Jun 7, 2019

Transcript of Television Interview – Today Show – Friday, 7 June 2019


DEB KNIGHT: Joining me now from Arana Hills in Queensland is the Government’s Peter Dutton and Labor’s Anthony Albanese in the studio with us. Good morning to you both.


PETER DUTTON, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Good morning Deb, good morning Albo.

KNIGHT: Peter Dutton it has been claimed that journalism is being criminalised in Australia. Are you comfortable with the prospect of journalists and whistleblowers ending up behind bars?

DUTTON: Well, Deb if we strip it down, we’re talking about highly classified documents. Now the laws that apply today are the same laws that apply under the Shorten Government or the Rudd Government or the Howard Government in relation to the leaking of documents. And if you’re talking about highly classified top secret documents, an argument that Albo or I could leak those documents and that there would be no penalty or that a journalist could have possession of those documents might be against our national interest to publish them. That there should be no penalty or consequence for that would go against tradition in our country that spans back many, many decades and the same case in other democracies around the world.

KNIGHT: Okay but protecting national security is one thing. But shining a light on possible war crimes for soldiers in Afghanistan or reporting on a push for new powers to spy on Australians which is what these two reports that are at the centre of the raids were revealing, how is that a risk to national security?

DUTTON: Well Deb if you have a look the referral, the referral has been made by the Secretary of the Defence Department and the Director General of the Australian Signals Directorate as I understand it, they made the referral to the Australian Federal Police. The Federal Police have an obligation to investigate that matter if it has been referred to them. They’ve got equally an obligation under law to conduct their inquiries independently. Nobody would accept me as Minister or Albo as Minister directing how an investigation should take place or who should be raided or who should be subject to inquiry. We have laws that operate in this country and the Federal Police who have been criticised by people including Albo which I think has been quite unfair to target those officers individually, I think that is quite wrong.

ALBANESE: I’m targeting you, you’re the Government.

DUTTON: I heard your words.

ALBANESE: You’re the Government.

DUTTON: I heard your words, you were criticising the individual police officers. I think even the Police Union …

ALBANESE: That’s not true, I don’t even know who they are mate.

DUTTON: … has been horrified at the words you said.

ALBANESE: I don’t even know who they are. I’m onto you, you’re the Government.

DUTTON: You said you were horrified by their actions.

ALBANESE: You’re the Government, you’re the Government.

DUTTON: Stand by your words Albo.

ALBANESE: And it is outrageous, I have said it is outrageous that Annika Smethurst’s house was raided by seven police for seven and a half hours. That’s an outrage.

DUTTON: You’re criticising the police Albo.

ALBANESE: No I’m not.

DUTTON: That is an investigation …

ALBANESE: I am criticising the Government and I am calling for the Government to explain what it knew about these circumstances. Let’s strip it back here. Do the public have a right to know if it is being considered that the Government, two departments, are engaged in a debate to increase spying powers against Australian citizens. Is that in the public interest? The media have a role in a democracy. And what we are seeing here is no one in the Government being prepared to defend the role that media has in our democracy which is essential.

DUTTON: You know that that’s not true though.

KNIGHT: Albo, Labor helped passed their laws as they stand?

ALBANESE: No, actually, the laws. We have had briefings, that’s not right in terms of Peter is right that these are old laws that have been in place for a very long period of time. Peter is right.

KNIGHT: So do you want the laws as they stand to be changed?

ALBANESE: It is also correct that what we need to do is to have a mature debate, a mature debate about what the role of the media is in our society and their capacity to actually provide appropriate scrutiny of Government and of Opposition.

KNIGHT: Well Peter Dutton, if we can all agree that a strong media is good for democracy and should be protected, will the Government review the laws as they stand? Because in countries like the US, journalists have protections for whistleblowers enshrined in law. Should that be the case here?

DUTTON: Well Deb we do have protections enshrined in law and we value a very health fourth estate, there’s no question of that.

KNIGHT: But are you concerned that the journalist could be facing gaol time?

DUTTON: I’m concerned that if people are leaking top secret documents that that can affect our national security. Now, nobody is saying that there shouldn’t be a debate about what a Government is or isn’t proposing that there is no proposal incidentally in relation to this extra powers, that’s the way it was wrongly reported – but that’s a separate issue. But in relation to the media scrutiny or somebody having a say about what a Government was proposing to do or legislation that had been put forward. That’s the appropriate time for there to be scrutiny around whatever the proposal might be. But the leaking or publishing of top secret documents which have been classified by the Defence Department or by the Australian Signals Directorate, there are good reasons and long standing reasons why a country like us or the United Kingdom or New Zealand would classify documents in such a way. And the point is that the Federal Police have an obligation to investigate a matter that has been referred to them, they have an obligation under law to do it independently. Not with the direction of the Government directing who should be investigated etc, that would be an absurd proposition. And therefore, the criticism that Albo and others has levelled against the individual offices has just been completely unjust.

ALBANESE: I don’t even know who the officers are, Peter. So the idea that individual officers …

DUTTON: Albo go to your own words.

ALBANESE: Which individual officers have I criticised? Which ones?

DUTTON: The ones that attended the raids.

ALBANESE: Which ones? Who were they?

DUTTON: The seven officers, in your own words Albo!

ALBANESE: Seriously.

DUTTON: I can’t correct the record for you.

ALBANESE: You are trying to distract from the real issue here.

DUTTON: Not at all.

ALBANESE: The real issue here is that Australians are concerned that media’s capacity to scrutinise Government is under threat. That’s a concern that Australians have, it’s a simple one. It’s one which you as part of a Government, you consistently have been trying to avoid scrutiny in all of the portfolios you’ve had. So I’m not surprised that that’s your approach.

DUTTON: You’re joking aren’t you? Just apologise mate and move on.

ALBANESE: Not at all. I won’t be apologising to you Peter Dutton.

DUTTON: No to the police officers.

ALBANESE: You characterise the sort of secrecy and lack of scrutiny that embodies your entire political career.

DUTTON: You’re digging deeper …

ALBANESE: You stand there and say …

DUTTON:¬†You’re digging deeper mate …

ALBANESE: Not right.

KNIGHT: Alright we are unfortunately out of time.

DUTTON: Just apologise, just apologise.

KNIGHT: Apologise for? What should he be apologising for?

DUTTON: For attacking the police officers involved. Attack the Government that’s fine, that’s his job.

ALBANESE: I’m onto you Peter, I’m onto you.

DUTTON: Seriously, Albo.

KNIGHT:¬†Gentleman we thank you for your time this morning, unfortunately time is against us. We’ve got lots of other issues to discuss but we look forward to having you back on the program as often as we can.