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TV interview – ABC Breakfast

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP


Subjects: Nazi hate symbols ban; RBA Governor; Interest rates and economy; Aged Care reforms, Brittany Higgins

LISA MILLAR: The Federal Government is moving to ban and criminalise public displays and the sale of all Nazi memorabilia. It comes just days after Victoria Police announced that they are investigating two young neo-Nazi supporters for performing the Nazi salute during a protest in Melbourne. Well, Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus joins us now in studio. Good morning. Welcome to News Breakfast.


MILLAR: What prompted you to move on this now? Was it the rallies that you saw here in Victoria, the worry about how many people were joining the movement?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's the same thing that's prompted state and territory governments around the country to move on this. There's been a rise in this far right violent activity.

MILLAR: What are you banning? What are you going to move on here?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I'll be bringing a bill to the Parliament next week which will ban the public display of the Nazi Hakenkreuz and Schutzstaffel, that's the SS symbol, these two most prominent Nazi symbols, and importantly banning the trade in any items which bear these symbols.

MILLAR: What do you hope that that's going to achieve?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We're going to send a message that this spreading of hatred and violence and anti-Semitism has got no place in Australia.

MILLAR: Why not the salute?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We think that that's more a matter for state governments. We don't have Australian Federal Police on the street. There are state police on the street dealing with street behaviour like this and we think it's better dealt with by the state laws and Victoria has got that ban.

MILLAR: Do you worry that moving in this way, it could have a different effect, that it encourages people to then, those within the movement, that it gives them some type of I don't know, they band together and they go, right, we're going to want to take this on?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We think that this is a very small number of people. In fact, I'm hoping it's getting smaller, and it will eventually disappear. We need to send a message, that there's no place in Australia for this kind of behaviour. There's no place in Australia for people that want to glorify the horrors of the Holocaust. It would have been unthinkable, Lisa, I think going back a few decades. It is very concerning that it's just crept a little bit into the life of our country.

MILLAR: Do you know how many numbers there are? When you say you think it's small, but we've seen them out on the streets, especially here in Melbourne.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's still small but we know that there has been an increase in the activity. The Director-General of Security, the boss of ASIO, has talked about this over the last three years in each of his annual State of the Nation Security reports. And it's concerning, and we're acting,

MILLAR: Can I turn to the economy, because we heard from Philip Lowe, who is concerned about generous wage rises with little productivity increase to show for it. We know that people are now eating into their savings, and that the economy is slowing. So are we walking into a recession here?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We all hope not and we respect the independent decisions of the Reserve Bank with another interest rate rise yesterday. We were very pleased to see that the Reserve Bank Governor in his commentary had said that our Budget in May did not add to inflation, indeed, probably had a deflationary effect. We're watching closely, we're doing everything we can to assist people with the cost of living pressures that they are facing.

MILLAR: Well, he's already saying, he's also saying, Philip Lowe, that we're going to get ourselves into trouble if we work on the premise that every worker needs to be compensated for inflation. What message do you give to Australians out there today who are really hurting and they're wondering, well, why they should not be compensated for the inflation?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, again, we've had Fair Work Commission decisions that are, to some extent, compensating for the effects of inflation. Those decisions have been particularly focused on the lowest paid workers in our country. But the comment you made before about productivity we've had is the really important thing here. We've had a whole decade of stagnant, no growth in productivity. We've got to do more.

MILLAR: Is your government doing enough now to try and get that productivity moving?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We certainly are. I'd point to one thing, which is the cheaper childcare that over time is going to lead to greater productivity in the Australian workforce.

MILLAR: The other problem that you've got, that we've all got, is the rising cost of aged care. We've been talking about that this morning. There are some ideas on the table, a Medicare style levy ,means testing, another 1% levy. These came out of the Royal Commission, so there's no secret to them. What do you think has merit?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, unfortunately, we didn't get agreement between the two aged care royal commissioners which is why Anika Wells, our Aged Care Minister, who is talking about this yesterday, she's going to get on with chairing the taskforce that she's doing to make sure that we get to a clear direction forward because there is a rising pressure there. One thing that's clear, and the direction of our policy will assist this, is that people need to stay at home. That's the desire on the part of - Anika Wells was talking about this yesterday - baby boomers who are this rising group of people who will be needing aged care. We've got to have policies that as far as possible, make it possible for people to stay at home.

MILLAR: But we're all going to be paying more for it, aren't we? That's the reality.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: But home care is cheaper than institutionalised aged care. That's another thing that I think has become very apparent over recent years.

MILLAR: Can I turn to another issue? There are questions this morning over the former minister Linda Reynolds. Her concerns about the speed of the process and fairness of the compensation payout to Brittany Higgins, an indication from Linda Reynolds, that she's going to take it to the anti-corruption commission when it gets up and running in July. Does she have a point? Are there questions that need to be answered?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: This decision, which I made, was made in exactly the same way as Attorneys-General for many, many years, under the Legal Services Direction, it was an entirely regular decision. And Linda Reynolds can do whatever she likes, anyone's free to make a referral to the National Anti-Corruption Commission if that's what she wants to do. It will be an independent decision by the National Anti-Corruption Commission and I've made it very, very clear I'm not going to give quotes about what the National Anti-Corruption Commission should or should not be doing. But I would go back to the decision that was made here on the settlement, an entirely regular decision completely in accordance with the Legal Services Direction.

MILLAR: Do any of the text messages that have been published this morning between Brittany Higgins and her partner, raise any questions about the actions of then Labor front benches that need to be further investigated?


MILLAR: You're confident of that though. You're confident you have all the information you need?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I made the decision to settle this claim, in accordance with the Legal Services Direction. It was an entirely regular decision. None of those texts is new.

MILLAR: All right. Mark Dreyfus, thanks for your time this morning.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks very much, Lisa.