23 August 2017
Transcript - #2017026, 2017

Interview with Tamara Oudyn, 774 Pollie-Graph

SUBJECTS: polls; citizenship; drug testing for welfare recipients; royal commission into the banks; troops in Afghanistan

TAMARA OUDYN:

Well after a torrid week for the Government last week in which the citizenship fiasco dominated the agenda, all eyes are on the High Court for a directions hearing into the matter tomorrow. For more on this and everything else making news in politics this week, I’m joined by Mark Dreyfus, the Shadow Attorney-General and the Shadow Minister for National Security and Kelly O’Dwyer, the Member for Higgins and the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services. Welcome to you both.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great to be with you.

MARK DREYFUS:

Good to be with you.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Kelly can I start with you. The Federal Government’s taken another hit in the polls off the back of last week. What do you put that down to?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I don’t really spend much time thinking about the polls.

TAMARA OUDYN:

You always say that.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well it’s actually true, I’m too busy to be frank. I’m a mother of two small children.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Well I’ll bring you up to speed then – Coalition has fallen to 46 to 54 two party preferred in Newspoll as well as hits to Malcolm Turnbull’s preferred PM and satisfaction ratings. Would you put that down to the events of last week?

KELLY O’DWYER:

What I was going to say is I’m solely focused on doing my job as the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services and only yesterday, for instance, the Australian Taxation Office revealed that the crackdown that we have placed on multinational companies by changing the law by closing Labor’s loopholes is actually working.

TAMARA OUDYN:

To be fair, I didn’t ask you about that. Just on the poll, about half a dozen or so Liberal MPs have told Fairfax today that the citizenship debacle is likely the root cause of this and to a lesser degree, the same-sex marriage postal survey. What are your thoughts on that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I actually think your listeners, Tamara, are not interested in commentary on the polls. Frankly, if you want commentary on the polls, you’re best not to talk to parliamentarians. I’m here to talk about policy issues, things that actually affect people in their daily lives.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Well some parliamentarians are actually concerned about it, which I find interesting.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think you’ll find if you talk to most parliamentarians, they are concerned about policy, what actually makes people’s lives better. And one of those things that I’m particularly concerned about right now is making sure we shut down loopholes that have existed in our taxation system, making sure that those people who are big companies, those big corporations, who actually earn revenue in Australia, actually pay tax in Australia.

TAMARA OUDYN:

I suspect an issue that’s front of brain for a lot of voters, and for politicians for that matter too, is citizenship. Mark Dreyfus, Bill Shorten said that he won’t be releasing his citizenship documents and that he did his due diligence around this before entering politics. If that’s the case, why not just put this issue to bed, get the documents out, and prove it once and for all and we can all move on?

MARK DREYFUS:

Because there’s no reason to and Bill is in the same position as a whole bunch of other MPs who have done due diligence and have renounced their former citizenship and that’s where it ends. I mean, what are we going to do, are we going to have the more than 20 MPs who are born overseas and the more than 20 MPs whose parents are born overseas –

TAMARA OUDYN:

But what it’s feeling like at the moment is this excruciating drip-feed of ‘oh and another one bites the dust’. It just keeps breaking over and over.

MARK DREYFUS:

I’m very confident in the due diligence that Labor has done. I’ve been, to some extent, involved in it for about six elections, and we check. I’ve been very surprised to learn that apparently, quite a number of other parties don’t. And that’s what’s produced the five – four Senators, one member of the house of reps, two more senators to come when we get back to Canberra on Monday 4 September, there’s going to be referrals of Senator Nash, another government minister, and Senator Xenophon. And you’ll notice that none of them is Labor and I think that’s because we’ve done very careful due diligence. But to answer your question that Kelly didn’t want to answer, I’m pleased that Kelly thinks that she’s doing her job because it’s absolutely apparent to Australians that most of the ministers up there aren’t. We had the foreign minister inventing a conspiracy, apparently, with New Zealand that was responsible for Barnaby Joyce being a New Zealand citizen. No wonder people are very upset with the Government wasting everyone’s time up there.

TAMARA OUDYN:

The Government’s been very hard on pushing for Bill Shorten to release his documents. Christopher Pyne was on Radio National Breakfast this morning, let’s take a listen to what he had to say on the matter.

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

I assume Bill Shorten’s refused to release it because if he did, it would put pressure of some of his own people in the Labor Party. Look, I just think the Australian public think it’s high time that we all got on with our day jobs and these kinds of inside the bubble discussions are very interesting, but it’s gone on long enough and it’s time to leave it to the High Court to make a decision.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Interesting, Kelly O'Dwyer, in that interview, Christopher Pyne seemed to strike a bit of a different note on this. He wasn’t going quite as hard on it. What do you make of that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, this matter is going to be before the High Court tomorrow and we hope that this issue will be resolved very quickly. Obviously the –

TAMARA OUDYN:

So does that signal a backing away from that stance that Bill Shorten needs to release his documents?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well what it simply signals is that the High Court will obviously examine these issues. These are important constitutional issues. The High Court will look at this in some detail. These are obviously issues that have been aired. There’s nothing more that really can be gained by much commentary on the issue, and frankly, we’ll have to wait for their decision and determination.

TAMARA OUDYN:

We’ve heard from John in Kensington. Hello John, what would you like to say?

CALLER:

What I would like to say is why don’t these politicians just stop wasting time and call for a full audit of who is and who isn’t eligible to stand in Parliament? Because surely it raises questions about the validity of decisions that are voted upon if somebody turns out not to be eligible even in being in Parliament.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Mark Dreyfus, do you want to tackle that question first?

MARK DREYFUS:

Sure. Doesn’t raise questions about the validity of the votes, but it certainly raises questions about the validity of ministerial decision-making if there’s ministers there who shouldn’t be. And that’s why we called for Barnaby Joyce to do exactly what Matt Canavan did, and that’s stand down from Cabinet. We’re calling for Senator Fiona Nash to stand down from her ministerial post, because we can’t have the uncertainty of ministers who have either been referred already, or who are about to be referred, whose status is absolutely uncertain, continuing to make ministerial decisions. And it’s extraordinary that the Government doesn’t seem to realise, or recognise, the amazing inconsistency between having Senator Canavan stand down from his Cabinet post, but by some curious process, Mr Joyce is to continue as Deputy Prime Minister and minister for about six portfolios, including those that had been held by Senator Canavan, and apparently Senator Nash isn’t going to stand down either. The questions about the eligibility for Parliament of the seven MPs who have been identified are going to be dealt with by the High Court and it’s not a matter of having a full audit of whom, by whom, of what. That’s why we have a court of disputed returns, that’s why the High Court’s going to deal with this.

TAMARA OUDYN:

I just want to give Kelly O'Dwyer an opportunity to answer your point and also to answer our caller John.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think to John’s point, I’m not sure an audit would actually reveal very much and on this I would actually agree with Mark Dreyfus because we now have the question before the High Court, they will determine whether people are ruled in or out on the basis of their interpretation of Section 44 of the Constitution. That’s not yet known, that’s not yet been determined, so auditing before that’s determined wouldn’t reveal terribly much at all. On the point that Mark has raised about exercising ministerial duties, the truth is that we have received very strong advice from the Solicitor-General that it is entirely appropriate for those ministers to continue to act in their roles. If we received different advice we would act differently.

TAMARA OUDYN:

OK 1300 222 774 is the number to call if you have a question for the politicians facing our Pollie-Graph segment today. The text line number is 0437 774 774. We’re talking citizenship at the moment. And Malcolm Roberts has suggested an audit on citizenship, it’s not the first time we’ve heard that in this half hour, to get this issue dealt with. Is there merit in that idea? Why can’t we entertain that idea?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look I think it really does depend, Tamara, on what the High Court finds on this particular issue. Following on from that, it may well be appropriate to have a look more broadly, but until such time as we actually know their determination, it would be premature to do anything of the sort.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Just on the High Court hearing, why should taxpayers be footing the bill for the five MPs now involved in this upcoming hearing tomorrow?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I’m not sure that taxpayers are in fact footing the bill. They’re footing the bill for the Solicitor-General, he’s paid an annual salary, that’s absolutely clear. But I think each individual parliamentarian has the opportunity to seek their own legal advice and may in fact exercise that.

MARK DREYFUS:

Sorry I need to correct Kelly here – the Government’s already volunteered to pay the cost of each of the MPs and it said so in the submission to the High Court yesterday.

KELLY O’DWYER:

No, no –

TAMARA OUDYN:

So why should taxpayers be paying for that? If these situations have come about from an oversight by the individuals concerned because they didn’t do their due diligence, why should taxpayers have to pay for it?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well the court can actually determine costs and who that is actually borne by, and that could, in fact, be borne by those individuals who are involved in this particular matter. So it’s not correct for Mark to say that that isn’t the case and I know that in certain circumstances –

MARK DREYFUS:

I’ve read the written submission the Government’s filed to the court.

KELLY O’DWYER:

…In certain circumstances, there will be ministers who have their own legal advice in addition to the Solicitor-General actually acting for the Government in relation to these very important constitutional questions.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Kelly O’Dwyer, let’s turn to the issue of drug testing for welfare recipients, which was announced yesterday. Today, the president of the AMA, Dr Michael Gannon, in his address to the Press Club this afternoon, had a crack at the Government’s proposal. He’s described it as not evidence based, it’s not fair, and we stand against it. What’s your reaction to that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, I’ve got a great deal of respect for him, however I would say this – we want young people to get into work. We want young people who are affected by drug or alcohol dependency to be able to get off drugs or alcohol. We want to be able to support them in doing that. The best pathway for people going forward is to be able to have a job, to secure their own economic future. And I think there would be a lot of listeners out there who would say finally, finally someone in the Government is actually talking common sense about making sure that we can assist those younger people, particularly, who have got these problems, who could face a whole lifetime of welfare dependency if they’re not given the appropriate help to actually resolve their issues and to get into work.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Mark Dreyfus, Labor’s not supporting this, what’s your response?

MARK DREYFUS:

Drug testing doesn’t work, it hasn’t worked anywhere, it’s demeaning and oppressive for welfare recipients, and it’ll lead to more crime, more homelessness, the Government needs to think again. It’s quite shameful that the Government’s proposing this.

TAMARA OUDYN:

You’re listening to Pollie-Graph on ABC Radio Melbourne. Let’s check the traffic now.

Hi there, you’re with me, Tamara Oudyn, for the journey home, and our weekly Pollie-Graph segment. Today features the Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer. I’ve got a full board of calls so let’s get to some now. Kevin has called from Geelong. Hi Kevin, what did you want to say?

CALLER:

I just wanted to make the observation to both of your guests. Look, the obligation is on us as electors to vote. In fact, we’re forced to, one of the very few countries on earth that does it. I think, if we’re going to be compelled to vote, I don’t think it’s too much of an ask to respectfully impose a certain obligation on the people that put themselves forward as candidates to get their house in order, and if they can’t do that, then to pay the appropriate penalty.

TAMARA OUDYN:

OK Kevin, let’s get a response to that. Kelly O'Dwyer.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, I can totally understand Kevin’s position and I don’t disagree with him and we’ll have a High Court ruling very shortly and it may well be that everything’s in order. It may be determined otherwise. It will be a matter for the High Court.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Mark Dreyfus?

MARK DREYFUS:

I agree with you absolutely Kevin. Politicians, people running for public office have got a job to do, they’ve got to get their own house in order, they’ve got to check. That’s the law at the moment. You’ve got to check and you’ve got to take reasonable steps to get rid of any dual citizenship. What Barnaby Joyce and these other MPs are depending on is that the High Court’s going to massively rewrite the current interpretation of Section 44 and speaking for myself, I think it’s sitting pretty well that it says you’ve got to check and you’ve got to take reasonable steps before you are eligible.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Hamish from Clifton Springs has called. Hi Hamish.

CALLER:

Hey. Just this whole situation with politicians and dual citizenship, it seems to me that none of these politicians have actually read the Constitution or understand what it actually states. The Constitution states that a dual citizen is someone from a foreign power. Now it states all states in Australia and New Zealand are part of the Commonwealth. If you were born in a Commonwealth country, including New Zealand, England, India, it goes on and on, they’re part of our Commonwealth Constitution. So no one has picked up on this, if they read Section 44 it states that clearly. Barnaby Joyce, even if he is born in New Zealand, he is still an Australian, he doesn’t have dual citizenship and he can still be in parliament. So what I’m saying is if these politicians, Senators are supposed to know the Constitution, every Senator apart from the one with the Italian citizenship, had no reason to resign, they should all have their jobs now.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Hamish, thanks for the call. I don’t propose to be a constitutional law expert but Mark Dreyfus what’s your response to that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

I think Mark does.

MARK DREYFUS:

Yeah. Heather Hill, a One Nation Senator elected to the 1998 election, took the exact point that Hamish is raising to the High Court and lost in 1999. She said that she was a citizen of Britain and that didn’t count as a foreign power and the High Court, in no uncertain terms, said that’s wrong, foreign power means every country other than Australia. So that’s the current interpretation of our constitution, it’s one I’m happy with, and it certainly doesn’t mean New Zealand or Sri Lanka or some other Commonwealth country, the High Court says it means every foreign country.

TAMARA OUDYN:

OK Les has called in from Yarraville. Hello Les.

CALLER:

Good afternoon. I’d like to ask Kelly what will it take to get a royal commission into the banks? I mean we’ve had a financial planning scandal, we’ve had the banks refusing to pay out to the sick and the dying on insurance policies, we’ve had interest rate rigging, and now we’ve got money laundering. I mean if this was a union you would not hesitate to call a royal commission and you just give the abundant impression that you’re there to protect the big end of town. I mean surely to goodness this rogue behaviour deserves some sort of formal inquiry?

TAMARA OUDYN:

Kelly your response?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well Les, I would not at all accept the premise of your question that the Government is protecting, in any way, people who are engaged in misconduct. The Government is very keen to resolve issues that people have, particularly with their financial institutions, including the banks. The Government has already announced action that it’s taking because the truth is a royal commission will do nothing other than inquiry into what the problems are. There have been so many inquiries. We, on coming into government, had a Financial System Inquiry, which, by the way, was actually opposed by the Labor Party, but we conducted it anyway to look at the strength and health of our financial system, including the banking system. The Government has already seen a number of inquiries in the Senate as well, and we’ve had the small business ombudsman look at specific instances of egregious behaviour by the banks. We have responded, we have said that we need a one-stop shop for consumer complaints. I will be bringing forward legislation into the parliament in the next two sitting weeks that will actually set that up. That will mean that people have a place to go to resolve their financial complaints with their bank, it will mean that they get paid compensation where that’s appropriate, it will mean that it will bind the bank, and it will be an independent person making the decision. Moreover, we’ve actually put in place a whole heap of other measures to actually bring the banks to account. We’ve imposed a bank levy as well in order to pay for a number of these measures and an accountability regime for bank executives to claw back their pay where there are instances of bad behaviour. I mean they’re just some of the measures but I could go on for quite some time Les.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Can we turn now to Donald Trump’s announcement of a shift in US policy on Afghanistan. To sum it up, it’s now less nation-building and more fighting terrorists. Let’s have a listen to what he had to say yesterday.

DONALD TRUMP:

We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Donald Trump there. So will we be sending Australian troops into combat in Afghanistan, Kelly O'Dwyer?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well look, Australia will always look at requests on their merits and we will always consider Australia's national interest first and foremost when making decisions.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Malcolm Turnbull said that as far as defence goes, we are “joined at the hip” with the US.

KELLY O’DWYER:

There is no doubt that our security alliance with the United States is incredibly important to Australia's security. No question. No question about that.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Has there been a request yet?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I’m not in a position to answer that question because I’m not the defence minister. I quite honestly cannot answer that question. But what I would say is if any request was received, the Government would consider what is in Australia’s national interest in responding to that request.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Given the Prime Minister’s comments about being joined at the hip and also the leaked telephone recording from the conversation between the Prime Minister and Donald Trump, are we likely to say yes?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think what was very clear from the telephone conversation with President Trump is that the Prime Minister more than held his own and was very, very strong in defending Australia’s interests.

TAMARA OUDYN:

But would the answer likely be yes, that’s what I’m asking you.

KELLY O’DWYER:

He made it very, very clear to President Trump that there was not going to be any welshing on any of the deals that had been done with the United States and he prosecuted our national interest, I think, very assiduously and he will continue to do that. He’s the Prime Minister not of America, but of Australia.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Mark Dreyfus, if Labor were in power would Australia be joined at the hip with the US?

MARK DREYFUS:

We will always consider our national interest and against that background we know that America is our most important ally. We’ve had a bipartisan position with the Government on our presence in Afghanistan and certainly I think it’s been bipartisan when we were in government as well. I don’t see why that shouldn’t continue but obviously if we were in government, we’d be looking at any request on its merits through the prism of our national interest.

TAMARA OUDYN:

Thank you both for taking part in Pollie-Graph this afternoon and for taking calls.