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Radio 5AA – Leon Byner



Subjects: Ensuring Integrity Bill; Council of Attorneys-General – age of criminal responsibility

LEON BYNER: Christian Porter, thanks for joining us this morning.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Leon, it's a pleasure.

LEON BYNER: The Ensuring Integrity Bill has gone down. I just want to have a look at a couple of aspects of this. Senator Hanson whose vote you lost, she reckons that she proposed 11 changes to the legislation; how many of those amendments did you agree to?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: We accepted everything that Pauline had asked for in the process.

LEON BYNER: Everything?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: That's correct, yeah.

LEON BYNER: The other issue that Ms Hanson says that made her vote the way she did was that you let her down because you would not agree to an overhaul of the way administrators, receivers and liquidators and managers act.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah we had weeks of negotiations with Pauline Hanson's One Nation and that issue was never raised.

LEON BYNER: Was never raised?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: That's correct.

LEON BYNER: So, are you going to reintroduce this back into the Parliament? You've got another week to go next week, you going to bring it back?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah absolutely. I mean the history over the last 10 years of major reform which this is, is that you very often have to go to the Senate several times before you succeed. So this is very much a dusting off process. I mean the last words that were said by the other One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts in the Senate was, and I'll quote him directly: it's time for improved accountability and for integrity as everyday honest hardworking Australians rightly expect.

LEON BYNER: But they'd expect that from the banks too, wouldn't they?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well absolutely, as do we. I mean the idea that our Government hasn't been completely even handed and equal in requiring high standards of lawful behaviour from banks, just as we would do from unions.

LEON BYNER: I think what's happened here though is that there is a very strong perception and reality that the people found wanting at the banks, if they've been sacked or made redundant or whatever, they've walked out with a very fat pay packet. And yet people who belong to unions or run unions, according to their view of this and you can see why they think this way, they get a different treatment.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well it was the Prime Minister when he was treasurer that introduced what's known as the Banking Executive Accountability regime which has incredibly severe penalties for people in industries like banking who don't undertake their regulatory responsibilities. And in fact, those penalties can be instigated by the regulator themselves, rather than a court. What this bill would have done would be to require union officials to obey the law, for unions themselves to obey the law. And if they reached a certain fairly high standard of unlawfulness, then a court would consider whether or not there should be a deregistration or a disqualification. And the sort of thing that we're talking about here and you know, this is very unfortunate for the people of Queensland because a lot of it happens in Queensland as it does in Victoria, but you're talking about people who exercise their right not to join a union, they might be tradies or subcontractors or small business people or apprentices, and these are all real examples - they are bullied, intimidated, lied to, spat on, we've had assaults of police and the purpose of that is to bully people in to joining the CFMEU.

LEON BYNER: So in finality, you're going to bring this back next week into the Parliament?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yep. Well there's a process. So I'll bring this back to our party room next week and in all likelihood it will come back into the House of Representatives next week. But this isn't over and the reason it's not over…

LEON BYNER: Well if you want those who voted against to vote for, they're going to want something, aren't they?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well and obviously, you know, negotiations with Senate crossbenchers just continue and they'll continue on. And as I say, the history over the last 10 years is very often these things have to go to the Senate multiple times. But this is about making sure that people can turn up to do their job at a construction site un-harassed without being bullied. And the human cost of this is men and women who just want to turn up and do their job, the financial cost, is that infrastructure in construction is 30 per cent more expensive for Australians than it needs to be because of rampant unlawfulness.

LEON BYNER: Christian Porter, are you in favour of increasing the age of criminal liability from 10 to 14?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: I'm not an enthusiast with regard to that reform. I'm here for the Council of Attorneys-General today. That is a matter that was put on the agenda by, I think, from recollection, the West Australian AG. So I'm very happy of course for that to go onto the agenda for it to be thoroughly debated and people will have greater or lesser degrees of enthusiasm but I'm not a great enthusiast for that reform.

LEON BYNER: You might want to include the fact that doli incapax which is part of the law, says that if you're say 12 or 13 and you do a home invasion - and we've seen that happen - it can be argued, depending on circumstances, that really you weren't responsible because you, for whatever reason, didn't understand it was wrong. That's doli incapax, is it not?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: That's correct. I was formerly a prosecutor so I've conducted those hearings myself. What has to be proven for someone between the ages of 10 and 14 is that they have the requisite level of mental understanding and capacity to realise what they were doing was morally wrong and criminal. And that is actually quite hard to do. But my theory on this Leon, is that there will be some instances where someone, you know, 13 and a half - has committed a serious offence and it will be to the present standard provable that they knew that it was an offence, that it was both morally and legally wrong and that it will in those circumstances, rare though they may be, it will be in those circumstances appropriate that the person is prosecuted and convicted.

If you raise the age of criminal responsibility to a hard floor of 14, there is never any ability to make that case and argument against a 13-and-a-half-year-old and I just think that history has shown that there are some rare instances where the flexibility is required to be able to make that case and I think that's in line with community expectations. So I'm very upfront about what my views on that are. Others will take a different view but that will get thrashed out amongst state Attorneys-Generals and the Commonwealth and we'll see which view prevails.

LEON BYNER: Thank you for coming in.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: That's a pleasure.

LEON BYNER: Christian Porter, whom we spoke to, the Federal Attorney-General.