Monday, 02 July 2018

Perth Doorstop Interview



Subjects: Witness K, Brazil Extradition, serious overseas criminal matters; GST

QUESTION: Attorney-General. Can I ask you - what can you say about the recommendation that you received to prosecute Mr Collaery and Witness K. How strong was that recommendation?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I'm not going to say anymore than what I've said in a public media release, which confirmed the fact that I received advice, as is the usual course of these matters from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. That advice was to prosecute and I consented to that prosecution. So, an independent body in the CDPP provided me with that advice and I consented to the prosecution.

QUESTION: This has happened 14 years later and there has been some allegations that it's an attack on basic freedoms. Your response to that?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, people will take their own views, but what I've been privy to is the independent advice of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which was very detailed, very thorough. In matters of this type, there's a requirement to have the consent of the Attorney-General. But the decision to prosecute was an independent decision made by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions based on their consideration of the evidence, the law and their prosecution policy and guidelines.

QUESTION: Why go after the whistleblowers? Why not go for those who perpetrated the act?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Look, I'm not even sure that I understand what that question is.  But let me simply say again, I'm not going to go into the substance of a matter that is now before the courts. The matter will be tried before the courts and the prosecution will be heard before the court, and that has to run its course. And I'm not going to be making public comments on the nature of the prosecution. I am not the prosecutor, nor is the Government the prosecutor; not the judge, nor the jury in this matter and nor is the Government. The Government's role through me is to consider the independent advice from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and consider their request to consent to the prosecution and I offered that consent.

QUESTION: But you're not worried from what is in front of us and what we do know that it could deter whistleblowers from within the security and intelligence community?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, the law as it pertains at a Commonwealth level to whistleblowers is very strong, and very fair, and provides a range of avenues for anyone who considers that they've seen corruption or illegality in the course of their public sector work to come forward. Those processes are very well-known.

QUESTION: Marcelo Santoro - can you give us an update on how efforts to extradite him from Brazil are going at all?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: So, I'm afraid I'll have to give the same answer that I gave at the same gathering in Canberra, which is that the way in which our extradition treaties work and the only way that they can work is that we just do not give individual comment on individual matters that might be the subject of extradition proceedings, or indeed potential extradition proceedings.

QUESTION: What about the potential for him to be tried while not in the country and then be jailed in Brazil? Is that something that's on the cards or a possibility?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, those are matters not for the Commonwealth Government, but for the prosecuting authorities and the police. It is the case that the Commonwealth Government is the portal through which we handle extradition, but we don't make comment on individual expression matters. So you'd need to direct those questions to the state that's involved in the matter and the prosecutors.

QUESTION:         Just one more on the previous issue, sorry - why were only ABC journalists and producers' names on the charge sheet? Does that mean you and the DPP are saying that you did not speak to reporters from any other media organisation?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, those are matters- the indictment is not prepared by the Government. The indictment is prepared by the Commonwealth Director for Public Prosecutions. I'm not going to comment on the indictment. The difficulty with all of this is that the expansive commentary that you can sometimes get in these matters does no assistance to either the defence, or the prosecutors, or the court, or the jury in conducting a fair and procedurally regular trial. So I'm not going to get into commenting on individual matters such as that and I wouldn't do that in any trial that's before the courts.

QUESTION: Just on the announcement today for legal aid for Australians overseas. There's an emphasis on support…why have you placed assistance on supporting death penalty cases?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, there were a number of cases that have been brought to the attention of the Government through the good work of the media, where I would say the allocation - in some cases of hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund the defence of individuals - was not in line with what my best judgment about community expectations would be. What we've done now with respect to the overseas crime serious matters funding is we've limited it to cases that involve the death penalty. The reason being is that obviously that's the most serious outcome that can ever happen in a trial. We have historically and traditionally opposed the use of the death penalty overseas and particularly of course for our citizens. But where it's the case that there are other people facing serious matters that don't involve the death penalty, there is another fund that can be applied to that, but I personally as Attorney-General, am going to look at each and every one of those applications and we're going to look over those applications pursuant to new and additional criteria. We're going to ask, I think, which are perfectly reasonable questions; is the person seeking funding for a particular offence? Do they have a history of that type of offending in Australia or overseas with previous convictions? The reason that they're overseas, does that relate to them fleeing arrest or prosecution or potential prosecution in Australia? I think these are reasonable questions to ask and to take into account in determining whether or not to allocate hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars to someone seeking assistance with their defence overseas.

But most importantly I'm not going to let these decisions be made at a bureaucratic level. I'm going to lift them up to the level of my office for my personal attention.

QUESTION: And just in regards to the GST redistribution system, a bit more detail around that today. To say that no state will be worse off as we transition to a new model, is that guaranteed for Western Australia as well?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, as the Prime Minister and Treasurer have said, whatever happens in that space is going to ensure that no state is worse off. Obviously, the job that Michaelia and I have got is to make sure that WA has a better situation than what it's facing at the moment. I mean, that much is self-evident. So, we're very hopeful that we'll get a result in that respect, but the Prime Minister and Treasurer have made it clear, as it pertains to other states, no one will be worse off.

QUESTION: Can you make a guarantee that WA will be content and satisfied with the new model?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, we're working to improve WA's situation very considerably. That's all I'll say on that. What happens, and what might or might not be announced, is obviously something that a whole range of states and people will have various views. But obviously, Michaela and myself, Julie Bishop, Mathias Cormann, Michael Keenan, we're working to improve our situation here in WA.

QUESTION: So when it is announced, are you hopeful that WA politicians who have been lobbying, yourselves included I suppose, will be happy for WA?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, we're not working to make WA unhappy.