Subjects: Sydney train strikes; Labor union appointments; judiciary.
Minister, Happy New Year. Good morning.
Happy New Year to you too Ray. Welcome back.
Good to be back.
We got chaos as you know in Sydney this morning. It's of grave concern that we've got it happening here, but it doesn't look to be too much better in relation to your city as well. It looks like the Minister here, Andrew Constance, may have phoned his Labor counterpart in Brisbane and said: what can we do to stuff up trains?
Well up here in Brisbane as you know Ray, I mean it's a real problem because the unions have basically got a stranglehold on the government up here and they're dictating the hours the drivers can work. They won't allow there to be advertising for new drivers. So you get the problem where more services are provided and overtime is obviously utilised, which is a union tactic, which might be fair enough to appoint, but then you end up with workers, train drivers working day after day after day and I'm just not sure that's the best outcome for the travelling public. So all sorts of problems here in Brisbane, but it's pretty acute in Sydney as travellers know there.
I mean looking at this this morning and having followed it over the last couple of days, I think it's clear that the union is out of control in New South Wales and there's one person who could fix this and that's the number one ticket holder for the union movement in Australia; Bill Shorten. He needs to pick up the phone and call his union mate in New South Wales and stop them from playing games. This text message that they sent out to the drivers and they're taking a non-response as some sort of indication that there should be strike action, I mean just indicates what a farce it is.
So they need to put the travelling public first and sort the mess out, but it will be a disaster in Sydney if you continue with the close down of public transport services like in any other capital city.
Look I've been saying all week…and I have sympathy…I don't want train drivers and I've got bus drivers emailing me saying look – and truck drivers particularly – we get fined if we do too many hours; it's ridiculous train drivers can do 13 days straight and it is. I mean we don't want people in charge of large pieces of machinery – particularly those carrying the public – working forever.
However, however; if you're waiting for Bill Shorten to intervene you're in for a long wait.
There's a story today exclusively in News Limited papers: a union official forced to deny claims he attempted to evade Royal Commission questions about a political slush fund has been appointed as an adviser to one of Bill Shorten's closest allies. David Asmar, who also has close ties to Shorten is now an aid to another Labor leader's factional backer, Senator Kimberley Kitching.
Now I've spoken about Senator Kitching many, many times in the past. Asmar is listed as an adviser to this Kitching who of course is married to the rather notorious Victorian factional player Andrew Landeryou. Now he's the bloke that nicked off when he had a stack of money and couldn't be found.
It comes a month after Labor's Victorian branch was mired in infighting which could impact on federal pre-selections. Asmar and Landeryou were both fined last year for vandalising the campaign materials of other parties during the federal election. Asmar has denied claims made at the Royal Commission that he'd flown to Lebanon the day after the summons to appear was discussed with his lawyer as it investigated a $250,000 union slush fund used to bankroll political campaigns.
Now Asmar was previously employed by Stephen Conroy as an electorate officer. Recipient of significant funds from the Industry 2020 slush fund and so it goes on.
I mean it appears – it's not jobs for the boys and girls – the whole thing is disgraceful. Then you get to the fact that Asmar's wife is dragged into it as well in the same way that Kitching and Landeryou were dragged into it.
I mean if Bill Shorten is to be the alternate prime minister, he needs to actually cut the ties with these people or they'll drag him down.
Ray, I mean Bill Shorten's a bloke fresh out of luck by the sounds of it. I mean he seems to somehow be at the centre of all of these dodgy union arrangements. I just don't know how he ends up being so unlucky. I mean why is he always at the centre of these controversies? And if there's a dodgy deal going, Bill Shorten's a part of it. So, you don't become the head union official leader in this country if you've got clean hands.
There are lots of good unions around, lots of good union leaders, but there are some shocking ones around as well and most of them seem to be associated with Bill Shorten.
The story of Sam Dastyari, you know, might have sort of washed away during the course of the Bennelong by-election…
…he's still getting paid I think, isn't he?
He's still getting paid and Bill Shorten again is up to his neck in these backroom deals. When you go around the country, I mean people constantly say: for god's sake, don't let Bill Shorten become prime minister because people just don't trust him and this is just another example of his grubby involvement in all these factional deals.
All these people are working, I care to point out, on the taxpayer's dime and they're running around in all these sort of factional deals and dodgy arrangements, backhanders.
The CFMEU in Victoria and in Queensland is completely and utterly out of control and yet they're donating millions of dollars to Bill Shorten each year and he doesn't see anything wrong, he turns the other way.
So I think he needs to answer some of these questions instead of fobbing them off because it looks shonky, it sounds shonky, it smells shonky and I can tell you most people see Bill Shorten as pretty shonky.
Well I can only conclude that Mr Asmar – who went to Lebanon despite the summons to appear before the Royal Commission – they re-scheduled the hearing, he remained in Lebanon for medical reasons. There must be fantastic medical care in Lebanon because here is returning to Australia after the Royal Commission triumphant and now working for another dodgy Labor operative from Victoria in Kimberley Kitching, the Senator.
Who was only there because Bill Shorten put her there and he burned a bit of capital over this. There were lots of people within the Labor Party, even supporters of Shorten within the Labor Party, who thought that Kitching was just a disaster. I mean she certainly turned out to be that way, but obviously there's some link back to Shorten and the factional lords in Victoria somehow dictated that this shonky guy be employed and again, I just don't know how Bill Shorten finds himself all the time in these bad situations.
Okay, back to your portfolio. I have been talking about this deplorable Irish paedophile priest Finian Egan for quite some years. He was convicted in 2013 of raping a teenage girl, committing several serious sexual assaults against other girls. He served four years of an eight year sentence. I believe you cancelled his citizenship in 2016, but an Admin Appeals Tribunal Deputy President Janine Stevenson overturned that decision. She then ordered the 83 year old grub Finian Egan not to be identified and that evidence given to the case be suppressed.
Now, fortunately, News Limited were like a dog with a bone. They appealed the suppression order. We can now name him.
What's the next step in all of this for you as Minister?
Well Ray, a couple points here to start with. I mean full credit to Keith Moor from the Herald Sun in Victoria who's really, I think, one of the great journalists in our country at the moment that follows these matters up. He actually went to the hearing, as I understand it, and put a case so good on him.
And remarkably, in terms of the timing of the judgement, it's strange how it worked out, but I think it was released just after you went off-air at the end of last year and obviously the suppression order meant that you wouldn't have been able to speak about it anyway, but that's the way the timing turned out. So that was to be noted as well.
I just think most people shake their head in disbelief at – again, putting this case to one side because I can't comment on it because I'm appealing part of it at the moment – but the fact is that the public expect our courts to adhere to community standards and community values.
I make the point regularly that judges, magistrates, members of the AAT, are not above the Australian people and the Australian people expect, in terms of sentencing and penalties and punishment for crimes, for the community standard to be achieved. They don't believe that courts should be interfered with, I don't believe that either. Matter of innocence or guilt is the question for the judge or jury in a particular matter. But in terms of sentencing and in terms of decisions, sometimes are just inexplicable, there needs to be an explanation about it.
This is the 21st Century – we're not living in the 1800s – people need to understand that the public wants to know detail and if, particularly where kids are involved and they've been sexually violated like Egan has done – he's a horrible individual – then I took a decision to cancel his citizenship after looking at all the facts in relation to it. I don't believe he's a worthy member of our society. The AAT formed a different judgement and in relation to matters that are of interest to the public, I believe very strongly that we need to modernise the arrangement and people need to understand all of the facts and understand why a particular judgement was delivered, or a sentence imposed and I think the public demand that.
While I was away, you were at odds with a Victorian judge because you correctly identified Sudanese gangs as terrorising people in parts of Melbourne. I note the judge's social media postings have been taken down after criticism of him about having the audacity to question you about what you'd said and people said what happens in the future if a matter like this comes before him, given that he appears to have a biased view in relation to Sudanese gangs.
You were right about that one; people are terrified in Melbourne and Paul Whittaker's done an excellent job in The Australian along with the Herald Sun, but more particularly Whittaker and The Australian identifying it.
You and I appeared on A Current Affair early this week talking about magistrates giving foreign criminals softer sentences.
Now I'm afraid that Queensland appears to be head and shoulders above the rest, particularly with a magistrate at Southport – I think she's still at Southport – named Joan White. Now Magistrate White appears to be a crusader politically for people who shouldn't be here. I have suggested on A Current Affair and I'll suggest now that what Magistrate Joan White should do is resign from the magistry. She should then offer herself for election in a Queensland state election or a federal election and then she can make changes if in fact she's elected to that position, which is a faint hope.
But I mean it really galls everyone when foreign criminals are given softer sentences to stop them being deported by your Department.
Well Ray you're right. In terms of the way in which the Migration Act works – just to the benefit of your listeners – if somebody's sentenced to a 12 month period of imprisonment then they can come within the character test under the Migration Act, which means that there is the ability to cancel their visa and on other grounds including if they're a child sex offender by way of another example, or a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang.
So what we've seen in a couple of cases – and one particular magistrate was talking about it in open court, so it's part of the transcript – was that if the magistrate sentenced this individual to 12 months or more, he faced deportation. So you're seeing sentences now where they're delivering softer sentences – less than 12 months – so that they don't get deported and again, I just think that's absurd, it's outrageous.
The job of the magistrate is not to be the local advocate for civil rights or for the prosecution for that matter. I mean their job is to impartially look at a matter and, in my judgement, to impose a penalty which reflects community standards. And the courts have the legislation there which has maximum penalties. In some cases, for example, to Matthew Guy's great credit, the Opposition Leader in Victoria proposing mandatory sentencing or minimum sentencing that some people talk about if the courts aren't going to adhere to that community standard. Well that's what needs to happen.
One of the most important things that an elected government can do – in this case the Labor Government in Queensland – is to appoint sensible people to the bench and if you're appointing civil libertarians and people that are political advocates – I mean Lex Lasry, the judge you just spoke about in Victoria tweeting to me – people need to question these appointments and I don't see that we shouldn't be able to point these issues out because if the Queensland State Government here, or in Victoria, or New South Wales, is making a decision to appoint civil libertarians and others to the benches of the Magistrate's Court and higher courts, and we're seeing softer sentences as a result, then the community should be outraged by that and I think they are outraged by it.
So this issue in relation to the magistrate on the Gold Coast is really one for Annastacia Palaszczuk to answer and so far she's refused to answer any questions on it.
I appreciate your time. We've run out of time. We'll talk to you next Thursday.
Thanks Ray. See you mate.