SUBJECT/S: Senate reform; election timing; PlayUp
THE HON. MARK DREYFUS QC, MP
MEMBER FOR ISAACS
SKY NEWS, THE LATEST WITH LAURA JAYES
TUESDAY, 15 MARCH 2016
SUBJECT/S: Senate reform; election timing; PlayUp
LAURA JAYES, HOST: With me in the studio, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, thanks so much for your time.
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Good to be with you Laura.
JAYES: Thank you. Labor’s up in the polls, Malcolm Turnbull is losing his shine according to some of the polls. Isn’t it in Labor’s interest to go to a double dissolution election?
DREYFUS: I think the Prime Minister would have to justify why we need to go to a double dissolution election. As Bill Shorten has now said more than once, we are ready for an election whenever it is called. And as I think now is clear to just about everyone in Australia, we’ve got a set of policies to take to an election, we’re left wondering what it is that this government has done over the last two-and-a-half years, in particular what happened to the economic leadership that Malcolm Turnbull said he was offering when he took the leadership from Mr Abbott?
JAYES: The government would argue it’s taking a steady approach to these sorts of things and all will be revealed in the budget, and on the budget, if it is held on May 3 which hasn’t been ruled out by the government, Bill Shorten indicated today that Labor would not block supply but how quickly can you pass supply bills?
DREYFUS: Well it depends on what form the bills take, but there is a principle that is really important, that is our leader said today we will not block supply. This is something that is part of Labor’s history. 1975 is an event that is etched, I would think, in the minds of every Labor politician. We will not block supply. If supply needs to be passed, we will…
JAYES: You would still want to examine the bills though and how quickly could you do that?
DREYFUS: We’ll have to examine the bills, as I’m saying it depends what form they take, what form the government chooses to bring them forward in.
JAYES: What we’ve seen in the Senate today, a lot of finger-pointing, fireworks…this is what I believe that the public hates about politics. The finger-pointing, the self-interest, the game playing, the tactics that have gone in. That does include Labor to some extent though, because two years ago Labor supported Senate voting reform. But today you don’t. Doesn’t that look hypocritical?
DREYFUS: The government has only itself to blame for the events that have been occurring in the Senate today. The report you just mentioned was from May 2014. This government has been in power since September 2013, that’s nearly two-and-a-half years, and here we are, with three days in this sitting week before Parliament adjourns at the end of this week before budget day. The government has decided to jam through…
JAYES: But this has been pondered over for years, what more do you need to look at? And if it’s just a timing issue, what about the substantive issue of senate reform? Do you not support the timing or do you not support the reform?
DREYFUS: This needs to be properly debated. This is the voting system for the Australian Senate. And I think that we deserve a great deal better than jammed through, in a sweetheart deal made between the Greens and the Liberal Party who believe this bill is in their interest, for their own political advantage, it’s been jammed through without the opportunity of debate, and it’s no wonder that very many of the Senators, particularly the crossbench senators who believe they are the targets this bill, are resisting. That’s using parliamentary procedures that are available to them, the government has itself to blame for what’s happened.
JAYES: But do you agree with Gary Gray?
DREYFUS: No. This is a bill which is not democratic, it’s not the bill that should be introduced to introduce something that will truly reflect the will of the Australian people, something that will produce a good outcome for the Liberal Party and the Greens Party.
JAYES: You say Labor is ready for an election, one of the key policy areas which Bill Shorten touched on today is the ETS but we still haven’t seen the detail on that. When are we going to see whether Labor is going to put forward more compensation for low income earners to accompany this ETS and how many international permits will make up this policy? We need to see that in the next couple of weeks don’t we?
DREYFUS: Well you’re assuming we’re going to have an election then..
JAYES: So are you!
DREYFUS: No I don’t think we can say, because only the PM can say when the election is.
JAYES: But you say Labor is ready for an election..
DREYFUS: We are ready for an election, and in good time before that election, Australians will get a chance to judge all of our policies, in particular really important policies like our policy on climate change. There’s an area where there could not be a more stark difference between the Liberal Party which has spent two-and-a-half years wrecking a comprehensive scheme of action on climate change that we had put in place by the time of the last election, replacing it with a completely failed scheme, the emissions reduction fund, which Mr Turnbull himself when in opposition described as a hopeless scheme that was fiscally reckless. He’s now Prime Minister in charge of climate change policy and that’s all they’ve got. We on the other hand will go to the election supporting renewable energy, supporting the emissions trading scheme, supporting comprehensive policy and real action on climate change. There’s a very sharp difference on that policy alone.
JAYES: Well we’ll wait to see your detail on ETS. Just while we’re waiting to see the government’s detail on tax policy, but just one final question to you Mr Dreyfus, today you used Question Time to draw a comparison between Clive Palmer and his handling of Queensland Nickel, and Mr Turnbull the Prime Minister and his involvement in a failed venture called PlayUp. Was that a bit disingenuous to draw those comparisons today?
DREYFUS: Well you’ve accepted the Prime Minister’s characterisation of my questions, what I was doing was very sharply drawing attention to the Prime Minister’s own criticisms of Clive Palmer, his condemnation of Clive Palmer’s treatment of the workers at Queensland Nickel, in particular the Prime Minister pointing to the fact that those same workers were going to miss out on their entitlements, and in a company which the Prime Minister himself had a very large investment of over a million dollars, that is the very situation which has occurred.
JAYES: But he was just an investor, he didn’t make these decisions, he was totally at arm’s length from this he points out. And we’re talking about 26 employees, not 550.
DREYFUS: All employees’ rights and entitlements need to be respected, and there is an immense amount of hypocrisy in the Prime Minister, trying to attack Clive Palmer in the way he has about the situation of workers at Queensland Nickel, and at the same time over the last two years he himself has recovered an investment in a preferential way which wasn’t available to other investors in this very same start-up company PlayUp, and leaving workers not being paid and not with their entitlements, there’s many more questions the Prime Minister has to answer in respect of this company, not least how did he deal with the very clear conflict of interest that he had as Communications Minister, a ministerial responsibility for this very kind of high-tech start-up, he continued to hold shares for some months after he became minister, and he continued to have a large financial interest in this company in the form of a loan, while he was minister.
JAYES: OK Shadow-Attorney General Mark Dreyfus we thank you for your time on The Latest.
DREYFUS: Very good to be with you.