TV Interview – ABC Breakfast
Subjects: TikTok; National Firearms Agreement; Voice to Parliament
HOST: Australia is closer to having a National Firearms Registry after a meeting of Police Ministers yesterday. There's a renewed push for a Registry after last year's fatal shooting of two Queensland Police Officers and a neighbour at Wieambilla. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus joins us now from Canberra to discuss that. I'll get to that in a moment. Attorney-General Welcome to News Breakfast, but first of all, I just want to discuss this story which is on the front page of a couple of newspapers this morning, reports that the Federal Government has made a ban on TikTok on all government and public servant devices. Is that correct?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Good morning Madeleine. We've been considering advice from our security agencies. When we're ready to make an announcement, we will.
HOST: Okay. The report says that Anthony Albanese has signed off on it. Is that incorrect?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: As I said, we've been considering advice from our security agencies in a measured way, as is appropriate. When we're ready to make an announcement, we will.
HOST: You may have been gazzumped by the Victorian Government though Attorney-General, because we've just received this media release from them. They're saying “the Victorian Government will now work to adopt the Federal Government's new restrictions on using TikTok on all government devices. We've always said we'll follow the Commonwealth's guidance when it comes to cybersecurity will now work on implementing these changes across the public service as soon as possible." So, I'll just ask you again, has that decision been made?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The Victorian Government is in charge of their devices. But as I've said, we have advice from security agencies. When we're ready to make an announcement, we will.
HOST: It sounds as though they are actually very much crediting the Federal Government, saying it has made new restrictions. I appreciate that you may not have been expecting that announcement to come out from the Victorian Government prior to that, but I mean, it does very much sound as though that decision has been made.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: And as I said, when we're ready to make an announcement, we will
HOST: What are the concerns about TikTok?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I'm not going to reveal advice from the security agencies.
HOST: Broadly speaking?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: You've pointed to the fact that the Victorian Government said something. I could also point to the fact that a range of countries around the world have taken steps in relation to government devices.
HOST: Do you have personal or professional concerns about the use of TikTok on government devices?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I'm not going to reveal the advice of security agencies. And as I've said, when we are ready to make the announcement we will.
HOST: I'll move on because it sounds as though we're not going to get very far on that at this point in time. Just to go back to that Firearms Registry, you did have a meeting of Police Ministers yesterday that, of course, was called in reaction to the tragic events at Wieambilla. How far did you get on the National Firearms Registry yesterday?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: You're quite right Madeleine that it was prompted by those awful events at Wieambilla last late last year. That was followed by a meeting of the First Ministers who asked Police Ministers of the states and territories and me to get together to look at a National Firearms Register. That extraordinary meeting happened yesterday in Sydney. I was very pleased that all of the Police Ministers gathered for that meeting and we advanced this proposal for a National Firearms Register which will have, as a single source in near real time, information about firearms license holders and the number of firearms that they have in their possession, which, of course, is something police have asked for. They think and we think that this will improve both police safety and community safety.
HOST: When might we expect that Register to actually take effect?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The requests from the First Ministers, the National Cabinet, was that we report back by the middle of this year. We're on track to do that and we're proceeding as fast as we can to get this National Firearms Register set up.
HOST: Can I just turn to the Voice? Yesterday your opposite number in the Attorney-General's portfolio and the Opposition spokesperson for Indigenous Affairs Julian Leeser suggested that removing clause two in the Voice wording, that's the one that refers to advising executive government, might be a way of securing Opposition support for the Voice referendum. Would you be prepared to consider that if that would get bipartisan support?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I fear that most of the comments that have come from the Liberal Party since the election seem to have been more directed at finding reasons to oppose the Voice then supporting it. I've also heard that the Liberal Party are meeting tomorrow. I'd be urging Peter Dutton and his Liberal colleagues to support the Voice. I think that that's what's needed. That Mr Dutton should show some leadership and get together on what will be a moment of national unity if this referendum succeeds later this year. This is a very simple proposal, Madeleine, it's about recognition in the Constitution, and providing a source of advice to the Parliament and executive government on matters that concern Aboriginal people. And I am really looking forward to the referendum succeeding. I want the Liberal Party to support it too.
HOST: Yeah, it would be the first referendum, as you well know, that would get through without bipartisan support if the Liberal Party at this point in time choose not to adopt that as their position. You have said that you are open to amending the wording once all the consultation period has finished, would you be open to amending that particular clause?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: What I'm looking for is support, Madeleine, from the Liberal Party for the two concepts that this change to our constitution involves.
HOST: Meeting them halfway. Would you be prepared to do that on that particular clause?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I haven't heard support yet from the Liberal Party. That's what I'm calling on Peter Dutton and his Liberal colleagues to get to at their meeting tomorrow. That's what we're wanting. I think that this is a really important moment for Australia And I'm hoping that they will come with us on this journey.
HOST: Do you yourself have any personal or professional concerns about the advising executive government?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: No, this is a constitutionally sound proposal. The overwhelming consensus of constitutional lawyers around Australia, starting with former High Court Justice Robert French, is that this is constitutionally sound. It's a proposal that's been out there for a long time. It's been commented on, and the overwhelming consensus of constitutional lawyers is to back it.
HOST: Okay, we'll leave it there. Thanks very much for speaking to us this morning, Mark Dreyfus.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks very much.