SUBJECT/S: National security legislation; Malcolm Turnbull’s plan to increase the GST




HOST: Now, the Opposition will support the changes to citizenship laws, but isn't happy with the way the Government has handled the process. Labor's citizenship spokeswoman Michelle Rowland explained her position to political reporter Julie Doyle.


MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: Julie, we said from the outset that we would support any sensible changes to the Citizenship Act to account for phenomena such as Daesh. We have maintained that position all along. When the Government introduced this legislation, it was sent to a committee for examination with 27 recommendations, it was a bipartisan report. The last recommendation was that the Bill be supported subject to the 26 recommendations being implemented. The Government has provided us with a letter from the Attorney-General stating that the legislation is constitutionally compliant. We are relying on that and also having examined the drafting in response to those recommendations, we will be supporting the legislation today.

JULIE DOYLE: You did raise some concerns along the way, though, about the process, particularly yesterday, the Opposition's immigration spokesman Richard Marles asked for a full briefing and for some more time. Did you get what you were looking for there?

ROWLAND: Eventually, but Julie, can I say, the process has been extremely wanting, particularly in respect of the attitude of Minister Dutton. What happened was this: we were provided with the Government's amendments to this legislation on Tuesday afternoon. It was embargoed. Richard Marles was able to be briefed, but our Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus was not permitted to be there. So not only was this under embargo, they didn't even finish the briefing on all those recommendations. So we had a situation where Labor was being asked to support something,  the majority of us hadn't seen yet, and secondly, one in which we hadn't had time for proper analysis. So it has been an extremely wanting process. I’m pleased that we have been able to get that briefing since. Obviously the debate is taking place now and, as I said, Labor will be supporting it. But there are serious issues with process, not just this one, with how this came about.

DOYLE: Labor was involved in the Joint Intelligence and Security Committee which had a look, that was bipartisan, so you knew what the recommendations were and the government had agreed to adopt them, so the Government argues that the Opposition was aware of what was going on?

ROWLAND: We were aware of the recommendations but it is quite a different thing to have the drafting in response to some of those recommendations, some of which went to serious issues of constitutionality. When you have a situation like that , you have to see what the actual drafting is in order to be able to analyse it.

: Was it ever in doubt, though? Was there ever a situation that Labor wouldn't support it?

ROWLAND: We said we would support it if each of the recommendations were implemented, and also for compliance of the drafting with those recommendations.

DOYLE: You spoke a little bit about whether the laws would be constitutionally valid. The Immigration Minister has said he expects there would be some kind of court challenge. Are you satisfied with what you've seen, that these laws could take on the challenge?

ROWLAND: Julie, we had a variety of constitutional experts looking at this. Their view was that the original Bill was seriously constitutionally flawed. We have never seen the advice from the Solicitor General. The Government refused to release the advice as to the constitutional nature of the Bill, including the amendments. The only thing we have to give us comfort is a letter from George Brandis. That is actually the final item in the committee's report, and it's there for everyone to see. Whether that gives anyone else comfort remains to be seen, but I will say this: any Government and any Parliament which supports laws would want those laws to be constitutionally sound. I note that even the Prime Minister has said that he expects that there would likely be a challenge to this legislation. So we'll have to wait and see what happens.

DOYLE: Is there an option, though, for the Opposition to get your own legal advice and get people to have a look and advise you as to whether it's constitutionally valid?

ROWLAND: We've heard the submissions from the committee process. We have that letter from George Brandis. We will be relying on that for comfort. The Government has received the Solicitor-General's advice. We are not privy to that. If they want to rely on that, then that's what I'm sure they will be doing.

DOYLE: The other area that the Government is moving ahead with today is looking at the control orders, lowering the age from 16 to 14. What's your view on that?

ROWLAND: We will be seeking a full briefing on this. It is a significant change particularly when it relates to people of potentially a very young age, and there have been some criticisms in some quarters about the effectiveness of control orders, so we will be seeking a briefing on this. Obviously we will support wherever possible in a bipartisan manner, any measures that are designed to keep Australians safe.

DOYLE: Have you had any feedback about that from your electorate?

ROWLAND: Not as yet, but I expect this would be something top of mind for a lot of people, particularly considering I'm from the western suburbs of Sydney and we had that terrible incident in Parramatta not so long ago.

DOYLE: Is that something you will be seeking?

ROWLAND: Oh, definitely.

DOYLE: This week Labor has focused a lot on the potential for an increase in the GST, quizzing the Government about it every time in Question Time this week. Can we see more of that in Question Time today?

ROWLAND: We will be asking the Government to release its plans. They are saying there won't be an increase in the GST or a broadening of it without fairness measures in place. Julie, this is extremely difficult to believe when the Government right now is seeking to strip payments for some of the most vulnerable in our society. It beggars belief that the Australian people will fall for that sort of argument.

So you stick to that tactic today?

ROWLAND: We will wait to see whether the Government will reveal its hand.

DOYLE: Michelle Rowland, thank you very much.

ROWLAND: A pleasure.