Thursday, 28 June 2018

ABC News Breakfast



Subjects: Defence Call-outs; cross examination in family courts; corporate tax cuts; Labor Leadership

MICHAEL ROWLAND: It is all part of a very busy week in politics, with The Federal Government today introducing legislation to make it much easier for police to call in the Defence Force to respond to terrorist instances. To speak about that, we're joined now from Parliament House by the Attorney-General Christian Porter.

Mr Porter, good morning to you.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Morning, Michael.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: What problem is the Government trying to fix here?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, there's been a standard that's operated a threshold for the calling out, on an assisted basis, of the ADF, which has been incredibly inflexible. So, basically the question that state police in a Lindt Café-style siege or another terrorist type event would ask themselves is, are they being completely overwhelmed by the situation. Now, that's a very, very high, very inflexible standard. And it just doesn't ask the fundamentally important question which is whether or not there are particular skills or assets that the ADF might be able to bring into play which would help save Australian lives. So, the standard has been changed so that we can have a much better cooperative approach and particularly for siege type situations or - heaven forbid we should ever experience in Australia - the types of situations we've seen at London Bridge and the Paris terrorist attacks.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. So, you've moved the threshold down from being overwhelmed to what, where will that threshold begin?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah. so, the threshold now is a more flexible and global threshold where we consider the nature of the domestic violence - which is a constitutional term, but effectively the nature and scale of the terrorist attack - and then marry that against what types of ADF assets might be available which could assist save Australian lives. So, for instance in a long siege type situation, it may be that the SAS or commando regiments would have particular skills that could assist and help save Australian lives. In widespread attacks, it may be that ADF personnel could also deploy air assets that could be helpful. And of course, the ADF have very particular skills in combating chemical and biological attacks. So, what we're trying to do is make sure that we bring the right assets and skills into play to help save Australian lives should those situations ever arise.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: So, if this legislation was in place, and hindsight is always a wonderful thing, but if this was in place in 2014, commandos would have gone in much earlier to the Lindt Cafe?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, it's just not possible to say that with hindsight. And as you say, it's a wonderful thing. But even with hindsight it's impossibly difficult to say. But what the Lindt Cafe siege did do was got all the Australian jurisdictions, the states, the territories, the Commonwealth, thinking about what are really quite old laws. The Prime Minister's taken a personal interest in this. And the Turnbull Government's prime objective is to keep Australians safe. And what we all determined together was that the very traditional rules that had existed were just too inflexible. And the right question in a siege type situation is whether or not there are assets and skills that the ADF have that can be readily and cooperatively deployed that will make the response better and help save Australian lives. So, this is a very fundamental change, it's been some time in the making because, of course, we've done it in a considered and collaborative way with the states and territories. But what it means is that there are going to be more resources at the disposal of state police that they can call on to help combat a terrorist situation should it arise.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And police will still have operational command in these situations?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That's correct. So, ADF personnel will be under their own command but they will only operate at the request and instruction of the state command.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. A couple of other quick issues before you go, Christian Porter. The Government is also bringing in legislation, looking at a plan to limit the scope for perpetrators of domestic violence to cross-examine their witnesses in a court room. Why are you doing that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, in the criminal jurisdiction many years ago the practice was ended where a self-represented litigant would be able to cross-examine their victim in a sexual violence or in a rape matter. Now, that situation unfortunately persists in a very small number of instances in the Family Court. And again, after great consultation we've decided that for those very small number of cases where there are clear allegations or indeed convictions of violence, the perpetrator of the violence should not be able to cross-examine the victim of the violence. So, in those circumstances cross-examination can and should probably still happen but it will have to be conducted by an independent counsel.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. It's the final sitting day of Parliament ahead of that lengthy winter break. What chance do you give of Pauline Hanson once again changing her mind on those company tax cuts?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think Pauline Hanson's faced with the same decisions that Australians will be faced with at by-elections. And you've got a choice between the Liberal-National Coalition - which is for decreasing taxes on business which lets them invest more in their business and grow the economy and grow jobs - and Bill Shorten who has made a captain's call to whack up taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, which will crush economic growth, which will ensure that businesses don't have money to reinvest and grow jobs. And that choice is now clear because of his captain's call. And I think that will probably crystallise Pauline Hanson's views on this and I'm optimistic about it.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Optimistic, so you think she might come on board today?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I mean when you look at the absolute disastrous captain's call that Bill Shorten has made, you've got a situation where the lines of demarcation and the choices for Australians, including Pauline Hanson, are becoming clearer and clearer every day. The reason we've been able to create a million jobs - 410,000 jobs, a record last year - is because we are decreasing taxes on small and medium-sized businesses. The alternative proposition from Bill Shorten is to actually increase those taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, that will only have the effect of destroying job growth, meaning that there are not jobs available for our kids when they leave TAFE or when they leave school or when they leave uni. And I think that this will play into Pauline Hanson's thinking over the next day or so.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Watch this space. And listen, just before we go, you hinted there, there's a bit of contention, a bit of instability on the other side of politics. Christian Porter, who would a Coalition government fear more: Opposition leader Bill Shorten or Opposition leader Anthony Albanese?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, what everyone should fear is a Labor Party who would jack up taxes on business and destroy jobs growth.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Are you worried about the prospect of Opposition leader Anthony Albanese?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: What we are doing is growing the economy. What Bill Shorten is doing is destroying businesses and their prospects for job growth.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Christian Porter, Attorney-General, thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast.