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Interview with Lanai Scarr - The West Australian


Part Transcript re Constitutional Recognition and Huawei

Referencing: Christian Porter rules out Federal Government review of Huawei ban

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt staring down a revolt over constitutional recognition

LANAI SCARR: So, I guess we'll move to another issue now. Ken Wyatt today in The Australian has said that Australians will vote on constitutional recognition by mid-2021 and that they will…he will attempt to legislate in the Parliament a voice by the end of this year. Has that been discussed with you?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I haven't seen those comments today but when you said that they will vote on it. What is….is that…

LANAI SCARR: …he is saying he wants a referendum by, at the latest, July 2021.That hasn't gone to the party room. Has he discussed it with you?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I mean matters of timing, where individual Ministers are talking with stakeholders are in the best position to judge what’s an appropriate timing. It's completely acceptable I think for Ken to nominate, based on all of his discussions, what he thinks is a workable and achievable timeline. I've got no difficulties with that. I mean, I don't go to the party room every time I determine a timeline, whether it's on a religious discrimination bill or whatever it might be, I mean there's no requirement to go to the party room with indicative timings.

LANAI SCARR: Quite a few of your colleagues are upset by the fact that there hadn’t…that hasn't been discussed in the party room or, you know, in Cabinet,


LANAI SCARR: I wouldn't, I wouldn't tell you.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well as I say, I don't think there's any difficulty with Ministers putting out indicative time lines and particularly when the Minister is the person who's consulting with, with all of the groups who are most affected in the process and most engaged in the process I think that's an entirely reasonable thing to do.

LANAI SCARR: Do you think it's realistic for that timeframe to be achieved?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I haven't been subject to all of the conversations that Ken’s had. No doubt that he will put in due course, if that is the timeline that’s eventually is formally put, at an appropriate point he will put why he thinks that's the best timeline and we'll make a determination of that. But I would have thought that he's in a very good position to judge what that timeline is. But look this has been a very difficult process right - like Julia Gillard promised a referendum on this you know, I think it was before the 2000 - I’d have to check - but I think it was before the 2012 election - 2013 election - I seem to recall. So people have put time…

LANAI SCARR: Before she got rolled by Cabinet

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Yeah, yeah, like she thought it was going to happen in…there was going to be a referendum in that term of government. So you know timelines in these matters, just as a matter of historical fact have been subject to a great deal of difficulties because it is a very, very complicated issue and there's a very broad range of views. But I don't see any difficulty with Ken putting out what he thinks is an indicative timeline.

LANAI SCARR: Do you think it's realistic to legislate on a voice by the end of this year when, you know, we've only seen the establishment of a co-design panel and we don't have any framework around that? Do you think it is realistic given the Government's, you know sizable legislative agenda, this year as well?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Again, I haven't had this discussion with Ken so I don't know what precisely that's based on but Ken’s judgment on these things is usually very good.

LANAI SCARR: Right. Do you support indigenous constitutional recognition?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, that, that is a question that can't be asked in the generic and answered in the generic and can only be asked and answered in the specific. And again, I mean I was on the joint standing committee that looked into this when I first went into Parliament in 2013. I've always been a supporter of constitutional change for indigenous recognition. But my own view is that there are some forms of that, that are much better and worse than others. And there are some forms of that, that I think would not be accepted broadly in a referendum and some forms that possibly could be.

LANAI SCARR: Okay. Also in The Australian today was a story on Huawei. So, do you think that Britain's decision to allow Huawei partial involvement in its 5G mobile network will compromise our Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangement?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well Britain's decision is a matter for Britain and we made our decision and we did it on all the best advice available to us. That decision Britain have obviously taken on the basis that they do not consider that it will, in any way, detract from the ability to, to share intelligence and other information. I'm sure that they will explain that view to us in full and in due course, but they clearly have considered that.

LANAI SCARR: But they'll have to explain themselves to us before we’re comfortable?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well I mean, it's a matter, it's a matter that would be of course the subject of routine briefings at an agency to agency level about precisely what their decision would mean. And their decision of course is about limited Huawei involvement in non-core 5G infrastructure. And they have a different set of legislative bases and structural setups for 5G than Australia does. So they are going to be in the best position to explain the implications of that decision with respect to how it would protect information and I'm sure that they'll do that.

LANAI SCARR: Do you think the decision for Australia to not grant involvement in our 5G mobile network will be revisited?


LANAI SCARR: That's what the story in The Australian is today. Absolutely not?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: That decision was considered - took a very long time - an enormous amount of information was provided - analysed by NSC and by Cabinet and that decision in my observation is incredibly unlikely to be revisited because there….it's incredibly unlikely that there’ll be substantial changes in all of the circumstances, upon which this decision was based. And we've moved on from that decision.

Part Transcript ends///