Sky News AM Agenda

SUBJECT/S: COAG; marriage equality survey







SUBJECT/S: COAG; marriage equality survey


TOM CONNELL, HOST: Mark Dreyfus thank you for your time today. Do you agree with Daniel Andrews who says there will be furious agreement on this?


MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks for having me Tom. And of course I’m in the opposition federally, we’re not yet in possession of all of the details of what is going to be discussed by the Chief Ministers, Premiers and Prime Minister in Canberra today. We’ll wait and see what the detail is, Daniel Andrews said, rightly, that we have to be concerned to put in place measures that keep Australians safer. At the same time, there’s always got to be a concern about balancing that with our rights and freedoms – what makes Australia the great community that we are.


CONNELL: I take your point about wanting to see the detail, totally fair enough a responsible thing to do. But so far from what you do know and what you’ve been reading, are there any particular concerns that federal Labor is going to raise?


DREYFUS: There’s a concern about what the Commonwealth can legislate for in relation to pre-charge detention. The Attorney-General George Brandis said a couple of years ago about this very topic, rightly, that there are constitutional concerns at the federal level where you can’t have the executive making what are in fact judicial decisions. There’s a prohibition in the constitution on that. So we have to wait and see what the detail of it is. Obviously New South Wales has already legislated for 14 days detention without charge. And if Victoria are saying they are going to follow suit it may well be that other states reach the same conclusion. But what is possible at the federal level is governed by the constitution of Australia and we need to see the detail on that.


CONNELL: So is your concern the technical one of actually being able to legislate, or the power itself?


DREYFUS: We always have to look at how it is said that additional powers for police are in fact making us safer and all I’ve heard so far from Mr Keenan, the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister Mr Turnbull is they want to see a national consistency. It might be that national consistency can be achieved by all of the states and territories legislating and it won’t be necessary for the Commonwealth to legislate. I’m yet to see what the proposal is and I’m also yet to hear and I think the community is entitled to hear how it is that we are made safer every time that we are proposing to increase the powers of police. We need to balance that question of will this make us safer against the loss of personal liberty that might be bound up in the increase in power. That’s the balance that we always have to consider and you can’t consider it until you see the detail of the proposal Tom.


CONNELL: I want to ask you about gun laws as well, there’s a bit of to and fro between the two major parties on this. You don’t want to agree to the minimum mandatory sentencing of illegal gun smugglers of five years. Are you willing to work at all on this – one year, two years, to send a message that if you do smuggle illegal firearms you will go to jail?


DREYFUS: We’ve already sent that message Tom and there’s been shocking misinformation from Mr Keenan yesterday suggesting that Labor was holding up new gun smuggling legislation in the Senate. It already passed the Senate in February with major increases in the sentences for smuggling firearms, trafficking firearms which are federal offences. And we don’t know why Mr Keenan and the government have waited for eight months before bringing that bill back. He knows very well – it’s long-standing Labor policy to oppose mandatory sentences which take away judicial discretion. The Parliament’s job is to send a message that it thinks these offences are very serious, by increasing ..


CONNELL: I take your point on that but I’m just asking whether you would reconsider – perhaps five years is too much, but could you consider a year, work with the government on this? That you would still send a message that you would go to jail but at a much lower level. There would still be plenty of judicial discretion of one year to life in prison?


DREYFUS: The Senate has passed this bill with Labor’s amendments increasing the maximum sentences to 30 years making it a very very serious offence indeed. It’s passed the Senate, the government should bring it back to the House – I don’t know why they’ve waited eight months. They can’t be serious about saying that they want to take action on gun control if they are not bringing that bill back into the House.


CONNELL: I’m just trying to ascertain though if there is any room to wriggle on the mandatory sentencing. Whether you would go instead of five, offer one instead – again as I say still give plenty of discretion to judges?


DREYFUS: This is a matter of principle Tom. Mandatory sentencing takes away the power of judges to make the sentence, to make the penalty fit the crime. It’s a really important part of the judicial process. What Parliaments do is set maximum sentences. They don’t dictate to the courts what they should be sentencing particular offenders with.


CONNELL: If there’s a smuggler bringing in illegal firearms or trafficking them around the country, what’s the situation in which they shouldn’t get at least one year in jail?


DREYFUS: I think you’re missing the point – there will always be circumstances, Tom, where particular sentences should be imposed for one offender and not for another. There might be the question of whether or not this is a prior offender who has convictions for the same offence. There might be questions of whether there are other aggravating circumstances. There might be questions about quantity – all of those things have to be taken into account and it’s wrong in principle for the Parliament to dictate in advance that there must be a minimum penalty imposed. The question that Parliament determines is how serious is this offence and what should the maximum penalty be? Leaving it to courts to determine what is the appropriate penalty in each case. It’s a very important principle about the separation of powers. Labor has made its position clear for many years now, it’s part of our national platform.


CONNELL: Just finally on this sorry, you’ve got someone who has smuggled an illegal gun – it might be a handgun [inaudible] is that an example where you would say it’s not at the top end of the scale? Or would that be an example where you think mandatory sentencing is too harsh?


DREYFUS: Labor treats all gun trafficking, all gun smuggling, all illegal importation of firearms as extremely important. That’s why we have increased the penalties and we urge the government to bring this bill back into the House of Representatives so that it can become law and in no sense am I to be taken as saying in any way that Labor treats this as anything other than very serious. But the exact sentence Tom that is imposed….


CONNELL: Fair enough I want to ask you though about several Liberal MPs because they’re talking about religious protections for same-sex marriage and the Dean Smith Private Members’ Bill not going far enough – if the plebiscite, the postal survey is a yes – would you consider supporting protections that go further than what we’ve seen so far in Dean Smith’s bill?


DREYFUS: Dean Smith and other Liberals have put a tremendous amount of effort working with a Senate committee earlier in the year and then drafting a bill based on that Senate committee’s unanimous report, to reach what I regard as an acceptable compromise if marriage equality is to be achieved in Australia. It provides protections for religious bodies, for religious groups – it provides protections for a new class of marriage celebrant to be called “religious marriage celebrants” and as I say, I think it’s an acceptable compromise and I’m looking forward to there being a ‘yes’ vote. Hopefully a resounding yes vote recorded in this postal survey. But I can’t guarantee what the result will be. My hope is that it will be yes and when it is yes we will need to have the government allow a bill to be brought to the Parliament and a full free vote allowed on that bill. That’s the important thing here.


CONNELL: But on those details, because we’ve seen all of this detail – is that as far as Labor would go? Would you go any further in terms of protections?


DREYFUS: Labor’s shown that it is prepared to work in a spirit of compromise with all parties in the Australian Parliament. This is a job for the Parliament – that’s why the survey is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ money. $122 million for goodness’ sake. If the survey….


CONNELL: But just on the detail because we’re running out of time, is this the line, that you’re saying you might work?

DREYFUS: No we will work. The detail, Tom, has to come from those who are saying they want something else. What I’m hearing from die-hard “no” campaigners is that they actually want to roll back protections against discrimination that have been part of Australian law since 1984. If that’s what they want, they should come out and say it and then we can have that discussion. But simply saying vaguely “oh we want to see some changes” that’s not good enough. The detail has to come from them. There is already an acceptable compromise on the table.


CONNELL: Mark Dreyfus thanks for your time today.


DREYFUS: Thanks very much Tom.