SENATOR THE HON. KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
WEDNESDAY, 12 JUNE 2019
SUBJECTS: Freedom of the press and national security legislation, John Setka, NSW Labor donations.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Now as the Prime Minister rings editors to discuss press freedom concerns, the Opposition says it wants a review of laws covering the media and whistleblowers. Labor's Kristina Keneally says further protections deserve consideration.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Kristina Keneally joins us now from Canberra. Senator, good morning to you. What further measures is Labor calling for?
THE HON. KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Michael, we really have two issues at play here. One is leadership, and one is legislation. The raids that we saw last week and the response from the Government, the rather cavalier response from the Government – a shrug of the shoulders, nothing to see here was their initial response – point to the fact that the Government needs to show leadership on this issue. We have a very real concern that freedom of the press is under attack in Australia, one of the most basic tenants of our democracy, and it's incumbent upon the elected government to speak to this and show leadership. When it comes to legislation, it is a requirement now for all Parliamentarians to look with fresh eyes at the raft of national security legislation that has been passed since 2013 in particular, and to examine whether or not we're getting this balance right – this tension that always exists in a democracy between ensuring the secrecy necessary to deliver national security to our country, and yet the right for people to know and the press to report upon the activities of the Government. Now, these raids have raised very legitimate questions amongst media organisations, and Parliamentarians, and the community at large as to whether or not that balance has been struck correctly. That's why I and Labor are calling for a full-scale review of this legislation with that very question in focus.
ROWLAND: In your view, has the balance tipped too heavily in favour of national security at the expense of media freedom?
KENEALLY: I point out that Labor has through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security made hundreds of amendments to national security legislation – at every juncture have insisted upon putting in place those things that would uphold the freedom of the press. Sometimes we're successful, and sometimes we are not as a result of the Government having the numbers in the Parliament. But Labor, for example, has insisted that a journalist's metadata could not be accessed without a warrant. Labor put in place last year public interest defences for journalists in the espionage and foreign interference legislation. However, what we see from the raids that occurred last week is a genuine concern amongst media organisations and the wider community that the balance has tipped too far away from the freedom of the press, putting the very question of whether or not we continue to enjoy a freedom of the press in this country, and it is incumbent upon the Parliament which makes these laws to have that thorough look.
ROWLAND: They're the concerns, but do you personally think that balance is tipped too far?
KENEALLY: Well, Michael, what I would say, as I have observed, as Labor has stood up for these freedom of the press and other protections to individual freedom and privacy in the national security legislation. What I'm concerned about is that the laws have not done enough or have inconsistencies in them. For example, we do have a public interest defence in some of the laws that were passed last year, but across the board that is not a consistent approach in our national security legislation. That is one example of a matter that needs to be considered. When it comes to the warrants that are required for journalist’s metadata to be accessed, right now journalists don't have the ability to report that such a warrant has been issued, nor do they have the ability to argue a case against that warrant being issued. This is another matter that needs to be considered, and I would say that a Parliamentary Joint Committee – it could be the PJCIS, although in this case I'm urging the Government to consider constituting a specific Parliamentary Joint Committee that looks at this question – how do we ensure our national security is maintained, but yet we are upholding the freedom of the press? A look at the legislation we have passed, a look at suggestions that are coming forward from media organisations and other experts is what we now need to do.
ROWLAND: Okay. Moving onto another issue – your leader, Anthony Albanese, has moved quickly to suspend John Setka, the Victorian Construction Union boss as the member of the Labor Party. Should he now stand down as the head, the Victorian head, of his union?
KENEALLY: Mr Setka should have a long, hard look at himself in the mirror, and consider his position within the union movement, within the union he currently leads. I acknowledge that he has been elected by his members. However, the views that he has expressed about domestic violence and about Rosie Batty undercut and undermine not just Labor Party policy, but national efforts to reduce violence against women. They're out of keeping with the Australian Labor Party; they are out of keeping with mainstream Australia. I also want to make clear, Michael, that I am not passing any comment on matters before the court that Mr Setka is currently involved in as I don't want to prejudice or impact upon those. I am reflecting, however, that his comments about Rosie Batty and about domestic violence are out of keeping with the Australian Labor Party, are out of keeping with the broader labour movement, and he should have a very serious consideration about his position.
ROWLAND: Okay. This is a union, sadly, not too far from the headlines, as well as John Setka's misdemeanours. We have the Assistant Secretary of the New South Wales branch of this union recently arrested for buying cocaine from other union officials. This union has racked up at least $15 million in fines for breaching workplace laws right around Australia. Kristina Keneally, is this a union the Parliamentary Labor Party wants to be associated with?
KENEALLY: Let me say, Michael, that this is a union that also does very important work in standing up for workers' safety in a very dangerous industry. You know, I know from my own personal experience as someone who left high school and joined a workforce in the United States, represented by a union, where one of my colleagues was killed at work, the important work that unions do to ensure safety in the workplace, and some of the significant numbers of worker deaths do occur in the construction industry quite sadly. It is important that we have unions that stand up for workers' safety and workers’ rights. It is also important…
ROWLAND: I'm sure they do good things, but should the ALP disaffiliate itself with the union until it gets its house in order?
KENEALLY: What I would say that those people within the union, or within a corporation or anywhere, that break the law should be held to account.
ROWLAND: Okay. Bob Hawke, whose life the Labor Party is celebrating – in fact the country is celebrating on Friday, was strongly in favour before he died of getting rid of that connection between the CFMEU and the Labor Party, as he did with the Builders Labourers Federation back in the 1980s. Is that not a view that should be actively considered by the Labor Party?
KENEALLY: If there are questions to consider, they will be done through the Australian Labor Party in due course and with thorough consideration. I'm not here today to make that type of decision on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. What Anthony Albanese has shown is strong and decisive leadership in saying that Mr Setka and the views that he has put forward are not in keeping with the Australian Labor Party. I applaud Mr Albanese's decision, and I would say while I cannot control what Mr Setka does in terms of his union position, he would be doing himself and the wider union movement a favour if he were to stand down from his current role in that union.
ROWLAND: And finally before you go, the ABC is reporting this morning that your frontbench colleague Chris Bowen back in 2013 received a $100,000 donation from a Sydney businessman with close links to the Chinese Communist Party. $5,000 of that $100,000 went to Chris Minns, who is currently running for the leadership of the New South Wales branch of the Labor Party. Does that in your view raise concerns about possible influence by the Chinese Communist Party on the internal affairs on the Labor Party in Australia?
KENEALLY: Michael, this is a matter for the New South Wales Labor branch to speak to. I understand the branch has made a statement that all donations were received in accordance with the law. I don't believe I know the individual who has made this donation, and I think this is now a matter if for the New South Wales branch to respond to.
ROWLAND: On face value, is it a good look though?
KENEALLY: Again, I’m not familiar with the details of this donation, or how the money was used. I would say this is a matter for the branch to respond to.
ROWLAND: We’ll follow that over the course of the day. Kristina Keneally, thank you so much for making the time for us on News Breakfast this morning.