DOORSTOP: 24/10/19

October 24, 2019


MARK BUTLER, SHADOW CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: There are now more questions about this tailor-made scandal, about the documents provided to The Daily Telegraph by Angus Taylor, than there were at the beginning of Question Time. It is worth just running through a couple of the facts about this matter. It is quite clear now that Angus Taylor provided The Daily Telegraph with forged documents about the City of Sydney’s travel budget. Today the City of Sydney has released metadata log information that confirms that the actual report, which was uploaded almost 12 months ago, has not been altered once on the City of Sydney Council’s website since that time. So it is quite clear that Angus Taylor was working with a different document. The document that he provided the Daily Telegraph has different formatting, different spacing and different font as well as obviously very different numbers.
The New South Wales Crimes Act provides that the making of a forged document that is intended to influence the exercise of a public duty by a publicly elected official, like the Lord Mayor of Sydney, is a serious indictable offence punishable by up to 10-years imprisonment. It is also clear that the New South Wales Crimes Act provides that a failure to make a report about such a document to the New South Wales police is also a criminal offence, punishable by up to 2-years imprisonment, after a person becomes aware of the forgery.
Now, the circumstances surrounding Minister Taylor could not be clearer. He refused today, during Question Time, to do what the City of Sydney has done and release metadata logs that back up his claim that he downloaded that document from the City of Sydney website. It is a claim that does not stand up to scrutiny and for which he will not provide any evidence.
Now at the beginning of this week the Prime Minister made it very clear his view that no one was above the law. A very important statement given there are a number of journalists in this building that are currently subject to prosecution for doing their job. But the Prime Minister is sitting on his hands while this tailor-made scandal about Angus Taylor continues to unfold and get deeper and deeper.
Today it is quite clear that Angus Taylor has refused or declined to make a report himself to the New South Wales police. The Prime Minister is clearly not intending to make a referral to the New South Wales police. And, in the absence of any action by this Government to clear this up and ensure that the public has the right to know what happens here the Labor Party, through the Shadow Attorney General, will be writing to the New South Wales police seeking an investigation about all of the circumstances surrounding this matter. Happy to take questions.

JOURNALIST: Are you suggesting that Angus Taylor is being subject to a Godwin Grech type sting or are you suggesting he forged it himself?

BUTLER: We make no suggestions at the moment. We gave Angus Taylor a number of opportunities to clarify what has happened here. All he would do is deny the clearly obvious thing, which is this document is a forgery. It is a very serious forgery because it is made with the intent to influence the exercise of a public duty by a publicly elected official. Now Angus Taylor won’t say whether or not it was made by him, or his office, or provided by someone else to him. Instead, he tries to pretend this is not a forged document when all of the evidence is to the contrary. 

JOURNALIST: Can I just be clear, you said that in the absence of the Prime Minister or Taylor referring this to the New South Wales police, then Labor will be writing. So does that mean you are writing or you are going to give the Government more time to refer themselves?

BUTLER: We thought, particularly given the Prime Minister said at the beginning of the week that no one was above the law, that when the evidence had been laid out in the way in which we tried to do in Question Time and a number of media organisations have done over the last 24 hours that the Prime Minister would put that principle into practice and show, demonstrate, that even one of his Cabinet Ministers would be subject to the law under his new doctrine. Well he’s all talk and no action. If he won’t refer this matter to the New South Wales police, this tailor-made scandal, then the Labor Party will over the next 24 hours write to the New South Wales police seeking their investigation of the matter.       

JOURNALIST: Just on a fundamental part of your claim that it was seeking to influence an officer elected by the people, wasn’t it really just a bit of a publicity spat between Angus Taylor and Clover Moore being waged in the media? Was he really trying to influence her? Are you really sure that is solid ground?

BUTLER: We’re absolutely sure. We think that is probably the one thing Angus Taylor and I would agree on about this matter. He not only wrote to the Lord Mayor of Sydney, he provided his letter before she had even received the correspondence to The Daily Telegraph with the clear intent of putting public pressure on the Lord Mayor about the way in which she conducted herself as Lord Mayor, the way in which the City conducted itself and particularly their approach to climate change policy. It couldn’t be a clearer case in my view and I suspect, as I said, Angus Taylor and I would agree on that.
JOURNALIST: Shadow Attorney-General, how much danger did you see in an unamended version of the bill that the Intelligence Committee has since rejected?
MARK DREYFUS, SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL: There's a very significant report today by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, rejecting a bill that this Government has brought to the Parliament - the Identity-matching bill. And it's a significant report because Liberal and Labor members of the committee have unanimously said this bill has to be withdrawn and redrafted.
We did see - and it's a lengthy report – the report points to all of the problems. It points to the principles that should be applied in drafting legislation of this kind. We saw great dangers in a bill that is practically silent as to any safeguards, practically silent as to the protection of the privacy of Australians. That's why the committee, as it says in the report, has very directly rejected this bill.
JOURNALIST: Specifically, what should Australians have been most worried about had that bill gone through that committee and been approved?
DREYFUS: I can relay what the submissions, the very many submissions that we received, as a committee talked about. The concern that was most commonly expressed was a fear that this identity matching bill, which provides for matching of faces of Australians, could potentially have allowed for mass surveillance of Australians.
The Government has said that it's not intending to conduct mass surveillance. If that is so it should write into the redrafted version of this bill a very clear statement that it will never be used for mass surveillance.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned in the House this morning Peter Dutton, the Minister responsible in relation to this bill. How much do you see his fingerprints on this bill?
DREYFUS: Well, he's the minister responsible for this bill. It is meant to be giving effect to an intergovernmental agreement reached at COAG in October 2017, but entirely omits all of the safeguards that COAG in its agreement said should be included.
Of course we're concerned that Peter Dutton is responsible for this bill. This is the same Minister for Home Affairs who said recently that he wants mandatory sentences applied to people conducting lawful protests on the street, the same minister who said that he wants lawful protesters to be photographed and publicly shamed. Now, that's perilously close to a face matching system, which is what this bill provides for. That's why we're right to be concerned.