SUBJECTS: Victorian Labor; national security legislation; Boris Johnson.
DEBORAH KNIGHT: The behaviour of Victorian Labor MP Will Fowles is under the spotlight after violently unleashing on a hotel door in Canberra. He’s apologised and taken leave from politics on full pay, to deal with what he calls addiction and mental health issues. Here to discuss that and other issues is Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese. Fellas, good morning to you.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Good morning.
PETER DUTTON: Good morning.
KNIGHT: Peter, to you first. Is an apology from Will Fowles enough here? As an elected representative there are certain standards of behaviour you’ve got to uphold.
DUTTON: Well, look we don’t know all the circumstances. He’s obviously come out with a statement so you respect that, but clearly it’s unacceptable behaviour. Not as bad as we’ve seen from John Setka, Albo’s mate in the CFMEU, I mean kicking your door in would be the least offensive behaviour you’d see from a CFMEU representative at the moment. But the fact is, he’s caused damage he said he’s going to repay it. It is unacceptable and it’ll be interesting to see what sanction the Labor Party puts in place.
KNIGHT: Well, he is on full pay here, where he’s stood down. Is it enough for him just to apologise, Albo, should he be resigning? He’s got a track record here with bad behaviour.
ALBANESE: I don’t know that that’s the case, frankly.
KNIGHT: Well, he’s been warned about it in the past?
ALBANESE: I don’t know that that’s the case. I mean, he’s a Victorian State MP, so he’s not part of our team.
KNIGHT: Well, he is an elected representative do you think that that’s fair enough?
ALBANESE: It quite clearly is unacceptable behaviour. Just as it was unacceptable for Peter Dutton’s factional mates to break furniture in the Cabinet Room after Tony Abbott lost the leadership – they stayed in Parliament – Some of them are still running around the Cabinet Room.
KNIGHT: So are you both happy then for him to stay on full pay in Parliament?
ALBANESE: I think when someone has mental health issues – I’m not aware of all the circumstances – I think I probably have met him but I’m certainly not close to him, he is a new Victorian MP. I think that people are entitled to just take a little bit of a step back and find out all of the detail and certainly he’ll be judged. The thing about being in public office is you are judged by your actions both in Parliament, as a parliamentarian, and outside. And clearly this is unacceptable behaviour.
DUTTON: If it’s a case of mental health issues then I think that’s in a different category than somebody who’s had a tantrum and can’t get access to the door and decides to kick it in. I mean if that’s the case then he should be thrown out, not on full pay, and should be dealt with. Now, I hope that we can find out the facts because if he’s telling the truth in relation to the mental health issues, then that is a different scenario than somebody that’s woken up angry, can’t get access to whatever they want out of their bag and carry on like that – cause wilful damage. He’s an elected member of Parliament, and there’s a different standard for people like us in public office and he should live up to that standard.
KNIGHT: New laws have just passed Parliament stopping Australian jihadists from returning to home soil for up to two years. The Law Council has concerns about this bill and Centre Alliance Senator, Rex Patrick, argued that it’s unconstitutional. If it’s above board, Peter, why did you refuse to release the advice given to the Government?
DUTTON: Because governments of have Labor and Liberal persuasion don’t release the legal advice, that’s the practice, longstanding.
KNIGHT: But don’t you want to get the law right if there’s going to be a constitutional challenge here?
DUTTON: The constitutional suggestion is a complete red herring. There was a Liberal and Labor committee that had a look at this, never suggested in their recommendations that this was unconstitutional.
KNIGHT: The Law Council doesn’t call it a red herring, they’re concerned about it.
DUTTON: The Australian Government Solicitor, relying on the advice of constitutional experts, says that there is no constitutional issue in relation to this matter. So, it’s a red herring. But, I’ll tell you what we’re doing here, Deb. I think most Australians would actually say: ‘why are you allowing these people back at all’? So, we’re temporarily excluding people until we can manage their return. Because we know that some of them coming back have great capacity to cause a terrorist attack when they return home. So, let’s be realistic about the threat. We need to balance up getting the law right and it’s a temporary exclusion. We manage them back in and people who have been fighting for ISIL, coming back to Sydney, or Melbourne, or Brisbane; or wherever it might be in the country, that that is a very significant problem for us. And I think, you know, we’re a little complacent in our country about the threat of a terrorist attack. But, we’re dealing with it as best we can. This law is very necessary.
KNIGHT: Well, Labor criticised the bill but you ended up passing it. You must be comfortable then, Albo, with Peter as the relevant minister having the power to issue these temporary exclusions. You’re okay with that?
ALBANESE: No. What we tried to do was to uphold the recommendations of the Joint Intelligence Committee that Peter just quoted from.
KNIGHT: But you passed the bill.
ALBANESE: We aren’t about to say: ‘it’s okay for people to just come back here who might cause us harm’. But what we did say was that the committee’s recommendations should have been implemented in-full, as they have been, without exception, before this piece of legislation. And what that did was use the UK model, which is that the judge would determine it, rather than the Minister. We think that’s a sensible thing. We’re hoping perhaps the Minister might reconsider down the track.
KNIGHT: Is that an option?
DUTTON: To pick up on Albo’s point, the last time that the recommendation wasn’t picked up from the committee was in 2013 under Labor. So let’s be realistic that the committee makes recommendations to the Government of the day. Our advice from ASIO and AFP was not to accept two of the recommendations, but to note them, and we’ve got all the checks and balances in place. A decision made by the Minister of the day needs to be checked by a retired judge or a senior lawyer within the AAT, so there is a check and balance on every decision.
KNIGHT: And are you happy with that?
ALBANESE: We would we would prefer to have seen a judge make the decision. We think that was a sensible proposition. The Government rejected it. What we weren’t about to do, though, was to reject the idea that there should be temporary exclusion orders because there are people who do want to cause us harm, Deb. And we need to ensure that those people can’t just come back in a fashion when it’s not appropriate.
KNIGHT: Bipartisanship, hooray.
ALBANESE: We’re opposed as a country, Deb, to terrorism. The threat is real and I think people who are watching this show want our Government and our Opposition to do everything we can to keep people safe.
KNIGHT: No argument there.
ALBANESE: I’m certain to do that. So, that’s what it’s about, it’s not about scoring political points.
KNIGHT: Okay. Now it’s been a huge week of course in UK politics, we’ve seen Boris Johnson sworn in as the country’s new Prime Minister. He faces this mammoth task though of getting Brexit through. Can he do it, Peter, do you reckon he’s the man for the job?
DUTTON: Well, he’s got the charisma to do it. I mean, he’s got a great sense of humour, I think he’s obviously an incredibly intelligent guy. You could describe him as a little quirky on occasion. So, this would be devastating for Anthony because his great mate of course is Jeremy Corbyn, who is the crazy socialist from the Labor Party over there driving their vote into the ground, and one of the mentors of Mr Albanese, hard for you, Albo.
KNIGHT: Are you devastated, Albo?
ALBANESE: It’s so pathetic. Mate, you’re on this show to try and humanise yourself, not to get back to the talking points. I’ll give you the tip, mate …
DUTTON: What about that photo that’s up on your wall of you and Corbyn?
ALBANESE: The interesting thing about Boris Johnson – I’ve met Boris Johnson too mate, so I can show you that photo. Boris Johnson, the interesting thing is part of his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party was zero emissions by 2050. Gladys Berejiklian here in New South Wales has exactly the same policy. The government has no policy to drive down emissions and they’re going up.
KNIGHT: But are you upset that he is in power, are you, as Pete is suggesting?
ALBANESE: I think that’s a matter for the people of Great Britain, who they have as their leader. And in this case it’s a matter for the Tory Party, who they elected
DUTTON: Stand up for your hero, Albo, stand up for him.
ALBANESE: It’s pathetic, Pete, you’ve got to try and humanise yourself.
DUTTON: You can’t have a little tattoo across your left breast and then not stand up for him, you are blood brothers.
ALBANESE: You have got to try and humanise yourself, mate.
KNIGHT: I look like I’m in a tennis match here, don’t I?
ALBANESE: It’s a bit sad, poor old Pete. He’d be in UKIP if he was in the UK. The sort of far-right nutters like Nigel Farage, out there campaigning against migration, that’d be you.