expect them to form part of the Referendum Council’s report to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

KARVELAS: Do you accept though, if Indigenous people don’t want those things, I mean they didn’t put them in the proposal.

DREYFUS: They were simply silent on those proposals.

KARVELAS: Because they chose another option, that’s why. They weren’t just silent. They went for another option.

DREYFUS: They chose additional options and as I say you need to consider this in the context in which this occurred which is part of a consultation, a long consultation that has run from I think last November through to now, ending at Uluru, where the Referendum Council said as part of its deliberations we want to listen to the Indigenous voices of Australia and that’s what’s occurred here. But don’t think that this is the last word on the subject, it’s not, it’s part of a process.

KARVELAS: It’s the beginning, or halfway through at least, it’s been going for a while. Just very quickly because you are again Shadow Attorney-General and I know the issue of marriage equality is central again to your portfolio. Grand Slam champion Samantha Stosur has hinted that tennis stars may try to boycott the Margaret Court Arena at this year’s Australian Open in relation to Margaret Court’s controversial views that have been challenged by many on gay marriage. Is that appropriate?

DREYFUS: I think that the reason the Margaret Court Arena is named the Margaret Court Arena is because she was an all-time great Australian tennis player and I’m not sure that, necessarily, there can be a tremendous argument about the views that Margaret has expressed recently on marriage equality. I find some of the views she’s expressed extremely objectionable. But I think we need to keep the two separate.

KARVELAS: Do you think activists, or tennis stars in this case but there have been activists as well, are over-egging all of this. 

DREYFUS: Well, as I say I find it possible to keep these things separate. I think the reason the Margaret Court Arena is named the Margaret Court Arena is because of her extraordinary and even now unmatched success as an Australian tennis champion, just like the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne is called the Rod Laver Arena. And the fact that she’s chosen to enter public debate on a political and social topic later in her life I think we can keep that separate.

KARVELAS: Mark Dreyfus thanks so much for coming on the show.

DREYFUS: Thanks very much Patricia.