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6PR Mornings with Gareth Parker



Subjects: George Pell, JobKeeper

GARETH PARKER: So, Christian good morning,

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Gareth, good morning to you. And just with respect to your caller Andy there, right, and getting the message out, so what the PM said this morning in parliament was that when Parliament last met 16 days ago, the growth rate in infections was 20 per cent a day. And now, 16 days later, it's 2 per cent. And that is because of strict social distancing. That's what's caused the difference and that's the difference between capable service delivery in intensive care units and wards and other places, and being overwhelmed. Like it's just as simple as that. So, getting the message out there to your station, through every mechanism that we have available is critically important, because when people pay heed to the message, and alter their behaviour - and it is very challenging we know - but it's working.

GARETH PARKER: Is George Pell an innocent man?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: I think last time we had this conversation you asked me if he was a paedophile and I said well there's, there is a verdict, the verdict was appealed first of all to the Victorian Court of Appeal, then to the High Court, and in Australia people are innocent until proven guilty and he has not been proven guilty, right up to a seven-zero decision in the High Court. So he's innocent of the charges that were laid against him. That's just a legal fact. Everyone's got sympathy right for everyone who has made enormous effort and gone through struggle and pain, and the emotions of bringing matters, terrible matters up from their past to give evidence to the Royal Commission. Enormous empathy and sympathy and they would have a variety of different feelings about the decision from the High Court, but I'm just an Attorney- General answering your question directly. The principle of law is that people are innocent until proven guilty and the highest court in the land – seven-zero - has found that George Pell was not proven guilty, that the two Court of Appeal judges didn't fully commit themselves to the principle of determining whether or not the evidence, a reasonable doubt arose as to his guilt. And in those circumstances where there is a reasonable doubt, which is something every single human being in Australia enjoys in a criminal process, has not been proven guilty.

GARETH PARKER: The reasonable doubt issue was the central issue that the High Court decision turned on. Courts have their decisions overturned by higher courts regularly, does this High Court decision, resounding as it is - seven nil - have anything to say about the Victorian justice system?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look I, it has certainly something to say about that particular evidence in this case and the weight of the evidence and how it was considered first by the jury and then by the court of appeal and I am very cautiously summarising the High Court decision, but they effectively said that the prosecutor in this matter ran a case. Part of the defence case was a quite large variety of witnesses who put a view that it was very difficult or in fact impossible for the things to have occurred. Now, what the High Court said was that the appeal court judges in considering that information, in effect, considered whether they took the view that that did prove impossibility, when what they should have been focusing on was whether or not that alternative evidence gave rise to a reasonable doubt. So it says something I think, very strongly, about the judicial process and reasoning in this particular matter. I'm not sure that it casts greater light across every single matter that that has been run through the Victorian system on sexual assault cases in recent history, I'm not sure you could say it's that broad, but it does I think illustrate a significant deficiency in the reasoning that occurred at the Victorian Court of Appeal stage and that much is clear.

GARETH PARKER: The Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, which is about the Catholic Church, but also a bunch of other institutions too, had a significant section of its final report that made comment, findings and so on about George Pell. We've never been able to read those findings they have been redacted because of pending legal action. That is now apparently resolved it would appear. And so, it is up to you to decide whether that information in the 2017 Royal Commission report will now be released. Will you release it?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: My inclination is to do so. The process from here is to check with the Victorian authorities, particularly the Victorian public prosecutor's office, to check that the lifting of redactions and further publication of information is not going to prejudice any proceedings that they intend or have on foot or reasonably anticipate. I understand the view that they are sending back is that it won’t so prejudice any future or potential proceedings. So that clears the path for the further publication of material that was previously redacted. My inclination is to do that, there's a process to follow so it'll take a little while but you know, I've said yesterday quite clearly, in my view, in the exercise that discretion is unless there's a very valid reason to not have material published then it should be published. So, I think I can safely say that there will be more material published than was available in the previous version of the Royal Commission Report tabled to Parliament which had redactions for the purposes of ensuring trials and the process was fair both to complainants and to accused.

GARETH PARKER: But the authorities are basically telling you that that they don't see at this point any obstacle to your releasing that?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, I haven't seen their firsthand response to be to me but I understand that that's essentially their position. Obviously there's a few other matters going on today, so this will get dealt with in due course and, according to good process but in all likelihood, there'll be further publication and less material will be redacted.

GARETH PARKER: And that might take a few weeks?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look, I'd say so.

GARETH PARKER: Okay. Have you seen the material, personally?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: No I haven't, I get the redacted copy of the report.

GARETH PARKER: Right, okay. We spoke to the treasurer earlier around the job keeper legislation which is obviously a very big deal - everyone expects it will pass today. You've been in negotiations with the unions about some leave provisions. Can you just explain those to listeners?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: So yeah, as your listeners will be aware, the $1500 payment, you know, will cover a variety of circumstances. Where someone only works a very small number of hours they might find their wage subsidised right up to 1500. Many businesses will be in distress but not so much distress that they'd still don't pay people their ordinary wage, in which case they use the 1500 to subsidise you know, a wage of 1800 or whatever it might be. Some businesses’ viability will be so under threat and in question that they will only be able to pay the $1500 even if someone was earning somewhat more than that. So to make the system work you have to change the Fair Work Act to allow for an employer in those circumstances to direct down the number of hours worked by an employee. So they hit that 1500 mark. So what the changes to the Fair Work Act do is allow the flexibility of the employer to direct down the hours. There's also some flexibility in there to direct, subject to very significant safeguards, to direct someone in your business and employee to do slightly different duties to what they're undertaking previously, to work in a slightly different location, from home for instance, again, subject to safeguards, and they'll also be some capacity for an employer to request agreement from an employee to use some of their leave. They’ll still have to have two weeks left, or to change the days on which they're working. These are all kind of practical things that are clearly happening out there in the workplace now to save businesses and save jobs. This puts a formal structure around that with appropriate safeguards. But the very important one is that if keeping the employee engaged to the business means that you've got to alter their hours, and where they work from and their duties, that there's a capacity to be able to do that, subject to safeguards and complaint which would be adjudicated by the Fair Work Commission. But this will save tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of jobs, these flexibilities

GARETH PARKER: Alright, Christian thank you for your time.