Thursday, 15 November 2018

6PR – Mornings with Gareth Parker



Subjects: GST; speaking to school students; ICAC

GARETH PARKER: As he does every Thursday, the Attorney General Christian Porter joins me. Christian, good morning.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Morning Gareth, how are you?

GARETH PARKER: I'm okay. I think it's reasonable to say this - congratulations, GST reform is now done.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah. It's a great thing for all West Australians to wake up to. I'm always reminded of, I think it was Ronald Reagan who said that it's amazing how much more he was able to get done if he cared less about taking credit for things. So, you know, everyone- success has a thousand fathers right? But…

GARETH PARKER: In this case it's got more than a thousand. I'm keeping a tally, it's up to 2403.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: There's a lot. But I think personally, I mean leaving state politics because I knew that if I stayed in state politics I could complain about the issue but you really needed to be inside federal politics, inside a government, inside a Cabinet to have a major effect on producing an outcome. So I've seen people like Julie Bishop and Mathias Cormann and myself and others inside Cabinet working on this. And I've got to say that ultimately, it was Scott Morrison then as Treasurer now as Prime Minister, who devised the particular detail of the policy that could actually bring people together and produce a result through legislation and the Parliament that everyone is largely satisfied with. And the problem was always that we knew that we were being ripped off, but you had to devise a solution to making us better off that didn't make others worse off, otherwise you were never going to get a result. So Scott Morrison has been absolutely pivotal in what's happened and my personal thanks go out to him.

GARETH PARKER: So is it going to save your seat?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well I mean people aren't going to build statues to you in the suburbs of Perth. I just think, like this is what people expect, like we we're getting ripped off and they wanted it fixed and we fixed it. And you'll get half a day's pat on the back and then you're back out to the grind of electoral politics. So I think it is very helpful and had it not been fixed that would've been very difficult. But people expect you to get on with a whole range of pieces of your job and that was one of them. So you tick it off and you move on.

GARETH PARKER: Okay. I understand you're out talking to schoolkids in your electorate today, which all pollies do from time to time. I'm interested in this; what do you do or what do you tell them? Actually more importantly, what do they tell you about how they regard politics as a vocation; politicians and the job that they're doing; are they relevant to schoolkids?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: What I find, and we we're at Quinns Baptist College today who were great, bright kids as almost all the kids that go out and visit are; what really amazes me is you get classes of year 10s or year 11s and you have 80 of them in a room and their kind of views as expressed directly by them putting a point of view or by asking question, are as broad as the views that you get at any parliament or in any sort of cross-section of our society. So you've got kids in a room who are very concerned about immigration and refugee issues, you've got kids who are concerned about terrorism issues and it's just such this breathtaking breadth of different views and opinions. And kids are smart; they read a lot, probably more than what you or I did when we were at school and…

GARETH PARKER: Are they idealistic or are they cynical?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look, curious mixture of both in a way. And of course, they're just sort of starting out on this journey of reading and understanding about issues that affect them. But there were questions today about compulsory voting and about voting age and in a roomful of people, young Australians asking questions about whether or not it's a good idea to have compulsory voting and a pretty even spread of views as to whether it's a good or a bad idea.

GARETH PARKER: Well there's some people who are pushing for the votes to be given for 16 year olds which would include presumably some of those year 10s and 11s.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah absolutely. I mean everyone at 16 thinks it's a great idea and a whole lot of people at 48 think maybe not. It's just one of those things. But, I mean I think that there's certainly - it's growing your understanding of issues, so there's a lot of simple expression of emotion in political issues and sometimes for younger voters that emotional aspect of issues kind of dominates over more detail on economic parts of issues. But it's a huge breadth of views in school classrooms.

GARETH PARKER: An issue that's been running nationally is this sort of - it's not a new suggestion by any means - it's a debate that's been going on for some time. Do we need a dedicated corruption watchdog for the federal level of government in the same way that we have a CCC in this state, an ICAC in NSW and other similar bodies in other states? Where do you stand on this because ultimately it's a question for your Attorney General's portfolio and a lot of people have looked at it and said, well yes, this needs to happen; why shouldn't there be specific oversight on these issues?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah and equally a lot of people think that there's a whole range of reasons why you might not do that. But, well the Federal Government is different in one very particular respect to state government, is that it's much larger and much broader. And so the way in which the Federal Government over decades has handled this issue is that they've had specific integrity agencies responsible for specific parts of the overarching landscape of Federal Government.
Now there's a suggestion that you would either put a line through all of those existing agencies and consolidate them into a new overarching agency or you'd have something that looks like the CCC or in New South Wales they call it the ICAC - sitting on top of all those agencies. And I think that the fundamental point is that the present system actually works fairly well. Like no one seriously argues that we've got endemic corruption in the federal public sector and on all the international measures Australia ranks very high as a low corruption jurisdiction.

So I don't say that you can't improve the present arrangements, but I think you have to look at the detail and act pretty cautiously. And the reason I say that is that having a body that mimics a state-based body like the CCC or New South Wales ICAC, the people who've lived through that experience - the experience and the results have been very mixed. I mean there have been not insignificant successes sure, but there's also been some very substantial failures. And at a state level you've had some of these bodies making declarations in public reports of corruption that have been found to be in the High Court or at a higher level through parliamentary inspectors 100 per cent totally wrong, which ruined people's careers unlawfully. You've had these bodies withholding exculpatory evidence from prosecutors; you've had these bodies themselves with unlawful conduct inside the bodies, criminal charges laid against employees. I mean, they haven't been a pure and unadulterated success at the state level, so I think you want to be pretty cautious as to how you'd refine the federal system. But it's an open question.

GARETH PARKER: Okay. We'll wait and see. Christian, appreciate your time. Thank you.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Thank you Gareth.

GARETH PARKER: The Attorney General, Christian Porter.