Transcript – Pollie-Graph – ABC Radio Melbourne

Topics: foreign political donations, terrorism and national security, Carmichael Mine

 

E&OE …

 

RAF EPSTEIN:

Scott Ryan is a Liberal Senator for Victoria, he is also Malcolm Turnbull’s Special Minister of State. Scott, good afternoon.

 

SENATOR SCOTT RYAN:

G’day Raf, I have to confess, I’m in Canberra.

 

EPSTEIN:

Oh sorry, I thought you were in Sydney. Good.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

It’s probably warmer there.

 

EPSTEIN:

It probably is. Canberra, delightful city, just a little cold sometimes.

And in Brisbane – I’m sure it’s warmer there – Richard Di Natale, of course, another Senator for Victoria and leader of the Australian Greens in the Parliament.

Richard, good afternoon.

 

SENATOR RICHARD DI NATALE:

G’day Raf.

 

EPSTEIN:

You’re in Brisbane?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

I am in Brisbane and it is indeed warmer than it is in Melbourne right now.

 

EPSTEIN:

Look, I want to get in to a little bit about foreign donations, but Scott Ryan, can I ask you a question, a very specific one? Andrew Robb, the former trade minister who negotiated and had a role with the China free trade association (sic), he accepted a $50,000 donation from a Chinese businessman, a man ASIO has significant concerns about, and he accepted that money on the day the free trade agreement was signed. Can you understand why that makes people distrust politicians, Scott?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I don’t know if he accepted it Raf.

 

EPSTEIN:

No sorry, it’s the fundraising in his seat.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

The forum. It is important to say I don’t know if he received it, I’ve never seen a claim of that.

 

EPSTEIN:

It’s the Bayside Forum, I think.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Exactly. It is a group he fundraises with so I’m not denying that, so I think there is a difference between that and him receiving a donation.

 

EPSTEIN:

I think there is an important technical distinction, you’re right, and I don’t think he has broken any laws.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I think it’s a substantive one as well. So I’m not dismissing, but these things can be beaten up or misrepresented. But does anyone really think, that given how important that agreement was to Australia and the degree of public scrutiny to which it was subject, and parliamentary debate, that in any way that had any influence on Australia’s negotiations or the Parliament’s passage of the China-Australia Free-Trade Agreement?

 

EPSTEIN:

Public concern is not about the influence on the process is it, it’s about the appearance of being separate to and unconcerned with any party political gain?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Yeah, but I don’t think reasonably anyone could suggest that and I’ve never seen a suggestion like that.

 

EPSTEIN:

So you think the reporting is overblown?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’m not going to judge the work of others. There should be competitive tension between politicians and journalists, but I think one of the things that I need to do, and it’s not always popular in this role, is to draw public attention to the actual facts, and I don’t think he received a donation personally.

 

EPSTEIN:

All right, let me go more broadly – and I’ll ask Richard Di Natale in a moment – both major parties accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from people ASIO had concerns about, concerns enough that the Director-General of ASIO went and spoke to both major parties. Something’s wrong if that’s happening, isn’t it?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’ve seen the reports – and I’m not challenging them – but I can’t attest to them because I wasn’t involved in any such meetings.

In the Liberal Party there is a distance kept between politicians and party members who do fundraising and receive donations.

But let’s also remember that in one way, these donations were not foreign in a legal sense – and this is one of the reasons it is taking some time to draft a comprehensive and effective ban on foreign donations. One of the people mentioned is an Australian citizen and the other person mentioned in that report is a permanent resident.

Citizenship brings with it certain rights and that’s a Constitutional issue that I’m trying to grapple with, as much as a policy issue.

 

EPSTEIN:

Richard Di Natale, what do you think?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Well I think something is desperately wrong Raf, and I think most Australians would agree with that. There are three things that need to happen and they need to happen very quickly. I just call on both the Prime Minister and Bill Shorten to work with the Greens on this.

The first thing is we do need a national anti-corruption watchdog. As you say, it’s not just about what’s done, it’s about the perception that the right thing is being done. And when you start to undermine people’s faith in their democratic institutions, you end up with Donald Trump.

When people feel the system’s so broken …

 

EPSTEIN:

Isn’t that a long bow to draw?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

No, not at all.

 

EPSTEIN:

ASIO warning on donations, ignore that, directly leads to Donald Trump? That’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

I didn’t say directly, but I think ultimately when people have lost faith in the democratic institutions, when they think the system is broken, they look to people who are say they are out to disrupt the system. That’s what Donald Trump presented himself as. Now obviously with this, there is a lot that could be said about that, but I think the manifestation of this is that people have lost faith in politicians, in democratic institutions, and that’s really dangerous for any democracy.

So I think the first thing is you need a national anti-corruption watchdog. We’ve got them in all the state parliaments and the idea we don’t have one in the Federal Parliament, it’s just simply nonsense to think that corruption doesn’t exist within Federal Parliament.

 

EPSTEIN:

Richard Di Natale, a specific foreign donations question, which is an issue that Scott Ryan has charge of, are you happy with the ban on foreign donations?

I think GetUp! say they only get about one per cent of their money from overseas, but still …

 

SENATOR RYAN:

They declared $300,000 recently …

 

EPSTEIN:

Just one minute Scott, Richard Di Natale, are you ok with that block if it affects a group like GetUp!?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Of course the ban on foreign donations is important, but we need to go much further than that. We need comprehensive donations reform. That’s the second thing that needs to happen. The first thing is a national anti-corruption watchdog, the second thing is comprehensive donations reforms. That means, not just a ban on foreign donations, because that’s the tip of the iceberg. We need a ban on corporate donations, we need caps on donations from not-for-profit entities and from individuals. You need to get big money out of politics. The third thing you need to have is you’ve got to have cooling off periods. You cannot have a Minister of the Crown who is making decisions in one area and then, within five minutes of leaving the job, goes to work as a lobbyist for that area.

 

EPSTEIN:

I have covered some of these issues Richard, I just want to try and confine us a little bit because we have limited time.

I want to ask you both this question, which is a focus on what we know happened with Sam Dastyari, the NSW Labor Senator. He contacted the Immigration Department four times on someone’s citizenship application. Have you ever done that Richard? Have you ever contacted, or has your office ever contacted, the Immigration Department on behalf of someone else that many times? I don’t know if that is normal or not.

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Not to my knowledge Raf. I know that certainly in the immigration portfolio, Senator Nick McKim and before that, Senator Hanson-Young, often did contact the Minister and the Department to plead for individuals, usually a refugee under difficult circumstance.

 

EPSTEIN:

So in that instance they might do it more than four times?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Look, certainly not to my knowledge. I expected that once, possibly twice, but I cannot imagine any situation where that has occurred more than once or twice.

 

EPSTEIN:

Scott Ryan, have you ever done that? Four times?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Not to my knowledge. Occasionally, my office has made an inquiry about the progress, but never lobbied for. I occasionally have constituents who ask for a progress report and I’m very careful in what I do because I don’t know the people and I don’t vouch, if you know what I mean, but I can’t remember ever doing it like that.

 

But Raf, there is an issue that Richard raised there on donations. The Greens policy is to ban companies from donating and spending money, but allow their friends in the union movement and other NGOs to spend all they want. Now I’m all for a discussion on this, like I am on foreign donations, but I’m not going to create legislative loopholes that I’d be back on air being criticised for by saying, ‘this TV ad can’t be paid for by foreign money, but the ones that come after it can’. It’s got to be a comprehensive foreign donations ban.

 

EPSTEIN:

Richard Di Natale, just briefly on that?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

I’m pleased to hear there is an interest in comprehensive donations reform, we’d be very much up for that discussion. I think one of the issues there, there was a court case in NSW …

 

EPSTEIN:

The union limit that Scott sees a problem with?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Yeah look our policy actually is for strict caps on donations for not-for-profits so it sounds like there might be …

 

SENATOR RYAN:

But does it count spending money Richard? Because there is no point saying the unions can’t donate to the Labor Party and a mining company can’t donate to the Liberal Party, but you can’t have the unions then go and spend more than $16 million, which is what they did at the last election.

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

That’s true also of the mining industry …

 

SENATOR RYAN:

No it’s not. No one spends as much as the union movement.

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Hang on, the mining tax campaign.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

That wasn’t last year, that was three years ago.

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

It’s the same point.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

My point being, if you add up the money that is spent in Australia – so GetUp declared more than $10 million at the last election – you can’t pretend, as your spokesperson Lee Rhiannon does, that we can ban all the for-profits, but we can let the NGO and the so-called not-for-profits spend as much as they like.

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Our policy is for strict caps on those Scott, so if you’re interested in comprehensive donations reform, something the Greens have been campaigning on for a long time, I’d be more than happy to have that conversation with you.

 

EPSTEIN:

Gentlemen, that was a pretty interesting tete-a-tete, but I just want to give Dale in Bayswater a chance. What did you want to say Dale?

 

CALLER:

Look I think what we’re hearing is a lot of the same talk from the major parties and I think what they don’t understand is that their brand is so tarnished that most of us don’t really care what they say because it is all full of weasel words, double-talk and it leads to exactly what Richard said about this is why you get Trump and Hanson and Clive Palmer and all the rest of it. A good example before is that Scott was talking before about checking on people’s visa applications, or residency applications. Now, I know he said ‘all we’re doing is checking on progress’, but the man in the street knows what that really means is [inaudible] but it’s to push it along.

 

EPSTEIN:

I don’t know if Scott actually said that about citizenship applications.

 

CALLER:

He said ‘we’re checking on progress’.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

This is part of the problem. Dale is then saying, ‘I know what he is really up to, I’m not going to believe the words that come out of his mouth’. People contact Members of Parliament’s offices all the time saying they’ve got a problem with Centrelink, a problem with Medicare or another problem. And occasionally, if it’s not something that can be resolved by staff assisting them, you occasionally make an inquiry. Now I have, on a rare occasion, had my office – there is a phone number for MPs’ offices to call and it is literally only to check progress. So someone might say ‘it has been in the system a couple of months’, it has never been lobbying. But then this is part of the problem, Dale comes on and bags both parties and says ‘it doesn’t matter what you say, I’m going to assume you’re up to something’, quite frankly, it’s crap.

 

EPSTEIN:

Can I switch to the significant, and I think quite heightened discussion around terrorism? I’m going to go to internment, which remarkably to me, is being discussed in some places. The idea that you can somehow compile a list of people who have never committed an offence, but there might be some intelligence on them that puts them on a watch list. I’ll start with you Richard Di Natale, are we anywhere near that happening? I’m surprised that discussion is even happening, are we anywhere near anything like internment happening?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

You and me both Raf. I hope not. I desperately hope not. The idea that we would round people up, lock them up, people who haven’t committed a crime, simply because someone somewhere might suspect them of doing something. That’s very different to what we’ve experienced at the moment. We’ve got, certainly, I mean the first thing to say is just to send our deepest sympathies to all the people who suffering right now because of these horrendous and violent actions from people who are, quite clearly, criminals. Certainly that is what appears to be the case with the recent events in Brighton. But we’ve got to be very, very careful here. I think we’ve got to be careful too that if we start, for example with the siege in Brighton, if we ignore the fact this was someone with a violent, criminal history who was in jail. Someone who had a history of serious substance abuse, someone who, I think, contacted the authorities and said he was doing it on behalf of IS and also Al-Qaeda, who are sworn enemies, I mean this is a man who obviously made no impact in his life and was trying to leave a mark in death. We’ve got to be careful that we don’t do anything to give this man’s actions anymore significance than what they deserve. There is a worrying trend with copycat crimes, and so on. So I’m really concerned about the debate.

I think we need to be absolutely vigilant and do what we can to prevent these actions. We know that intelligence agencies have powers that allow them to monitor and track the behaviours of individuals, but the idea that, in a democracy, you would round people up off the street because someone somewhere suspects them of thinking something, I think that is a very dangerous place.

 

EPSTEIN:

Scott Ryan, there are media people saying if you are on a terror watch list, you should be presumed guilty until you prove your innocence.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Who’s saying that?

 

EPSTEIN:

David Koch tweeted that out today.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I don’t think there is a serious debate about internment.

 

EPSTEIN:

It’s happening on breakfast television and commercial radio.

 

SENATOR RYAN:

They’re not decision makers. I can’t foresee or imagine a debate about internment. There is a very strong control order system that is very strongly policed and has judicial involvement, where people do pose a risk, control orders can be imposed on them.

 

EPSTEIN:

So that is locking someone up when they haven’t actually committed anything?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Look there are varying degrees and that’s been in place for nearly two decades, that control order process, and it is very tightly overseen. It is something that, personally, I was always a little uncomfortable with, but you have to accept reality and you put in place the checks and the balances to ensure that you don’t have, what some people might describe as ‘rounding up’. I don’t think that’s a debate that is happening in Australia, but it does reflect how scared people are. I would go further than Richard, the events in Brighton, clearly that person shouldn’t have been on the streets, but when people are latching onto a poisonous ideology you’ve got those who are recruited and radicalised and you’ve got those who can use it, potentially as a way, to grab onto another poisonous ideology when they’re violent people and they are scared.

 

EPSTEIN:

1300222774, I will get to more of your questions and more of my own.

[TRAFFIC REPORT]

Richard Di Natale is with me, leader of the Greens. Scott Ryan is with me, Malcolm Turnbull’s Special Minister of State.

I do want to ask a couple of other environmental questions, but while we’re on terrorism, if I can start with you Richard Di Natale. Manchester, London, Paris, what happened in Brighton on Monday night, how much of those attacks are linked to Islam, as practiced by most Muslims?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

Let’s not forget there is also the terrible attacks in Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq and let’s not also forget that it’s Muslims who are mostly the victims of these horrific and violent acts. Look, we’ve got to recognise that the best asset we have in fighting against these individuals, who have a warped view of Islam, is the Muslim community itself. I’ve been doing a lot of work with the Islamic community across Australia and meeting so many really wonderful, really young people, working with members of their community, doing lots of outreach, identifying kids at risk, doing everything they can to make them feel included and part of society. If we’re going to prevent individuals from taking a view of their religion that is one that is rejected by almost everybody who practices that religion then we have to work with those communities. So I don’t accept there is something fundamentally wrong with Islam, I think that’s the view of some people, I completely reject that. I think that all religions have had interpretations by people at the fringes that mean that we’ve seen violence perpetrated on that.

I think Barnaby Joyce actually made a lot of sense on this – and I don’t say that too often – but he talked about the IRA and radical Buddhism and Hinduism, where there have been segments of those groups that have decided that violence is a way to advance their cause. It’s not religion that’s the problem, it’s the individuals who use that religion for their own war purposes.

 

EPSTEIN:

Scott Ryan, how much does the violence have to do with the religion of Islam?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

I’m not an expert, that’s the first thing I’ll say. But I think to the way the great majority that practice it, I don’t see it. I think Duncan Lewis said on radio, I think it was last week, I think that was very appropriate, he said that a violent extremist interpretation of, in this case, Sunni Islam, that does and is used by Islamists to recruit and to encourage murder and terror. While it is happening to Muslims in other parts of the world, like Afghanistan, our job as the Australian Government, and my prime responsibility, is to protect Australian citizens. We have to be honest that that is the ideology that motivates, that recruits, or that crazed, violent people latch onto when we find out the full events of Brighton after we hear from the full inquiry. So, by all means, let’s be honest about it, but at the same time, I don’t judge people by a label – whether that be race or religion – I judge people by their actions. I think that is a prism through which we can live in a harmonious and peaceful society. If people do the wrong thing – if people do what they did to Andrew Bolt – they should be condemned in the same way that if they go a ‘pie’ Alan Joyce, there is no place for violence.

 

EPSTEIN:

Just a few minutes to go before the weather so forgive me for completely switching tactics or subjects on you, I’ll start with you Scott Ryan. Is the Adani coal mine actually going to happen?

 

SENATOR RYAN:

Well I can’t predict the future, but they’ve announced it will go ahead.

I hope so. It’s 4000 jobs in an area with eight, ten per cent or more unemployment. Every regional mayor in the area – all eight of them – are desperate for it, of both political persuasions. It is 300 kilometres inland, it has had more than 300 environmental approvals and I think – and Richard will obviously have a different view – but we need to be careful in the comfortable suburbs of Melbourne or Sydney about denying people in North Queensland with a struggling economy, the opportunity for sustainable employment in the environment they live.

 

EPSTEIN:

I just want to give Richard a chance before we have to go, Richard Di Natale, is it going to happen?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

I don’t think it will happen and I think they will struggle to get the finance. Certainly there will be huge pressure on whoever decides to lend them the money and I think it’s going to just as big, if not bigger, than the Franklin to stop this thing going ahead.

I think what Scott’s offering is a false choice. It’s not a question of Adani or no jobs. It’s a question of whether we are going to throw a billion dollars – and that’s what Scott wants to do, this is Scott Ryan from the Institute of Public Affairs, who doesn’t believe in public subsidies, but he is prepared to throw a billion dollars, well his party is prepared to throw a billion dollars of public money, your listeners money at a coal mine that, if it gets built, will be the equivalent of the seventh-biggest emitter on earth compared to other nations. It’s a question of whether we have coal or the reef, but of course, the false choice is that you either build this thing, or people in North Queensland don’t have jobs.  If we were to put the same degree of effort and subsidy into the renewable energy sector, we would have thousands of jobs generated. We’ve got 4000 new jobs, just this year, from the renewable energy sector, and growing.

 

EPSTEIN:

Sorry, is that Queensland or North Queensland?

 

SENATOR DI NATALE:

That’s nationally, this year there have been 4000 new jobs in the renewable energy sector. The bottom line here is that this is not just about jobs for the people here today, it’s about long-term, sustainable, economic futures for people in North Queensland. You do that by supporting sectors that have a long-term future and the future is in renewable energy, happening right around the world. We’re one of the few countries that is turning our back on the enormous opportunities that come with making this transition.

 

EPSTEIN:

I need to leave it there. Richard Di Natale and Scott Ryan thank you so much, look forward to speaking to you next time.

 

[ENDS]

Author: senatorryan

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