RN Drive transcript

SUBJECT/S: COAG; Bob Hawke; marriage equality; magpies.









SUBJECT/S: COAG; Bob Hawke; marriage equality; magpies.


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Mark Dreyfus is the Shadow Attorney-General and the Shadow Minister for National Security. Welcome to RN Drive.


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks for having me Patricia.


KARVELAS: AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin says police need to detain terrorism suspects longer to allow them to investigate. Is there any reason they should not be able to? Are you willing to accept this 14 day limit?


DREYFUS: As always with proposals from our agencies that are needed for national security or counter-terrorism reasons, we will look at whatever proposal the government puts forward. I think you can see from our four years in opposition that we’ve largely supported proposals the government’s brought forward, very often suggesting improvements and additional safeguards which the government has accepted. And on this occasion, when the government produces legislation, we’ll look at it.


KARVELAS: The government says that courts will oversee the process. What should the legal threshold be for them to grant this power to police?


DREYFUS: This has to be considered at a federal level against the background of the Attorney-General, George Brandis, saying a couple of years back, that there are real constitutional problems about pre-charge detention, which is what this is. This is picking someone off the street, probably a person of interest, or possibly someone that’s just assisting police with their enquiries, and before they’re charged holding them for up to 14 days. I appreciate that that’s already occurred in New South Wales. They’ve changed the law there, but at a federal level we have a constitutional restraint, which says that the executive cannot take over what are judicial powers. That’s the problem that George Brandis was pointing to two years ago, whether or not the Commonwealth has come up with some way to fix that constitutional problem. We won’t know until we see the detail and the legislation that the government puts forward.


KARVELAS: But what is your instinct? You say if they have managed to deal with this constitutional issue, is your instinct to support this?


DREYFUS: My instinct as always with national security legislation is to look at where the balance should lie. ‘Would this make us safer’ is not the only question. We also have to ask, what would this cost us? What would this cost us in terms of loss of personal freedom, and every time you have to carefully examine what the balance should be. Just saying ‘this may make us safer’…which as it happens I don’t think the government has yet explained. They’ve talked a lot about the importance of national consistency, but I don’t think they’ve yet explained operationally how this will make us safer. If that can be satisfactorily explained to the Australian community and the loss of personal freedom that’s involved here can be justified, then I can predict that Labor is likely to support the legislation. But that balance assessment can only be done when we have the legislation in front of us.


KARVELAS: If you’re just tuning in, Mark Dreyfus is our guest. He’s a Labor frontbencher and our number is 0418 226 576. New South Wales is the only state that has the 14 day model in place. Children can be detained under their system. Should that New South Wales model be a national template?


DREYFUS: Obviously you need to have additional safeguards for children. That goes without saying.


KARVELAS: And are you satisfied that the government is proposing those additional safeguards?


DREYFUS: We haven’t seen any of the detail Patricia. The government has released nothing and explained nothing of what it is proposing. It has only said that it is considering Commonwealth laws to achieve national consistency. That’s a matter that the states would all need to agree to because they have the constitutional power to legislate in this criminal justice area, and if and when the Commonwealth brings forward legislation, of course we’ll look at it, but one can already say that it would be very important to have additional safeguards when we’re dealing with children.


KARVELAS: Also up for discussion tomorrow will be the level of sentencing for viewing instructional material on terrorism and for terror hoaxes. What do you think the sentences should be?


DREYFUS: This is another area where we’re waiting for the government to produce some detail on this law to deal with terrorism hoaxes or a law to deal with possession of terrorist instruction material. There’s already, as part of our legal system at both the federal and state level, laws that deal with hoaxes and laws that deal with preparing to commit terrorist acts. If the government has got additional new offences that it can propose in draft legislation, of course we’ll look at it, but you shouldn’t be proceeding on the basis that there’s no laws at the moment to deal with both those situations. There’s very heavy penalties already, for example, for bomb hoaxes at airports, and rightly. You can get a couple of decades in jail as I understand it for that kind of hoax, for a bomb hoax on an airport. And similarly, there are very heavy penalties already applying under Commonwealth criminal law for any act preparatory to carrying out a terrorist assault. I’m talking ten years and more in jail. So let’s see what the government is proposing and the question is, what does it add to the existing criminal laws that we have?


KARVELAS: The Prime Minister wants driver’s licence photos to be part of a national database to speed up access for law enforcement. Where should the boundaries be? Who should have access to the photo database beyond the AFP and other security agencies?


DREYFUS: Again, we’re waiting on the detail. We haven’t been told by the government.


KARVELAS: Sure, but I ask you a question specifically, I mean, you must have an idea of where you think the boundaries should be in terms of access to this.


DREYFUS: Well, if you can let me finish Patricia, at the moment, if you have a person of interest that is unidentified by a face that’s picked up on closed circuit TV footage, the authorities will compare it with databases available, in the case of the federal government, that’s passport photos, and then they will ask state authorities to check their records to see if the face can be identified, and state police have access to driver’s licence photos for that person. So we have access to a lot of data and a lot of facial images already. What the government is proposing now is not clear. If it’s different, we need to know how it’s going to be used and again, the question always arises, how will this make Australians safer, and against that, if it is identified that it is going to make Australians safer, how will the loss of privacy that’s bound up in this, is that worth it in terms of the additional safety that we gain from it? All we know at the moment is Mr Turnbull saying that images are going to be used more widely, we’re not exactly sure what that means. Is the government proposing there be assembled a massive new database, again we don’t know, but we’ll look at the proposal.


KARVELAS: Cory Bernardi says the photo database should be used to prevent welfare fraud. Is that appropriate?


DREYFUS: I don’t think that people when they get a driver’s licence are giving permission for the driver’s licence images to be used for purposes other than connected with the enforcement of criminal law, in particular in relation to road traffic matters. And that’s the privacy question that’s involved here. When you give data about yourself, including an image of yourself to the government you are giving it for particular purposes. And there you see the kind of mission creep that can occur as soon as you assemble a big database, you get people like Cory Bernardi coming along and saying ‘I want to use it to prosecute welfare fraud’.


KARVELAS: He would say welfare fraud is criminal. Isn’t it?


DREYFUS: Well it might be and it might not be. It might be that you’ve only got some particular infringement of some form not being filled out and it depends exactly on what is referred to by welfare fraud. I think we’d want to have a very big think before something that is being apparently brought into existence by the Federal Government for the purpose of fighting terrorism, is now to be used, according to Cory Bernardi, for something in relation to the welfare system. And that really would make me pause.


KARVELAS: There’s another story that The Guardian is reporting this afternoon. An organisation opposing marriage equality has sponsored ads on Facebook encouraging voters to apply for replacement forms to change their vote in this marriage law postal survey. We already know from the ABS that that’s not meant to happen. So why are these ads up?


DREYFUS: Well from as I understand it, from media reports, the ads have been removed. The Minister, Senator Cormann has said that it is wrong, and of course it is wrong. The reason why the ABS has provided the means for you to get another survey form, is when you didn’t get it in the first place, or you’ve lost it, or you’ve mistakenly filled it out and mucked it up some way. It is not because you’ve changed your mind. So the Minister’s said that. The ABS has said that. And what I want to hear is someone from the Coalition for Marriage condemning the member of the Coalition for Marriage that has encouraged this practice in the first place, because it’s quite wrong.


KARVELAS: You say that, but I’ve had a few of our listeners ask a really good question, a really good question. They often have some of the best questions. Which is, what safeguards are there to prevent this? Because I could call the ABS now, I certainly wouldn’t, I voted once, not interested again. But I could call them and say that I’ve lost my form. But really I just wanted to change my vote. Right?


DREYFUS: Well, you’d be lying.


KARVELAS: No, not lost my vote, but say that someone else voted for me for instance. Or never did get it.


DREYFUS: Well, of course, you could attempt to defraud the Australian Bureau of Statistics. And that’s why at least the Parliament has provided some anti-fraud provisions. Whether that would catch this kind of conduct I don’t know. But I think we need to make it absolutely clear, and the Coalition for Marriage needs to make it absolutely clear, this practice is not condoned. It’s quite wrong of their member to have called for it. The Minister has said it’s wrong. The ABS has said it’s wrong. And let’s hope we’ve heard the end of it.


KARVELAS: Okay. Just on another issue, the Government says Labor is standing in the way of tougher gun laws by opposing minimum mandatory sentencing for arms trafficking. You say minimum sentences don’t work. Why are you standing in the way here?


DREYFUS: I heard the Minister this morning on Radio National making that extraordinary claim and it’s simply false. Labor’s amendments to this Bill which increased the penalties to much higher levels, up to 30 years imprisonment from its present ten, that passed the Senate on the 13th of February 2017. Mr Keenan has not brought that Bill back to the House of Representatives and he should. There has been 8 months that he could have made this happen in. And for him to suggest, ridiculously, that the Labor Party is standing in the way of passing those laws in the Senate is simply false. And to go to your question, Patricia, mandatory sentencing removes judicial discretion. It’s a long-standing Labor position, the Minister knows exactly what our position is. We’re all in favour of increasing the penalties for firearms trafficking. That’s what we’ve done in the amendments that have now passed the Senate. So the Bill needs to be brought back to the House of Representatives and then we can jointly toughen the gun laws that apply in Australia at the federal level which is against firearms trafficking. I don’t know what Minister Keenan thought he was talking about. But it’s completely false to suggest that Labor has in any way stood in the way of passing the laws in the Senate. They’ve passed the Senate back in February.


KARVELAS: Okay just quickly. Former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke has labelled the $122 million postal survey ‘the worst economic decision made by any Australian Prime Minister’. Is that an overstatement?


DREYFUS: It is a complete waste of money. I can’t think of another decision made by an Australian Government that was so wasteful because it’s the Government saying that we won’t let the Parliament get on with its job of amending the law.


KARVELAS: So you’re comfortable, you think it’s the worst economic decision made since Federation?


DREYFUS: Personally, I tend to shy away from superlatives, but that just might be my reserved nature as a former lawyer, Patricia. It’s a very, very bad decision. It is a complete waste of money. It’s shameful that the Government should have engaged in this survey with the hurtful results that we are seeing all around us. With a massive increase in the use of LGBTI counselling services. And all of the hateful and harmful things that are being said. All of this could have been avoided. It should have been avoided. Let’s get this done. And when the Yes vote, and I am very, very hopeful that we will have a yes result on the 15th of November, when that arrives, we’ve got two weeks left in the Parliamentary year. Let’s make sure that marriage equality becomes a reality in Australia by Christmas.


KARVELAS: I’ve just got to ask on that, it seems like people on the Yes side seem to be calling it – ‘Yep, it’s a Yes vote. Overwhelmingly people are voting Yes’. But we’ve seen people say one thing to pollsters but do another, before. Do you really feel like you can be that confident?


DREYFUS: I’m not saying that I’m completely confident. I’m saying that I’m hopeful. And I’m relying on poll after poll after poll for several years now in Australia, which has suggested by a substantial majority Australian’s support marriage equality. And I actually think, the way in which the No campaign has been conducted is likely, if anything, to have turned people off. Because what the No campaign has done has been to argue everything but the issue. The issue is, should lesbian and gay people in Australia be free to marry their partners. And it’s not about Safe Schools. It’s not about parental rights. It’s certainly not about religious freedoms. All of those matters can be dealt with when a Bill is brought to the Parliament, if they have to be dealt with at all. The question before the Australian people in this survey is should there be marriage equality in this country. And as I say, I’m hopeful there will be a resounding Yes answer to that question.


KARVELAS: Just finally. Just completely off topic. Do you have any issues with magpies during spring?


DREYFUS: I do. And I ride a bike, particularly in Canberra.


KARVELAS: Tell me about it! Is it as bad as I think? I’ve got a particular issue with these birds.


DREYFUS: I love their song, Patricia.


KARVELAS: Beautiful song, I agree.


DREYFUS:   Like all other Australians who know the song of the magpie. But they are ferocious in spring. And they’re a real hazard, particularly when you’re on a bike. Which is why a lot of people, particularly in Canberra, wear cable ties which loop through their helmet, which makes them look like space men –


KARVELAS: Do you wear cable ties?


DREYFUS: I don’t. I just can’t come at the look of my helmet with cable ties sticking out of it, but they’re a hazard and they’re a hazard for little kids too. And I had an incident in our family just last week, not a child of mine but a child of a very close friend who – a three year old – copped a magpie attack on her cheek. Which was very unpleasant. So yes, it’s that time of year – look out for Magpies!


KARVELAS: I’m glad we’ve talked about it. We may have a solution. I’m going to be talking to an expert in a minute. Keep listening. Thanks for coming on.


DREYFUS: Thanks Patricia.