Ten things Australia can do to be a human rights hero



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Effective leadership requires leading by example, but Australia’s human rights record has drawn increasing criticism at home and abroad.
Andrew Hill/flickr, CC BY-ND

Carolien van Ham, UNSW; Lisa Hill, University of Adelaide, and Louise Chappell, UNSW

This article is part of the Democracy Futures project, a joint global initiative between The Conversation and the Sydney Democracy Network. The project aims to stimulate fresh thinking about the many challenges facing democracies in the 21st century.


Sunday is Human Rights Day. December 10 marks 69 years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. With the 70th anniversary coming up in 2018, the UN has launched Stand Up 4 Human Rights, a year-long campaign to bring the ideals of the declaration closer to reality.

As a leader in the framing of the UN declaration and one of the world’s oldest democracies, Australia prides itself on its commitment to democracy and human rights. The Australian government has an excellent opportunity to show leadership in promoting these values at home and abroad when it takes up a seat on the UN Human Rights Council from 2018.

In this role, Australia has pledged to be “an international human rights leader” and to advance human rights with “active, practical advocacy, sensitivity and fairness, and a willingness to speak out against human rights violations and abuses”.

However, effective leadership requires leading by example, and Australia’s human rights record has drawn increasing criticism in recent years.

What can we do to strengthen our human rights framework?

We recently brought together Australian human rights scholars to answer this question. Our collection of articles in the Australian Journal of Human Rights, entitled Vanguard or laggard? Democracy and human rights in Australia, details the relationship between democracy and human rights, and provides a roadmap for improving Australia’s democratic and human rights record.

Democracy should generate protection for human rights through accountability mechanisms that work across three axes:

  • horizontal accountability refers to the role of the judiciary and integrity institutions such as the ombudsman and human rights commission

  • vertical accountability refers to elections and the participatory role of citizens

  • diagonal accountability denotes the role of free speech, media and civil society organisations in holding governments to account.

There is no clear-cut nexus between Australian democracy and human rights across these areas of accountability. And the conditions necessary for each form of accountability to operate successfully are not as strong as is generally assumed.

Accountability mechanisms are often overshadowed by parliamentary supremacy in our version of Westminster democracy. This leaves many citizens vulnerable to rights infringements.

A core weakness in Australia’s vertical accountability is the lack of an entrenched or statutory bill of rights. This leaves the executive and legislature with primary control over human rights determinations.

Voters decide who these legislators are and can change them at elections if they are unhappy with their decisions on rights issues. History suggests voters have indeed punished governments that fail to act on majority rights concerns.

However, protection for minority rights, and the rights of Indigenous Australians and refugees in particular, do not attract sufficient support at the ballot box. Not surprisingly, government policies reflect this electoral reality.

Without a bill of rights, minorities and others whose rights are threatened also have limited capacity to trigger horizontal accountability mechanisms for protection. Aside from some exceptional rulings, such as the High Court’s implied rights determinations, Australian judges have generally been reluctant to read the law broadly to incorporate rights.

Further, the Australian Human Rights Commission has a limited mandate. It is also vulnerable to funding cuts and political attacks when government perceives the commission to have overstepped its mark. These deficiencies have become more obvious in recent years with the rise of the “security state”.

Diagonal accountability mechanisms, including a free press and civil society, have been able to flourish in Australia. Even so, there are major limitations to their ability to pursue rights concerns. We have seen increasing media concentration, funding cuts to public broadcasters and the extension of legislative restrictions on civil society.

Such developments reduce the potential for these democratic actors to bring problems to light and inform governments and voters about rights issues.

Unless or until Australians decide to support greater rights protections, whether through constitutional or legislative action, these problems are likely to remain.

Fixing these problems is important. This is not only because human rights are important in themselves, but also because democracy requires a basic level of respect for human rights to function properly.

Ten things Australia can do to protect rights

With Australia becoming a member of the UN Human Rights Council, it is more important than ever that we get our own house in order, if we want to be a model for good democratic practice underpinned by a strong human rights framework.

Having secured a seat at the UN Human Rights Council, Australia needs to get its own house in order.
UN Geneva/flickr

Here’s a start: these ten broad steps are eminently doable. While not covering all the gaps, these will get us a long way toward more robust human rights protection in Australia.

1. Adopt a bill of rights

  • A bill of rights will increase the capacity of minorities and others whose rights are threatened to seek protection from the courts, if and when parliament fails to do so.

2. Protect freedom of speech

  • Reverse funding cuts to public media outlets.

  • Achieve a better balance between security laws and freedom of speech by adding public interest disclosure protections to national security laws.

3. Protect the rule of law and integrity institutions

  • Strengthen the independence of integrity institutions such as statutory officeholders (information commissioners, human rights commissioners). This includes mandating transparent, arm’s length and merit-based selection criteria for appointments to these offices. Stronger statutory guarantees of adequate funding are also needed.

4. Protect the right to vote

  • Strengthen our compulsory voting laws because of their beneficial (yet generally unrecognised) effects on human rights protection, particularly their demonstrated capacity to protect rights such as equality before the law, freedom from discrimination and equal voting power.

  • Continue to support electoral commissions in their efforts to achieve universal or near-universal electoral participation.

5. Protect freedom of association

  • Support the flourishing of civil society organisations by removing restrictive protest laws.

  • Ensure a fair and nonpartisan regulatory framework for funding civil society organisations.

6. Strengthen rights protections for Indigenous Australians

  • Dismantle the intellectual and legal framework that creates barriers to recognising and respecting Indigenous Australians.

  • Be open to Indigenous perspectives and realities and make a genuine effort to right historical wrongs.

  • Strengthen racial discrimination laws to prevent the abuse of the special measures provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act to the detriment of Indigenous Australians.

Australia must not forget that seeking asylum is a human right.
Takver/flick

7. Strengthen rights protections for asylum seekers

  • Uphold human right obligations that are owed to asylum seekers on the presumption that they may well be genuine refugees (as the 1951 Convention on Refugees that Australia has signed requires). This includes closing all offshore processing and detention centres.

  • Promote the human rights of all migrants and their families as Australia’s representatives have promised at UN meetings such as the Global Compact for Refugees and Migrants.

8. Strengthen rights protections for women

  • Improve women’s social and economic rights to enable them to participate fully and equally in Australian society. This includes closing the gender pay gap, increasing access to affordable child care and tackling the poverty facing disadvantaged women including single mothers, Indigenous women, older women, women and girls with disabilities, and women facing domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace and community.

9. Strengthen rights protections for poor Australians

  • Implement a policy framework to better uphold our international commitments to protect the economic and social rights of vulnerable Australians. This includes acting on housing affordability and homelessness, protecting vulnerable workers, reducing unemployment and underemployment, and increasing support for the poorest households.

10. Implement marriage equality

  • Honour the outcome of the Marriage Law Postal Survey by legalising marriage equality.

The ConversationHappy Human Rights Day everyone.

Carolien van Ham, Lecturer in Comparative Politics, UNSW; Lisa Hill, Professor of Politics, University of Adelaide, and Louise Chappell, Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute, Professor Law, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Labor wins a majority in Queensland as polling in Victoria shows a tie



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Annastacia Palasczuk will be able to form majority government after the final results of the Queensland election were announced.
AAP/Jono Searle

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

At the Queensland election, held on November 25, the size of parliament was increased from 89 seats to 93. Comparing this result with 2015, Labor officially won 48 of the 93 seats (up four), the Liberal National Party 39 (down three), Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) three (up one), and One Nation, the Greens and an independent won one seat each.

With 45 seats held by parties other than Labor, Labor has won a three-seat majority.

Adjusted for the new boundaries and excluding defections, the 2015 results gave Labor 48 seats and the LNP 43. Using this interpretation, there was no net change for Labor, while the LNP lost four seats.

Labor gains from the LNP in Gaven, Aspley and Redlands were countered by losses in Bundaberg, Burdekin and Mirani (to One Nation). The LNP also lost Maiwar (to the Greens), Hinchinbrook (to KAP) and Noosa (to an independent). This is the first Greens elected MP in Queensland.

Townsville was expected to be very close, but Labor won it by 214 votes (50.4-49.6), clinching its 48th seat.

The LNP’s decision to recommend preferences to One Nation in 50 of the 61 seats it contested gave One Nation a win in Mirani, but cost independent candidate Margaret Strelow in Rockhampton. Had LNP preferences in Rockhampton flowed to Strelow instead of One Nation, Labor would have very probably lost, instead of retaining it 55-45 against One Nation.

Final primary votes were 35.4% Labor (down 2.1 since 2015), 33.7% LNP (down 7.6), 13.7% One Nation (up 12.8), 10.0% Greens (up 1.6), and 2.3% KAP. This is the Greens’ highest primary vote in a Queensland election.

One Nation contested 61 of the 93 seats, and won 13.7% of the statewide vote. Had it contested all seats, it would probably have won about 18%. Only the single member system stopped One Nation from winning much more than its one seat.

If the Queensland result were replicated at a half-Senate federal election, in which six senators are up for election, Labor would win two seats, the LNP two, One Nation one, and the last seat would probably go to the Greens.

Pauline Hanson received a long Senate term, which does not expire until June 2022. If Malcolm Roberts is the top One Nation candidate on its Queensland Senate ticket at the next federal election, he will probably win a six-year term starting July 2019.

Turnout was 87.5%, down 2.4 points since 2015. Automatic electoral enrolment has increased the size of the electoral roll, but many of those who are now enrolled do not vote, so the turnout falls.

The informal rate was 4.3%, up from 2.1% in 2015, owing to the change to compulsory preferential voting from optional preferential. The informal rate was below Queensland’s informal rate (4.7%) at the 2016 federal election.

Victorian Galaxy: 50-50 tie

A Victorian Galaxy poll for the Herald Sun (paywalled link), conducted on December 6 from a sample of 828, had a 50-50 tie, a three-point gain for Labor since a Galaxy in June for an unidentified source.

Primary votes were 41% Coalition (down three), 36% Labor (up three), 10% Greens (up two) and 6% One Nation (up one).

Premier Daniel Andrews had a 49% dissatisfied, 35% satisfied rating. Opposition Leader Matthew Guy had a 48% dissatisfied rating, with no satisfied rating given. Andrews led Guy 41-25 as better premier (41-29 in June).

By 58-20, voters favoured building the East West Link, and by 57-30, they thought the decision to cancel it was bad rather than good. The Liberals were thought better to manage the economy by 48-33 over Labor – an area of perceived Coalition strength.

77% of regional voters believed they are being dudded in favour of Melbourne on government spending.

Tasmanian EMRS: 34% Liberal, 34% Labor, 17% Greens, 8% Lambie Network

A Tasmanian EMRS poll, conducted between December 1 and December 5 from a sample of 1,000, gave the Liberals 34% (down three since August), Labor 34% (steady), the Greens 17% (up one) and the Jacqui Lambie Network (JLN) 8% (up three). The next Tasmanian election is likely to be held in March 2018.

As EMRS is skewed to the Greens and against Labor, Kevin Bonham interprets this poll as 37.5% Labor, 35.5% Liberal, 14% Greens and 8% JLN. The most likely seat outcome under Tasmania’s Hare-Clark system would be ten Labor, ten Liberals, four Greens and one JLN, out of 25 total seats.

Labor’s Rebecca White led incumbent Will Hodgman as better premier 48-35 in this poll (48-37 in August). White had a net +40 favourable rating, Hodgman a net +13, and Greens leader Casey O’Connor a net negative five.

Essential 55-45 to federal Labor

This week’s Essential moved a point to Labor, in contrast to Newspoll. Labor led 55-45, from primary votes of 38% Labor, 35% Coalition, 9% Greens, 8% One Nation and 2% Nick Xenophon Team. Essential uses a two-week sample of about 1,800, with additional questions based on one week.

64% thought there was a lot or some sexism in the media, 60% in both politics and advertising, 57% in workplaces, 56% in sport, and 48% in schools. Since January 2016, there have been one-to-four point falls in perception of sexism in politics, advertising, workplaces and sport, but a six-to-eight point increase in media and schools.

By 51-24, voters thought that MPs who defect from the party they were elected to represent should be forced to resign from parliament. By 54-25, voters preferred a government where one party has an overall majority to a coalition arrangement.

By 38-34, voters thought the Liberal and National parties should continue in coalition, rather than separate and become more independent; however, Coalition voters preferred the Coalition arrangement 73-13.

Essential’s Liberal leadership question had six choices: Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. Turnbull had 21% (down four since August), Bishop 19% (down one), Abbott 10% (steady), Dutton 4% (up one) and Pyne and Morrison each had 2%.

Among Coalition voters Turnbull led Bishop 40-20, with 13% for Abbott.

Alabama Senate byelection next Wednesday (Melbourne time)

In February, Jeff Sessions resigned from the US Senate to become Donald Trump’s attorney-general, and the Alabama governor appointed Luther Strange to the Senate until the election was held. The election will be held on December 12, with results from 12 noon on December 13 Melbourne time.

I previously wrote about Republican candidate Roy Moore’s alleged sexual encounter with a 14 year-old girl when he was 32.

After this and other similar allegations were made, Democratic candidate Doug Jones took a poll lead. However, Moore appears to have recovered, and analyst Harry Enten says he leads by about three points. If the polls are overstating Moore by a modest margin, he could lose.

The ConversationAlabama is a very conservative state that Trump won by 28 points at the 2016 election. That this contest appears competitive is surprising.

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Queensland finally has a government, but the path ahead for both major parties looks rocky



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This is not the clear-cut election result Annastacia Palaszczuk and Labor hoped for.
AAP/Glenn Hunt

Chris Salisbury, The University of Queensland

After going to the polls on November 25, Queenslanders finally have a state election result as Liberal National Party leader Tim Nicholls conceded defeat on Friday.

Following a four-week campaign, votes were counted for almost a fortnight until Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor Party was confirmed the victor. Palaszczuk is the first female premier to win back-to-back elections. In 2015, she’d become the first woman at state or federal level to lead her party to government from opposition.

But it’s not the clear-cut result Palaszczuk desired. Labor appears to have won 48 seats in the 93-member parliament to the LNP’s 39. This leaves Palaszczuk’s returned government with a slim majority and a diverse crossbench.

A complex contest

With a record field of candidates in an expanded number of electorates – many with redrawn boundaries – this shaped as a complicated election. Adding to its unpredictability was the reintroduction after 25 years of compulsory preferential voting.


Further reading: With One Nation on the march, a change to compulsory voting might backfire on Labor


While two-party-preferred swings were generally not as large as at the last two state elections, overall figures showed a fragmented statewide vote. More than 30% gave their first preferences to minor parties and independents. This exceeded the One Nation-driven protest vote in 1998.

This continues the trend of a declining primary vote for the major parties. Combined with compulsory preferencing, several electorate contests duly developed into three- or even four-horse races, extending the time needed to correctly distribute preferences and declare results. Some seats were decided only after the arrival of postal votes, up to ten days after the polling date.

Like the previous Queensland and federal elections, a close and protracted count left the government in extended caretaker mode. Voters in Queensland and the rest of Australia may need to accustom themselves to a new norm of tight, drawn-out contests, where party leaders’ election night speeches might be obsolete.

Winners and losers

Labor went into the election with a notional seat count of 48 following the redistribution. Despite a 2% decline in its statewide vote, it emerges with little change in its electoral stocks.

Gains in the state’s southeast corner at the LNP’s expense offset a few seat losses in central and north Queensland, where persistent unemployment has been a worry.

To the government’s relief, every cabinet member held their seat. Deputy Premier Jackie Trad survived one of the stronger challenges, a 10% two-party-preferred swing to the Greens in South Brisbane. Brisbane’s inner suburbs, as in other state capitals, are now highly vulnerable to a rising green tide.

The LNP suffered a negative swing of almost 8% – and even higher in parts of the southeast. High-profile casualties included shadow frontbenchers Scott Emerson, Ian Walker, Tracey Davis and Andrew Cripps in the north falling victim to erratic preference flows.

Emerson has the distinction of losing the newly created seat of Maiwar in inner Brisbane to Queensland’s first elected Greens MP, Michael Berkman.

In other firsts, Labor’s new member for Cook in far-north Queensland, Cynthia Liu, is the first Torres Strait Islander elected to any Australian parliament. Innovation Minister Leanne Enoch becomes the state’s first Indigenous MP to be returned at an election.

One Nation’s Stephen Andrew, who defeated veteran Labor MP Jim Pearce in Mirani in central Queensland, becomes the first descendent of South Sea Islander labourers to enter state parliament.

Decisive issues

Besides bread-and-butter issues of job creation, power prices and transport infrastructure, neither Palaszczuk nor Nicholls could escape the dominant themes of this election. The proposed Adani coal mine project animated voters in different parts of the state for different reasons, as did the spoiler role that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was presumed to play.

Together, these factors reinforced an impression of “two Queenslands” in contention during the campaign.


Further reading: Adani aside, North Queensland voters care about crime and cost of living


Protests against the Adani mine’s environmental impact – and questions over its long-term economic benefit to regional communities – featured regularly once the election was called. Palaszczuk succeeded in defusing the issue to some extent early in the campaign with an abrupt declaration that she would veto federal infrastructure funding for the mine’s construction.


Further reading: Why Adani may still get its government loan


A feared backlash in places of regional discontent and high youth unemployment, like Townsville, didn’t entirely materialise, with Labor incumbents holding seats against expectations. But these concerns, in tandem with uncertainty over the Adani project, saw Labor lose Bundaberg and nearly lose the traditionally Labor-voting Rockhampton to independent candidate and former mayor Margaret Strelow.

The LNP’s position on supporting the Adani mine with public funds, and Nicholls’ prevarication over dealing with One Nation, appear to have hurt the party in Brisbane especially. But so too did Labor reminding voters of Nicholls’ role as treasurer in the Newman government.

As the election neared, Nicholls was swamped by constant questioning about cosying up to One Nation.

While always difficult to quantify, the federal Coalition government’s woes amid the same-sex marriage debate and citizenship fiasco likely did the LNP few favours.

Role of the minor parties

The Greens and One Nation capitalised on the dip in major party support, gaining significant vote shares of 10% and almost 14% respectively. However, each party won only a single seat.

Critically, both parties stripped valuable primary votes from Labor and the LNP, especially the latter’s vote in the regions. This will furrow the brows of federal Coalition MPs through this term of government. For good measure, One Nation preferences likely helped unseat some LNP MPs in the southeast.

The party’s state leader, Steve Dickson, lost out to the LNP in Buderim, while Senate outcast Malcolm Roberts didn’t present a serious threat to Labor in Ipswich.

Despite its failings, One Nation attracted more than 20% in the seats it contested and finished runner-up in two dozen of them, perhaps largely down to Hanson’s constant presence throughout the campaign.

Katter’s Australian Party (KAP), though standing candidates in only ten seats and not making much impact on the campaign, might have done best of all the minor parties. Its primary vote improved to more than 2%, gaining it another seat in Hinchinbrook on Labor and One Nation preferences.

KAP’s targeted approach might prove unwelcome news for the federal Coalition, which can expect similar levels of focused disaffection from conservative regional voters elsewhere. But a fragmenting primary vote spells trouble for all the major parties.

What next for Queensland?

Queensland now enters its first fixed-term period of government. The next election is due on October 31, 2020, with four-year terms following that.

Labor holds only 13 of 51 seats outside the Greater Brisbane area. With all seats decided, factional negotiations will now unfold to determine the make-up of Palaszczuk’s new cabinet. It’s fair to assume it will be Brisbane-centric.

With such a concentration of government MPs in the capital, Palaszczuk’s team will presumably clock up many kilometres – and spend some political capital – reassuring the regions they’re not forgotten.

In the wake of an underwhelming result for the LNP, Nicholls announced he is stepping down as party leader and won’t contest a leadership ballot early next week. The likes of David Crisafulli or Tim Mander, or potentially Deb Frecklington, loom as Nicholls’ likely successors.

Party insiders have complained that the election result proves the marriage between the formerly separate Liberal and National parties in Queensland has failed and should be broken up.


Further reading: Queensland Liberals and Nationals have long had an uneasy cohabitation, and now should consider divorce


The ConversationThe road ahead for both major parties will be anything but easy.

Chris Salisbury, Lecturer in Australian Studies, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Bill Shorten faces a summer of uncertainty


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

It is not impossible that the Greens, who started the citizenship crisis with the resignation of then-senator Scott Ludlam, could end up winners from this fiasco that has cut a swathe through the parliament and threatens more havoc.

Wednesday’s reference to the High Court of Labor’s David Feeney, who holds the Melbourne seat of Batman, has certainly put a gleam in the Greens’ eyes.

Feeney hasn’t been able to produce the documentation to confirm the renunciation of British citizenship which he says he made a decade ago.

Unless the paperwork turns up or the High Court shows a leniency that hasn’t been in its nature recently, a byelection in Batman would give the Greens a big chance of installing a second MP to keep Adam Bandt company in the House of Representatives.

Bill Shorten is understandably livid about Feeney, who before the last election overlooked declaring a A$2.3 million house, only narrowly held off the Greens in his seat, and now, if he triggers a byelection, could reduce the opposition’s numbers. No wonder there’s speculation he’d be ditched as Labor’s candidate.

And Feeney’s rank carelessness, to describe it most charitably, comes on top of the recent new revelations about Labor senator Sam Dastyari’s conduct, showing how deeply the New South Wales numbers man has been in the thrall of the Chinese, in particular of a Chinese business benefactor.

It’s made for a very uncomfortable end to the parliamentary year for Shorten, who in previous months had most things breaking his way.

The citizenship crisis had taken a heavy toll on the government, with a minister and the Senate president gone from parliament, and the deputy prime minister and a Liberal backbencher forced to byelections.

To put things in perspective: yes, they all failed to do due diligence, but none of them compromised themselves in the way Dastyari did.

Now it’s Labor in the crosshairs. The situation of several of Shorten’s MPs – leaving aside the egregious case of Feeney – is problematic, and Shorten’s boast about Labor vetting processes is being seen as hubristic.

It will be months before Labor will know what damage the citizenship crisis might do to it.

It will be more contained if the High Court, when it considers the case of ACT senator Katy Gallagher who was also referred this week, accepts the ALP argument that an MP is constitutionally eligible provided they took reasonable steps to renounce foreign citizenship before nominating, even though confirmation didn’t come through by then.

If, however, the court were to find that the candidate needs the confirmation before they nominate, that could trigger byelections in three ALP seats (Braddon in Tasmania, Longman in Queensland and Fremantle in Western Australia) as well as in Mayo, held by crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie.

The Gallagher case will set a precedent for the other MPs with similar circumstances (although if Gallagher were knocked out her Senate position would be filled by a countback, not a byelection).

While byelection swings usually go against governments (Saturday’s result in New England notwithstanding), the thought of having to fight in the marginal seats of Longman and Braddon would make Labor nervous.

Even if it turned out that the only byelection were in Feeney’s seat, the strong prospect of a loss there would sour and distract Shorten’s new year.

Similarly, the extent of the fallout from the Dastyari affair is not yet clear.

There is no defence for Dastyari’s action in warning his Chinese benefactor that his phone was likely tapped, so they should talk outside. That was the core of the latest revelations, which came on top of earlier ones about Dastyari receiving financial largesse and toeing China’s policy line on the South China Sea.

But from Shorten’s point of view, dealing with the Dastyari issue is fraught.

All Shorten has done this time is strip him of what minor responsibilities he had.

It’s fanciful to think Shorten would ever contemplate trying to throw him out of the Labor Party, which would mean taking on the NSW right, and would reduce Labor’s Senate numbers.

But while Dastyari stays, Shorten is open to Coalition attacks and hostage to anything further that may come out – just when the government is cracking down on attempts by foreign interests to influence Australian politics. Dastyari might face an inquiry by the Senate privileges committee.

It would be a gift for Shorten if Dastyari were to decide rehabilitation is too long a road and he should look for other career opportunities.

The problems that Shorten currently faces highlight certain weaknesses that his critics identify in his political approach.

The citizenship issue shows the way he plays the tactical game relentlessly, with insufficient appreciation of how things can come back to bite you.

Of course Labor would make the most of the government’s embarrassment over its dual citizens, but Shorten left himself little wriggle room when he insisted for so long Labor was fireproofed, despite warning signs it mightn’t be.

When its vulnerability was exposed this week, Shorten doubled down. After all MPs’ declarations became public, Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus produced a list of Coalition members who Labor said hadn’t supplied enough evidence that they were not dual citizens. One was Josh Frydenberg, whose mother had been fleeing persecution. Frydenberg’s inclusion in the Dreyfus list brought rebukes from two Labor MPs.

This was followed by Labor’s unsuccessful attempt to refer four Liberals (not including Frydenberg) to the High Court, as well as four of its own and Sharkie.

The move on the Liberals looked like seeking cover, especially when one of them, Nola Marino, produced a letter from Italian authorities saying she did not have Italian citizenship.

Surely it is adequate to rely on a country’s word that someone is not a citizen? Certainly Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek is using a letter from Slovenian authorities.

The Dastyari affair raises questions about how far Shorten is willing to go for those who are politically important to him.

Dastyari had to leave the front bench after the initial revelations about his Chinese links.

But within months he was given a partial leg up, becoming deputy opposition whip in the Senate. This seemed undue haste, and it raises concerns about Shorten appearing beholden to his allies. We see another example in his refusal to take a tougher line towards the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.

Despite the setbacks, Shorten is still very well-placed, compared with Turnbull, as the end of 2017 approaches, although the December 16 Bennelong byelection will play into this balance.

The ConversationNevertheless, it is Shorten, rather than Turnbull, who appears to face the bigger uncertainties in the early part of 2018.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/xac9s-7e77c6?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Ban on foreign political donations is both too broad and too narrow, and won’t fix our system



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Australia is among the one-third of countries that allow foreign political donations.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Yee-Fui Ng, RMIT University

The government has announced a suite of reforms targeting foreign interference and espionage in Australia’s political process. This will include a bill imposing a ban on political donations from foreign bank accounts, non-citizens and foreign entities.

The ban will apply broadly – not just to political parties and parliamentary candidates, but also to trade unions and advocacy groups such as GetUp!.

These proposed reforms follow revelations that Labor senator Sam Dastyari had warned Chinese Communist Party-linked donor Huang Xiangmo that his phone might be tapped by intelligence agencies. Both the Labor and Liberal parties have benefited from donations by Huang to the tune of almost A$3 million since 2012.

But it’s not just foreign donations that can skew the system. If the government is serious about restoring faith in our politics and politicians, there’s much more to be done.


Further reading: Green groups and charities could be collateral damage in government’s foreign donation ban


Why ban foreign donations?

The rationale for banning foreign donations is to stop the threat of foreign interests undermining Australian democracy. The concern is that foreign people or entities could exercise an unduly large influence on our politicians through generous donations.

Internationally, Australia is among the one-third of countries that allow foreign political donations. This is in contrast to comparable liberal democracies that ban foreign donations, such as the UK, US and Canada. New Zealand caps them at NZ$1,500.


Further reading: FactCheck Q&A: Is Australia one of the few countries worldwide to accept foreign political donations?


Banning foreign donations will certainly reduce the ability of foreign people and entities to influence Australian policy and decision-making. In turn, this will reduce both actual corruption and the perception of corruption in politics. Ultimately, this may improve public confidence in the Australian political system.

But is this ban too broad?

The proposed reforms follow the recommendations of a Senate committee majority that foreign citizens and entities be banned from making donations to political parties, associated entities (such as trade unions and dedicated fundraising bodies), and third parties (such as GetUp! and other campaign groups).

Labor and the Greens supported a ban on foreign political donations to political parties and their associated entities, but rejected extending it to third parties. They argued that banning foreign donations to third parties would restrict the capacity of NGOs to draw attention to their causes, and endanger robust public discourse by civil society.

There may be constitutional issues with such a broad ban on foreign political donations. For instance, banning donations to advocacy groups may be found to stifle the implied freedom of political communication protected by the Australian Constitution.


Further reading: Banning foreign political donations won’t fix all that ails our system


Advocacy groups are one step removed from being able to directly change government policies and decision-making. It may be disproportionate to ban these groups from raising funds to robustly debate controversial policies.

And will this fix the system?

If ruled constitutional, a ban will certainly reduce the impact of overseas interests on domestic policy.

But the proposed ban is both too broad and too narrow. It is too broad because it may stifle legitimate public debate by targeting activist groups. It is too narrow because it does not capture all donations that might corrupt our political system.

Foreign donations are but one element of influence in our political system. The rhetoric on donations to date has focused on the fear of foreigners – the Chinese, in this case – exercising undue influence on Australian politics.

Yet, in 2015-16, foreign donations were a paltry 2.6% of total donations to political parties. In the last seven election periods from 1998-99 to 2016, foreign donations have amounted to between 0.03% and 6.13% of all donations.

Donations from rich Australians, unions or corporations can also influence our politicians to behave in corrupt ways. There have been concerns over donations by big business influencing mining, alcohol or gambling policy. Large donations have been followed by government decision-making that benefited these industries.

Caps on political donations of, say, A$1,000 that apply to all individuals, unions and corporations would better level the playing field. New South Wales already has caps on political donations of A$5,800 per party and A$2,500 for candidates. The state also bans donations from property developers and those in the tobacco, liquor and gambling industries.

Victoria has announced that it will implement a cap on donations by individuals, unions and corporations of $4,000 over a four-year parliamentary term.


Further reading: Victoria gets serious on its political donations rules – now it’s the federal government’s turn


The ConversationThe Australian government has started to take action to reduce the pernicious influence of money on our democracy. But more needs to be done to restore faith in our political system.

Yee-Fui Ng, Lecturer, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Nationals elect Bridget McKenzie as new deputy



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Bridget McKenzie beat several other candidates in the race for the Nationals’ deputy leadership.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The Nationals have elected Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie as deputy leader to replace Fiona Nash, who was disqualified from parliament by the High Court.

The win will propel McKenzie, 47, from the backbench into the cabinet when Malcolm Turnbull announces a ministerial reshuffle after the December 16 Bennelong byelection.

Promoted by cabinet minister Darren Chester, also from Victoria, McKenzie beat several other candidates, including Resources Minister Matt Canavan, a cabinet member.

This is the second consecutive time the party has chosen a female senator as deputy leader.

The Nationals have had five spots in cabinet and there has been some talk about whether the loss of Nash from the party’s parliamentary numbers will affect their entitlement, which is based on an arithmetic formula.

But Nationals sources say the arithmetic can be cut more than one way, depending on what date is used for comparison, and also that Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce will not want to disturb the Coalition relationship.

Joyce’s strong win in the New England byelection on Saturday provided Turnbull with a fillip going into the final week of parliament. Joyce was sworn back into parliament on Wednesday and his vote ensured Labor failed to be able to refer a “job lot” of MPs, including four Liberals, to the High Court.

The euphoria surrounding the byelection win has soothed some Coalition tensions, including over the rebel Nationals forcing the government’s hand last week to set up a royal commission into the banks.

Much interest in the coming reshuffle will centre on George Brandis. After months of speculation that Brandis would leave parliament, the attorney-general, who has recently performed well after earlier political missteps, said this week he intended to stay.

It earlier had been an open secret that Turnbull saw the likely departure of Brandis as an opportunity to elevate Mathias Cormann, now deputy Senate leader and a conservative ally of Turnbull, to Brandis’ position of Senate leader.

The ConversationBrandis has recently been active in asserting the positions of the Liberal moderates; he has been a vocal backer of the same-sex marriage legislation, which is set to pass on Thursday.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/xac9s-7e77c6?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

High Court to rule on two Labor MPs, but partisan row protects others


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A batch of MPs escaped being sent to the High Court on Wednesday thanks to a stalemate between the government and the opposition over who should be referred.

But the eligibility of two Labor MPs will be considered by the court – Victorian David Feeney and ACT senator Katy Gallagher.

The opposition failed in an attempt to get a “job lot” of MPs referred that included four Liberals, four from the ALP, and the Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie.

The ALP motion was supported by all five crossbenchers, resulting in a tied vote of 73-73. The Speaker, Tony Smith, acting in line with parliamentary convention, used his casting vote to defeat the motion.

The government, insisting that none of its MPs should be referred, wanted the members considered individually.

But crossbenchers rejected that argument, seeing it as the government being partisan.

The government said it would continue to talk to the crossbenchers overnight but they are not likely to be swayed before parliament rises this week for the summer recess.

The Labor MPs in the opposition motion were Justine Keay, Josh Wilson, Susan Lamb and Feeney.

The case of Gallagher – who took action to renounce her British citizenship but did not get registration of her renunciation before she nominated for the 2016 election – should provide guidance in relation to the three other Labor MPs and Sharkie, who have similar circumstances.

Labor argues that those who had taken reasonable steps to renounce but did not receive their confirmations in time (or, in Lamb’s case, at all) are eligible.

Feeney is in a different category from the other Labor MPs – he has not been able to provide evidence that he renounced his British citizenship in 2007, as he says he did. He was referred after the job-lot motion’s defeat.

Both Gallagher and Feeney accepted they should be referred. Gallagher, while maintaining her eligibility, told the Senate she was standing aside from her frontbench positions and had asked to be referred to the court, saying her opponents would continue to use the issue.

Labor said the four Liberals – Jason Falinski, Julia Banks, Nola Marino and Alex Hawke – had not provided adequate documentation of their eligibility.

In the run up to the vote, Marino released advice from the Italian consulate saying she was not an Italian citizen.

Falinski produced advice saying that he was not a citizen of the UK, Poland, Russia or Kyrgyzstan. But the letter to Falinski was dated Wednesday and the law firm, Arnold Bloch Leibler, said that “as previously discussed, we cannot conclusively advise on foreign law and recommend that you seek independent advice from foreign law experts”.

The crossbenchers were lobbied hard over the motion, including on the floor of the chamber, by both the opposition and the government.

Labor made an unsuccessful attempt to get its motion dealt with before Barnaby Joyce, who has just faced a byelection after the High Court declared him ineligible to sit, returned to the lower house.

Labor had a temporary majority but did not have enough time. Joyce was sworn in at 1.15pm and his presence in the subsequent debate meant the numbers were tied.

Moving the motion, Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke said: “The only appropriate way for us to deal with this is to make sure that, wherever there has been serious doubt across the chamber, the High Court becomes the decision-maker rather than the numbers on the floor of this house”.

Arguing for a case-by-case approach, Malcolm Turnbull said that Labor “with not a principle in sight, with not a skerrick of evidence … wants to send members of the House to the High Court … without making any case that they are, in fact, dual citizens”.

The Greens’ Adam Bandt said the approach must be “even-handed and non-partisan”. “We think there should be an agreed set of names that go forward from this house.”

Sharkie, appealing for unity, said: “We will hang individually if we don’t hang together”.

Crossbencher Bob Katter told the parliament that none of the MPs should be sent to the High Court.

Labor leader Bill Shorten revealed that he had known for just over a week that Feeney didn’t have the required documents.

“I informed him that he needed to tell the parliament what was happening, and I made it clear to him that there was a deadline of disclosure,” Shorten told reporters.

Feeney has said he is still trying to have the British authorities find documentation that he renounced UK citizenship.

If Feeney is disqualified, Labor would be at risk of losing his seat of Batman to the Greens. There is doubt over whether he would be the candidate in a byelection.

Shorten did not disguise how angry he is with Feeney. “I am deeply frustrated – that’s a polite way of putting it – that one of my 100 MPs can’t find some of the documents which, to be fair to him, [he] says exist and says he actioned,” Shorten said.

He admitted that if he had been aware of Feeney’s situation he would not have been so definite in his repeated confident statements about the eligibility of all his MPs.

The ConversationLabor was divided internally over whether it should pursue Josh Frydenberg, whose mother came to Australia stateless: the Burke motion did not include him. The ALP is also not at this point pursuing another of those it has named, Arthur Sinodinos, who is away on sick leave.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hdjfk-7dce11?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Near enough may not be good enough as parliament’s dual citizenship crisis deepens



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Labor senator Katy Gallagher has been referred to the High Court over her possible dual citizenship status.
AAP/Lukas Coch

Lorraine Finlay, Murdoch University

Over the past five months, a growing of numbers MPs elected at the 2016 federal election have either been disqualified or resigned from parliament because of dual citizenship issues.

This extraordinary chain of events started back in July with the resignation of Greens senator Scott Ludlam. It looks set to continue into 2018, after the publication of citizenship registries revealed several more MPs have serious dual citizenship questions to answer.


Further reading: New blow for Labor as David Feeney hits citizenship hurdle


Among those likely to be referred to the High Court are several senators and MPs whose citizenship declarations show they were technically still dual citizens when nominations closed before the 2016 federal election, but who claim they had personally taken all reasonable steps to renounce their dual citizenship before that date.

This group includes Labor’s Katy Gallagher (who has been referred to the High Court already), Justine Keay, Susan Lamb and Josh Wilson, and the Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie.

All reasonable steps?

Several of these MPs have received legal advice suggesting they will not be disqualified under Section 44 of the Constitution because they had taken all reasonable steps to renounce their dual citizenship before nominating as an election candidate.

For example, all appear to have completed their renunciation paperwork and paid the required fee before nominating, but were waiting on the British Home Office to register the renunciation. They did not receive formal confirmation of their renunciation until after the election.

Under British law, citizenship does not cease until the secretary of state actually registers the declaration of renunciation.

In order for someone personally taking “all reasonable steps” to be eligible – in circumstances where that renunciation has not actually been accepted – the High Court would need to take a flexible view of Section 44’s wording.

The court has never been asked to directly consider this precise set of circumstances before, so nobody can be entirely sure what it would find. But given the strict reading of Section 44 adopted in recent cases, it would not be surprising if these five MPs were all found to be disqualified.

In the case of the “Citizenship Seven”, the court unanimously found that the dual citizenship provision is “cast in peremptory terms”. This means it sets out a definite obligation in clear and certain words.

While the court found there would be cases where someone who had taken “all reasonable steps” to renounce dual citizenship would not be disqualified, this was not a test of general application. Rather, it was a specific exception that applied where the law of a foreign country prevented someone from renouncing their foreign citizenship, or made it unreasonably difficult for them to do so.

This was based on the constitutional imperative that an Australian citizen should not:

… be irremediably prevented by foreign law from participation in representative government.


Further reading: The High Court sticks to the letter of the law on the ‘citizenship seven’


None of the five MPs mentioned above were “irremediably prevented” from renouncing. Instead, they had failed to do so in enough time to have the renunciation registered before the required date. So, it is difficult to see the court accepting that the British renunciation procedures were so unreasonable that they amounted to someone being “irremediably prevented”.

Taking this approach, the only fact that will matter is that these MPs were all still actually dual citizens at the time of nomination. On this basis, they would all be disqualified.

To escape disqualification, they will need the court to extend the “all reasonable steps” exception to every case of dual citizenship. It is open to the court to do this, but the recent decisions in relation to both the Citizenship Seven and Hollie Hughes suggest a stricter approach.


Further reading: High Court strikes again – knocking out Hollie Hughes as replacement senator


This means it is entirely possible that Gallagher, Keay, Lamb, Wilson and Sharkie will all be declared ineligible. At the very least, there is a real question to be answered about their eligibility.

That it has taken more than five months and a compulsory declaration procedure for this to come to light reflects extremely badly on these MPs.

Previous ineligibility

The citizenship registers have also revealed that there are several MPs who were eligible at the time of the 2016 federal election but who appear to have had dual citizenship issues for at least part of a previous parliamentary term. This includes Greens senator Nick McKim, Labor senators Alex Gallacher, Louise Pratt and Lisa Singh, and Liberal senator Dean Smith.

Since they relate only to previous parliamentary terms, none of these cases will be referred to the High Court. However, these MPs’ conduct should not escape criticism.

Again, that it has taken more than five months and a compulsory declaration procedure for these cases to come to light is highly disappointing.

The ConversationThe real issue here isn’t one of dual citizenship, but rather the honesty and integrity of our MPs. The dual citizenship issue is likely to be fixed in the future through greater candidate awareness and political parties undertaking stricter vetting processes. The loss of trust between the Australian people and their MPs is much harder to fix.

Lorraine Finlay, Lecturer in Law, Murdoch University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

New blow for Labor as David Feeney hits citizenship hurdle


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has been dealt a further blow in the citizenship crisis, with Victorian MP David Feeney flagging his status is likely to go to the High Court because evidence cannot be found that he has renounced his British citizenship.

This follows confirmation on Monday by Labor senator Katy Gallagher that she was still a British citizen when she nominated for last year’s election, although she had taken steps to renounce.

If Feeney were found ineligible, Labor would be at high risk of losing his Melbourne seat of Batman to the Greens.

Last year Feeney beat Greens candidate Alex Bhathal by a whisker; the two-candidate vote was 51-49%. The Greens won the recent byelection for the state seat of Northcote, which is within Feeney’s electorate.

At the crossbench Christmas party in Parliament House, the Greens had a toast to Batman.

As the declarations of House of Representatives MPs were posted online, Feeney told parliament that while in 2007 he had signed documents to renounce any citizenship rights he might have inherited from his father – who was born in Northern Ireland – the British authorities could not locate his notice of renunciation. He had been informed they did not keep records for such a long period.

He said he still had inquiries outstanding with the UK, and had also sought past bank records to determine whether he had made a payment that was processed by the UK Home Office at the time.

While “to the best of my memory from a decade ago” he had sent the paperwork to both the UK and Ireland, and could confirm he was not an Irish citizen, “I accept that I have been unable to produce the requisite notice of renunciation with the respect to the United Kingdom”, he said.

“I remain hopeful that continuing searches of the UK records and archives will clarify this issue in my favour. Nevertheless, I accept that at this moment my status as a citizen in UK law remains unclear. On that basis, if I have still been unable to locate the relevant documents by the time this issue is dealt with by the House of Representatives, I will be asking the manager of opposition business to refer this matter to the High Court,” he said.

Feeney caused Labor embarrassment before the last election when it was revealed he failed to declare a house he owned worth more than A$2 million.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann accused Opposition Leader Bill Shorten of concealing Feeney’s position.

“You’ve got to assume that Bill Shorten has known for some time that David Feeney had this problem and really it just completely exposes his dishonesty and his hypocrisy when it comes to this issue,” Cormann said on Sky.

Feeney recently deleted a tweet in which he had said: “Noticed how the Turnbull govt has strangely stopped mocking the Greens Party for incompetence and sloppiness?”

The citizenship declarations confirm that Labor MPs Josh Wilson and Justine Keay had not had their renunciations of British citizenship registered by the time of nomination. Another Labor MP, Susan Lamb, had tried to renounce, but the UK said it was not satisfied she held British citizenship.

The Nick Xenophon Team’s Rebekha Sharkie did not receive her confirmation of renunciation in time.

The government and Labor are now in talks about referrals to the High Court. Referrals will be made before parliament rises later this week.

Labor, thrown on the back foot in the ongoing crisis, lashed out at the government with Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus claiming Malcolm Turnbull was “covering up” for as many as seven government MPs who could have constitutional problems. These MPs had not provided the needed evidence to prove they weren’t dual citizens, he said.

Dreyfus’ list included:

  • Jason Falinski, who said he made inquiries from the Polish consulate and had legal advice but had not provided it.

  • Josh Frydenberg, who said he had received Hungarian, Polish and Australian legal advice but hadn’t produced it.

  • Nola Marino, who said she had legal advice to show she was not Italian but did not provide it.

  • Julia Banks, Alex Hawke, Michael McCormack and Arthur Sinodinos, who all had “an unconvincing letter” from the Greek embassy and “refuse to provide legal advice”.

“The Liberal and National MPs who have not been forthcoming with all available evidence must either seek to update their incomplete disclosures as soon as possible, or refer their eligibility to the High Court,” Dreyfus said.

Falinski rejected the demand to produce legal advice saying to do so would “pierce legal and professional privilege” and others hadn’t done so. He accused Dreyfus of playing “base politics to obscure the truth”.

Update

The ConversationOn Wednesday morning Gallagher announced to the Senate that she had asked for her eligibility to be referred to the High Court. She said she was standing aside from her portfolio responsibilities within the shadow cabinet and her role as manager of opposition business in the Senate until her case was resolved. She insisted she was eligible to sit in the Senate but said it was clear the government had decided she should be referred and her political opponents would continue to use the issue.

https://www.podbean.com/media/player/hdjfk-7dce11?from=site&skin=1&share=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=0

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

In whose best interests? Sam Dastyari and the politics of public intelligence


Melanie Brand, Monash University

The revelations that Senator Sam Dastyari warned a Chinese Communist Party-linked Labor donor that his phone was likely tapped by intelligence agencies are certainly newsworthy and in the public interest.

The Turnbull government has since flagged a raft of new intelligence laws. The legislation, to be introduced into parliament this week, will reportedly include:

  • banning Australian political parties from receiving foreign donations

  • strengthening laws on the disclosure of classified information

  • making it a crime to support foreign intelligence agencies

  • restrictions targeting foreign spies.

The public release of intelligence can no doubt have a powerful impact on the political environment, as last week’s reports about Dastyari demonstrate. The claims are certainly troubling, but when secret intelligence becomes front-page news, it is always worth looking beyond the headline.

Public intelligence is political intelligence

Classified and sensitive information is designed to be secret. When it is made public it is always for a political purpose. That purpose may be to promote a particular political agenda or to build public support for a certain policy position.

It may even be for partisan political gain, but it will always affect the political narrative. Because intelligence disclosures are so sensational, they are a very effective method of drawing attention to certain issues while distracting from others.


Read more: Government questions whether Dastyari fit to be a senator, in new row over Chinese donor


Intelligence that is deliberately released to the media for political purposes is known as “public intelligence”. When secret intelligence becomes public intelligence, it becomes a powerful tool of political influence.

Intelligence has an authority and influence that may not reflect its content. This is because of the psychological impact of intelligence.

Intelligence is usually classified, which makes it appear valuable. It is often collected covertly, so the public expects it to reveal hidden secrets. The result is that information from intelligence sources is treated with an unusually high degree of reverence and respect.

Intelligence also has a voyeuristic, illicit appeal. When intelligence stories feature in the news, readers are given a glimpse of a world that is normally off-limits. This is especially true for a generation raised on Bond movies, whose primary understanding of intelligence activities stems from popular culture.

Stories that feature intelligence exposes can therefore expect to have a broad audience, reaching beyond the typical consumer of political news.

Public intelligence has limitations

Despite its appeal, public intelligence has several significant limitations.

First, it is important to remember that public intelligence is incomplete. It is only a small section of a greater picture, and usually offered without context or nuance.

Intelligence reports are uncertain; the judgments they contain are always qualified. But in the process of selecting the information for publication, any cautionary judgments or concerns about sources are removed. As a result, when select pieces of intelligence are publicly released, intelligence loses its uncertainty and gains an authority and aura of truth that may not be deserved.


Read more: Chilcot’s lessons for Australia


The now-discredited intelligence dossier on weapons of mass destruction released prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq is a case in point. In the aftermath of the invasion, when the weapons could not be found, it was revealed that the intelligence released publicly had been cherry-picked, that ambiguous evidence was presented as certified proof, and that the intelligence judgments had been massaged to more firmly fit the political line.

The second point to consider is that publicly released intelligence usually cannot be corroborated or contested. Even though certain pieces of intelligence may be released, the source and methods used to obtain that information are not.

This means that even if they wished to, neither the press nor the public have the means to assess the accuracy of intelligence information. We simply do not know if the information comes from a trustworthy source, or was obtained by reliable methods. However, we are not able to refute it.

Public intelligence should be viewed critically

Because of the political nature of public intelligence, combined with its limitations as a reliable source, both media producers and consumers should consider public intelligence with greater scepticism than other news items, not less.

The ConversationDastyari’s conduct should not be excused or minimised. However, when secret intelligence becomes public intelligence, it may pay for us to ask where our attention is being drawn, why that might be the case, and what we might be missing while we are looking the other way.

Melanie Brand, PhD Candidate in Intelligence History, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.