Radio 6PR – Gareth Parker
Subjects: Ensuring Integrity Bill; press freedoms
GARETH PARKER: So, we were supposed to speak to him yesterday, the Attorney-General, but he was in and out of the House because the bells kept ringing because Labor were taking great delight in annoying and frustrating the Government over the issue of Angus Taylor and this ridiculous forged document scandal, non-scandal - I'm not quite sure what is it yet. We'll wait and see.
But the expectation yesterday, as I spoke to you, was that the Ensuring Integrity Bill, the industrial relations bill that Christian Porter has been pursuing to hold rogue union leaders, would pass the Senate. Well, Pauline Hanson, who the Government thought they could rely on, had other ideas. Take a listen to what she had to say this morning.
PAULINE HANSON: And I've also said to the CFMEU and the unions: get your act together. Stop your bullying, your thuggery and your corruption. So it's basically a shot over their bow saying: stop this because my vote next time around, is not going to be guaranteed. And I want the Government to address white collar crime. Don't go after unions and think that you're not going to deal with the banks. And it was One Nation Senate Inquiry into the banking sector that we exposed liquidators, administrators and the receivers, and I begged the Government to put that in the royal commission. They never did anything about it. So, don't be hypocritical. That's what I'll tell the Government.
GARETH PARKER: I spoke to Christian Porter, who is in Adelaide today, earlier this morning.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, good morning.
GARETH PARKER: What happened?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, that's a very interesting question and the last words that were said by the One Nation Senator in the actual debate, I'll quote him, were: ‘with respect to the unions, it's time for improved accountability and for integrity as everyday honest hardworking Australians rightly expect.’
And then right at the death knell, they sided with the thugs from the CFMEU and voted against the bill. But it won't be the end of it and we'll bring it back. Very often, you've got to bring those things to the Senate a couple of times before you succeed. But this is just a critical piece of legislation that we won't be giving up.
GARETH PARKER: Well, will you make any changes to it?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look, I mean, it was one issue that was raised about administrators after the debate by Pauline Hanson, which hadn't been raised in weeks of negotiations. So we'll have a look at that. But I'll bring back the bill in pretty much the same form to my party room next week and we'll get cracking on it straight away. I mean - but the issue here - and it's very sad, particularly for the people of Queensland, because you've got subbies and tradies, small business people turning up to construction sites right across Australia, but it's particularly bad in Victoria and Queensland. And because they exercise their right not to be a member of the CFMEU, they get spat on, they get bullied, they get lied to, they get intimidated, they are falsely told no ticket, no start. People trying to extract union fees for them that means that they'll work for nothing. And this just goes on day after day after day, and the bullying and the thuggery and the calling of people of scabs and dogs, spitting on them and uploading their details into Facebook where they get further abuse., and it's just absolutely out of control. It adds 30 per cent to the cost of construction in Australia. It damages the lives of hardworking small business men and women and tradies and apprentices. And at the end of the day, One Nation sided with the thugs against the hardworking men and women that they were voted in to protect, and that is pretty disappointing.
GARETH PARKER: You said you'll bring it back to the party room next week. Will you bring it back to the Senate next week, or when will this legislation go back before the Parliament?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, we'll just follow the usual orthodox process: party room, House of Reps through the reps into the Senate. We'll do that as quickly as we can conceivably do it. But yeah, I'd want to get this back before the party room and into reps next week.
GARETH PARKER: But you do plan to amend it?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, there might be some small changes to it. But during the process of it being in the Senate, I had weeks of negotiation with Rex Patrick of Centre Alliance. They had a range of amendments which we worked up and were put down as government amendments. I think Pauline Hanson, in the end, had 11 amendments. We agreed to all of those. So the bill that I'll bring back will encompass all of the amendments that were agreed on in the Senate process. And what very unfortunately happens is that notwithstanding that Pauline Hanson agreed with all of the government amendments and we agreed with all of Pauline Hanson's amendments, at the very end of the day, totally unbeknownst to everyone who was involved in a good faith negotiating process, they sided with the CFMEU bullies and thugs over the hardworking people who just want to turn up and do their job.
GARETH PARKER: So how can you deal with Pauline Hanson then? I mean, you felt that you had a deal, you felt that you negotiated an outcome, but at the eleventh hour, she changes her mind. Did she betray you?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I think it was the process that I had anticipated was in good faith but I'm not so sure now. But those things happen in politics and you can either sook about it or you get up, dust yourself off, get the legislation back in and argue the case. And I think the case for this legislation is so strong. I mean, we're talking here about young apprentices, about safety officers turning up at workplaces and getting bullied and spat at…
GARETH PARKER: Sure.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: …intimated. I mean,
GARETH PARKER: But that- I mean the case here is so strong…
GARETH PARKER: But it was so strong that you couldn't convince Senator Hanson to follow it.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah but you try again. That's…
GARETH PARKER: Okay. What-
CHRISTIAN PORTER: … the nature of the legislative process. And over the last 10 years, Gareth, like big cases of reform legislation have very often required you to go to the Senate a couple of times before you're successful, right? One thing that we have never done as a government is give up.
GARETH PARKER: What about Jacqui Lambie? Did you put sufficient effort and attention into her as another crucial vote?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, of course. But I mean, Jacqui Lambie said on numerous occasions that if John Setka was still heading up the CFMEU in Victoria - so this is a man who's assaulted police, who's been convicted of theft. I mean, the rap sheet looks as bad as you'll ever get. She said on numerous occasions, if he was the head of the Victorian CFMEU, she would vote in favour of the legislation, said that to me personally. She said it publicly on a number occasions. You know what? He's still heading up the CFMEU in Victoria. So, why it is that she would say one thing and do another is something that she'll have to answer.
But again, we'll bring it back, we'll start the negotiations again, and we will just grind it out because we cannot leave people turning up to construction sites and getting harassed and bullied and intimidated because they exercised what is their fundamental right to choose whether they want to or whether they don't want to join the CFMEU. And if they don't want to join the CFMEU they shouldn't be bullied and intimidated and spat at to force them to join.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. All of a sudden it makes it look like a pretty tough and ragged week for your government. The Angus Taylor affair drags on, you've thought this was in the bag and it hasn't proved to be. Has this been the toughest week for your government since the election?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, you do have tough weeks from time to time and I've never thought any legislation was in the bag, never. Like you, you are always prepared for the fact that when you don't control the numbers in the Senate that things sometimes will go with you and sometimes they won't and you would need to just be able to negotiate and grind and be committed to the outcomes that you think are in the best interests of people. But yeah, a difficult week.
But since the election and we have had a remarkable series of legislative outcomes, it has been an incredibly orthodox, stable, productive government for the people of Australia. But the idea that you go through terms of government without having tough weeks in a parliament; we don't control the numbers in the Senate, it’s just fantasy.
GARETH PARKER: Okay.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: What you've got to do is make sure that you dust itself off and get back at it.
GARETH PARKER: Last night - I'm in Sydney still - last night as at the Walkley's, the Chairman of the Walkley Foundation, Kerry O'Brien known to most, you were public enemy number one as far as he is concerned because of your move to say that well if any journalist is going to be prosecuted by the AFP then, or the DP, Commonwealth DPP then they have to get your permission as the Attorney-General. What do you say about that?
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, there's a process written into many pieces of legislation, many provisions that has required for a very long time - and it's a 100 year old process - that for certain pieces of legislation and certain provisions the Attorney-General's consent is required. There is also an ability in instances for me to write to the DPP and require my consent on a prosecution. And I did that in one particular matter and of, one of many reasons and the things that I considered in doing that was that the ABC specifically submitted and ask that I do it. So you know in those circumstances it was being sought by the very organisation in question. And I think that this is a process that existed for 100 years, it's an extra safeguard on a very orthodox, sensible process and I have never had any difficulties with it. And in fact most people have agreed that this is a sensible part of the Australian justice system.
GARETH PARKER: There was lots of thundering about media freedom last night as you would expect at a gathering like that of journalists. But do you think that that campaign from the media organisations is cutting through with the public.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well I mean, that's for others to judge I think, particularly others in the media. But there's five or six issues that have been raised, all of them are being dealt with in a sort of sensible, staged, process-driven way. And each of the issues is quite different.
I'm in Adelaide today at the Council of Attorneys-General and we're dealing with defamation reform today, there'll be some announcements about that. We'll have the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security report soon and they're looking into the way in which warrants are issued and the process that sits behind that.
So each of the matters raised in this debate are all sensible issues, they're quite different issue to issue but they're, I think, being dealt with sensibly. So look, there'll be thundering and people will make judgements as to the level of public cut through and all the rest of it, but my job in government is to try and produce good sound legal outcomes that actually work in practice. And I think that in a range of areas we're doing that.
Another one is public interest disclosure, like whistle-blower legislation and we'll be responding to reform recommendations on that Act in the Commonwealth Parliament soon. So, all of these issues are in the process of reform and some of those reforms.
GARETH PARKER: Okay. Christian, thank you for your time this morning.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Pleasure. And mate, very sorry commiserations that you didn't pick up a Walkley. But there's always, as I said, dusting ourselves off and getting up doing it again is very important part of our journey.
GARETH PARKER: Bit of resilience. Nothing wrong with a bit of resilience.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Indeed. Get out.
GARETH PARKER: Alright. Thank you for your time.
CHRISTIAN PORTER: Okay. Cheers.
GARETH PARKER: Attorney General, Christian Porter. Spoke to him earlier from Adelaide. Okay, 922-11-882. Union thugs are allowed to continue to be union thugs according to the Attorney-General but he says he will dust himself off and have another go at it. We'll see where it goes.