Subjects: Defence Call Out; family law cross examination; byelection poll; corporate tax
KIERAN GILBERT: The news conference at the moment with Christian Porter the Attorney-General and Defence Minister Marise Payne is underway announcing new state and territory powers to be able to call troops to help them deal with terror attacks. If you'd like to watch the news conference you can on 604 but my interview with the Attorney-General, I caught up with him just before he began that news conference and he's discussing the biggest shakeup of the nation's defence call out powers in two decades. I started by asking the Attorney what sort of rules of engagement will the troops operate in when they're acting in a domestic environment?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Essentially the request would have to come in. The Commonwealth would have to be satisfied that it met the new threshold. The military troops if they were there, personnel or assets would be under military command but they would only act on instructions and requests from the state command. I mean in the circumstances of a long drawn out siege if specialist personnel were brought in from the ADF then they would only act on instructions from the state [indistinct].
KIERAN GILBERT: …but they have the power obviously to shoot to kill, is it the same framework as they would say in a theatre of war?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No, is the answer to that question. So they would operate under the same civil framework that police would which is that you could only use lethal force or indeed force that might occasion grievous bodily harm if you were reasonably in the belief that to do so was necessary to save an Australian life.
KIERAN GILBERT: This enhanced capacity for the states and territories to do this, in what circumstances would we see this arise? And the second part of that is one of the things I remember in the wake of Lindt, the Lindt Cafe siege was would they have been able to deploy the SAS for example quickly enough to make a difference?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah. Look I can't answer that second question. But Lindt Cafe got all of the states, the territories the Commonwealth thinking about the existing threshold. The existing threshold is essentially that the state would have to consider itself completely overwhelmed by the circumstance before they'd even make the request. So the question whether or not the state was unable to cope with the situation is such a high and inflexible threshold and represents the wrong question. The better question is are there specialist skills, personnel or assets inside the ADF that, given all the circumstances of the violence the terrorist threat being encountered, could be deployed to help save Australian lives? So...
KIERAN GILBERT: Like a sniper for example in the previous incident?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I mean you might think that in a long drawn out siege that a commando regiment or the skills of an SAS whether they be with respect to the skills of the actual troops or with improvised explosive devices might be of assistance. Heaven forbid if we ever experience something like what happened in Paris where you've got multiple widespread incidents spread across a geographical area that personnel might be of use or an air asset might be of use like a helicopter. A third scenario might be where, again heaven forbid it never happens, but a chemical or biological incident, terror incident on Australian soil. The ADF have all of the specialist equipment personnel and skills to deal with that.
So they'd be, we hope, very very rare situations. But what we don't want to do is maintain a standard that's so high, old fashioned and inflexible that you never get the assets and the personnel out of the shed in circumstances where they could be useful.
KIERAN GILBERT: So there's no guarantee or we don't, it's hindsight now but there's no guarantee that that would have made any difference anyway in the case of the Lindt Café siege?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, the first responders are always going to be state police and very often state police frontline officers on the ground and then state tactical response groups. But if it is an elongated situation over time or there are multiple incidents over time then in those circumstances you can conceive that there would likely be time to consider the nature of the terrorist threat, the assets that we might be able to deploy and to request those assets, the skills the personnel.
KIERAN GILBERT: And they would have the time to get there and make a difference because that's the key?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Correct, and that would all depend on the nature of the attack which is first thing that we have to consider in this type of call out situation.
KIERAN GILBERT: The other thing I want to ask you about today is changes to the victims of family violence and whether or not they can be cross examined by their alleged attackers, perpetrators?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: So, many years ago in the criminal law context we prevented a 'in person litigant', so someone who is representing themselves from being able to cross-examine the victim. It's quite appropriate that victims be cross examined and that's part of our system as harrowing as it is but not by the person who is alleged of conducting themselves in the way that the trial says that they were. In the family law context there are a very small handful of incidents every year where the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator of serious family violence or sexual violence is themselves cross examining the other party in the family proceedings. We think that that should stop. Now, cross-examination can still happen but it will need to happen through an independent counsel.
KIERAN GILBERT: Well that makes sense given how broad this scourge is within our community and if you're going to deal with it and obviously that would lead to greater trauma wouldn't it if people are facing that cross examination.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I formerly worked as a Crown prosecutor before politics so I've seen many children and women who are victims cross-examined. That in itself is harrowing. It's a necessary part of our system. But the idea that you would allow that...
KIERAN GILBERT: With a perpetrator.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: By the perpetrator.
KIERAN GILBERT: By alleged perpetrators, yeah.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Many years ago we got rid of that inside the criminal system. Now, it's only a very small number of incidents where this occurs but it's time for that to end inside family law...
KIERAN GILBERT: Indeed. I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner And finally I want to ask you about this- on the politics of the day this poll in Longman, one of the key by-elections 28 July and it's got the coalition in front with the help of One Nation preferences. And although the primary vote's only about 35 per cent, One Nation's at 14 per cent. In terms of a view and vision for Queensland, Malcolm Turnbull well ahead of Bill Shorten, about 20 points ahead. Is that encouraging?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I think Bill Shorten's helping us because he's telling every single Queensland small and medium-size business that he's going to jack up taxes on them, and he's doing that without the authority of his party. I mean when Bill Shorten is looking too left for the Labor Party I'd say he's got some problems on his hands. But we've been able to grow business by having business keep more of their money and reinvest in their own enterprise which has grown jobs and that is proving a very successful strategy. And Bill Shorten wants to reverse all that with a bizarre captain's call. So we're saying to all these businesses …
KIERAN GILBERT: It's not just Bill Shorten though. Look, you look at this poll it had 67 per cent of One nation voters back company tax cuts, 62 per cent LNP, 67 per cent One Nation and yet Pauline Hanson's not backing them.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I mean I think that Pauline Hanson will be watching what's happening and seeing people's enthusiasm for a strategy that is working and the strategy is pretty simple. If you let small and medium businesses and big businesses keep more of their own money they grow their business, they grow jobs and the economy grows along with it. The alternative to that Bill Shorten has spelled out very clearly his alternative which is tax them more. Actually go to small and medium businesses and Longman and say you will face greater rates of tax. That is going to destroy job growth and no one wants that. So the lines are becoming clearer by the day.
KIERAN GILBERT: Attorney, I appreciate your time.