5 November 2017
Transcript - #2017037, 2017

Interview with Barrie Cassidy, Insiders

SUBJECTS: Citizenship; royal commission into the banks; superannuation reforms

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Minister, good morning. Welcome.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good morning Barrie.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Would an audit really be as complicated as the Prime Minister suggests?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Hearing all of the smear and political innuendo from Labor and the Greens is really beyond the pail. I know that facts have become very inconvenient...

BARRIE CASSIDY:

What sort of innuendo are you talking about?

KELLY O’DWYER:

In your previous interview. I know that facts have become inconvenient in a post truth world but the facts are clear and the facts are these: that any Senator and any Member of Parliament has an obligation under the Constitution to be completely in compliance with the Constitution, and that includes Section 44 of the Constitution. Now, if they believe that they are not compliant with the Constitution, they have an obligation, which is a continuing and live obligation, to come forward and refer themselves through the Parliament to the High Court…

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But that’s not working.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Let me just finish. Because the High Court is actually the only institution that can categorically rule on whether or not someone is eligible or ineligible...

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But they can’t rule unless somebody refers a case to them.

KELLY O’DWYER:

…to sit in the parliament. And this is the point. You can’t have an individual, a committee, an audit, resolve this matter at all. It is an obligation...

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But the audit is there to identify the people who should go to the High Court. They’re not identifying themselves?

KELLY O’DWYER:

The process is very clear right now, Barrie, which is that you can actually currently be referred to the High Court right now. And if someone believes that there is a Member of Parliament or a Senator who is not in compliance with their obligations under the Constitution, they can move a motion in the House of Representatives or in the Senate to refer them to the High Court. So no witch-hunt, no Salem witch trial will actually take away from the fact that the High Court is the only arbiter on this particular question. So I think we need to take a pretty deep breath, because those people who said they’re not compliant have, in fact, come forward and the High Court has made a determination and it is clear. And anyone who feels that they are not compliant needs to come forward and seek that referral and anyone who doesn’t asserts that they are currently compliant with the Constitution.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But you’re right, at the moment, citizens are doing this, the media is doing this, the media is doing the outing and the citizens are doing the outing, not the politicians. They’re waiting until they get caught.

KELLY O’DWYER:

That’s not true. Barrie that’s actually not true. Every single person who has come before the High Court has actually come forward. So it’s actually not true at all to say that they have been outed. They, themselves, have come forward and said – we don’t believe that we’re compliant with the Constitution, with Section 44. The referral has been made to the High Court. The High Court has made a decision. Five people have been found not to be compliant with the Constitution. Two have been found to be compliant. Since the ruling, an additional member has come forward and the matter will be referred to the High Court for their determination.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

If you had a full audit, though, you wouldn’t get the Josh Frydenberg situation where he’s dragged through it. You wouldn’t get the Alex Hawke suggestion where he denies it.

KELLY O’DWYER:

That’s not correct, because all an audit would do, all a smear campaign as what has happened with Josh Frydenberg, which by the way, I think is an absolute disgrace. Josh Frydenberg’s mother came from Hungary stateless as a refugee after the Second World War when her family had been put into a refugee camp at the time because many Jews, as we all know, were sent to the gas chamber. She came stateless. Stateless to this country. And the idea that somehow Josh Frydenberg has a question around his eligibility because of his stateless mother is absurd.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Because in 2011, Hungary, trying to do the right thing, to restore an historical wrong, restored citizenship to those people and that’s why this became a question around Josh Frydenberg.

KELLY O’DWYER:

But it’s completely absurd and this is the point.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Of course it’s absurd and it might be ridiculous, but is it the law?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, if someone feels that they want to refer him to the High Court, then they can stand up in the parliament and make that referral. Now, I haven’t heard the Labor Party, the Greens or anyone else suggesting that he is not completely in compliance with his obligations under the Constitution. But if they want to make that referral, it is a matter for them and I think if we see that referral be made, I think it will be very, very clear that it is smear, muck-raking and that simply, the Labor Party and the Greens are interested in politics rather than the national interest.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But the Australian newspaper that raised that Josh Frydenberg issue, not the Labor Party.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, the Australian people are actually really sick of this.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So it was the Australian newspaper doing the smearing, is that what you’re suggesting?

KELLY O’DWYER:

No, I’m suggesting that those who are perpetuating this line are doing the smearing, and I’m suggesting that there is a job for the Government to do. That is to get on, to create the right environment, to create jobs in this country, which we have done, more than 371,000 jobs created in the last 12 months. Our job is to protect the security of our people and our borders. We’ve got legislation going through the parliament right now that will have minimum sentences for those people who are involved in gun trafficking, which by the way, is being blocked by the Greens and the Labor Party. We are putting forward measures to cut company taxes for those people who are in small business, making it easier for them to be able to invest in business. And we’re cutting personal income taxes for those people on middle-incomes. I mean, these are the things that people are actually interested in. They’re not interested in genealogy.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

And probably interested too on whether the members are entitled to be whether they are.

KELLY O’DWYER:

And that’s a matter for the High Court.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

And that could become quite a constitutional issue. But Alex Hawke, what do you make of that situation?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Again, he’s made it very clear, he’s an Australian citizen. Always has been an Australian citizen.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But is it enough for him to declare that, or should the onus be on him to demonstrate that?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We have rule of law in this country. We don’t have a reverse onus of proof here where you’re guilty until proven innocent. Mr Shorten of all people should be particularly aware of this.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But you talk about the onus of proof. Sarah Henderson, one of your own backbenchers, tweeted yesterday that Bill Shorten has an obligation to prove that one of his backbenchers is eligible to sit in the parliament. So there’s no consistency on this.

KELLY O’DWYER:

The Government has been entirely consistent on this matter. We’ve said there is a very clear process. The clear process has been followed to date, it will be continue to be followed, that where individual Senators or members say that they are in breach of their obligations under the Constitution, they will be referred through a motion in either the Senate or the House to the High Court and if there is another member of parliament who believes that one of their colleagues out to be referred, they, similarly, can present their evidence in a motion in the House or Senate and refer them to the High Court, which is the only arbiter.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

So you’re saying that there’s really no need for either the Labor Party idea or the Greens idea?

KELLY O’DWYER:

What is the Labor Party idea? What is it? You’ve got Bill Shorten out there politically smearing everybody. I don’t actually know what it is that he’s proposed. And I don’t think you do either?

BARRIE CASSIDY:

It’s universal disclosure, which bascially means…

KELLY O’DWYER:

What does that mean?

BARRIE CASSIDY:

It means that members have to produce some evidence of what they have done to satisfy themselves that they’re not dual citizens.

KELLY O’DWYER:

What it means is what we’ve said, which is the obligation of every Senator and every House of Representatives member to be compliant with the Constitution. That’s what it is. And at the end of the day, that’s what everyone asserts, unless it is established that there is a case and that there should be a referral to the High Court.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

A couple of other quick issues in the time left. That the Labor Party are looking into a Royal Commission into the banks. Do you think they will take the opportunity, now that you’re down, in the House of Representatives to bring that on?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We still have a majority in the House of Representatives, even though Barnaby Joyce is standing in a by-election in the seat of New England. But let me say this about a Royal Commission – the Labor Party are absolutely notorious in kicking the can down the road on issues where they actually have no plan and no policy. We saw so many financial scandals on their watch, in fact, when Bill Shorten himself, the Leader of the Opposition Leader now, was the minister who was responsible for financial services and superannuation. Our Government has taken very decisive action in dealing with many of these scandals. We know that when people...

BARRIE CASSIDY:

We’re talking here about the Royal Commission into the banks.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I’m actually saying we’re taking action. You can have a talkfest that costs $150 million that kicks the can down the road for a number of years. Or you can do what we’re doing which is already we’ve got legislation in the parliament right now that will address issues for small businesses and individuals who have a dispute with their financial institutions. Small businesses for the very first time will be able to seek compensation of up to $1 million without going to a court through the new Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

But part of the task is to persuade your own people on that because you know there are two or three who are vulnerable on this issue.

KELLY O’DWYER:

It’s very clear that we’re taking action right now. We’re making bank executives far more accountable through the Banks Executive Accountability Regime. And if they’re in breach of that, there are fines and penalties of $200 million. We’ve put a major bank levy on the banks because of their importance in our financial stability, our financial system. We have made sure that the regulator has got increased powers through ensuring that the penalties are higher and they’ve got tools to be able to address harm being eventuated onto people through the product intervention power.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

The other issue you’re working on is the governance of superannuation funds and you want to legislate to guarantee that at least one third of directors are independents. Is the problem with this now given the situation around the raid against the AWU that people will see this through the prism that this again is just the Coalition having a go at the unions and it’s a fight against the unions?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Absolutely not. And the reason is because it’s far more than simply one measure. We’ve got a superannuation system that we force people into because we want them to save for their retirement. 25 years ago, it was worth about $136 billion. Today it’s over $2.3 trillion. That’s the retirement savings of millions and millions of Australians. And all we are seeking to do is to give the regulator powers to protect that money. To give them the powers to intervene before harm occurs. To make sure that that money is protected. And the laws apply to everyone, whether they’re in retail funds, industry funds or corporate funds. It applies equally across the board so that members can be confident that the decisions that are being made around their money is in their best interests.

BARRIE CASSIDY:

Thank you for your time this morning, appreciate it.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great pleasure Barrie.