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6PR Mornings with Gary Adshead



Subjects: State border closures, mandatory sentences for child sex offences.

GARY ADSHEAD: Christian Porter joins me on the line, thanks very much for your time Minister.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah, morning Gary.

GARY ADSHEAD: Okay, let's start with the borders because yesterday things got even more confusing if that’s at all possible. It's quite, it's quite simple in some way. The South Australian Premier has opened up his border, he's happy to have people from Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania. He says, the legal advice was that that was constitutional and lawful. Our Premier came out and said too bad. No, it's not. We've got legal advice that says picking and choosing states is unlawful under the Constitution, and it won't be happening. You're the Attorney-General. What do you think?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I'm not sort of in the position to give at large legal advice but there's obviously been a challenge to the border closures that have been brought by certain plaintiffs and those border closures are going to be assessed by the High Court as they affect those plaintiffs. I must say I can't see any reason why, if you took a view that the complete border closure was unconstitutional, why that view wouldn't also apply to partial border closures because the relevant parts of the Constitution, I think, would apply equally but look we recognize those are difficult decisions for state governments. We have to intervene in this matter, we've chosen to intervene, we have to put out a view as to whether or not the border closures that are being complained about by the various plaintiffs are constitutional or not constitutional - our view is that they are not and we'll be putting that view in court. But, of course, all those things turn on their own facts and, you know, the person that has just called into your show, many of the plaintiffs in the matters that are going to go before the High Court I think will have some similar stories to tell, you know, there are a whole range of people out there who are tourism operators or who need to cross borders for a range of reasons and they're being stopped from doing that and they're arguing that that breaches section 92 of the Constitution and I think that they've got a very strong argument in that respect.

GARY ADSHEAD: I think anyone out there listening would say well how can a hard border between Western Australia and the rest of the country be constitutional if one between South Australia and Western Australia isn't, I mean, doesn't, that just doesn't compute.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No, I must say I'm finding that logic hard to follow as well.

GARY ADSHEAD: Now just on the timeline of that because yesterday I think the Chief Justice of the High Court was talking about the end of June before the Clive Palmer matter could be heard. I mean, Is that, is that going to make this redundant because between now and then there's every chance a date would be set by the Western Australian Premier?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, look, I think that, you know, I don't have the answer to that question. The High Court independently hears these matters as soon as they came, they obviously recognized the importance of it. Then the other moving part is whether or not state governments and state premiers will make decisions to alter the border closures that they have in place at the moment, so there's a few different moving parts to this but, you know, I think some state governments at least, and WA seems to be one, are anticipating that they would maintain partial or full closure of their borders for some period of time, particularly after the point in time in which would expect this to be heard in the High Court. So, you know, I think that there will actually be something to be decided here it would appear to me at least.

GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah. Okay, now I know yesterday there was some passion and some heated words exchanged in the federal parliament in relation to your government's Bill to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for the worst of worst child sex criminals that are out there. What, I mean, my question is why, I mean, who wouldn't want to see these people put away for, for as long as possible?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, we've obviously been pursuing this bill, which amongst a number of other things, introduced minimum mandatory terms for child sex offenders. We've been pursuing this since 2017. Labor's position was that they say that they did not support on principle any form of minimum mandatory sentencing. Logically enough we said well if that's the case, why did you support minimum mandatory sentencing for people smugglers? And isn't this even a more important, more serious area? And bottom line, last year, the people who committed Commonwealth offences child sex offences, 39 per cent of them didn't spend a single day in jail. We considered that was just manifestly inadequate, totally out of line with community expectations, that the simplest clearest way to fix that problem and provide the deterrence to people who are committing those terrible, terrible offences was minimum mandatory terms. We've pursued it for three years. Yesterday, finally, we got it through the Senate, not without some last minute votes from the Labor Party the day before against the minimum mandatory component. I can't explain to you why they took that course, why they put Australians to the sort of angst of having to wait three years for this extra level of protection for their families and for their kids, but job is done now and I think it'll make a big difference.

GARY ADSHEAD: And obviously the Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton was forcibly pushing that through and he's, I think he's got a bit of a vested interest in, I think as a federal police officer he worked in that area didn't he?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Look, he was a Queensland police officer and I know that he feels very passionately about this. And of course he is now in charge of Home Affairs and the AFP, and he is in regular communication with the officers that have to investigate this stuff right, and they have to see it day in and day out, and chase the people down and charge them and build the briefs and take them to court. So imagine how dispiriting it is for those people and for the families when they see someone caught, convicted, and then receive far too light a sentence or a suspended sentence or spend no time in jail. So I think Peter is particularly passionate about it because he is the minister with line authority over the investigators and the police and he sees the victims. And he sees the result of too lenient sentencing in this area. And the frightening thing is Gary that as we've gone through this COVID-19 pandemic, we've just sent a wave of the stuff and so the reports into the relevant agencies have more than doubled in many instances of child exploitation and abuse, and the fact that we've got kids spending more time at home, more time online makes them more vulnerable. So now was certainly the time for this legislation, but we would have preferred that we'd been able to win this argument three years ago. But it is here now.

GARY ADSHEAD: Alright, it is a done deal. Hey just before I let you go, there's been a lot of debate in the last 24 hours about why a company called the Colonial Brewing Company should cop such a backlash and lose their product from shelves in Victoria in a chain of liquor stores. I mean what do you make of this, as the Attorney General, that a minority group can pressure a business to remove stock that is called Colonial?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Look, I just, forget being Attorney General, what I make of it just as a normal person who, you know, lives in Australia and wants to go to a restaurant or have a beer or read a book or visit a museum, I just think the whole thing is complete madness. I mean I understand, absolutely, why there was so much passion about that dreadful violent footage and behaviour of the police that we saw in America. But ultimately, responding to violence with any form of violence never works. Responding to the better or worse parts of our history by trying to erase history never works. Responding to offending by offending in the way of destroying property or pulling down statues, it just never works. I just feel that it is sort of mad in such an extreme way. And what bothers me about it also is all this stuff of pulling, you know, pulling the German episode of Faulty Towers, which by the way was satire against prejudice. But the idea that that would get pulled says to me that the people who make that decision to pull it are totally divorced from the way that normal people think, because I would think that 99 per cent of Australians recognize that that was satire about prejudice, that it was golden comedy, that it's part of our cultural history, that pulling it makes no sense. And yet, people in positions of authority, make decisions based on the ultra-extreme views of what must be a tiny minority of Australians, and I just don't get it.

GARY ADSHEAD: Alright, it’s sad. That's indeed true and we'll be looking at that a little bit later on in the program. Thanks very much for joining us Attorney-General.