Kerry O’Brien and Your Right To Know | Q&A

(APPLAUSE) Good evening and welcome to Q&A.
I’m Tony Jones. Here to answer your questions
tonight, renowned broadcaster and chair
of The Walkley Foundation, Kerry O’Brien, the Minister for Communications,
the Arts and Cyber Safety, Paul Fletcher, TV presenter and satirist Jan Fran, journalist turned councillor Dai Le, and the Shadow Health Minister,
Chris Bowen. Please welcome our panel.
(APPLAUSE) Thank you very much. Now, Q&A is live in eastern Australia
on ABC TV, iview and NewsRadio. Well, our first question
comes from Daisy Jeffrey. Hi. My question
is for Paul Fletcher. I led the strikes in Sydney
on Friday. Our Prime Minister isn’t attending
the UN Climate Summit today – instead he’s dining
with Trump and Gina Rinehart. And our Deputy Prime Minister doesn’t even believe
in climate change. Yet, your party insists that young people have
nothing to be worried about and that students like me
should be in school. Why should young Australians
stay in school when our government is doing nothing
to preserve our future? Paul Fletcher, welcome back. (MILD LAUGHTER)
Well, look… Thank you for the question. And, can I say, first of all, I do welcome the fact
that young Australians are sufficiently committed to be
turning out in large numbers. I would personally prefer
you did it not on a school day, but, nevertheless,
it is obviously evidence of significant concern
about the future of our world. And that’s a concern
our government shares. That’s why we’re committed
to a reduction in emissions of 26% to 28% on 2005 levels by 2030 and we’ve got a very detailed plan
to achieve that. And indeed, by 2022, within the electricity…
the national electricity market, we expect to have arrived at that 26% reduction in emissions
on 2005 levels. And, of course,
the electricity market is an important part of the overall
generation of emissions. So, we do have a plan, consistent
with our international commitments to reduce our emissions as a
responsible international citizen, and we’ve got a plan to do that,
while doing all the other things governments need to do,
like growing our economy, making sure we are generating jobs,
1.4 million jobs, protecting the security
of Australians. So governments need to deal with
a whole range of issues. And, certainly, that is one issue
where we have a very clear plan. Um, you just heard the questioner ask about the Deputy Prime Minister’s
views on climate. And I’m wondering, because
it’s a broad church, the Coalition, but how many climate deniers sit
in their own pew in that church? Well, look, I think you judge
the commitment of our government to action to reduce emissions by the policies
that we are taking forward. We’ve committed to $3.5 billion for the Climate Solutions Fund. We’ve committed to a 26% to 28%
reduction on emissions by 2030 on our 2005 levels. And we’ve got a very clear plan
of how we’re going to achieve that. So, judge us on the basis
of our plan. Also judge us on how we’re going
on meeting our 2020 target under the Kyoto agreement. We will comfortably beat our target
for 2020 by over 300 million tonnes as a result of the actions
that have already been taken and we’ve got a plan to achieve
the 26% to 28% reduction by 2030. I’m going to move it
around the table. Chris Bowen. Well, Paul’s statement
just doesn’t reflect reality. I mean, emissions have gone up
last year, they’ve gone up every year
for the last four years. And young people
right across the country know that 20 of the hottest years
around the world have been in the last 22 years. I mean, the science
of climate change is as certain as the science of tobacco
and cancer. But just the day before
the climate strike, we had one of Paul’s colleagues stand in the
House of Representatives and tell young Australians, and
all of us, climate change isn’t real and not caused by human activity,
in Craig Kelly. He said, “Look at Fort Denison –
the water hasn’t gone up, “and there’s more polar bears alive
in…now than there were before.” I mean, this is the level of debate
that we get from Paul’s colleagues. I mean, good on Australia’s
young people for saying, “It’s not good enough.” We’ve got to carry our weight when it comes to international
efforts to deal with climate change and we’re currently not. And the government
just keeps saying, “We’ll meet our targets
in a canter.” You just won’t. You just won’t.
Emissions are going up. Chris, a quick one for you. And knowing how many
young people came out and vote… Well, they didn’t come out and
vote, they came out and protested, but by the next election, many of
them will be coming out and voting. Will that tell against
the Labor Party if you lower your emissions targets…
Well, look… ..which does seem to be
on the agenda? We’ll have a robust
climate change policy, just like we’ve gone to every
election, basically, since 2007 with a strong climate change policy. You could argue that some of
our policies have cost us votes, and in some instances
cost us an election, but we believe
climate change is real, we believe in government action
to deal with it and we’ll stand by those values. Now, of course,
we’ve got a couple of years to calibrate exactly
what policies we take in detail. And a lot of the targets we’ve set, there will be
an ‘affluction’ of time and lost…missed opportunities because the Liberals and Nationals
have been in office. But you can be assured that the policies we take
to the next election when it comes to climate change
will be strong and robust. Daisy, our questioner, has her
hand up. I’ll go quickly back to you and then we’ll go
to the rest of the panel. Uh, yeah. I can judge you
based on your action and that’s beyond inadequate. And I can also judge based
on the rhetoric that your… ..that the Coalition has… When you say…when you say ‘you’, are you referring to both
the politicians or…? Oh, really both,
but particularly the government. We… I mean, we are
the highest emitter per capita, we are the third-largest
exporter of emissions behind Russia and Saudi Arabia, who really aren’t two countries you want to be picked
in a top three with, and we are also
the largest exporter of coal. We are doing nowhere near enough. And we are only, you know,
really kind of struggling to meet one part of
the Paris climate agreement. I mean, I think it’s just…
OK, Daisy, you’re going beyond the comment
into a soapbox speech. But can…
But we’ll… ..we’ll let Paul respond quickly. Well, can I just make the point
that when you… ..we talk about Australia’s
particular circumstances, one of the other features
of our circumstances is that our population
is growing rapidly. And the reductions
that we have committed to are around a 50% reduction
on a per capita basis. So, when you look at
the overall growth of our society, growth of our economy, to be able to do that, and to also achieve very material
reductions in our emissions, that’s a demanding task, it’s a task that we have
a clear plan to achieve. Now, by contrast,
at the previous election, when the then opposition leader,
Mr Shorten, was asked how he was going
to deliver on his plan, how he was going to pay for it, he didn’t want to answer
the question. He had no answer to the question.
OK, Paul. Alright, that’s… We’ll leave that one floating. I want to hear from the other
panellists. Jan Fran. Oh. Um, Daisy, mate, if I could give you 10,000
forehead kisses right now, I would – consensual, of course. Um, I…I love what you’re doing. I think that what you’re doing
is great, because I think that, ultimately, you’re fighting
for what you believe in – you and millions of people
around the world. Um, I think you’re right
to be concerned. I had concerns when I myself
was a teenager about the planet and about how much
damage we were doing to the planet and that was 20-odd years ago. And things don’t seem
to have improved. In fact, they’ve gotten worse
on a global level. Paul, you were talking
earlier about, “Judge me by what it is that I do.” I…I judge the government and I particularly
judge this prime minister. Unfortunately, the resounding image
of Scott Morrison that I have in my head is of him in
the House of Representatives in 2017 brandishing a lump of coal and joking about it
with Barnaby Joyce. And when asked after…after
he became Prime Minister, when touring drought-stricken
Australia, what he thought
about climate change, he said, “Well, that’s not a debate
that I generally enter into, “and we’ll leave it
for another time.” And I guess my question is, leave it for when?
Leave it for what time? Because I see the young people
of today and I think about… You know, you would be
15, 16, 17, 18. I think about the year 2070, which, for me, is
an unfathomable year. I can’t even tell you
what 2070 is going to look like in so many ways. But those who are
15 and 16 and 17 today, they’re going to be in their 50s
and 60s and 70s come 2070, and I can’t guarantee that the
future is going to be a stable one when it comes to climate for them. And they’re going to be the ones that are going to have
to deal with that, and they’re going to have
to deal with that and they’re going to have to deal
with that for their children and for their grandchildren. OK, Jan. Um…Dai Le? Um, well, my son actually asked me
permission to go, to take off half a day of school. He had quite a few periods. And my question to him was that,
“Why are you doing it? “Why do you need to protest?” Because I think that, you know, protesting actually doesn’t get
really that much result. Because government
have set policies and they’ll go on
and implement those policies. But he said to me, he goes, “But, Mum, you know,
you are very involved in politics, “you discuss politics “and, therefore,
you ask me to be active. “And I really believe that I…even
though I might not impact change, “I believe, if I’m out there
with other young people, “we’re sending the message
to the government that we, “as a young person,” he’s 16, “very
concerned about the environment, “and that what will the planet be
like for me when I grow older.” So, you know I said to him, “You go, but you need to understand
why you’re protesting, “what you’re protesting for. “Don’t go there not knowing
what you’re doing,” and actually challenged him
and really made sure that he understood
what he was doing. He did wen…he did go, I should say?
He did, he did. And when he came back? He came and he said, “Oh, Mum, you know, I was part
of this great, you know, crowd.” And he goes, “You know, there were
3… More than 300,000 people “around Australia
participated in this.” And I said, “So did you…
did you think that the message “of the crowd is what you,
you know, wanted to hear?” He goes, “Actually, a lot of
the messages weren’t actually “what I thought we were going
to be there for.” But there was one or two…speeches
that really talked about what he believed in,
which was the environment. And, um… But, yeah, but he was
part of this process, which I thought, you know…
I encouraged him. Kerry O’Brien? Well, I’ve got a granddaughter
who was part of the march and the strike. And I’m very proud of her for that. And I’m not fussed at all that these students took time
out of school to do it, because the school is supposed to be
helping to secure their future. And yet, you’ve got, in contrast,
this other thing, which is existentially
threatening their future, but about which the systems
around the world have failed to properly address. And we in Australia, as much or more than most. And I’m depressed
when I think about the fact that, in 1979, highly reputable
scientists first started articulating the science
of greenhouse gases and the implications of that. And I was in America as
a correspondent in the early ’80s reporting on the greenhouse effect. And when I was writing my…when
I was writing my memoir last year and I was going back
through old interviews, I found my first Lateline interview
on climate change in 1991, and sat there,
through all of these arguments that were exactly the same as
the arguments we’re hearing today. The science… All that has changed
in that time is the science has got more
and more and more and more solid. And there are ratbags
who come out and make noises and there are people who lie, there are people who obfuscate,
there are people who manipulate, but the bottom line is the world is still seriously lagging
behind what needs to be done. And we know that
because that is the science. That is the science. There is no longer any doubt
about the science. So, you know, I…I… This stuff is like
white noise to me now. And I just wonder what more
has to be done. Kerry, it’s a long time…it’s
a long time since we saw in Australia 300,000 people protesting anything.
Mm. Let alone young people of that age.
Yeah, absolutely. What does it mean? Very briefly,
what does that mean to you? Well, what impresses me
is that this is the second. So, if this can be sustained,
then it will have impact. And you think back to the moratorium
marches around Vietnam. If this continues, if these kids
are able to sustain this, and bring their parents
and others along with them, then it will have an effect. Visually, it does. But, you know, I’m…I’m… These are my ears, this is my brain,
this is my history. And I just don’t know anymore how much of it is really
cutting through. OK, we’ve got to move on. We’ve got
so many questions to get to. (APPLAUSE) Thank you very much.
You’re watching Q&A live. Our next question
comes from Hayley Foster. Hi. Um, this question again
is for Minister Fletcher, first and foremost, but also I’m really interested
to hear from the whole panel, particularly after
Kerry O’Brien’s last statement. Um… Since the Prime Minister
announced the family law inquiry and Pauline Hanson made her remarks regarding women lying
about domestic violence, our phones
have been ringing off the hook with domestic violence survivors
who have been retraumatised in relation
to their own experiences. What makes the government think
survivors are going to come forward to speak to such an inquiry
whose deputy chair, Pauline Hanson, has made up her mind
that women are lying and vindictive in their complaints? And, without their voices, how will
this inquiry yield an outcome which increases the safety
of women and children? Just before I pass it on, I’m just going to say that Hayley
is from Women’s Safety NSW. Jan, I’ll start with you. Oh. Yeah. What are you guys doing? (CHUCKLING) That’s a really big question for me. Um… Thank you for your question. I completely share your concerns
on that one. I think Pauline Hanson
has already made up her mind about the Family Court,
and she’s made up her mind that men get treated badly or not
treated well by the Family Court and women, aka mothers,
are the ones that win. And, um…
Well, she went further. She said that women are lying.
And she… No, that’s right. And she went further
and said that women are lying and they make up cases
of domestic violence against men to keep their children. The fact is, there is no evidence
of this. The studies that we have,
they are few and far between, but we do have ones that have come
out of Australia and also of Canada, that show, actually, it’s not women
at all who make up stories – it’s men. Sometimes it’s neighbours, sometimes
it’s extended family members, and I think 14% of the time
in the Canadian study was women. So that’s just outright not true. And I think to start an inquiry
like this, which is so important,
you don’t want to get this wrong, because you are talking
about the future of children. So to start an inquiry like this with something that is
an outright falsehood… I mean, anecdotes don’t necessarily
amount to evidence. So it’s really concerning. And I think what concerns me
as well with this is we’ve had a number of inquiries
into the Family Court. I think it was the Australian
Law Reform Commission – correct me if I’m wrong –
who did one just this year. There was one that was done in 2017 by…I think it was the
House of Reps. I’m not… Again, not sure on the facts there.
Yes. The House of Representatives
is right. That’s true. Exactly. So there have been
these inquiries and there were 60 recommendations
that were made. And, as far as I’m aware,
they’ve been completely ignored, now for a new inquiry with
Pauline Hanson. What’s going on? I’ll come back to… I’m going to
come back to Paul in a minute. I just want to hear from the
other woman on the panel, Dai. Look, I think in divorce cases,
separations, I mean, I think both men and women,
would, you know… ..when losing their child, they would manipulate the situation. I think that both men and women,
you know, would try to do whatever they can to actually hold on,
you know, to their kids. I think that our court is
very adversarial. And I think…
Can I just interrupt you there? Are you more or less agreeing
with Pauline Hanson that, although in your case, you’re saying
on both sides, women and men will do whatever it takes?
I think both men… You’re saying both of them are lying,
is that what you’re saying? Look, I think the word sort
of “lying” is really… know, it’s very confronting. I think they will try
to manipulate the system and manipulate the situation. I’ve spoken to a couple of groups, I think there’s also…
I saw Mum’s The Word, who have written a book about, you know, the situations
that parents who…who suffer, who go…through losing their kids, I think it’s called parental
alienation, targeted children. I have spoken to an organisation
called Meeny Miney Mo, I think, who are there
to provide support for parents – of course, majority women – who have been alienated
by their partners. It’s also, you know, when you
talk about also in this, um… ..the parents, I think there’s another group
called Parents Beyond Breakup, looking at how that impacts
a family’s relationship as well. I know that men, apparently,
you know, commit… ..higher rate of suicide among men
from broken relationships. So, it’s a very complex,
very emotional situation, and I think that… With a complex, emotional situation,
is it appropriate that someone with Pauline Hanson,
with a very set view, be the co-chair
of an inquiry into it? Look, you know, I mean, she… You know, the government makes
a decision who they appoint. Just to be clear, she’s not the
co-chair. She’s the deputy chair. It’s quite different.
CHRIS: That makes it so much better. (LAUGHTER) I feel like that’s just something… Well, no, look, let’s just be…
Alright, Paul, go ahead. Let’s be clear on the process here. So, it’s a parliamentary committee
of 10 parliamentarians from the House of Reps
and the Senate. It’s chaired by Kevin Andrews,
who’s a very experienced MP and a former Minister
for Social Services. And the purpose of this whole
exercise is for parliamentarians to be able to hear directly from
Australians who have experienced the Family Court process
and custody issues. There are some
very clear principles here. It’s very important that the rights
of children are paramount, but it’s about hearing
what people’s experiences are and seeing if there are ways that what is necessarily
a difficult process, when a family breaks up,
can be improved in any way. And, so, that’s the nature of
this exercise. There’s a number of other things
we’re looking at doing, because… Just before you go on,
talking about the exercise itself, you heard what our questioner said. She’s got her hand up again. Look, I’ll go back to you,
because I suspect you’re going to say what I’m going to say, so go ahead. Oh, look, just in… (CHUCKLES) Just in relation to hearing
from ordinary Australians, the Australian Law Reform Commission actually had 800 submissions
from ordinary Australians, so we’re not really convinced
that we need to go back and hear from ordinary Australians. And as I’d sort of intimated
in my question, which I haven’t really heard
the answer to yet, we don’t…we’re not assured
that this is a safe process for…for survivors to come forward. And in fact, they’re telling us they don’t have confidence
in a process that is chaired by Kevin Andrews,
who’s very… ..made his views in relation
to family values, you know, very clear, and Senator Hanson,
who has certainly made up her… ..made her views very clear. OK.
Yes. I’m going to get Paul
to respond to that, if you don’t mind. Look, can I just make
a couple of points? Firstly, the question of
the safety of women and children is absolutely critical. That’s why Prime Minister Morrison committed over $300 million earlier
this year to the Fourth Action Plan under the National Plan
to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. Paul, I might bring you
directly to the question, which is really about the fear
that’s being sown among women. You heard them say,
or this organisation say, that their phones
are running off the hook from women afraid
about the consequences of doing this in this way. How can you expect them
to believe…? Well…
Hang on, Fran. Sorry.
I’ll let him answer that. Jan. I beg your pardon. The purpose of this is so
that elected parliamentarians drawn from across the parliament,
from a whole range of parties, can hear directly from Australians who’ve experienced
the Family Court process, to see if we can make that
a better process for everybody involved. That’s the process. Of course, there is, separately, the recent
Law Reform Commission report, and obviously the recommendations
of that will also be considered. But this is an area that really
affects many Australians. It’s very traumatic for families
that go through it. And what we want to do
is help families – men, women, children –
get their lives back on track, and get through
this difficult process, as smoothly as can possibly
be the case. Yes, but, since you want
to do this smoothly, was it wise to make
your deputy chair Pauline Hanson, who very likely will use it
as a soapbox? Well, Tony,
the parliamentary committee draws upon people
from across the parliament, and in turn, the parliament is
elected by the Australian people. So, it’s perfectly standard
for parliamentary committees to draw on
the full breadth of people in the parliament,
and it is important that there is
a significant difference between a chair and a deputy chair. OK, alright. I’m going to… I’ve got to hear
from the Labor Party. And the first question for you is
will Labor boycott this inquiry? Well, we don’t support it, and that was quite
a big call for us, because normally
a parliamentary committee just gets bipartisan support. Normally the attitude is, “Well, no harm having a look
at this issue.” We took the significant decision
to oppose this inquiry because, Hayley, you’re 100% right. This is outrageous.
I’m not saying… I don’t think anybody would say it would be inappropriate
for the parliament to examine the family law system
at any point, but all the points you make
are very valid. You’re right. There was a Law Reform Commission
report six months ago unacted upon. There was
a House of Representatives committee on family violence last year,
unacted upon. Now, this is part of some other
side deal which we don’t know about. It is not standard practice,
with due respect, Paul, for a One Nation senator
to be deputy chair. The standard practice is
for the government and opposition to be chair
and deputy chair. This is a stitch-up. There’s some other side deal
that’s gone on which we don’t know about yet. We’ll eventually work it out
as to what’s being traded here. You should not trade issues
of family violence and family law as part of
parliamentary horse trading. It’s not on.
It shouldn’t be happening. HAYLEY: Thank you. Yeah. Now, I completely… And, Hayley,
thank you for the work you do in supporting vulnerable women
across the state and the country. But I completely understand. Why would somebody come
and give evidence to Pauline Hanson, who’s clearly
made up her mind about this issue, and subject themselves to that
sort of, frankly, abuse in return? It is an abuse of
the parliamentary processes. And it’s quite disgusting,
in our view. If there are legitimate issues
to be discussed in family law, the government could have
approached us and said, “Let’s have a proper
bipartisan approach to this. “Let’s do it sensibly.
Let’s do it appropriately.” They haven’t. They didn’t. They just did a side deal
with Pauline Hanson as part of some dodgy deal
about some other policy matter, quite clearly,
and it’s quite disgusting. OK, we’re going to move on, because we’ve got so many questions
to get through. The next question is
from Chris Masson. Chris. When the Prime Minister was asked
in Washington to confirm reports that a request for Hillsong Church
leader Brian Houston to join him
at the White House banquet had been rejected
by the Trump administration, he called the reports gossip
and repeatedly failed to provide a straightforward answer. Brian Houston, who Scott Morrison
once referred to as his mentor, remains under police investigation for failing to report
the sexual abuse of children by his father, Frank, to police, and the PM’s pattern of
dodging questions he would rather not answer by referring them
as “bubble” questions or “gossip” is now well established. My question to the panel is
how should journalists respond when the Prime Minister refuses to answer these sort of
public-interest questions? Kerry O’Brien. I’m having trouble not asking
questions myself here tonight. (LAUGHTER) Um, look, I think… I think there’s a very strong
responsibility on journalists to ask the probing questions,
to apply the scrutiny, particularly if our political
leaders are clearly uncomfortable answering the question. It’s a really simple question,
this one, and there should be a simple answer. And so… How would you approach
an interview with Scott Morrison, given his tactic of
simply not answering questions he doesn’t like?
Well, in the case… Or referring them as gossip or something inside the bubble
that he needn’t respond to. I think… I think I’d be fairly lively
on this issue of the bubble, because I think there’s a lot
of kind of marketing speak that’s coming from Scott Morrison, and that just invites you
to get past it and cut through, because I think marketing
can be one of the great evils. And, uh…
(SCATTERED APPLAUSE) And I think… ..I think in this case,
I’d probably would be asking him whether he feels just
a little a bit foolish, that it seems, to me, almost
a kind of childlike naivety to even consider the possibility of inviting any person with
a personal connection like that, I mean, that does not have
a reason that elevates the country in such an august circumstance. It’s an opportunity
that comes along very rarely, and, I mean, I’d be… ..I’d be asking,
“What on Earth were you thinking?” Let me just…
I’d be assuming… I’d be assuming that… Do you think in the current
media environment that the Prime Minister would
actually accept to do an interview with you? Well, I haven’t thought
about that much, Tony. It doesn’t actually occupy
my attention at Byron Bay. But, um… Oh, look,
I honestly don’t know. I honestly don’t know.
I mean, there were… What I’m saying is, we know that…
..people who were closing up… For example, we know that
John Howard submitted himself on a regular basis to… For which he deserved respect. ..pretty tough questioning
on live television from you, and it doesn’t seem
to happen now very often. Well, I gave him his due for that, and…and I understood
why he did it – because he could actually see that
there was some credit, potentially, accruing to him for being seen
to submit himself to tough questions when things weren’t necessarily
going well for him. So, it wasn’t just coming on
out of a clear blue sky, assuming that you’ll get through
a relatively easy romp. I mean, the thing that…
the thing that I respected him for was that there were times
when his back was to the wall, politically, and he still came on. And you’re right. I mean, there
are…there are any number of times when I don’t see that these days. But just that issue, I mean…
(SIGHS) I mean, not even Billy McMahon
would’ve done that. (LAUGHTER) Paul Fletcher? Well, I think I’d take issue
with the proposition that politicians of all sides
are not subject to continuing scrutiny. You need only look at the conduct
of the election campaign, and the fact that leaders
were under scrutiny constantly the whole time. And… It’s a very stage-managed scrutiny. I really don’t think
you can sustain the proposition that politicians today are not subject
to constant questioning, and I think the evidence is
very clear that they are. Well, there’s constant questioning
of Scott Morrison on 2GB, for example, or on programs
that he likes to appear on, with sympathetic hosts. Isn’t that the difference? Well, look, I don’t agree
with that proposition. What I’d put to you is that
politicians in this government, rightly, are subject to the scrutiny
of the media, as they should be. Opposition politicians are, as indeed are plenty
of other people. So, this notion that in some way there is less scrutiny of
politicians than there used to be, I just…I just really
don’t think stacks up. I have to say, I think
it’s rather a quirky angle about the Prime Minister’s
visit to the US, about whether he answered
a particular question. I think what matters
about this visit to the US is the work that’s being done
to underpin what is a very important
security relationship for us, and an extremely important
trade relationship, and about $1.2 trillion
in total of two-way investment. This is a prime minister doing exactly what a prime minister
should be doing, and I must say, I think the focus on whether he answered
a particular question or not is rather missing the point. Well, Paul, there is
a broader point to be made, but we’re here, you’re
the Minister for Communications, and this is about an interview in which the Prime Minister refused
on a number of occasions to answer a question,
referred to it as mere gossip. On many other occasions,
he’s talked about a bubble and not answering questions because they come from some kind
of bubble that he perceives. So, here’s a question for you
as the Minister – is it in the national interest
to answer questions like this about someone you invited
to a White House banquet that the White House decided
not to allow to come along? Tony, what is
in the national interest is that we’ve got a prime minister
vigorously prosecuting our relationship
with the United States, having a very successful visit
with the United States and vigorously maintaining
and developing relationships around the country. I frankly think that is
a great deal more important than involved nuances of how a prime minister
answered a question or not. It’s not a great revelation that journalists are
not always delighted about the answers
they get from politicians. That is not a great revelation. But with respect…
So, does… ..I think a much more…
..does the public… Very simply, does the public
have a right to know who the Prime Minister invited
or did not invite to a White House banquet,
particularly when the White House intervened to prevent
that person from coming? The Australian public
will make their judgement about our prime minister, about this government,
about politicians from time to time, based on a whole range of factors, including the questions
they’re asked, the answers they give,
the policies they implement, whether they deliver
on their commitments, whether, if you say,
coming into government in 2013, “We are going to get
the budget to balance,” after inheriting a huge deficit,
whether you do that. Last week, we did that. The budget is now in balance. I’d put to you that is
a pretty significant measure of how the government is performing, and, again, I’d put it to you, I think that’s frankly
rather more important than particular nuances of how one
or other questions are answered. But why has it got to be
one or the other? Yeah.
Why can’t it be both? I mean, that question could have
been answered in 10 seconds. Um, I would say… I don’t know why
it has to be either/or. Well, I would… In the same way as you have
the climate summit going on at the United Nations, and what we’re led to believe
is that the Prime Minister is not going to the climate summit, although he feels
it’s very important, because he’s opening
a factory in Ohio. Why couldn’t he have done…
But our foreign… Why couldn’t he have done both?
But our foreign minister is going. No, no, but why couldn’t
the Prime Minister have…? Look, the suggestion that Australia is not properly represented
because of our foreign minister… Kerry, you’ve slid back
into the interviewer’s chair. (LAUGHTER)
No, no. I’m actually… I’m actually…
I’m actually making… I’m actually making a point
rather than asking the question. OK, which is the sort of question
you would have asked Scott Morrison, given the opportunity.
Possibly. Possibly. Now, let’s take it across
the other side of the panel and hear from Chris Bowen. Uh, it’s arrogance. It’s arrogance. It’s treating those journalists
with contempt. And when the Prime Minister treats
those journalists with contempt, what he’s really doing is
treating all of us with contempt. The whole country with contempt. Because they’re asking questions
on behalf of the country. Now, I’ve had my fair share of
robust exchanges with journalists, and you give and you get, and you answer the questions
and you don’t… Yeah, sure, sometimes you… KERRY: Or you don’t
answer the questions. Well… But… But this was an open-and-shut
clear example of obfuscation. That’s what it was. He just
didn’t want to answer the question. For some reason,
best known to himself. We can probably… You know, we can all reach
our own conclusion as to what it is, but for some reason, he does not
want to tell the truth about this, so he’s chosen not to answer. I don’t think that’s good enough. There’s…there’s the original issue
of, you know, who was invited. And then there’s the question of
does the Prime Minister of Australia treat Australians with such contempt that he doesn’t think we deserve
an answer to the questions asked by journalists? The evidence is, the answer
to that question is yes. Dai Le? Look, most politicians do treat
journalists with contempt, but I think… You’re not saying
that’s a good thing, are you? (LAUGHS) No. No.
But I’m just… In terms of… I think if I was…if I had been
the Prime Minister’s media adviser, I would have said,
“Just say yes or no,” instead of… I think the news is more
in his saying, “No comment,” rather than actually saying
yes or no. JAN: Yeah. That would’ve been straightforward,
so, yeah. And then, therefore, this would not
be a topic of discussion. It’s a very weird flex
by the Prime Minister. Like, just answer the question. Then we wouldn’t be here talking about why you haven’t
answered the question, and possibly probing
into whether or not there are other questions
you may or may not have answered. Just say yay nor nay.
Well, we might be talking about his answer, Jan.
That’s perhaps the problem. We’ll move on to our next question.
It’s from Shane Dowling. Um, Kerry O’Brien recently said
at the Logie Awards what many social media users
have known for a long time, and I’ll quote it verbatim – “We, the journalists,
have to share responsibility “for the great failures of our time, “a time of enormous
ferment and challenge, “failures of politics,
failures of journalism, “failures of society in the end,
and we, the journalists, “have cut…not cut through
the fake news effectively. “We have not properly…properly
held politicians to account.” Um, can Kerry expand on that
and give us some examples? Kerry O’Brien. Oh, well, I haven’t got
the speech prepared. (LAUGHTER) Look, I mean, it’s a statement
of the obvious to me, and climate change was
a classic case in point because there was a debate
that has going on since 1979, where the only change
has been that the… ..that the science has become
more and more and more profoundly, uh, clear that this is
an existential crisis. And journalism has been
at the heart of the conversation. We have reported it. We’ve asked the questions.
We’ve covered it every which way. And when…even when
charlatans turn up claiming to be, um… be authorities
on climate change, we give them space. And I think journalism has
to actually confront this issue now. And I’m not for one moment
urging that we become activists, uh, but I…I think that the science is so beyond doubt that there is no longer a point in continuing to…to listen
to arguments that it’s not. Unless somebody came up
with a…with a really serious, factually-based set of premises as to why we should listen
to them on this against the proof
of the climate change science, then…then what is the point
of listening? And, I mean, journalism
is supposed to partly be about sifting through the facts,
sorting out the dross, uh, and disposing of the dross
and sticking to the facts. Kerry, just more broadly, are you making a broader claim
than climate change that journalists have ignored
or failed to confront fake news? ‘Cause that was built into
your speech, that notion, and I want to hear from
the other journalists on the panel about this as well. But when I first came
into journalism, I can remember jokes about journalists being
down the bottom of the pile. And I can remember the joke
about the two guys at the bar. And one says, “What do you do?” And the bloke says, “Oh, well,
I’m a travelling salesman.” And the guy says,
“And…and what do you do?” And the bloke says, “Well, look,
my wife’s coming here in a moment, “so I’d rather you don’t let on
what I’m telling you, “but…but I’m a journalist. “But my wife…my wife thinks
I play piano in a brothel.” (LAUGHTER)
And…and it was interchangeable. It could be a journalist
or it could be a politician or it could be a used-car salesman,
but…but that’s… I mean, there’s always been
this view of journalists for as long as I’ve been one,
which is 50 years, that people are deeply ambivalent
about journalists and they make their own decisions
about those they believe and those they don’t
and those that are in between. And…and not much has changed,
except that…except that, when we look at the complexities
of society today, and we look at the central… You know, we actually… And I’m as guilty as anybody. I’ve argued for a very long time
about understanding that journalism
is at the heart of democracy. It is one of the fundamental
underpinnings of democracy. But we don’t always live up to that, and it’s abundantly clear that
we don’t always live up to that. So, if you’re going
to make the boast, then question your own behaviour
and your own professionalism and your own integrity
in the process. And I do think that,
when you see something as important as climate change
in the space it’s in now, and you see the obfuscation
at a political level… And I’m sorry, Paul,
but…but not many… ..not many people who are informed,
in this day and age, feel that your policies
on climate change are credible. And to talk about… To talk about meeting
your targets – what, 26%? Europe, I think,
is between 40% and 60%. And where…where you’re talking
about going back to 2005 levels, they’re talking about
going back to 1990. I mean, these are
parts of the reality. And now we’ve got
the latest science report that’s been presented to the UN saying that we’ve got to…we’ve got
to actually go much further, otherwise we’re looking at
not just 1.5% to 2% increase, but as much as 3% or even 4%. OK, I want to hear from the others on the broader point
about journalism. (APPLAUSE)
Yeah. Jan Fran. Um… Oh, I feel like I now have
to be the one defending journalists when everybody hates us! But here we go. Um, we’re in a spot of trouble.
Journalism is in trouble. It’s not what it was
10 or 20 years ago. Kerry, I absolutely accept
your point that we do have to shift through… ..sift through the dross, rather. Unfortunately, there’s so much
more dross to sift through and we have far less resources
to do it. We are trying to have
these nuanced conversations through these mediums
that allow for none, and that is a very big problem in terms of how we shape
our national conversation around issues of climate change. Not only do journalists now have to,
of course, report the truth, but they actually spend quite
a considerable amount of their time trying to swat away misinformation. And the way that
misinformation spreads online is like nothing we’ve seen before because this is the first time
that we’ve had these mediums to have these conversations. There’s a saying that the… ..that a lie will spread
halfway around the world and the truth
will come limping after. It’s almost as though we’ve got
to do the job of two people now, which is to report the news, but also to correct
all of this stuff that’s being said. And that’s…that’s
a very difficult thing. I look at a place like Fairfax,
which is now Nine – it’s half what it used to be. News Corp has laid off
a bunch of people. There’s always talk about
the denigration of local news, which I think is
extremely concerning. So, journalism has taken
a very…a very bad hit, I think, in the last 10 years, and we’ve seen more change
in the industry in the last five than what we have possibly
in the last 50. So, I take your point
in that we don’t know… Not that we don’t know, but perhaps we’re not
holding people to account in the way that we should, and we’re not having
the conversation the way that we should. And my question genuinely –
and this is to everyone, and also to you, Kerry –
how do we do it? Well, I…
No, no, no, I’m not going to… Oh, OK. Maybe not to Kerry!
Can I give you 20 seconds? Hang on. No, I’ve got to…
20 seconds? I do think it’s important that we,
um…weigh up all the factors here. So, yes, journalism is
under considerable pressure and the commercial – so, News,
and Fairfax formerly, now Nine – facing the pressure of Facebook and
Google and the digital platforms, and, of course, the ACCC’s just done
a big review of that. And similarly,
in other countries, the Cairncross Review
has just come down in the UK, looking at the impact
of the internet on journalism. These are some complex
and challenging issues. On the other hand, what the internet
has allowed is that, if you want to go
and see a source document, you can do that immediately. That was impossible
even 20 years ago. You had to accept
the paraphrased version of what…of what was reported
in a newspaper. So, there’s now a capacity for citizens to be better informed
if you choose to be. So, I think we need to weigh up
both some of the challenges, but also some of the strengths. Paul, while we weigh up
those challenges, I’m going to go to a big challenge
posed by one of our questioners. Tom Lin, go ahead. Putin recently said
liberalism is obsolete. Is the Australian government
proving his point with the raids on journalists
and prosecution of whistleblowers? How does
the Australian government propose to hold
its national security apparatus, and itself, to account
in the absence of a free press? OK, I’m going to start
on this side of the panel. Dai Le? Um…well, you know,
with my former journalist’s hat, I think that
press freedom is crucial and is very important for democracy. I think we have to be able
to get the stories and get to the facts
and…and to question constantly. Um…
Is it under threat? Look, with the raid
on journalists’ homes, I think we’re going too far. We’re kind of… We’re almost moving into
a, um…you know… ..a society whereby, you know, you don’t have the freedom
to report, um…you know, the story. So, there is that danger there.
That’s under threat, absolutely. But can I…? Just what we were discussing
just then – I just came out of
this afternoon, at the ABC, two days out in Bankstown
looking at stories, looking at how can the ABC have
a wider audience reach? And are…is the ABC
doing…having stories and content that’s relevant and reflective
of our society? And while I’m listening
to the discussion here and… It’s interesting, the community that I am elected in,
in Western Sydney, in Fairfield, where both Chris and I come from,
is a very conservative community. And I know we’re very…
I’m a passionate believer in terms of global warming
and the environment, but if you talk
to our community out there, it’s a challenge
to try and… Because, to them,
what’s the important issue is, in terms for them out there,
is housing, is getting a…getting jobs. And the community out there,
whereby it’s so diverse, and we just got 10,000 refugees kind of being settled
within Fairfield city, out of the 12,000
that got resettled in Australia. So, 10,000 is a lot. So, for us, those were the… Those were
the pertinent issues for us, and congestions,
populations and all of that. So, when we talk about… We set up this panel
to talk about journalism, largely… Journalism, largely. Stories.
..and issues around journalism. That’s right. And what stories?
How do we get…? What kind of stories
that are important to the community that an organisation like the ABC
is not representing? So, my, um… So, working out there,
I know that our community out there, access news… ..beyond the commercial channels
and ABC or SBS, they get those news nowadays
through the internet, through YouTube,
and they get sources, you know, from their own countries as well. So, is that fake news? Do we, as journalists in the West, term that and label that
as fake news? So that is a challenge because, in the past,
it’s only a certain group of people that would be, you know… You’re a journalist and
there’s that almost group of people that would do the reporting. Nowadays, with access to technology, anybody can go out there
with a camera and film and do the recording, um, and… But you then question the quality,
the content of it. So, there’s all of those issues. I think it’s very challenging
for journalism in this day and age, absolutely, with technology,
and with those, um… You know, access to, um… OK, Dai, I’m going to
go to Chris Bowen. Onto the question that was asked,
if you can. Yeah, Scott Morrison was asked
if he was troubled by the raids, particularly the raid
of Annika Smethurst. And he said, “It doesn’t trouble me
that the law’s being upheld.” I tell you what – it troubles me.
These raids trouble me. Again, it goes back
to the point before. Journalism has to be robust. Annika Smethurst
is a very good journalist. I don’t like everything she writes. I don’t agree
with everything she writes. It’d be a problem if I did.
She’s got a job to do. She shouldn’t be raided
by the police and have the police going through
her, you know, personal possessions in her bedroom and, you know,
all through her house. It’s…it’s a very dangerous turn
for the country, I think. And we still don’t know
whether those journalists are going to be prosecuted – Annika Smethurst
and the ABC journalists. We don’t…we don’t know if there’s going
to be prosecutions or not. There shouldn’t be. And, normally,
those sort of things are handled at arm’s length, but in this case,
the attorney-general has the power to veto any prosecution,
and he should. He should,
because I do think it is a threat to press freedom in Australia, and we have to nurture it
and cherish it. And long may there be articles
I disagree with because the day that there isn’t
is the day we’ve lost press freedom. And the government
should be more active in supporting press freedom. There’s two
parliamentary inquiries on, which the government didn’t want,
originally, which were…which were
pushed through. We’ll see what
those inquiries come up with, but they’re important inquiries. PAUL: Tony, can I…?
OK, yes, Paul Fletcher. Yes, you can. Go ahead. Can I just pick up
on something Chris said there? Because far from
one of those inquiries being one that we didn’t want, it was referred to
the Parliamentary Joint Committee… Under pressure.
..on Intelligence and Security by… Under pressure. the attorney-general. Now, look, we understand that these issues are concerning
to working journalists, and press freedom is
a bedrock principle of democracy. At the same time,
it’s very important that… recognise that press freedom
has never been an absolute… There’s never been
an absolute right to publish. It’s been subject to things like
the laws of defamation, to protect people’s reputations,
the laws of sub judice, which deal with ensuring
that people get a fair trial, and there have always been
national security considerations when it comes to
what can be published. Now, this inquiry that
the attorney-general has referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee
will look at the question of the impact of the exercise
of law enforcement, intelligence powers
on freedom of the press. It’ll report, in November, and the government will certainly
have regard to that. Are you, Paul, as the minister, prepared to agitate
within the government for some sort of legislation
to protect press freedom, which you clearly value? What we need to have
is the rule of law applying. Can I make the point,
those two search warrants…? Sorry, can I just bring you back
to that particular question? Well, no, no, but this is
a really important point. Those two search warrants
are being challenged by News and by the ABC, as is the perfect right
of both organisations because
the Australian Federal Police have to comply with the law, and if they haven’t got
a valid basis for executing those search warrants, the search warrants
can be set aside. So, for me, the question is, are there sufficient safeguards
in our laws? Several laws passed
in the past few years have specific carve-outs
for journalists, for example,
the new secrecy provisions in the Commonwealth Criminal Code. There’s an exception for journalists who communicate
national security information, where they reasonably believe that doing so
is in the national interest. So, there are laws
which specifically give rights and protections
to journalists, which are not available
to other citizens. Can I just…? Can I bring
Kerry O’Brien in on this? Because he’s got a stake
in this argument, and I’d like to hear how he responds
to what you’re suggesting. Well, there’s a number of things
to say, Tony. And, one, I think that wherever…
wherever there are secrets, a part of a journalist’s job
is to try and find them out. And I believe that, simply because – and I’m not saying that…
that none of those… ..none of the secrets of government
have validity – but I firmly believe
that the more secretive, and more secretive a government, the less healthy the democracy. In terms
of those particular raids, in both instances, there were
a number of question marks. With the ABC one, it was a story
that was at least two years old. In the case of
the Annika Smethurst story, I can’t remember exactly how old, but again, it was not
like this had only just happened. JAN: About a year.
About a year. And so in both cases, if you looked at the stories
that were being revealed, they were important stories,
and they were stories that every Australian
had a right to know about. One involved
very serious allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan
by Australian troops, and more and more and more has
come out on those, and there are serious investigations
going on now. Why was it so necessary to raid
the ABC so long after those stories? That’s one. The Annika Smethurst story
was about… ..was revealing, that,
for the first time, a, um…a surveillance and
intelligence gathering organisation called the Australian
Signals Directorate, whose…whose purview was
international, not domestic, was…there was a debate going on
inside the government that it was going to…that they
were going to be asked, or given the authority, to conduct surveillance
inside Australia. Now, I think that is a story
that is an issue that is well and truly worthy
of public debate, rather than something
that would be conducted in secret. But again, it was the subject
of a raid. In both cases,
leaks or whistleblowers. We’re not just talking
about the importance of press freedom
for journalists here, we’re talking about the important
role in society for whistleblowers. And if you look at, uh… ..not at history –
not that far back, you know,
Daniel Ellsberg in America, the great lie of Vietnam
was revealed by Daniel Ellsberg. A…you know,
America, the great democracy, that was rotten at the core
with Nixon and Watergate, that was revealed
by journalists and whistleblowers. And so it goes on. I mean, these things are very much
at the heart of a healthy democracy. So, Kerry, can press freedom
be maintained in this country without some form of legislation? And would that legislation, if your argument is to be considered
at face value, would that legislation
have to include protection for whistleblowers
as well? Oh, well, there are protect… They’ve strengthened protections
for whistleblowers in the commercial sector as a result of
the embarrassments of revelations that, again, were brought out
by a combination of journalists, Adele Ferguson
at the forefront of it, and one whistleblower in particular, which led, eventually,
to the Royal Commission on Banking. And when… Nobody on this panel would try
for a second now, with all that we know, that
that was not a great service to Australia by that whistleblower
who, like most whistleblowers… Alright. That comes
to quite an important point. It’s absolutely true that
investigative journalism has led to some
very important outcomes – the Banking Royal Commission
you talked about, the Aged Care Royal Commission, the Don Dale Royal Commission
and so on. There’s no…I don’t think anybody
is questioning the proposition that investigative journalism is a
very important force in our society. The wording, though, of the reference
to the Parliamentary Joint Committee specifically goes
to national security and whether the impact that
that has on press freedom, recognising that national security raises a set of, uh…
separate considerations. There are necessarily things that governments seek
to keep secret as part of keeping Australians safe. These are tough issues
to balance up, that’s why we’ve got a parliamentary
committee to have a look at it. I feel like if it was such a threat
to national security, though, you would have looked
into Annika Smethurst a little bit earlier than a year, or you would have looked
into the ABC a little bit earlier than
two years. And there’s also
the question of why it was that there were raids
that happened at the ABC, and at the home of a journalist, and I think Ben Fordham from 2GB
got a phone call about a story that he’d written,
all in the space of a few days. That’s…
And not long after the election. And not long after the election,
exactly. Let’s just be clear…
That, I would say, is designed to freak people out…
Let’s just be clear, these are… freak out journalists.
Can I…? Jan, I just want to get the Minister
to respond to what you’ve just said. These are operational decisions
by the Australian Federal Police. Ministers have no involvement
in them, and nor should they. These are not decisions
by politicians. These are operational decisions
by the Federal Police. But you were the one talking about
the importance of national security. I’m just curious if, and I…
National security is very important. On questions of timing…
I would agree. On questions of timing, those are operational decisions
for the Federal Police. Paul, I would also… They’re not decisions made
by politicians. ..just to finish on Tony’s point,
I would also argue that…that governments
are there to give direction to all of the institutions
and agencies of the government. And you’re right. And…
Hang on, hang on. And…
And we have. Gee, it’s good
to be able to say this! (LAUGHTER) And we have given a direction. The Minister for Home Affairs
gave a direction to the Australian Federal Police
just last month about wh…the cir… they are to conduct themselves when investigations
involve journalists… The argument I’m making… ..precisely to respond
to some of these issues. The argument I’m making is to answer
Tony’s point about legislation. Absolutely, Tony.
Absolutely, I think legislation. And I think,
although it’s a vexed issue about whistleblowers
who are public servants, particularly operating in,
say, national security, it’s going to be tricky
to get the right legislation. But I believe it has to be done. And it would be…
Let’s… Hang on.
Let’s quickly… No, but I want to hear
the Minister answer that question, because I asked him before –
legislation to protect press freedom and corresponding legislation
for whistleblowers, is that a good idea? Is it as good an idea as having legislation
to protect religious freedom? When you ask about legislation, you need to ask, what are
the provisions of the legislation? The point I’ve made is that there
are already provisions in legislation that
give journalists, for example, specific rights to communicate
national security information, where they reasonably believe that doing so is
in the national interest. Now, the Parliamentary
Joint Committee is considering the question, and no doubt there will be
submissions to that committee arguing that there ought be
other legislative provisions. So that committee will report, it will bring its recommendations
to government, there will, of course,
be another senate committee as well, we will consider those. But the point I make is that the operation of the Federal Police
is subject to the law, and the operation of journalists
is subject to law. Ultimately, we are a society
governed by the rule of law. Kerry O’Brien wants to respond
briefly. Yeah, brief.
Let me think briefly. (LAUGHTER) Paul, national security
is as important an issue as any for public debate. And yet so often, I see national… ..national security issues
not widely debated or openly debated
because it’s national security. And yet, since September 11, we have seen change after change
after change on national security issues, and I believe
that there is…there has… And the opposition,
more often than not, Labor more often than not,
has ended up folding into the tent, even where they’ve got real
reservations about these things, because they are…
I won’t say scared, that they’re clearly concerned that they would not win that debate
in public. The impression I have is there is
not a confidence on your side… OK, well, I’m going to get… actually… I’m going to have to get Chris Bowen
to respond to that, since you’ve taken over
the role of moderator! Sorry!
(LAUGHTER) But go ahead. Well, Kerry’s right to say
the predisposition of the opposition is to give the government
bipartisanship on national security matters,
that is right. We don’t… You know what I mean? There have been points
of difference and disagreement, and we have insisted on a lot
of amendments at various points. But the predisposition
of the opposition is, well, you know, it’s a matter
of important national security, we should be with the government unless there is compelling reason
not to. Sometimes we find
those compelling reasons. Are you going to push
for press freedom legislation? Well, we’ve got
these two inquiries under way. There is whistleblower protection
already, it’s fair…it should be noted. That’s been in place for, you know, under governments
of both persuasions. It’s not helping Bernard Collaery
or Witness K. No, well…but, you know,
we’re taking this matter seriously. We instigated,
with other colleagues, the Senate Committee Inquiry. We’re also participating in the Parliamentary Joint Committee
on Intelligence inquiry. We’re taking them very seriously. I mean, Anthony’s made it very clear
how seriously we take press freedom. And we’ll see
what comes out of the inquiry. But, you know,
we’ve been pretty robust in saying what we think
about these raids, and the fact that the journalists
shouldn’t be prosecuted. OK, we’re talking
about whistleblowers. We’ve got a question about perhaps the most prominent
whistleblower in the world. It’s from Michelle Wood. Michelle. Kerry O’Brien has been vocal in urging the government
to update national security laws to protect journalists
and whistleblowers. There seems to be recognition that media freedom is being eroded
in this country, and yet we have a situation where there is an almost
media blackout about Julian Assange. Although he has been held
in a maximum security prison for the last six months,
with failing health, most people don’t even know
about it. On September 22nd,
he was eligible for release but the UK have decided
to hold him in jail without charge on behalf of the US, who are trying to indict
and jail him for his publishing
of the Iraq and Afghan war logs. The media can no longer deny
he is a political prisoner. Is the Australian media
doing enough? And why is his case going
mostly unreported? And what needs to happen here? Dai Le, start with you. Look, I think that, um, as…
(SIGHS) I think that it’s,
um…the government should actually do something
about Assange’s case. He’s an Australian, after all. That’s…that’s something that,
as an Australian, we need to bring an Australian home. Why do you think
that’s not happening? Look, it’s not happening, I think,
because of, you know, what he’s done
by releasing information that is top US security information, and that goes into our…the
conversation around access of information,
privacy, accessing of data. And obviously, you know,
what he did, based on US laws, security laws,
really infringed upon that. And therefore, I think… And it was obviously
highly classified information. So… But they’re not locking up
the New York Times publishers… I think…
..who put that on their front pages, they’re not locking up The Guardian. They’re locking up the person
who got access to the information and gave it to those organisations. But I think he…he cr… He managed to hack the system.
He managed to send that out. And so I…I think that,
um, you know… It’s not clear yet
that he hacked the system. Um, that’s not clear. That’s what he’s being accused of
in the United States. Yes, well… But I think
there are two issues here. One is the security information, and the other part is
Julian Assange as an Australian, and we as a government
should do what we can. And then, you know,
look at all other… know, issues that we can, around the whole security
of information and data and privacy
and all that stuff. And also for us, for Australia,
we, actually… My understanding is we don’t have
a sovereign policy around data – security of our data
in Australia as well. We’re the only country
in the developed world that don’t have that. But, from my perspective, you know,
our government should do something. OK. Jan Fran? Oh, I think it’s just been put
in the “too hard” basket. Julian Assange is too hard
for anybody to deal with because he’s everything
to every person. I mean, Scott Morrison’s
in the United States with his BFF Donald Trump
at the moment. It’s going to cause a bit of an
incident if anything moves on this. The United States want him, Sweden, as far as I know,
did want him, I think that was then rescinded
and then put back. Ecuador has got a stake
in this game, so does the UK –
they’re currently holding him. So I think Australia has
just gone, “Erm,” and then just disappeared
slowly backwards into a hedge. (LAUGHTER)
Um, which… What do you think about…?
No, really, which, you know… And it’s not good enough. Because, I mean, the man’s
been languishing in the UK, well, in the Ecuadorean embassy. But let’s just remember…
Hang on… ..the reason he was
in the Ecuadorian embassy was because he refused to come out and respond to charges
of sexual assault. There are a number of… He refused
to be extradited to Sweden. Yes, I don’t think it was…
Why does nobody talk about the fact that he was asked
to return to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault? I’m just going to quickly go back
to our questioner, Michelle, who would… He was always ready to answer
the charges…the allegations. He made himself available in Sweden, was let go, it was dropped,
he went to the UK. He’s made himself available the
entire time he was in the embassy. So that’s not true, that’s a lie, that’s part of the smear campaign
to make us forget him. I think as well, culturally – if I could just sort of
make a comment on this – the sands of time appear to have
shifted in quite a bizarre way around Julian Assange. And probably, you know, through
some fault, perhaps, of his own, maybe through no fault of his own. Are you talking about
because of his attitudes to women? Or because he…
No, look… ..appeared to intervene
in the US election in favour of Donald Trump?
Well, what I’m talking about is… But is that why the left has,
in many cases, abandoned him to his fate? You don’t hear
the kind of activism… I mean, I don’t think that you can
say that the left has abandoned him. I think that there are
still people on the left who are really fighting the fight
for Julian Assange. I think when WikiLeaks first
released all that information about the war crimes in Iraq, it was almost clear that what he had
done was in the public interest. It did serve the public good. And then as time wore on, he was then wanted
for rape charges in Sweden. So…so, is Julian Assange,
you know, a freedom fighter, or has he suddenly become
a misogynist? And then we saw, in 2016, the releasing of I believe it was
Hillary Clinton’s email, and him having some kind of a hand
in the US election and Trump winning. So, does that mean
that Julian Assange is now fighting for the right? And it’s this sort of complicated,
really hard… This is what I’m saying about him
being in the “too hard” basket, not just politically,
but culturally. Because we’re not quite sure
who Julian Assange is. Kerry O’Brien?
KERRY: Well… The one thing about him
we know for sure is that he’s been confined
for a very long time, and now he’s in
a maximum-security prison. And he doesn’t seem to get any help
from Australia. I don’t know if he ever will. Well, he is getting
consular assistance. The original question was
about journalism and journalists
turning their back on him. The Walkleys recognised that
his actions with…with WikiLeaks were the actions of a journalist,
and he was awarded for it. And, uh…you’ve referred to the… the, um…
the targeting of civilians that was so dramatically portrayed
in the footage that he’d accessed and showed
and distributed. The issue of Julian Assange now,
you’ll find that there have been… It’s like…it’s like
a number of other issues in……that go cyclically. There have been times when he’s been
right in the front of the news and in the headlines, and the press come out,
and they’re in the story, and then, suddenly,
it goes off heat for a little bit. So he’s gone into jail, very few people, I think,
have accessed… ..been able to access him in jail. It’s a question
of how the story gets sustained. And I understand
with a lot of stories there is a practical aspect of that. So, that would be a part of it. But I do think that…
that it is incredibly important for journalists, no matter
how you might feel about, in his case, the individual, that, um…that there are
principles at stake here that are incredibly important. And as a journalist, for him to be treated
the way he has been… And my memory of…of him
not wanting to go back to Sweden was because he was making
the assumption that it was a ploy to… ..for the Americans
to be able to extradite him. Let’s just hear from the Minister. Do you think there is
a matter of principle here? Do you regard Assange
as a journalist, principally? And, if so, should Australia
intervene in some way to help him? Especially if it’s likely
that he’s going to be extradited to face a massive trial
in the United States that could see him
locked away forever? Well, I think there are two points. Do I regard him as a journalist?
I don’t. I believe he’s somebody who,
very irresponsibly, dumped a huge amount of information which undoubtedly led
to lives being lost. But, separately…
(KERRY SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY) Separately, is there…what… ..what is the appropriate thing
for Australia to do? The situation when
an Australian citizen is overseas and is facing judicial processes, is that we can provide
consular assistance, but otherwise, our citizens
in other countries need to comply
with the laws of those countries, and go through the judicial
processes of those countries. That’s what is happening here, and it is…regrettably, it is…
from time to time, it is the case
that we have Australian citizens who are going through judicial
processes in other countries. The Australian government
can provide consular assistance, but we can’t intervene in or override judicial processes
in other countries. And if he were to be extradited
to the United States, Australia would take no action? Well, I…again, I make the point
that I’ve made before, in terms of what we can do
and what we can’t do. But how does this end, Paul?
How does it end? What happens? Does he just languish
in the UK forever? Well, um…
I can’t predict the future, but he’s engaged in certain actions which have the consequences
of having him… No, but I’m asking you… ..being involved
in judicial processes. a representative
of the Australian government, who is speaking, you know…Julian
Assange is an Australian citizen, I mean, he’s been there
for almost a decade. Sure, but…
How is it…? Is he just going to die there?
And… It is a problem
of a panel full of journalists – inevitably, we’re all going
to be asking questions. And there are… We have to come to an end
at some point! And there are Australian citizens
who commit crimes. Yes, and they have a trial
or are either sent back. But, I mean, Julian Assange
just seems to be in some limbo. He’s entitled to a presumption
of innocence. He needs to go through a judicial
process in the country that he’s in. OK. Alright, we are out of time,
I’m sorry to say. That’s all we have time for. Please thank our panel –
Kerry O’Brien, Paul Fletcher, Jan Fran, Dai Le, and Chris Bowen. Thank you very much. You can continue the discussion
on Facebook and Twitter. Next week on Q&A,
something completely different – a special episode dedicated
to the power of music to transform lives and the untapped
power of the music industry itself. We’ve assembled a diverse panel
of well-known and emerging artists – singer-songwriter Katie Noonan, conductor, composer, and founder
of the Choir of Hard Knocks, Jonathon Welch, powerful new voice Mojo Juju, and from south-west Sydney, Australian Sikh hip-hop artist
L-FRESH The LION. Until next Monday,
we’ll all be roaring, goodnight. Captions by Red Bee Media Copyright Australian
Broadcasting Corporation


  2. In a world where a look can be defined a sexual assault and a woman can claim physical assault before a court without any evidence whatsoever, I'm ashamed to be a woman.

  3. Oh you young people are a real threat to our current politicians: you're all sooooooo much more switched on than those lazy parasitic dinosaurs currently drawing obscene salaries from the public purse for doing nothing!

  4. Australia's school children have already judged the government on their commitments on climate change! Unlike the government (and the media!) they are taking real action!

  5. The Chinese leadership must be laughing uncontrolably at the young people putting pressure on western governments to wreck their economies in pursuit of a goal that cannot be achieved at the moment by any means other than nuclear.

  6. I hate it when Q&A stacks the panel with people who disagree with the government. As incompetent as the government obviously is the views should always be balanced! Q&A is biased.

  7. Julian Assange will be given as much consular support from the Australian Government as it thinks the US government would approve.i.e. zilch!

  8. All my life I've been a fierce advocate of women's rights and demonstrated support for absolute equality in my 14 years in 2 relationships and no history of domestic violence. I got someone pregnant after knowing them 6 weeks I can truthfully and wholeheartedly tell you I've been lied about as part of FCCA proceedings that I initiated self represented.

    In Oct 2013 I formally separated when our daughter was 20 months due to highly concerning series of depression another big factor was our daughter not sleeping thorough the night (due to bottle feeding). 4 months later she gave me a Valentines card and with absolute absurdity 9 days later she suddenly stopped me seeing my daughter for 8 months (until the court ordered it). There are no serious domestic violence and no threats to her then and since. In my application I told the court the absolute truth including her family having disturbing levels of depression – her brother has killed himself (2017) since orders made 2015. In 2014 her legal response was host of blatant lies in every line. Without any evidence (no photos provided and no texts of me saying anything threating or being unreasonable at any moment) – the judges concluded "she must have suffered at my hands".

    The only person that stood beside me was my Mum who got diagnosed with bone cancer in August last year. She could have been affected by the stress of it all – her relationship with her granddaughter has been alienated and marginalized after moving to far north of Brisbane (Mum lives in the Gold Coast). I am still living with the negative effects of this court case and "domestic violence" label in my workplace as well. We have court orders being broken since they were made (2015) as she does not tell me our daughters address as she is supposed to. She's moved 3 times and only gives me her post office box (openly contravening every time). It's all been about punishing me for not wanting to be with her. As long as I'm sad, angry and lonely – she must be feeling happy.

    Frankly it's an appalling insult to the women who really aren't lying about their domestically violent abusers. I'm 10,000% behind much more being done to stop and protect the woman dying every week as much as I am improving the failing federal system. In cases like ours when we had no background relationship – final rulings need to be fairer when no physical DV evidence has been provided.

  9. Just the record I appreciate all your comments here, I don't really buy the climate change scare, BUT I do think the raids on the ABC were quite concerning.

    For the record, the reason the raids happened were because…

    1-They dared to report that innocent people had died in Iraq.

    2-In the case of Annika Smethurst she dared to leak documents that government intends to spy on its own citizens.

    Those are the facts lol.


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