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TV interview – Sky News First Edition

The Hon Mark Dreyfus KC MP


Subjects: National Anti-Corruption Commission; Censure of former Prime Minister Scott Morrison; Stuart Robert; Energy transition; Medibank data hack

HOST: The establishment of a National Anti-Corruption Commission has cleared its final hurdle after its legislation passed the House of Representatives. Joining me now live is Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus. Thank you for joining us this morning. How soon are we actually going to see hearings begin?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL MARK DREYFUS: As we've said, we're going to set up this National Anti-Corruption Commission by around the middle of next year. It was a great day yesterday. A historic day that the Parliament joined together, both Houses of Parliament supporting this National Anti-Corruption Commission, a powerful, transparent and independent National Anti-Corruption Commission. And it's long overdue Danica. We are the last Australian jurisdiction to get one of these. I think it'll be a big step towards restoring trust and integrity in our system of government. It's something we really need to do.

HOST: The majority of the hearings will not take place publicly given that will it be enough to restore trust, particularly when it comes to voters?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: The Commission will be reporting publicly when it finds corruption. The Commission is going to be examined by a Parliamentary oversight committee and some of its hearings are going to be in public. I think the Australian community will see that we've got a tough cop on the beat. We're going to have this transparent, powerful and independent Commission that's going to be rooting out corruption and it's going to have activities that will be directed at educating the whole community about corruption. I think that people are going to be very conscious of its work and it's not necessary to have every single one of its hearings in public. None of the other state commissions have that. I don't think we need that at the federal level either.

HOST: That committee will be chaired by a government appointee though, how do you ensure its independence?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It'll be independent, because that's what the National Anti-Corruption Commission bill provides for. There's a whole lot of statutory powers given to this Commission. They have to be exercised independently, the Commissioner has to act in an independent way. That's why we have acts of Parliament, laws that create independent agencies. So, by law, this Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners are going to be acting independently of government.

HOST: Scott Morrison, we saw yesterday, was censured. The Greens will now move to refer the former Prime Minister to the Privileges Committee. What message does this send to politicians, especially now with the establishment of the integrity commission?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: It's a huge message to the whole community that the Parliament has marked by censuring a former Prime Minister for the first time ever, that we will uphold our system of government when you've got a Prime Minister who's appointed himself secretly to five ministries. That's an extraordinary attack on the principles of accountability and responsible government. The Solicitor-General said that in formal legal advice to the government. We got retired High Court Justice Virginia Bell to do a short inquiry and a report. Her report was made public by the Prime Minister last Friday. It's absolutely right that the Parliament mark its disapproval of this, that we had a public debate about this in the Parliament. We need to make sure this never happens again. We've got to have accountability and you can't have accountability if a Prime Minister's going to do what Scott Morrison did, which is to appoint himself secretly to five ministries and pretend that he's able secretly to exercise the powers of ministers.

HOST: We're running out of time, but a few more for you. Leaked files show Federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert attended private consulting meetings to discuss major government projects after becoming a Minister. Does this need to also be investigated?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: These are very concerning allegations and Mr Dutton needs to explain today what he's going to do about it, what he's going to do to investigate and what action he's going to take against Mr Robert.

HOST: I know this isn't your portfolio, but Sky News has obtained a leaked government report that shows more than 500 jobs will be lost in the Hunter when coal power stations close. Why hasn't that full report been released yet?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Well, I've not seen anything about that report. And of course, if enterprises close you're going to lose some jobs but we are in an energy transition. The whole world is in an energy transition. We are moving towards renewables. We are moving towards a higher level of renewable energy in the Australian energy sector. And we have to because that's what needs to happen to deal with damaging carbon emissions that we need to take out of the atmosphere to deal with climate change. So, this is we are right in a long-term transition away from coal towards more renewable energy,

HOST: I guess, so we're here talking about integrity and transparency, why hasn't that full report been released?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: You'll have to ask whoever is responsible for the report. This is the first I've heard of this particular report. We are in a long-term transition, there's going to be an ongoing debate for decades to come about how we can make this energy transition.

HOST: All right, let me just get one more out of your Medibank. Hackers appear to have dumped the remainder of customer data online overnight. They are saying though it's "case closed", but can we believe them?

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: We've become aware of this data dump. The agencies are looking at it, and I have to say, on all of these invasions of our privacy, these shocking data breaches that Australians have experienced over the past several weeks, that's why we passed another law through the Parliament this week to increase the penalties massively, to provide an incentive for every company that is storing Australians' personal data, to take care and to have proper levels of security so that we make sure these breaches don't happen again.

HOST: Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus we really appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL: Thanks very much.