Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Lateline -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

(generated from captions) Tonight - The minister and the whistleblower. "There are only one or two cases People say things like, we're very efficient." "and on the whole That's not the case at all. that have come to the media. There's only been one or two cases in every caseload, Things have gone wrong and compliance areas. particularly in the refugee prepared to step forward The real test of whether someone's

and get something corrected with a specific case is to come forward and measured and tested. that can be investigated And the push by Liberal dissidents the immigration detention regime to reform through the Petro Bills,

next Monday. due to go to Parliament This program is captioned live.

I'm Tony Jones. Good evening. Welcome to Lateline. of the negotiations We'll hear an inside account and the four Liberal dissidents between the Prime Minister in the Lodge last night

who's prepared to talk openly. from the only one of the rebels willing to listen to an argument I think the Prime Minister's always to talk, and I... and he's always willing though, isn't it? It's a pretty strong argument, the talks were intense. I mean, you've said They must have been pretty intense his policy was unethical? at the point where you told him Yes, they were very intense indeed about the issue. and I feel very strongly backbencher Judi Moylan, coming up. A revealing interview with Liberal First - our other headlines. sweeping changes A new report recommends to the payment of child support. on camera Saddam Hussein cross-examined 23 years ago. over a mass killing in Iraq And - he beat it.

of child molestation. Michael Jackson found not guilty in the next six days, Barring a breakthrough John Howard will next week face of dissent from his back bench one of the most public displays in his nine years in office. is locked in a stalemate The Prime Minister with a group of four MPs mandatory detention. demanding changes to Petro Georgiou, The group, led by Victorian with two private member's Bills now intends to press ahead on Monday. to be introduced in Parliament But despite the gulf between them, the dissidents and Mr Howard of reaching a compromise. are holding out some hope From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports. what was in store today John Howard could have guessed dissident backbenchers from the group of four he'd had to the Lodge last night. For two hours they talked, but there would be no deal. on some of the substantial matters. We haven't reached final agreement In the party room, he wanted to avoid any splits, the Prime Minister said but noted that it was now up to and his band of supporters Petro Georgiou

to decide what to do. We will now go ahead to the selection committee. and Petro will introduce those Bills They did - and the way has been cleared on Monday. for the Bills to go into Parliament have been unable to agree Mr Howard and 'the Georgiou Four' to indefinite detention on their demand for an end visas to permanent refugee status. and converting temporary protection

But they're still talking.

an opportunity for us now Yes, there's definitely to further discuss this, has certainly indicated and the Prime Minister the discussions. a willingness to continue We would hope for resolution the House for debate next week. before the Bills come before to my colleagues. I'll continue to talk within the Liberal Party I take the view that people are entitled to be heard

and, as leader of the party, and talking to them, I will spend time listening to them fundamentals of mandatory detention. as long as it doesn't change the But there are ways - the position of children particularly having in mind and the time sometimes things take, we can make it work better. there are ways in which

do get introduced, If the Georgiou Bills to the Government, they'll be a public irritant

and John Howard but the numbers, House procedures will ensure they're no threat. an undertaking to the House Will the Prime Minister give will be given precedence that these Bills and that, in the next two weeks, and voted on? these Bills will be debated

Prime Minister. SPEAKER: The Honourable No. with 'the Georgiou Four', Having started negotiations Liberal backbenchers a wider group of will go ahead and deliver change - is hoping John Howard will go ahead and deliver change - is hoping John Howard a private member's Bill or not. whether there's That could happen, but counted together, or actively seeking reform those passively only a small minority. still represent isn't confined to the back bench. The pressure for change whistleblower on Lateline last night Claims by an Immigration Department that mistakes are commonplace

if they speak out and that staff face retribution

in Parliament today. were followed up

to have a royal commission? Isn't it now time for the minister themselves as a whistleblower We have one person identifying to be general claims. with what appeared, at first glance, impossible to test. They are, of course, Chen Yonglin, And in the case of would-be defector that his department broke any law the Foreign Minister has denied in contacting the Chinese Consulate sought protection. after the diplomat Greg Jennett, Lateline. Peter Costello's Budget tax cuts to come into force on July 1. are now guaranteed has begun in the Senate, Debate on the tax cut legislation will be defeated. where the $22 billion package

But the Treasurer's fallback option, to deliver the cuts in July, using income tax schedules will prevail crossbench independent Senators after the Greens, Democrats and two

to block it. pledged not to join any move still won't rule out But the Labor Party trying to disallow the schedules. Only one political party in Australia now reserves the right to disallow schedules which will give a tax cut to every Australian on 1 July 2005 and the good news, Mr Speaker, is that political party is no longer relevant to the tax debate in Australia. Hear, hear! The Government-controlled Senate will eventually pass the tax legislation in August. A new report recommending sweeping changes to the way child support payments are calculated has received a mixed response from single parents.

The Federal Government's child support task force is calling for a more equal system and a new formula for calculating payments. It also wants stronger enforcement of the system. Narda Gilmore reports. Single mother Diane Heffey receives just over $20 a month in child support

to help raise her 11-year-old daughter Bonnie. She says the system is unfair. My daughter's father has never willingly paid child support. But many single fathers argue they're being forced to pay too much in child support -

in some cases, more than 30% of their gross income. It's hard. The guys are battling to pay their child support. They want to pay. According to the government task force set up to review child support, the current system is fundamentally flawed. The current formula cannot be justified and needs to be changed. Under the key recommendation, the incomes of both parents would be considered when calculating child support payments.

Currently the residential parent, usually the mother,

can earn up to $40,000 without affecting payments from the father. The task force report also recommends reduced payments if a child spends at least one night a week with the father and that the age of children be considered. We know that teenagers are much more expensive. The task force also wants minimum child support payments lifted and a crackdown on those not meeting their responsibilities.

Currently, 40% of those making payments are paying just $5 a week. That is a scandal. Fathers' groups have welcomed the report.

Much fairer for all parties, including the children, but more fairer who men who have been bled by the old scheme. But single mothers say children would be worse off. For the vast majority of children of separated parents there will be less child support assessed and paid.

The government says it won't be rushed into a hasty response.

It's likely to take several months to consider the recommendations. Narda Gilmore, Lateline. For the first time in nearly a year,

Iraqis have seen Saddam Hussein in court. The country's special tribunal says the former dictator was questioned about a massacre that followed an assassination attempt in the early 1980s. This latest appearance was a far cry from Saddam's combative clash with a judge last July and it comes as the pressure mounts in Iraq to accelerate plans to put Saddam on trial. Norman Hermant reports. The bluster is gone. Saddam Hussein was shown to the world in court for the first time in nearly a year.

These images were released without sound, perhaps to avoid a repeat of last July, when the former dictator acted as if he were still in power. (Exclaims in Arabic) Then, Saddam questioned the authority of the judge and claimed he was still the President of Iraq. The special tribunal that will try him says this time their prized prisoner was much more subdued. The tribunal says Saddam was questioned about a massacre in 1982, alleged to have taken place on his orders after an assassination attempt. It's believed charges against him will also include ordering the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and numerous charges connected to his regime's murderous crackdowns on Kurds and Shi'ites. You're likely to see a case that's not a seamless web of history but, rather, it's some snapshots of a reign of terror.

A second video released by the tribunal showed other top Saddam officials being questioned. But as always, it was Saddam who captivated Iraqis.

Today, his latest appearance was front page news. (Speaks Arabic) "This is the fate of all tyrants who oppress their people", says this man. Another adds: "The trial of Saddam is a must." And he repeats a commonly held view - "Iraqis should take revenge for the loss of their beloved."

That sentiment may well be behind statements from the tribunal

that Saddam's trial could start within three months. Some foreign experts advising Iraq's government say that's too fast.

But for a country still wracked by bloodshed - this latest bombing in Kirkuk killed at least 19 -

the pressure is building. Only by convicting Saddam, the argument goes, can Iraq show its own people it's moving on from its violent past. Norman Hermant, Lateline. For 30 years, Lebanese elections took place

The South African deputy premier The South African deputy premier has opinion

The South African deputy premier has opinion sacked. The South African

President announced the move

President announced the move moments ago. Mr Zuma had been widely tipped

to be South

to be South Africa's next President

buts was recently implicate

buts was recently implicated in a corruption scandal. A seemingly stunned Michael Jackson has left a California courtroom a free man. It took a jury more than a week to find him not guilty of molesting a teenage cancer patient. If convicted, the singer could have spent 20 years in jail.

The prosecutor is refusing to comment on whether this marks the end of his pursuit of the pop star. North America correspondent Mark Simkin reports. An extraordinary end to a bizarre saga. After 14 weeks of bitter and lurid testimony and 30 hours of jury deliberation, there were tears and cheers outside the courtroom. It's the best day of my life. Michael is innocent. Yay! I am actually out of breath. I mean, my heart was just pounding so fast. It was so beautiful, so emotional. I mean, I can't tell you how touching it was. Michael Jackson emerged looking dazed, and left without commenting. He'd been accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy

and conspiring to kidnap his family.

We the jury, in the above entitled case,

find the defendant not guilty of a lewd act upon a minor child. Not guilty on all counts -

a stunning defeat for the prosecution, which has spent a decade and millions of dollars pursuing the performer. We're disappointed in the verdict. But we work every day in a system of justice, we believe in the system of justice and I've been a prosecutor for 37 years and in 37 years I've never quarrelled with a jury's verdict and I'm not going to start today. The District Attorney had claimed Michael Jackson was a perverted predator,

but the jurors say he didn't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. They were clearly concerned about the credibility of the accuser and his mother. I disliked it intensely when she snapped her fingers at us.

That's when I thought, "Don't snap your fingers at me, lady." LAUGHTER What mother in her right mind would allow that to happen,

you know, just freely volunteer your child to just sleep with someone. These people went to Neverland and they lived the life of a celebrity and that's exactly what they wanted. Michael Jackson has been acquitted, but his trials will continue. The singer hasn't had a number one album in years, and the case has exposed humiliating details about his alcohol use,

pornography collection and financial difficulties. Few in the entertainment industry expect his career or reputation will recover. The trial was told he has serious debts and is still spending much more than he earns. He will never be the same. He will always be tainted, Michael Jackson. The singer is now recovering at his Neverland ranch, counting the cost of a surreal soap opera.

Mark Simkin, Lateline. Back now to our top story. After last night's closeted talks at the Lodge, even the flies on the wall weren't giving too much away about the tenor of the negotiations between the Prime Minister and the four Liberal backbenchers who are challenging one of the pillars of his electoral success. The dissidents are openly calling for radical reforms to the immigration detention regime and the policy of issuing only temporary protection visas to large numbers of asylum seekers. Tonight we've learned that at least one of the four told Mr Howard during very intense talks that his policy is unethical. We spoke just a short time ago to Judi Moylan, Liberal MP from Western Australia. Judi Moylan, thanks for joining us.

Thanks, Tony. Now, your dissident group has decided to put Petro Georgiou's Bills to the parliament, but will the Prime Minister allow them to be debated and voted on, do you know yet? Well, Tony, we didn't come to agreement on some of the major issues that go to the heart of the Bills, and the option was to submit the Bills to the selection committee today

in the expectation that they may be debated and voted next week. But we're still confident - the Prime Minister's left the door open for further discussions - we welcome that - to see whether we might find a way to ensure that the core issues that go to the heart of these Bills are actually implemented.

Doesn't putting the Bills to the parliament

effectively mean that talking is at an end?

No, talking is definitely continuing. The Prime Minister has stated a willingness to continue the discussions, because nothing will happen to the Bills now until next Monday, when parliament resumes. But putting them forward, that was a negotiating tactic, was it, a sort of warning that, "If you don't negotiate more seriously, Prime Minister,

"we will have a debate on this issue"? Well, I mean, we clearly want an outcome from the serious matters that go to the heart of these Bills and go to the heart of the preservation of human life and human dignity, and those matters include putting an end to indefinite detention, putting people in - locking people up for indefinite periods of time

without any charges being laid. The other matter, serious matter that these Bills address is the release of families with children from detention centres, and also, where we assess people as being genuine asylum seekers, genuine refugees, then they get temporary protection visas. We would like to see those converted to permanent residency, except in exceptional circumstances. It appears, though, Judi Moylan - sorry to interrupt - it appears that the Prime Minister has effectively ruled out some of those more radical changes, the radical surgery to the detention regime and the immigration regime per se. He says, and said in parliament, the government intends to maintain the full framework of the current policy. Now, it doesn't really sound like you've got much room left to negotiate, does it?

Well, Tony, certainly the Prime Minister's been quite strong on that, that they don't wish to overturn the core commitments of the government in relation to border protection and its detention policy. But we believe that these Bills offer a way through without interfering with the integrity of government policy, but asking for an end to indefinite detention,

asking for people who've been assessed as genuine refugees to be given permanency and to have an independent member of the judiciary or some other independent person

assess the cases where people are going to be kept in detention because they might pose a threat or they may abscond.

But where do you see now room for compromise? Having had these two sets of talks with the Prime Minister, But where exactly? You're talking in general terms. Where exactly would you see the Prime Minister may consider there's room to move, from your negotiations with him? The Prime Minister has said on several occasions now that he would like to see a more flexible approach and a speedier system of administration. He would also like to see a more humane approach. Now, these are the matters that these Bills do address, and he's already indicated that there's a willingness to consider the release of families with children into community housing,

but we've not yet seen the detail of that. Let's go to one of the core issues. One of the flaws your small group of dissidents has highlighted in the detention regime is that a number of apparently stateless people

could effectively stay in detention for the term of their natural lives. Is that so? Well, that is correct. If you recall the El Masri case, the judge in that case - it went before the High Court and the judge said to the departmental person, "Are you saying by your legislation that, in effect,

"it could keep someone in detention on an ongoing basis, "forever, more or less?", and the department head said, "Yes, that in theory is what could happen "but in practice it wouldn't." Now, we've seen a man, Mr Kasim - the case has been widely discussed in the public area. He's been in detention now for seven years. It's a difficult case, but he's not had any charges brought against him.

There have been difficulties in the department being satisfied as to his identity, but we're saying: while these matters are being looked at, let people out into the community as long as there's not a risk that they're a threat to the public or they would abscond. Now, do you believe that that policy, where people have no idea whether or not they'll ever be let out, is actually sending some asylum seekers insane? There are many credible reports that have now come forward to indicate that this policy is doing harm to people,

both mentally and physically. There are episodes of self-harm. There are episodes of people trying to commit suicide, and there have been people, sadly, who have committed suicide. These policies are causing a lot of human suffering, and I believe that it's become a matter of conscience and it deserves a wide public debate, it deserves a full debate in the parliament and it deserves a vote. Now, do you regard - what you just described there, do you regard that as an offence to human dignity and therefore immoral?

I have said before that I don't think that - I believe that Australians believe in a fair go, and as a party,

we believe in the dignity of the individual and the worth of each individual, and I don't think that this policy really is representative of what our Liberal philosophy really represents. Now, did you put it to the Prime Minister that you effectively regard this policy as immoral? I don't think that it's ethical to keep people - and it does not preserve human life and human dignity to have a policy that keeps people in detention indefinitely and causes immense human suffering, both mentally and physically. Yes, but did you put it to the Prime Minister that the policy itself is unethical, immoral?

Well, I think it's a matter of conscience. But did you put this to the Prime Minister in the negotiations? Yes, yes - oh, yes, over a very lengthy period of time. I mean, one of the first issues that...

People are fascinated by these two sets

People are fascinated by these two sets of negotiations now. Now we

hear you told the Prime Minister is

unethical. How did he respond to

that directly to you? Well, as I said, the Prime Minister believes that this policy - this is the government's position, and that the public accept it, and that's basically the argument. Was he angry, was he annoyed that a group of his own government members could turn around and tell him his policy is unethical? I think the Prime Minister's always willing to listen to an argument, and he's always willing to talk, and I... It's a pretty strong argument, though, isn't it? I mean, you've said the talks were intense. They must have been pretty intense at the point where you told him his policy was unethical. Yes, they are very intense indeed, and I feel very strongly about the issue. But I believe that there's a way through this, and I believe there's a way that the government can maintain the integrity of its border protection policy and, at the same time, put a more human face on the policy that's doing immense harm to a lot of people, partly through, also, its poor administration. We've seen a number of those issues come forward, and I think that's when the public have realised

that while they support the government's broad policy, they are not supportive of people being locked up for indefinite periods of time and they don't agree that children and their families should be living in detention centres.

Does the culture that's evolved inside the Department of Immigration worry you, as it worries many people, and indeed, we saw on this program last night a senior departmental whistleblower come forward to say that there are deeply concerning things happening

which no-one knows about and they will only put those things to a judicial inquiry that can protect and compel witnesses. Well, Tony, I was at the Lodge talking with the Prime Minister last night, and I didn't see the Lateline program, but it is clear that there are administrative problems within the department. They already have - and one of the issues the Prime Minister's raised with us is the widening of discretionary powers, both for the department and for the minister. But we believe that there are fairly wide discretionary powers now,

but very often, recommendations that have been - I know in a couple of cases in particular, recommendations that have been made by the RRT

and another case where recommendations were made by a judge for the matter to go back were not referred to the minister until an advocate did an FOI search on the documents and found that the recommendations had not been acted on, and the minister wasn't aware of these two cases that went to life-and-death matters. Just taking into account all the various scandals that have happened, the things you've talked about, and add to that the Rau and the Solon scandals and various other things, do you believe there should be a royal commission into the Immigration Department, its handling of all these matters? Well, Tony, that's a very fair question, but the Palmer inquiry is due to come out any day now, I believe, and I do think that we should have a look at what emerges from that, and it's possible then that it will become clear

that we do need a royal commission or some judicial review. Can I ask you one final question, because it may be that you can't reach a compromise - it's very likely you won't be able to reach a compromise with the Prime Minister. If so and he refuses to allow you to have a debate and a vote on these Bills, would you be prepared to go to Labor

and see what they're prepared to offer, some kind of deal to allow these Bills to be debated?

Well, ultimately the government will decide that, Tony, whether they're debated and voted on.

I mean, it would be possible - the Labor Party could bring this forward, couldn't it, and have a serious debate on it, if you chose to take part in that? Well, the Labor Party could bring it forward, but it will ultimately be the government that determines whether these Bills are debated and voted on.

Well, they could suspend Standing Orders, but the government would still have the numbers to stop the debate and stop a vote on it. I don't - personally, I don't believe that will happen, but the government will make that - the government numbers will make that decision. So you think in the end Mr Howard will -

no matter what happens, he'll let you have the debate and the vote? Well, I'm hopeful that, given that the Prime Minister's indicated a willingness to continue to talk, that we will find a way to implement the main principles of the Bill,

the two Bills, without having to get to the point of having a situation where we might have to cross the floor. You are prepared to do that, of course, to cross the floor if necessary? Well, I consider this a matter of conscience. I think that the Bills should be able to be debated. I think it's in public interest, I think it's in our party's interests

and I think we should be able to vote on it as a matter of conscience, but that would have be a last resort, and I will be doing everything and I know the others will be doing everything to see whether we can't find a way in which the government can accommodate the very important issues that these Bills seek to address. Judi Moylan, we thank you very much for taking the time to come and talk to us on Lateline. We'll have to leave you there. Thank you, Tony. For 30 years, Lebanese elections took place under the watchful eye of the Syrian occupation troops. Now the troops are gone, but that hasn't meant an election without controversy. Hopes of mounting a strong opposition to the pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud have been dealt a blow by a former Lebanese Army general who's split the Christian vote. Our Middle East correspondent Matt Brown reports from Beirut.

After 14 years in exile, a former

general has emerged as the new

Christian power broker in Lebanon.

He scored a stunning victory in the

Lebanese elections on the weekend.

His candidates made Lebanese elections on the weekend. His candidates made an almost clean

sweep of the Christian stronghold

north east of buy route. This

north east of buy route. This former military commander has thrown the

future of Lebanon into turmoil.

It's going very well. It's good

climate. This is the first election

in Lebanon since the withdrawal of

Syrian troops after three decades

Syrian troops after three decades of meddling and occupation. And the

anti-Syrian opposition, led by

anti-Syrian opposition, led by Drews veteran Jumblat, needed to make a

strong showing to keep the

strong showing to keep the influence of their much larger neighbour at

bay. Before he went into exile,

bay. Before he went into exile, Ouan launched a bid to get the Syrians

out of Lebanon by force. But he has

now split the Syrian ranks to score

a political coup. We need a stable

Lebanon. Somebody else who came

Lebanon. Somebody else who came from Paris is trying to steal our

Paris is trying to steal our victory. This was the third and

victory. This was the third and most important poll in a four-part

election process. And Lebanese

voters are hoping the polls will

usher in a new era after so many

years of hardship and occupation.

We've lived a long time with pain

and suffering, this man says. Now

the people can vote freely, and we

hope that the future will be

the people can vote freely, and we hope that the future will be good.

But MicheOuan's campaign and miss

recent success have increased

recent success have increased doubts about the future. Now the Syrians

have withdrawn, he says he will

focus on fighting corruption and he

aiming his comments at his rivals

aiming his comments at his rivals in the anti-Syrian opposition who

remained in the country under

remained in the country under Syrian rule while he was in exile in

France. He's also increased the

chances that Lebanon's

France. He's also increased the chances that Lebanon's pro Syrian

President could stay in power.

According to my presidency, I'm

staying to the last moment that I

have. Lebanese voters will go to

have. Lebanese voters will go to the polls again in the final round of

the elections on Sunday. Well, when the Governor of the Reserve Bank speaks, Australia listens. So it was today, as Ian Macfarlane delivered his assessment of what shape the economy's in and where it's heading. He didn't say which way interest rates are going - he never does - but he certainly didn't say anything to upset the general view in the markets that rates might be on hold for a while. More from Chris Clark. (Sounds of an auction) With some of the heat coming out of the property market in recent months we're no longer borrowing as much against our houses to buy other things. This is something we are going to follow closely because it's difficult to know whether this household consolidation

will continue, how long it will last and whether it will intensify. It's early times yet but the situation bears close watching. These were the Reserve Bank Governor's first public comments since the bank's most recent decision to leave interest rates unchanged - and a chance to rebut critics who say the last increase in March wasn't needed. Some people are now disappointed

that GDP is now growing below the average rate but I view recent events as a healthy correction and certainly a much better result than other potential outcomes. So, according to the bank, slowing consumption means inflation isn't building as quickly as might have been expected. I think he's saying rates are on hold for the forseeable future, that he's not going to respond to signs that growth has slowed by cutting rates, because he actually he regards the slowdown in growth and particularly the slowdown in household spending

as being eminently desirable given the challenges that the Australian economy now faces. The Reserve Bank Governor also reopened an old argument

about whose economic numbers you can really trust, again casting some doubt on figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Most recently, some have wondered how employment could still be growing strongly while overall economic growth was slowing. I suspect that when we look back in 5 years' time we will find that some of those figures are a bit different from what they are now and it's likely to be the unemployment ones. Every user of statistics always wishes that there would be better statistics and the Reserve Bank's probably no different from anyone else in that regard. With good prices for our exports and good demand, the Reserve Bank Governor paints a fairly optimistic picture and argues the recent slowdown means the economy can now keep growing for the next few years. Chris Clark, Lateline To the markets now. The All Ordiniaries finished slightly firmer amid mixed movement in resources and banks.

Now to the weather.

That's all for this evening. If you'd like to look back at tonight's interview or review any of Lateline's stories or transcripts, you can visit our website abc.net.au/lateline. I'll be back tomorrow night, so please join me then. Goodnight. Captions by Captioning and Subtitling International.