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TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 26 October 2017

TITLE: Transcript – Pollie-Graph with Senator Richard Di Natale – ABC Melbourne

TOPIC(S): AFP raids on AWU offices, AEC review of GetUp!, immigration


RAF EPSTEIN:
Joining us in Canberra, one of Malcolm Turnbull’s Ministers, part of the Cabinet, Senator Scott Ryan, he is a Liberal Senator for Victoria, he is the Special Minister of State. Scott Ryan good afternoon.

SENATOR SCOTT RYAN:
Good afternoon Raf, great to be here.

EPSTEIN:
And alongside him in our luxurious and plush Canberra studio is the Leader of the Greens, another Victorian Senator, Richard Di Natale. Good afternoon Richard.

SENATOR RICHARD DI NATALE:
More like a wardrobe Raf, but yes, good to be here.

EPSTEIN:
Oh it’s pretty good, they gave you a beer and a coffee choice didn’t they when you walked in, no?

SENATOR DI NATALE:
A glass of water.

SENATOR RYAN:
That wouldn’t be a judicious use of taxpayers’ money.

EPSTEIN:
Yes, the Special Minister of State is there.

Look, Senator Ryan forgive me, let me set up the raids yesterday if people are unaware. When Bill Shorten was part of the Australian Workers Union, he was running for Parliament. Around that time, so 10 or so years ago, that union gave money both to Bill Shorten’s campaign and also to help establish GetUp! the activist group. Whether or not the union fully, properly approved those donations is the question. It’s a question being examined by a government body you haven’t heard of, they carved out a bit of the Fair Work Commission and made the Registered Organisations Commission. They asked the AFP to raid offices yesterday.

So Scott Ryan, forgive the preamble, is that politics or police work?

SENATOR RYAN:
Well I think, to be fair, there is a bit of context you forgot. The Registered Organisations Commission is as independent as the Electoral Commission. It is not a government body, so much as an independent statutory authority.  It went to court, to an independent magistrate, and said they were concerned about the destruction of evidence and on that basis a warrant was issued and the raid took place. And today, the AWU has gone to court to challenge that and that’s how the court system is supposed to work. This was independent of me, of the Minister, of the Prime Minister.

EPSTEIN:
Richard Di Natale, politics or police work?

SENATOR DI NATALE:
Well it is pretty hard to escape that the Government has been very critical of GetUp! We know that GetUp! campaigned against the Government because it has been an organisation that has stood up for action on climate change, on marriage equality, against racism, on many things, and it doesn’t see the Government as supporting that agenda and therefore it is exercising its democratic right to let people know that those are the issues on which they should make their decisions when it comes to the day of an election.

Here we’ve got, I think, a Prime Minister who is really wielding the apparatus of the state against civil society organisations. I’m really concerned about it Raf. I just think it’s a dark day for democracy when you’ve got the police raiding, basically, an organisation that is standing up for a range of issues the Government doesn’t like. They then find 25 AFP officers on their front door raiding the offices of a union, trying to insinuate there is somehow something corrupt going on because a union sought to donate to an organisation that feels it is arguing for the rights of working people. I just think it stinks.

SENATOR RYAN:
Richard’s saying that the law shouldn’t apply. This is how our courts work. We have independent organisations who go to court to seek a warrant. Is Richard suggesting …

SENATOR DI NATALE:
Scott, the media were there 20 minutes before the police were there. That just smacks of interference.

EPSTEIN:
Richard, you’ll get a chance, just let Scott Ryan continue.

SENATOR RYAN:
The court granted a warrant, as it would if they were raiding your or my house. The idea that because of the causes someone believes in they should be exempt from the operation of the law, which is what Richard is arguing here …

SENATOR DI NATALE:
No, it’s not what I’m arguing Scott.

SENATOR RYAN:
… is outrageous. We have an independent authority that went to an independent court, the magistrate granted a warrant out of a fear of destruction of evidence. That is being challenged in our courts as we speak today and there will be another hearing on Friday. This is exactly how the rule of law works and it should apply equally to everyone, no matter what the bumper sticker on your car or bike is. Richard’s saying if you’ve got a climate change sticker on your car then you should be exempt from the law.

SENATOR DI NATALE:
No, that’s not what I’m saying Scott. What I’m saying is that if this was an independent process why were the media there 20 minutes before to film the raid?

SENATOR RYAN:
It’s not the first time the media has turned up to a police event.

SENATOR DI NATALE:
Answer that question.

EPSTEIN:
Forgive me Richard Di Natale, let me interject. Scott Ryan, does it undermine the Minister’s case – there weren’t just a few journos present before the union heard what was going on, there were teams of journalists outside their offices. That undermines the Government’s case, doesn’t it?

SENATOR RYAN:
This is not the first time there has been media present at a police event. I don’t think anyone could realistically make that suggestion. The Minister Michaelia Cash made it clear when she was questioned at length today in a Senate committee that she and her office found out about this when they saw it in the media. That they did not tell anyone, that they did not know.

EPSTEIN:
Can I ask you Scott Ryan, I wouldn’t dare to question the political biases of the Australian Federal Police, however, the Government set up the organisation that called for the inquiry. Let me put this to you, the Trade Union Royal Commission cost $80 million, they put 900 questions to Bill Shorten, they made no findings against him. The Registered Organisations Commission comes out of that Trade Union Royal Commission. It’s a new body, like you say, the AEC and the Fair Work Commission, they are independent, but you created it. This is the first time they’ve been to court. The very first time they’ve been to court, they’re looking at Bill Shorten and his union 10 years ago. That is political, isn’t it?

SENATOR RYAN:
The organisation’s been set up for less than 12 months because Labor and the Greens constantly blocked it. What I will say about the Royal Commission is, as you know, Royal Commissions don’t prosecute. They are investigative and it did actually find out there was a donation of tens of thousands of dollars from the AWU to Bill Shorten’s campaign and it wasn’t declared. It only came out of the Royal Commission. So this organisation, which has been recommended, was set up, it is independent and just like the Electoral Commission, who GetUp! attacked this week …

EPSTEIN:
There was nothing illegal about the donation was there?

SENATOR RYAN:
It wasn’t declared.

EPSTEIN:
Is that illegal?

SENATOR DI NATALE:
The donation to GetUp! was declared.

SENATOR RYAN:
The donation from the AWU to Bill Shorten’s campaign was not declared.

SENATOR DI NATALE:
But the donation to GetUp! was declared. The $100,000 donation was declared.

SENATOR RYAN:
There was a donation uncovered that wasn’t declared. So the Labor Party and the AWU filed an updated disclosure, as is often the case. But here we have GetUp! attacking the Electoral Commission. We have Richard and his friends in a bidding war of escalated rhetoric to attack an independent commission, even though it went to an independent court and sought a warrant just like they would for any other event.

SENATOR DI NATALE:
Raf, Raf.

EPSTEIN:
A quick response Richard Di Natale, I want to ask something else about GetUp!

SENATOR DI NATALE:
We had a Royal Commission. What came out of that was this body, the Registered Organisations Commission, no one knows about it. It was set up specifically with the purpose of attacking the union movement and anyone who speaks up against this Government. The AFP have then suddenly launched on a union and the media were there to film it. The whole thing stinks. It really stinks and you can’t escape the conclusion that the only people to benefit from having the media there are the Government. They are there to try and smear GetUp! and the union movement. I think it’s a really dark day in any democracy. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in climate change or marriage equality, when you’ve got the state, the apparatus of the state, the police, being turned against civil society organisations because they express a different view of the government of the day, everybody should be alarmed at that regardless of what your position is.

EPSTEIN:
Scott Ryan you will get a chance, I just want to try and introduce another element. You can hear there, that was Richard Di Natale, the leader of the Greens. Scott Ryan is dying to have his say, he is Special Minister of State, part of Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister’s, Government.

1300 222 774 is the phone number, you’re welcome to call and put questions to them yourself. There is an asylum seeker question and I can see people waiting to ask various things.

Scott Ryan, feel free to add what you wanted to say to Richard Di Natale, however there is another element to GetUp! the activist group. The Australian Electoral Commission are examining whether or not they should be treated as a more political organisation, the technical term is an ‘associated entity’. The Electoral Commission, who run elections and controls who declares what around political donations, they’re examining whether or not GetUp! should be called an associated entity. It would put tougher requirements on them.

Why would that be necessary Scott Ryan? They don’t advocate for one party, they often advocate for left-of-centre causes, but they don’t advocate for one party so why should they have tougher donations disclosure obligations.

SENATOR RYAN:
The first thing I’ll say, the Electoral Commissioner appeared last night at Senate Estimates and made clear that he acts independently and no special minister of state – because it is an agency that falls under my bailiwick – from either side has ever made a direction to him, nor would they take a direction. This is all done independently.

Effectively, every 12 months, when groups have to make financial disclosures about where their money comes from and sometimes where they spend it in politics, the Electoral Commission has to make determinations or assessments on where groups fit under the Electoral Act. Last night, the Commissioner made clear that such an assessment is taking place because the closure for such filing of disclosures was last Friday. The most important thing about this Raf – before I move onto my view of GetUp! – nothing the Electoral Commission does, prohibits or stops anyone campaigning in any way. It simply says ‘you’ve got to have a higher burden of disclosure, you’ve got to tell us where the money came from’.

EPSTEIN:
But to get to the nub of it, it’s whether or not they are small ‘p’ political, or capital ‘p’ partisan political.

SENATOR RYAN:
No, the definition of what is called an associated entity, one of the categories is, ‘do you wholly or significantly operate to the benefit of one or more political parties?’

Now, I would disagree with you Raf on one thing. GetUp! at the last election bragged about how they campaigned against Coalition members, so I don’t think it’s an independent group and I don’t think anyone could legitimately say that. They made it very clear, they bragged about how they took out Coalition members. Now that’s fine, I’ve got no issue with groups campaigning against me and what I stand for and my colleagues, that’s what free democracy is about. But GetUp! earlier this year said let’s ban foreign donations and are now starting to say ‘except for us’. It is now saying ‘we should have transparency in politics, except for us’. It’s the first group to have ever attacked the Electoral Commission like this.

Politics is hotly contested, but one of the things we have in this country that, for example, the United States suffers from, is impartial, fair, electoral administration. GetUp! has decided to sledge the Electoral Commission without any basis, purely for its independent assessment of the Act, which they have not even completed.

EPSTEIN:
Richard Di Natale?

SENATOR DI NATALE:
What you’re hearing now is the whole reason this has been set up. It’s to smear the reputation of GetUp!, a civil society organisation, that’s what it is set up to do. The question about whether somebody is an associated entity effectively means they are associated with a political party and there are a bunch of things that they have to satisfy to demonstrate that.

SENATOR RYAN:
Or more than one party.

SENATOR DI NATALE:
One party or more than one party. And Scott’s evidence is that they campaigned against the Coalition, that’s right, but they campaigned against the Coalition because their policies on climate change stink, their opposition to marriage equality stinks, locking up refugees stinks, and that’s their value base. They don’t support any of those policies, they campaigned on those policies and they were campaigning against a party that represents the worst elements of each and every one of those policies. It had nothing to do with partisan politics. It had to do with the fact that this is a Government that locks up young kids in offshore prisons. This is a Government that wants to prop up coal and not support renewable energy. This is a Government that opposes marriage equality.

EPSTEIN:
But if GetUp! mainly …

SENATOR DI NATALE:
They were campaigning against the Government not because they support Labor or the Greens or indeed any other political party. They are trying to advance each and every one of those issues and in a democracy it’s their right to do it. On the other side of this debate you’ve got groups like the Minerals Council, who want to see coal continue, you’ve got the Australian Christian Lobby, who are arguing against marriage equality. All are entitled to do that because we live in a democracy.

EPSTEIN:
They aren’t out phone banking or dropping leaflets, are they?

SENATOR RYAN:
None of them have attacked the Electoral Commission, by the way. None of them have done what GetUp! did and go after the Electoral Commission in a disgraceful attack on its independence. No one has ever done it before.

EPSTEIN:
Gentlemen, let me just get this in – 1300 222 774 is the phone number. That’s Scott Ryan, Special Minister of State, with Richard Di Natale, the leader of the Greens. Your calls are welcome, some of your texts.

I like this one because I’m not sure who it is addressed at: ‘mate, are we all idiots?’ That’s a question mark, I don’t know who it’s addressed to, but I like it. ‘Why should GetUp cop that from the AEC’ – that’s the Electoral Commission – ‘while the Murdoch-racy (sic) does not? Because the Liberals are in and the whole thing does stink’. Someone else saying ‘clearly a witch hunt by the LNP Government to harass or silence GetUp’.

Richard Di Natale, if I could just ask a question, if most of what GetUp! does during elections benefits ALP Members of Parliament or Greens MPs, doesn’t that mean they should just answer to a slightly tougher set of rules?

SENATOR DI NATALE:
No Raf, you see, we make the same argument about any other organisation, as I said, the Minerals Council, the Australian Christian Lobby and there are many others, the bottom line is, if you look for example, at their stance on Adani, you’ve got Labor in Queensland who are out spruiking Adani, they want Adani to be built, GetUp! is campaigning against it and that’s a good thing, we are pleased that they are. There will be other issues on which we disagree.

As a voice in our democracy, they are absolutely entitled to speak out on each and every one of these issues, to mobilise their members, to organise, to get their members to contact Members of Parliament, as long as they’re speaking out on behalf of issues and not for political parties. And ultimately, there are many organisations right across the country, civil society organisations who do that, and we’ve got to remember there will be many times when there will be organisations who might campaign for things we don’t like, but in a democracy, that’s what freedom of speech means: allowing that to happen.

SENATOR RYAN:
None of that changes. None of that changes …

SENATOR DI NATALE:
Hang on a minute Scott. When you’re actually sending out the police to film a raid (sic) on an organisation because you don’t like what they say, I think that’s an incredibly dark day and every Australian should be alarmed at what’s going on here. We have a Prime Minister who is weak, who is compromised …

SENATOR RYAN:
Come on, come one ...

SENATOR DI NATALE:
… and effectively doesn’t like to be held to account and that’s what he is doing.

SENATOR RYAN:
Raf, I am quite clear that GetUp! has every right to do what they do and I’m not the one assigning  a motive to what is happening here. Richard is the one throwing out all the left wing grab bag of issues. The only thing that could happen to GetUp!, if the AEC made such an assessment, is they have to tell people where the money is coming from. Nothing stops what they can do on polling booths, TVs, websites. They can still do everything they did at the last election, and I’m a defender of that, they’ve just got to tell people where the money is coming from.

SENATOR DI NATALE:
That’s not right Scott.

EPSTEIN:
Gentlemen, I need to press pause. I will read a few of your texts: ‘we, the Greens, have greater moral authority and as such, the law of the land doesn’t apply to us’. That’s one text. Directly beneath it: ‘just donated more money to them after hearing about this outrageous attack on democracy’, that’s Robert in Malmsbury and he means he is giving money to GetUp!

We will actually hear from GetUp! after the 5pm news. More from Scott Ryan and Richard Di Natale soon. Jonathan with the traffic.

<TRAFFIC REPORT>

[Inaudible] ‘Richard Di Natale and his unsubstantiated hyperbole is an insult to my intelligence’. Directly beneath it, I kid you not, ‘well done Di Natale for expressing what GetUp! has done to pursue the Government on those inhumane and anti-Australian issues’. I won’t go into it but there is some pro- and anti-stuff coming Scott Ryan’s way as well. I won’t get into all of them.

Let’s have a chat with Jenny who’s in Drouin. Go for it Jenny.

CALLER:
Hi Rafael and also the other two, Mr Di Natale and Scott Ryan, sorry Richard Di Natale. Anyway, Richard, you said it exactly right. GetUp! is a voice for the people and their voice is very important for civil society to have our voices heard because many politicians just ignore us anyway. I’m totally behind GetUp! and I’m totally behind the AWU and I think it stinks that the AFP raided the office, so I think it stinks that someone’s allowed the media to get in there and expose the office in a most undemocratic way, which is an underhanded way of going about things. It smacks of fascism as far as I’m concerned.

EPSTEIN:
Scott Ryan, I’ll go to you.

SENATOR RYAN:
Look, I’ve made the point before and I’ll do it again. The thing that is being considered with respect to the Electoral Law and GetUp! doesn’t do anything other than say, ‘where does the money come from?’

EPSTEIN:
I suspect the comment was more about the police raid Scott Ryan.

SENATOR RYAN:
I started on GetUp!, I was going to get there. Independent courts, a warrant was sought – out of the fear of destruction of evidence I might add, so there was some degree of urgency. This is why we have independent courts and the AWU went to court today to challenge it. The law can’t be changed or exempted based on the cause that people think whether it’s just or not.

EPSTEIN:
There was a story in The Australian on this and then the Minister Michaelia Cash refers it to the Registered Organisations Commission. Is there anything to that referral beyond the newspaper report?

SENATOR RYAN:
I don’t know. I think Senator Abetz, the former minister, was also on television claiming he had done so as well. In my portfolio we get referrals from Ministers, Shadow Ministers, Members of Parliament. Mark Dreyfus does it all the time: ‘I refer this to the AFP. I refer this to the Finance Department to investigate’. It’s not uncommon.

EPSTEIN:
I just want to try to get to more callers Scott Ryan, Michael is in northern Victoria. Michael, go ahead.

CALLER:
Yeah sorry, my only question was, I thought the raid was on the union offices, not on GetUp!? It was not specifically related just to the GetUp! issue.

EPSTEIN:
No it’s two issues, well we think it’s two issues. We assume it’s the donation to Bill Shorten’s first parliamentary election campaign, but also to GetUp!

Brian’s in Mordialloc. What did you want to say Brian?

CALLER:
A couple of weeks ago someone from the Greens said a Government minister had blood on his hands because an asylum seeker died in detention, yet 10 years ago, when the Rudd-Green coalition came to power, the first thing that happened was the people smugglers were put back into business. 1200 people died getting here and the Greens made that possible and they’re pointing the finger because one asylum seeker died and their saying that person had blood on his hands.

EPSTEIN:
Richard Di Natale, part of those, some of those 1200 deaths are your fault?

SENATOR DI NATALE:
Well obviously I reject that completely. We have voted consistently against harsh and inhumane measures directed at innocent people seeking asylum because we don’t thing in any decent society that you harm people to send a message to other people. We’ve got people incarcerated for years. We’ve got young kids who are traumatised and will be permanently damaged. We are all doing it using the notion of deterrence, which at its heart says, you take innocent people, you harm them, you torture them and you do that to send a message to another group of people.

EPSTEIN:
But Brian’s allegation that you were part of that change of policy, that more people came and 1200 people died. Is any of that your fault because you were part of the change?

SENATOR DI NATALE:
Well see our view is we need to fundamentally change the way we are dealing with innocent people who are seeking asylum. We need to invest in resources in those source countries and countries in transition. We need to provide viable pathways to people. People should come here, they should be sent quickly, we should have a 30-day maximum period where we do health and immigration checks, and then if people are found to be genuine refugees they are settled. They make an enormous contribution to the country. We can do this differently. What we are doing at the moment is heaping cruelty on innocent people and damaging an entire generation of young people and we just don’t support it.

EPSTEIN:
Andy is in Torquay with the final word, perhaps. What did you want to say Andy?

CALLER:
Two very quick things Raf. First of all, Michaelia Cash can’t be trusted as far as she can be thrown. She had to admit that she knew that Nigel Hadgkiss had lied about the setting up …

EPSTEIN:
The head of the Building and Construction Commission.

CALLER:
Absolutely.

EPSTEIN:
She didn’t admit that she knew that he had lied. She said she knew about the allegations.

CALLER:
That’s right, yes. Now the second thing is that I’d like to ask Scott Ryan when can we expect a raid on the Institute of Public Affairs?

EPSTEIN:
Last part first perhaps Scott Ryan, the IPA.

SENATOR RYAN:
Well the IPA, which I am a member of – just to declare – I think it is administered by the charities commission, I think. It is not a registered industrial organisation. The point being, we have independent agencies that administer the law, and in this case, they went to an independent court. Now that’s the way the law is supposed to work. But I note that Richard and his friends are basically saying, ‘if you’ve got the right bumper sticker on your car for an issue I agree with, the law doesn’t apply to you’.

SENATOR DI NATALE:
So independent that the whole thing was filmed and the media was there half an hour before the police rocked up. There is nothing independent about that.

SENATOR RYAN:
And that is not the first time it has happened.

EPSTEIN:
The only shame is, I can’t get the journalists on to interrogate them to find where the leak came from and I probably shouldn’t do it.

Scott Ryan and Richard Di Natale, thanks very much.

[ENDS]

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