Subjects: Government stability, federal ICAC, Anti-terror legislation
GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter is the Attorney-General. He is in Canberra and he has a front row seat to what I reckon is the Liberal Party completely unravelling. Christian, good morning.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: You love a good exaggeration, Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Is it an exaggeration?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, the business of government goes on. It wasn't a very helpful start to the week but we have been a minority government, of course, since we lost the Wentworth by-election; and Julia Banks moving onto the crossbench doesn't change that fact. And as I say, the business of government goes on. So I tabled legislation that strengthens the ability of our Government to strip citizenship from terrorists in Australia.
GARETH PARKER: And we'll get..we'll come to that but I'm not going to let you off the hook that easily. This is not just…
GARETH PARKER: This is not something that it's a little bit inconvenient. This is a- everyone can see it. Your party looks dysfunctional. Your party looks divided. Your party looks consumed by its own internal issues and personalities and factions and the rights versus the moderates or whatever terms you want to call them. Julia Banks has gone. Craig Kelly suggests - well, there's suggestions he might go. Julie Bishop is out there doing whatever she's doing. It looks to me as though she's positioning herself to be an alternative leader. So you say the business of government goes on - it is not apparent to the rest of us that that is actually true.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, that's why I would take the opportunity to talk about the fact that the business of government is going on. I mean, look, I'll leave it for you and others to commentate, as you might guess I would. I will absolutely acknowledge it's been a very difficult start to the week. That's something that we would have preferred not to have had happened, but the reality is the business of government goes on. And in my electorate at least, they don't want me talking about my party or us talking about ourselves, and that's why whenever I get the opportunity, I talk about the things that matter to people in my electorate.
GARETH PARKER: Should you just go to the polls now and get it done with?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I think one thing Australians don't want to see is governments not serve their full term and have orthodox terms of government. I mean, all of this ironically happened, as you well know Gareth, at the time that the Prime Minister was announcing that the budget is going to be brought forward a month, which will allow for just an orthodox term of government and the delivery of the surplus, which will be the first one since the Howard years. And it's that surplus that allows us to build the roads in WA; to fund Ellenbrook Rail and Yanchep Rail. It's that surplus that allows us to spend record amounts on health in WA and on education in WA. And our economic management story is, in my view, completely outstanding and it's what underpins all of the services that West Australians rely on.
I don't dispute what you're saying, but it is sometimes hard to get that message through when you have disruptive weeks like we have had. But it doesn't change the fact that on all of the fundamental economic measurements of good government, we are a very good government and we're producing a budget and economy that lets us deliver services of the highest standard that any government can, particularly the West Australian. So it is a little bit frustrating sometimes that these things gets overshadowed.
GARETH PARKER: This is why I find it so confusing and even the way you say it: the disruptive week that we've had; these things become overshadowed. You make it sound as though it's something that sort of happens to the Liberal Party rather than something the Liberal Party and its members are doing to yourselves.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, again, you're inviting me to commentate and talk about internal matters; and all parties have these matters arise from time to time - that is a reality of modern politics. In fact, it's a reality of 100 years of federated politics in Australia. But what I come to Canberra to do is to try and make life better for the people in my electorate, my state - that is about policy; it's about economic performance; it's about funding roads, schools, hospitals.
GARETH PARKER: Have you set….
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: To be honest, mate, I don't even get involved in this stuff like I…
GARETH PARKER: Well, maybe you should tell your colleagues to lift their games, to pull their heads out of their bums, and actually get on and do the job that people elected them to do.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think that you can have that message strongly implied by the way in which I'm answering your questions today, and rest assured that does go on.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. How sustainable is this?
GARETH PARKER: I mean, you can't go on like this, right? As a party and as a Government.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: As a Government, again, I think that what we are doing is actually delivering the results that people want to see. I mean, we are delivering record funding for infrastructure, road, and rail in WA; of health in WA; of secondary education in WA. The reason we're able to do that is because we've been able to reverse the economic disaster of the Rudd-Gillard years; produce a surplus, which we will absolutely produce next year; and it's taken us five years' worth of grinding work to get the economy back into shape. A hundred thousand young people have now got jobs that didn't have jobs; 150,000 people have moved off welfare into work. These things actually matter to Western Australians.
And as I prepare for the next election, the single thing that I want to stop is a Labor government changing the rules around negative gearing, taxing our property, and killing house values across my electorate. So, I can only say to you, mate, it's unhelpful. It is disruptive. But you've got to keep your eye on the ball and particularly when you've had weeks when you're on a difficult wicket.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. More talk about a federal anti-corruption body. Has your thinking evolved on that? When we last spoke about it, you said you were open to models but you're wary that it be a body that creates new problems; that sort of points the finger at people unfairly rather than investigate corruption. I mean, I must say that the Reserve Bank corruption that was, the suppression order lifted on that was a pretty good advertisement for a federal ICAC, I must say.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, but equally speaking, that was detected, prosecuted, and successfully prosecuted under all the existing arrangements and I'm not denying…
GARETH PARKER: Yeah.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: …that there are some complicated arrangements that exist at a federal level. We've got this multi-agency system where you've got at least 13, in fact, more agencies, each looking into corruption in different parts of the public sector. But having also had the experience as state AG and as a prosecutor in WA and watching the CCC in WA – seeing what happened in NSW - it is far from as simple as just transplanting the New South Wales ICAC model into the federal sphere and you have to find the right balance.
This Monday, a private member's bill was introduced into Parliament. I think that represented the way that you probably would not go about improving the present arrangements. I mean, it had such a low definition of corruption that you would allow on a retrospective basis, which is extraordinary, very low levels of failure or maladministration in the public sector to be classified as corruption, including journalists who from time to time might end up in front of ACMA with a complaint against them. And you need to be really careful here, otherwise you get the type of excesses and failures that you've seen in New South Wales, and at times, with the CCC in WA. So, my view is that there's very significant improvement that can be made to the present arrangements. You've got to be really careful about how you go about it.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. Peter Dutton's done his shoulder so he's away. You've got his portfolio responsibilities this week. We understand that the bill around citizenship and terrorists, that that's been introduced today. Is that correct?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It has. So, we want to make it simpler for the Minister - in this case, Home Affairs, the Immigration Minister in that portfolio - to be able to revoke the citizenship - Australian citizenship - of people who have committed terrorist offences. The greatest privilege you can have in Australia is to have citizenship. There are, unfortunately, a number of people who mean to do us harm and have committed offences of terrorism. And where they're dual citizens and they've committed offences of terrorism, we will strip them of their citizenship. And the previous rule was that you couldn't do that unless someone had served six years in prison for a terrorism offence. Now, it'll be the mere conviction. So, if you're convicted of a terrorist offence and the Minister is satisfied that stripping you of your Australian citizenship won't make you stateless, you can expect that your citizenship to Australia will be taken from you, which means you'll be leaving Australia, or alternatively spending some time in immigration detention before that happens. But I think that most Australians, after seeing what happened at Bourke Street, think that this is an appropriate response to this, unfortunately ongoing threat.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. Thanks, Christian. Appreciate your time.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Cheers, Gareth.
GARETH PARKER: Good luck with the re-ravelling.
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