TV interview – ABC TV News Breakfast
Subjects: National Anti-Corruption Commission; Optus Data Breach; PNG Extradition Request.
LISA MILLAR: Let's go back to Canberra and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has indicated the Coalition will support the Government's National Anti-Corruption watchdog but says he doesn't want public hearings to become show trials. Some crossbench MPs are separately raising concerns about the threshold to begin a public forum being too high. Well, for more, we're joined by Federal Attorney- General Mark Dreyfus at Parliament House. Good morning to you. Welcome to News Breakfast.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: Good morning, Lisa, good to be with you.
MILLAR: Now, we saw it pretty clearly at the last election that voters were very keen for an anti-corruption commission that had teeth. Does one that only allows public hearings, under exceptional circumstances actually deliver on what voters wanted?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Of course it does. We've promised at the last election to bring a powerful, independent and transparent anti-corruption commission to the Parliament and we've done just that yesterday. I'm really proud that we introduced the bill. And, of course, there's not going to be complete agreement about every single aspect of a bill like this that establishes such a large agency and a new agency. It's been described as the single biggest integrity measure that's happened in Australia for decades. The point that you ask about, which is should there be more public hearings or less public hearings, that's a matter on which this independent commission is going to decide. And there's a really sharp distinction to be made between the former government's proposal. They, of course, never brought a bill to the Parliament at all. But they proposed that there'd be no public hearings. We’re saying there should be public hearings and it's up to the independent Commissioner to decide when to hold them.
MILLAR: I think the issue though, for a lot of people, including some independents yesterday who were wondering if exceptional circumstances was added to get the Coalition on side, that it's pretty vague, there's no definition of that.
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We put in the bill some factors that the Commissioner is going to take into account in deciding whether to hold public hearings. But let's step back a moment. There will be public reporting. When the Commission finds corruption, the public, you're going to know about it, because the Commissioner is going to make a public report.
MILLAR: Although on that point, last night on 730 you said it was up to the Commission to decide when to report how to report and in what detail. So, does that raise questions about the amount of transparency?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: I'm confident that the Commission will take very seriously all of its duties, which are to find corruption and stamp it out. One of the ways in which you can stamp out corruption is to expose it and you expose it by making public reports. That's why the Commission has been given the power to make public reports. The timing of those reports, obviously has to be up to the commission, because you've got this indirection between possibly people being charged with criminal offences, not by the Commission, but by the Director of Public Prosecutions. And you've got to be careful in the public reporting that you don't prejudice, the fair trial of someone that has been charged. Those are complex matters. There are matters that the Commission will have to take into account. But we've given this Commission the powers to both hold public hearings and to publicly report as appropriate.
MILLAR: Can I ask you about Optus because we're getting more details about that. Now, we've been talking this morning about perhaps a cybersecurity overhaul from the Federal Government, what does that look like?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've been working very hard for a week when the shocking details of this massive data breach were revealed. Rightly, millions and millions of Australians, past and former Optus customers, are very worried about what's happened. So, we've had the Treasurer working with banks and financial institutions. We've got the Minister for Communications, the Minister for Home Affairs and me, because I'm responsible for the Privacy Act. We've all been working with Optus and we've been working with each other. The Australian Federal Police has been working with the FBI to try and track down the perpetrators. What we can do straight away is to try and put arrangements in place that Optus can share the data with banks and financial institutions so that the banks and financial institutions can take precautions to protect those Optus customers whose data has been stolen. What we can also do, and this is what the Prime Minister was talking about yesterday in the Parliament, is looking at toughening the laws, particularly the Privacy Act to possibly increase the penalties and possibly increase the precautions that have to be taken by any company that's storing the data of Australians in the way that Optus was.
MILLAR: The fact that we've only just learned about the Medicare cards, are you concerned we're going to get more information about what has been breached or hacked?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Any company that's had a data breach like this is obliged, where there's serious harm, to notify the Privacy Commissioner and notify their customers. Regrettably, Optus left out of the notification initially that some Medicare numbers in addition to passport numbers and driver's license numbers had been included in the data breach. That shouldn't have happened. It's really important that there be notification because it's only if there is notification that you can start to take the appropriate steps to guard against the consequences of a data breach like this. So, again, one of the things we're going to be looking at, is whether or not the Privacy Act provisions that include that data breach notification requirements need to be toughened.
MILLAR: Just finally, the ABC has been following the story of Cairns man, Samson Jubi who's wanted for trial in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea has been asking for Australia to extradite him. It's a massive case. Why hasn't Australia followed through with that request?
ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We don't comment on it. It's part of our extradition treaties with the 40 or so countries with whom we have mutual assistance treaties. We don't comment on requests that Australia has made to those countries and we don't comment on requests that we have received from those countries. What you've got to do with extradition is make sure that all of the processes are followed. What you don't want is a botched extradition where someone is ordered to be extradited, but then can hold up extradition for years and years and years with proceedings in court. So, these are processes that have to be taken slowly and carefully. But beyond that - it's a general comment - I won't be commenting on any individual case, because our treaty with every country that we've got mutual assistance treaties with requires that we keep the details confidential.