House of Representatives 28/10/2021

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (13:38): There are now 21 confirmed COVID cases among the asylum seekers and refugees in the Park Hotel in Melbourne. This is a national disgrace and an abrogation of the duty of care owed to these people by the Morrison government. When COVID came to Australia early last year, I and my colleagues publicly called on the government to release detainees who had cleared security checks. I asked the government why, in a global pandemic, people who posed no risk to the community should be held in hotel detention when the health risks were so clear. The government had no good answer for this. Doctors warned of the risk of infection given the men were confined to a space where they couldn’t possibly distance. Hundreds of community members offered to take them in and support them. Despite all the health warnings, this government did nothing. They sat on their hands for over a year and offered detainees Panadol when they presented with COVID symptoms. Despite the cases, the detainees are still living in a confined space. If it isn’t incompetence, it’s just cruelty—cruelty used deliberately for so-called deterrence.

This is the path the Morrison government has chosen to take, but the government cannot hide from the duty of care to people in its care. I call on the Morrison government to provide immediate medical care to positive cases and transfer and release them into accommodation where their health is not put at risk.


My statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

“It is good that the current outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has ended, but I along with so many people around the world, remain deeply distressed by the loss of life and destruction. The historical and structural issues driving this conflict won’t be solved by statements from politicians nor will these statements end the violence, death and destruction

“The cycle of hatred, violence, and despair between the Israelis and Palestinians has been ongoing for almost a century. My own family has been part of this conflict over the past 70 years with my grandfather, father and uncles fighting in the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. Our family home in Port Said was reduced to rubble by Israeli airstrikes. 

“Israelis will not be able to live in peace so long as Palestinians suffer death and injustices. The Palestinian people will not achieve self-determination and peace as long as Hamas continues to use violence and exploit the conflict for their narrow self-interest.

“Australia and Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne must do more than just put out bland statements. As one of the world’s oldest democracies and a middle power with diplomatic influence, Australia should have played a more active diplomatic role alongside other countries and the UN to push for an immediate ceasefire to stop the death of innocent civilians and bring the parties to the negotiating table to effect a truce. I have called for this publicly and in the media. This short-term objective will at least stop the violence that is taking so many innocent civilian lives.

“Australia also has important contributions to make in the medium to longer term towards securing lasting peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis. A long-term stable peace won’t be achieved in the region until Palestinian self-determination is realised and until the Palestinian people have a state of their own. I have urged the Australian Government and our diplomats to work with our friends and allies around the world to commit to advancing what has, until now, been the elusive longer-term goal of a sustainable two-state solution based on justice, self-determination, peace and security for Palestinians and Israelis.

“Australia should make this effort because this conflict has drained the resources and attention of the international community and polarised people around the world, including in Australia, for far too long. It has driven antisemitism and Islamophobia and inured us to the suffering of people in the region. If Australia is to stand for human rights, peace and security around the world we must leverage our middle power diplomacy to contribute to a lasting and stable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Doing so would advance global stability which is always in Australia’s national interest.

“Australia has a long and proud history of supporting a just and durable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Successive Australian governments have encouraged the parties to pursue direct negotiations to that end.

“Labor Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong has expressed support for a halt to actions that increase tensions including land appropriations, forced evictions, demolitions and settlement activity. The Morrison Government is not doing enough and I encourage you, as someone passionate about this issue, to contact Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne to express your concerns directly:

Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6100
Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
Phone: (02) 6277 7500

“Labor continues to call on the Morrison Government to ensure Australia is working constructively to support security and human rights in advance of a lasting peace in the Middle East.”



RAFAEL EPSTEIN, HOST: The winds have changed. They are sweeping through the Labor Party as well. They still have to work out, are they a centre left party? Are they a progressive party? They are not always the same thing. Peter Khalil is the Labor MP for the seat of Wills in Melbourne’s north. He gave a speech at the Alfred Deakin Institute today. He wants Australia to increase its refugee intake. Peter thanks for having a word with us. 

PETER KHALILMP: Hi Raff. How are you?  

EPSTEINI am good. Is this about trying to make sure Labor sticks with the number it took to the last election? It would take us a few years to get 32,000 humanitarian refugee intake. Is it about trying to keep Labor at that number? 

KHALILNo, this is about us, taking a lead on the international level. To lead and negotiate an international agreement, a processing and resettlement agreement that gets countries to do their fair share. There are dozens of developed nations that are not pulling their weight and we need to have a consistent set of metrics that are, has a model for refugee intake globally. Because you know why? There are 26 million refugees around the world. And do you know how many were actually resettled last year? Last calendar year? 

EPSTEIN: Couple of 10’s of thousands or something? 

KHALIL: 92,000. Okay.  

EPSTEIN: So which developed countries are not pulling its weight? 

KHALIL: Oh, I knew you were going to go there. It’s not about blaming countries. But there are dozens of countries. And I don’t want to pick on any particular country, because there are dozens of wealthy developed nations that only take a handful. Japan 22. Portugal 35. You know.  

EPSTEIN: But Portugal they have got hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t filled all of their forms. Like Korea, I think they only took 30 but they have hundreds of thousands of people from places like Thailand.  

KHALIL: When you increase, when you actually add the numbers of people who are actually applying in country. Who have actually gone there by plane or who have got there in other ways, it goes up slightly to a couple of hundred. But the point is at each year there is a drop in the ocean of resettlement out of 26 million and there is 70 million displaced around the globe. And we are talking about this getting worse Raff. So what I have said is not only do we need to remove the toxicity of our domestic debate which is so polarised now, in the way the refugees are being framed particularly by the far right and even our own Prime Minister who talks about paedophiles, rapists and murderers coming in on the medevac law. This is exactly what he said when we debated the bill earlier this year. It is a toxic, corrosive debate, which cuts at the heart of Australia’s multicultural and migrant nation. We have had a nation that has been successful, including with refugees. 

EPSTEIN: Peter can I interrupt? You want to get rid of the toxic nature of the debate in Australia, but the only people who you really want to change are the Coalition and their rhetoric.  

KHALIL: Well no. We all have to do better. And I think..   

EPSTEIN: What should Labor do differently? 

KHALIL: Well Labor has, as you said quite rightly, we committed to doubling our refugee intake at the last election, including an additional 5000 community sponsored refugee program. So up above 30, 34, 35,000. But that is still a drop in the ocean Raff. When you look at the global situation, that’s not dealing with the growing global challenge that we face. And with the impacts of climate change, particularly in our region, our pacific island neighbours, it’s only set to get worse as people fight of depleted resources, they fight over the fact that there is, further population displacement. 

EPSTEIN: Can you persuade the rest of the world to take more refugees if we send all the boats back? Because a lot of the rest of the world, they don’t like the fact, I mean, we built the wall haven’t we? Korea only takes I think 30 people and I keep mentioning them but they have got hundreds of thousands of people who can just get there because they don’t stop every single person coming to their country. Can Australia, persuade the rest of the world to take more, if we stop everybody coming by boat?            

KHALIL: I think the process has already started in convincing the rest of the world. The 193 member states of the UN have agreed in the Global Compact of Refugee last year to actually move forward and have a system of a more equitable and shared approach to the burden. And we are talking too about countries, developing nations who are carrying the heaviest burden. We need to alleviate that instability that is caused by that. You know we have got countries like Bangladesh with almost a million refugees, Pakistan with 1.4 million, you know Iran and Lebanon and Jordan. And countries like Uganda that has 1.4 million. I mean this is unsustainable and it will get worse. What I am saying is we must draw and I am talking about Labor now, on our internationalist DNA, we have done this before. You know, we have actually led the way with Doc Evatt at the UN and human rights charter. Gareth Evans with the Cambodia Peace Plan. Setting up APEC. This is in our DNA. And this is something that we should be ambitious about. And look I am just a backbencher and I am putting out ideas. We need to talk about this at the international level because if we don’t our inwardly focussed domestic policies are not sufficient they are unsustainable in the long term.    

EPSTEIN: 1300222774. Peter Khalil is quote unquote just a backbencher but Labor has got to work out its position on refugees. Which way do you think Labor should go? Should Australia do more or should we take less? 1300222774.  Peter Khalil I want to ask you about climate change. But just as importantly there is something like 30,000 people in this country, who came by boat, who don’t have permanent residency, they are on temporary or bridging visas, should the Government do something about those 30,000 people? They can’t do things like go to university and study. Do you want the government to do something about that?   

KHALIL: Oh, absolutely Raff! I mean we, I got myself after I was elected in 2016 on Labor’s immigration policy working group. And we put to the electorate at the last election in May, a set of policies including getting rid of TPV’s, Temporary Protection Visa’s and CHEV’s. Actually allowing genuine refugees permanent resettlement and family reunion. Getting rid of the fast tracked judicial process which discriminates against people who came by boat. And actually restoring welfare funding, the SRS funding that was cruelly cut by the Government. And that’s on top of doubling our refugee intake. These are good policies. 500 million investment to the UNHCR, to help with those efforts. These are good policies.   

EPSTEIN: So Labor will stick with what, giving residential permanent visas to the 30,000 people or not? 

KHALIL: Well, Labor has made those commitments at the last election. And I will be advocating to take just as good election commitments and even more to the next election. That’s a process for caucus and the shadow cabinet obviously. But I am pretty proud of what we put to the election, last election and I think it would have made a difference to tens of thousands of lives.  

EPSTEIN: Anthony Albanese is also giving speeches and interviews. He is now firmly of the view that coal exports are a significant part of Australia’s economic future. He says if we don’t export coal someone else will sell it. It won’t make a difference if we stop. The Government especially the resources Minister Matt Canavan wants Anthony Albanese to say three simple words, if you are in favour of coal exports. They want Anthony Albanese to say “I support Adani”. Do you think he should? 

KHALIL: Well, Anthony has also said that the goal for us is to actually reduce global emissions. Actually reduce global emissions.  And as the media always does, they take one part of his speech and one part of his quote. Let’s cut to the chase about this, we have coal exports of about half is coking coal and half is thermal coal. Right, of production. And of that production about 75% is exported and about half is coking coal, allergical coal that is exported and half thermal coal. Coking coal that is used to create steel, to produce steel. Anthony is talking about the fact that that is necessary to build wind turbines, to build solar panels all this kind of stuff that is necessary. 


EPSTEIN: But will be pursued between now and the next election in two years and 3 months, whether or not, you support the Adani coal mine. Do you think Anthony Albanese should say “I support Adani”?  

KHALIL: Well it is not a question between him supporting or not supporting. He can’t, you know this business about trying to can all an entire export industry. I am not a constitutional lawyer Raff, you might be, but I doubt very much that the Commonwealth has that power. And setting that aside, even if we did ban all exports tomorrow, notwithstanding the problem of lumping, excuse the pun, coking coal with thermal coal, when you are talking about that, Anthony actually called the cat on that.  You know then India and China and Japan and others who take our black coal, would then import brown coal. Which is higher emissions!  

EPSTEIN:  Isn’t that the drug dealer’s argument? If we don’t sell it someone else will. 

KHALIL: Well no what we want, actually not the drug dealers argument, what we want is those countries to start moving towards renewable energy. Like we have policies that invest 15 billion dollars in renewable energy projects in this country, this Government is not doing that. We propose that that’s because we want to transition away from using our own thermal coal in our coal fired power plants. But our total emissions is 1.3% but when you add our exports of coal it gets to about 5%. India is about 10% of global emissions. The US is about 20% and China is about 30%. So we need to deal with reducing global emissions. This is the reality. If we want to get down to 1.5 degrees or under, well we need to reduce those big countries that are doing the biggest emissions now. China’s argument is ‘oh well we are a pre-industrial country and you can’t get us to have caps and limits’.  

EPSTEINYou can’t tell China or America or India what to do. Unless we ramp up our action.  

KHALIL: We have got to take action. We put to the last election campaign investment in renewable energy, solar panels, we had a very ambitious target, 50% of renewable energy by 2030 and cuts 45% cuts to emissions. We have got to review all of that obviously, because if we do win the next one… 


EPSTEIN: Sounds like you are in favour of them. 

KHALIL: Well, we have to take action. Absolutely. I have got kids. People want the next generation to bequeath the planet that survives for them. And I believe in the science of climate change, I know it as scientific evidence to be the case. That’s why we need to take action.  But some of the outrageous suggestions of banning entire industries just won’t work that way.  

EPSTEIN: Appreciate your time. Thank you. 




SUBJECTS: Fair Share Agreement – Refugee Resettlement and New Zealand’s Offer

GREG JENNETT, HOST: Peter Khalil has outlined in a speech to the Alfred Deakin Institute, Jemma, what he is calling the Fair Share Agreement. Now, we are about to talk to Peter Khalil in a moment, but in a nutshell, it’s asking Australia or proposing to Australia that it step up its diplomacy and as far as I can tell, ultimately its effort on the resettlement of refugees. It’s a matter of record that around the world that those who have been displaced by conflict and other crises around the world is at record levels at present and this is something that has exercised Peter Khalil’s mind. He is the member for Wills Jemma, he entered Parliament back in 2016. The son of migrants who had fled from Egypt in some turmoil back in the day, he also once worked for SBS. So Peter Khalil does take a keen interest in matters concerning ethnic communities and migration. Jemma, Peter Khalil joins us now from our Melbourne studios so Peter welcome to you, the fair share agreement , why don’t we give you a straight forward one first of all, what is it? 

PETER KHALILMP: Good day Greg. Thanks for having me on. Look we have had the same corrosive, toxic debate and conversation for almost 20 years now. We passed the Medevac bill into law earlier this year, we have repealed it, or it was repealed by the Government last week. What I was talking about today was the need for Australia to take a lead in negotiating and developing, what I call the Fair Share Agreement, working with the international community to increase the refugee intake amongst multiple countries and ensure that countries across the globe, recipient countries are doing their fair share and the reason for that, not only would it remove the toxicity of the debate we are having domestically but it actually seeks to pre-empt what is a global and worsening crisis. We have got 70 million displaced people globally; we have got 26 million refugees. Just last calendar year of those 26 million, only 92 thousand were resettled to recipient countries. What I am talking about is the need to actually work with countries to increase that intake, based on a fair share model, looking at a consistent set of metrics and set data points agreed upon in a negotiated outcome, where each country does their fair share. Some developed wealthy countries are taking as little as 30 or 40 refugees a year. I think that is unsustainable into the long term and it is our national interest, especially for regional security and stability that we take a more international stance and lead this. And there is an opportunity next week with the UN Global Refugee Forum in Geneva for member states of the UN to actually work together and make those commitments and contributions.  

JENNETTOkay, some of those numbers you mentioned there are astoundingly large. 26 million, well beyond the capacity of even a handful of countries to accommodate them. I think it was the former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr, once said when you get into these sort of debates the price of entry should be a number, really, a ball park figure on what you think is acceptable. What is your number? We know what Australia’s current refugee intake is, about 12,000 or so. Where do you think it should or could land? 

KHALILRelatively speaking of the 92,000 resettled we are doing, we are fairly generous. We have come third. The US is second with 22,000, Canada with 28,000. Those figures are slightly larger when you include people making asylum seeker applications in-country, who go across the border or arrive by plane and so on. But the fact is, it’s a drop in the ocean. What we’re talking about, too – you mentioned the pressure on host countries – there are countries, usually developing nations, largely – who are hosting these millions of refugees that create further instability globally. We’re talking about countries like Pakistan who have 1.4 million. Bangladesh – almost 1 million refugees. Uganda – 1.4 million, and so on. There are many countries that are hosting that the resources stretch their limit. What I’m talking about is making sure, through an international processing and resettlement agreement, with Australia taking the lead, using our diplomatic wherewithal, drawing on our internationalist DNA, to actually get countries doing their fair share to help alleviate the burden on those host countries, but also – in our national interest – to ensure greater security and stability in our region. Reduce that instability that comes. I mean, this is only going to get worse, Greg, with sectarianism, conflict, impacts of climate change – particularly in our region in the Pacific. You’re going to see nations and peoples fighting over depleted resources, more population displacement. We need to pre-empt that worsening crisis. I think our inwardly focused policies are not dealing with the growing global challenge. 

JENNETT: I think you’ve outlined those strategic challenges that lie out in the future but, just to bring it back home and into the here and now, what do you think is a feasible number? Sure, we can engage in diplomacy with others around the world, but let’s speak for the Australian government – and who knows? You might be a member of one at some point in the future… (LAUGHS)  

KHALIL: We hope…! 

JENNETT: What is a realistic number, in your view? It’s running about 12,000. Is it in the 20,000s, 40,000s, 50,000s? 

KHALIL: Well Labor has already taken a policy to the last election. We committed to doubling our refugee intake from the current number and adding another 5,000 in a community-sponsored refugee program. That’s fine. We’re a generous country. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the need for many wealthy, developed nations to actually do their fair share as well. Some countries take as little as 30 or 40 refugees a year. And there is a need, at the international level, to address this growing global challenge.  

JENNETT: But as a real power, how does Australia do that? If these were easy levers to pull, diplomatically, I imagine others before would have done just that. Why would some of these countries – you can name them, if you wish – I know you listed them in your speech – but why would they listen to Australia? 

KHALIL: Because it’s in their interests. It’s in their interest for regional stability and security to reduce the instability in countries that are carrying that heavy burden, where there’s more conflict and more population displacement. It’s in their interest for their own security and prosperity to make this work. Because we’re facing a global challenge that affects all countries in the region and globally. And this has been done before, Greg. You say, “Why would they do it?” We had the ODP program here between 1975 and 1982. That regional multilateral agreement saw 69,000 Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian refugees, resettled in Australia. Only 2000 came by boat directly to Australia. The vast majority were flown in after they were processed according to regional agreements that we entered into. This has been done before. History has shown us there are alternatives to our current set of policy frameworks.  

JENNETT: Which countries would you single out for specific attention if Australia’s going to saddle up for this fair-share agreement? Which ones stand out as developed, reasonably wealthy, able to accept more, but aren’t – in your view – pulling their weight?  

KHALIL: You want to play the “gotcha” game – not very diplomatic, by the way, to try to get these countries involved. There are many countries. For traditional reasons, historical reasons, monoculture, countries like Japan – who are very generous to the UNHCR but only take something like 26 refugees a year, or South Korea, or Portugal at 35, or many other Western European countries that take very small numbers. The point is not to try and single them out, Greg. The point is to try and get an agreement that we can have a set of consistent metrics – whether it be on GDP per capita, population, relative historical intake, migration numbers, resettlement services, and so on and so forth, that is agreed upon that gives us a consistent number of refugee intake for each of the countries. And for those that seek to opt out of that, we can arrange financial contributions that are commensurate to some of the intake numbers that would come out of that model to help pave the resettlement services. 

JENNETT: And who pays for that? Australia, or some global collective like the UN?  

KHALIL: Well, as I said, a global collective of countries that countries might opt out of taking additional refugees, they can offset their required additional intake based on the model by making financial contributions a – some of these countries already do that to the UNHCR. What I’m talking about is a fairer, more consistent model. The UN refugee forum going on next week is the start of that process. Already, 193 UN member states have agreed to the refugee Global Compact on Refugees to actually more equitably share the load and the burden around refugees. This is only going to be better for us to actually relieve the pressure on some of those host countries where there’s the greatest exacerbation of conflict and instability in our region as well. And I think it’s necessary for us to take that step and take the lead. These are ambitious ideas, Greg. I don’t see this current government even thinking about this. I mean, they’re not even sending anyone, I don’t think, to Geneva. There’s no real high-level representation there. And we need to think about this. 

JENNETT: There may be, or they may not be – there have been different models over the years, there’s working through the UNHCR, there are local initiatives – I think there’s one called the Bali Process that Australia has tried to invagual others to joining over the years, but to mixed reception, I suppose. Looking closer to home, since we have mentioned local mechanisms, at about 1,000 a year, do you think New Zealand is proportionally pulling its weight when it comes to refugees? 

KHALIL: Well, per capita, you would argue – no. Not on the current intake. This is the thing – there are dozens of wealthy, developed nations that people might, you know, perceive are doing well, but they’re actually not. The fact is, there are dozens of these countries. And I think what I’m suggesting is to have a consistent set of data points that actually allow the model to have a refugee intake across multiple countries that is fair and relatively fair. It’s a fair-share agreement in many respects. And that, I think, is needed to start dealing with what is a global challenge that we’re facing. It’s not the case that, you know, 26 million refugees settle around the world and we only resettle 92,000 last year – maybe a little larger with those who make their asylum cases in-country arriving by plane or otherwise. It’s still a drop in the ocean. Now, the question is really this – is that sustainable into the long-term? With the increasing pressures that we’re seeing with respect to conflict, violent conflict, the rise of authoritarianism, failed states, depleting resources, further population displacement – are we just burying our head in the sand if we don’t deal with this? And my argument is that we are. And we need to demonstrate some leadership as a middle power.  

JENNETT: Alright. Right on cue, as I mentioned New Zealand – just a signpost to our viewers, Peter Khalil, that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to hold a media conference to talk about the volcano incident – the eruption that’s happened there. We will bring that to our viewers live and truncate our discussion if it should happen in the next couple of minutes or so, Peter Khalil. Just moving on from your speech, I suppose, and sticking with New Zealand – your own attitude, now that medevac has been revealed – it’s pretty clear that the government is going to see through the US resettlement third-country option there, and what is your own attitude towards then opening up a program of accepting New Zealand’s offer to resettle from Manus and Nauru? 

KHALIL: We have said consistently on the Labor side that the government should accept New Zealand’s generous offer to take more refugees and resettle more refugees. And they have refused to do so.  

JENNETT: Yep. They look like they might go there. That then poses a question to the parliament – this lifetime ban legislation that would sit behind such a resettlement – how does that sit with you?  

KHALIL: Well, I opposed it last time, as did our party. We’d have to look at what they put forward this time. I mean, we are devastated that the medivac law was repealed, because it was working. It was actually providing care to sick people. We worked on this, we merged some of Labor’s private member’s bill with Kerryn Phelps’ bill and passed it in the parliament earlier in the year. This, by the way – I said this in my speech this morning – despite the framing of refugees in the negative way, the obscene way, that they are framed in the toxic narrative – I mean, our own Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said when we were debating the bill in February that they may be paedophiles – I’m quoting him – they may be paedophiles, they may be rapists, they may be murderers, and this bill would let them in. It’s simply obscene dog-whistling that is untrue. 

JENNETT: Sure. That ship has sailed. The parliament of Australia, for better or worse – depending on where you sit in the parliament – has dealt with that, as recently as last week. So new proposition comes forward now, and it’s one that does come to the caucus – and you sit in that room – do you see it, within your own worldview, as something that you, personally, would support? Would you happily go along with a lifetime ban if Anthony Albanese and the leadership said “We need to, for reasons of resettling off those islands”? 

KHALIL: Again, without pre-empting what they put to us as far as – they haven’t even accepted the New Zealand offer, by the way. Sure. It’s hypothetical if they were. It’s probably not useful to talk in hypotheticals, but I can refer to what arguments I made with respect to the last time they tried to put up the lifetime ban. How ridiculous would it be if a refugee was resettled in New Zealand, became a great surgeon, and she was asked to come back to Sydney to perform life-saving surgery on some children at the hospital there in Sydney, and was banned from doing so? Or they became a minister in a New Zealand government? I mean, how do you get around that problem? I’d like to see how they propose to do that. 

JENNETT: Do you think it’s contrary to – you know, our own bilateral relationship with New Zealand? What are the red lines here that you would not be prepared to cross? Because we’ve already mentioned your own personal conviction on issues of ethnic communities and refugees. So this strikes close to home for you. You’re very outspoken about these things. Would you contemplate going against – hypothetical, I know – against a position that said it should be supported?  

KHALIL: Again, Greg, I’m outspoken about these issues, as are many of my colleagues, because we’re passionate about these issues. Rather than the obscene framing of refugees, as I mentioned the Prime Minister has done and government ministers – I know of the success stories of refugees in this country and of migration in this country. We are a better nation – a more diverse and wonderfully multicultural nation – because of our migration story, which is a foundational part of our nation’s story. That pathway to citizenship, and being Australian. I’m part of it as well. So I’ll always stand up and speak out against some of these dog-whistling that goes on the far right of politics for that short-term political gain. I can’t speak to hypotheticals. The fact is, our caucus would look at what offer they put forward. If they’re saying they’re going to accept the New Zealand offer, let’s see that. That’s great. If they try and put in a lifetime ban as part of that, how do they propose to avoid the ridiculous scenarios that I’ve just outlined to you? What do they propose to do? Block a future New Zealand minister who happened to be a refugee if they were to run for parliament in New Zealand? Could they not come back and have ministerial meetings across the ditch? I mean, seriously. 

JENNETT: That’s a problem with hypotheticals, isn’t it? They can throw up all sorts of variables. You’ve outlined a couple for us there. And fair enough – I don’t think we could reasonably expect you to state a categorical position this afternoon, Peter Khalil, but we’ve canvassed the food for thought that you’ve put on offer in your speech on the fair-share agreement. So, let’s see how that goes down with the powerful – the great and good – in the government of Australia. No doubt we’ll talk to you about this, and other issues, in the new year. But for your time this afternoon, Peter, thank you so much.  

KHALIL: Thanks!  Merry Christmas. Happy new year. 



Peter Khalil: Hundreds of people in my electorate of Wills have met with me, written to me and called me about the Tamil family—Priya, Nadesalingam and their two Australian-born children, Kopika and Tharunicaa—who’ve made their home in Biloela in Queensland. A lot has been said about this family and why they should stay in Australia. Overwhelmingly, the people in my electorate who’ve contacted me want this family, whose children have known no other home but Australia, to stay. I also believe that the minister should use his ministerial discretion for this family—after all, the Minister for Home affairs and the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs have both intervened and used their ministerial discretion in hundreds of cases to allow people to stay in Australia, from au pairs working illegally to other asylum seeker cases. We’ve heard the argument—and we’ve heard it from the other side—that allowing this family to stay will create a backdoor or will open up the floodgates. The reality is that this ministerial discretion has been used again and again and we have not seen a flood of au pairs. The government’s policies are built on this deterrence which involves cruelty. This is the path the government has chosen to take.

We’ve always argued that there are other ways and that we support other ways. We stand against the government’s policy of indefinite detention. We want to see people processed safely, with their dignity and human rights upheld, as quickly as possible. We stand against this government’s delays in processing the applications of some 30,000 people nationally and their cruel removal of all the safety nets, including income support, legal aid, counselling and casework, which would be available to them while they have their asylum claims assessed. We developed a series of policies on this and have been very public in articulating them. One is ending indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru. Labor took to the last election a policy to double the annual refugee intake. I myself co-sponsored a community sponsored refugee program which would have added 5,000 places per year under community sponsorship. We committed $500 million to the UNHCR. We will restore the 90-day rule in processing. We called for an independent children’s advocate. For refugees in our community already, we would end both the temporary protection visas and the safe haven enterprise visas, the TPVs and the SHEVs, and move people to permanent protection if they are found to be genuine refugees. That means a right to family reunion. It means a start to building a life here in Australia that is legitimate. Of course, we would also abolish the fast-track process and restoring the Status Resolution Support Services welfare funding which is so important for families.

Beyond even these policies, we should look further to our role in responding to the global refugee crisis, a role that this government has resiled from. Australia is a successful, multicultural nation, and we should be world leaders, as we have been in generations past, in welcoming refugees. I believe that Australia can and should again be a global leader in the response to the global refugee crisis. History shows us a way forward. In the 1970s and 1980s Australia welcomed refugees from South-East Asia, but for the most part they didn’t come by boat. Between 1975 and 1982, almost 70,000 refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia resettled in Australia. Of those, only 2,000 people came directly to Australia by boat. The rest, the vast majority, came by plane after their claims were processed in Asia through regional agreements that had been entered into.

We need a return to that sort of coordinated international effort. We need an international agreement where 10, 20 or 30 refugee-taking countries commit to taking more refugees, but do so on a consistent basis so that we can start to really address the global refugee crisis. I spoke about this in my first speech to this place, and I have been advocating for this idea ever since. I’ve obviously done some policy work in this space. It is an ambitious goal, but the scale of the crisis that we face globally calls for ambition. If we want to live in a safe and peaceful region, we need to move beyond this toxic, domestic debate, the fear based debate, and step up and lead as a nation. It’s not just the right thing to do; it’s in our interests as a nation to do so.



SUBJECTS: Press Freedom, Tamil Family, GDP figures 

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Thank you to both of you. 

PETER KHALIL, MP: Thanks Patricia. 

KEITH PITT, MP: Great to be with you. 

KARVELAS: I’m going to start with you, Keith. The Australian police has raided the home of a Commonwealth official in Canberra as we’ve been reporting. Are you comfortable with this? 

PITTPatricia, I’m obviously aware of the media reports that the AFP have issued a warrant in Canberra. Obviously this is an act of police investigation. I don’t think there’s anything that I could add to this discussion whilst that investigation is active. But I’d expect the AFP will do what they always do – act impartially and enforce the law of the country. 

KARVELAS: Peter Khalil, are you as confident that this is, this is all fine? Are you worried about – we heard a statement earlier from News Corporation about intimidation, police have been criticised about their tactics. 

KHALIL: Patricia, I think in a general sense I’m concerned, as many of us are in the Labor Party, about the raids on the ABC and on Annika Smethurst – two examples, those recent examples. Because we see that as an attack on the freedom of the press and it’s very, very problematic. I mean, in a very general sense, I mean, this government has been guilty of all of these unauthorised leaks, I mean, all these government ministers leaking against each other and all the rest of it. And yet, you’re seeing these, I think, assaults on press freedom. Now, my problem with it is that, to me it seems like the political weaponisation of national security laws. And, in some respects, you know, people have a bit of a debate about which laws are being used and so on, but many of them were under the old Crimes Act in 1914. I think some of the laws being used with respect to Annika and the ABC were under that Act. And so we have a real issue with that. The Intelligence Committee of parliament has also been addressing some of these issues in the national security laws, particularly around public interest tests and defences for journalists which are now part of the new laws.  

KARVELAS: So, given what we’ve seen today, Keith, and the criticism there by Peter Khalil that perhaps there’s been a weaponisation of national security laws or a politicisation, do you accept that, that perhaps laws have been, gone too far, or that there needs to be law reform? 

PITT: Well that’s not certainly the words that I would use. I think this, this is always about balance. It’s a balance between national security and freedom of the press. It’s one of the fundamental points of any democratic nation and every government regardless of whether it’s a Coalition government, whether it’s a Labor government, has its first priority to ensure the safety of the nation. Now, I have complete confidence in our enforcement agencies. I absolutely do. I certainly don’t accept Peter’s views that there’s these malicious leaks from individuals. Our cabinet ministers have exactly the same confidentiality requirements as cabinet ministers under the previous Labor government. I think we’re just getting on with the job of being in government, delivering what we said we would, and particularly around the economy.  

KARVELAS: Alright, I want to change the conversation to a story which has dominated political discourse and I think just community discussion too in the last week or so. Keith Pitt, a Tamil family has been given until Friday to consider a surprise development in their case after the Immigration Minister said he would not exercise his discretion to allow them to stay in Australia. Do you think the family should stay? 

PITT: Well no, I don’t. My view is fairly straightforward. I mean, these cases are upsetting. They really are. They’re traumatic, they’re difficult. But most immigration cases that MPs and others deal with, and the Department of Immigration, are. My view is quite simply that the Minister is doing what they have to do. They might not like the outcome. They certainly understand the community support from somewhere like Biloela which is a few hours down the road from me and well represented by Ken O’Dowd, the local member. But what we have to ensure is that we do not reopen the back gate to this country for people who want to arrive illegally by boat. We know what the results of that are. These are tough decisions. But I’d certainly encourage the family, who appear to be very valued in the local community, to reapply through existing and legal visa approaches to this country, just like everyone else that wants to live here. 

KARVELAS: You mentioned Ken O’Dowd who is the local member for Biloela. He wants the family to stay and said their possible deportation is sad. Barnaby Joyce, who used to be the Leader of the Nationals, also thinks they should stay. Why don’t you agree with those colleagues? 

PITT: Because fundamentally I agree with the position that’s been taken by the Minister. We know the results of an open back gate to this country. We don’t want to encourage people smugglers. We don’t want to have a single poster that demonstrates that their model works. We have to ensure what happened under the previous government never occurs again. I mean, I have spoken to those defence personnel on ships who had to do the very difficult work of recovery of people who had lost their life at sea. I never want to see that again, and I think we need to do everything that we can to ensure that it doesn’t occur. Now, Ken is the local member. You know, it is his job to represent his community’s interests, and obviously he’s put forward his view. But this is a really tough issue. I mean it’s challenging, it’s very traumatic, it’s upsetting. I mean, we’ve taken a number of calls in my office as well. But the reality is very straightforward. These individuals and my advice is they’ve been told every step of the way they didn’t meet the requirements to be refugees. They would be returned, and that’s what’s occurring.  

KARVELASSo Peter, Labor has taken a different position under the leadership of Anthony Albanese. Labor wants these people to be allowed to stay, for ministerial discretion to be used. So, what do you make of the argument just used there that essentially it’ll open the back door, that it’ll be seen as a, you know, as an opportunity for others to perhaps restart this trade? 

KHALIL: Well Patricia I’ve heard this argument and the flaw in the assertion that Keith is making and the government is making that this will open the flood gates or the back door, it belies the reality that the government ministers, Coleman and Dutton before him, have used ministerial discretion on multiple occasions, many, many times, and it hasn’t opened the floodgates. In fact, they’ve been happy to intervene on behalf of some mate’s au pairs, and we haven’t seen a flood of au pairs come into the country. The fact is that discretion is being used again and again and again. And the reality is, by the government’s own argument that the reason that you’re seeing, you know, the boat situation slowdown is because of the turn back policy, other operations, the countries of origin and so on. So, they’re arguing against themselves in a certain case, in a certain sense. So, I have for a long time called for the Minister to exercise his discretion with respect to this family, cause you can do so on compassionate grounds, and in exceptional circumstances. And they should do so in this case.  

KARVELAS: Ok, so you want an intervention. Keith, you certainly say you don’t. So do you think the family, if they are sent back – and of course we’re waiting until Friday for the legal process still – but do you think the family should be given, put basically at the front of the queue to get an ordinary visa, that’s not a refugee visa? 

PITT: Well I think they’d have the same opportunities as everyone else who wants to have a better life in Australia.  

KARVELAS: But do you think they should be given, no but my question is specific. Because it’s should they be given preference given they have built up these relationships, they’ve worked, they’re so loved by this community, doesn’t that give them the right to be at the front of the queue? 

PITT: Patricia, I think we need to deploy our laws, apply our laws locally and fairly and as per the legislation otherwise all is lost. I mean, as I said earlier, we have any number of cases in my local electorate with different circumstances which I’d like ministerial intervention on, which individuals would love to be able to have that opportunity to live in Australia. But the laws are applied fairly and equally. So, I think that where opportunity avails itself for these individuals to reapply and come through the system like everyone else that applies to come to Australia, then they should absolutely take up that opportunity at the first chance that they get, to be frank. 

KARVELAS: Peter, frontbenchers Joel Fitzgibbon and Kristina Keneally say the Prime Minister’s approach to this issue is not very Christian. Do you think it’s appropriate to raise the Prime Minister’s faith in this way? 

KHALIL: I think the decision has to be made in exercising the law. Keith talks about applying the law fairly. Well they’ve applied the law in the past, they’ve used ministerial discretion, and they do so on the basis of the compassionate grounds that may be before them, exceptional circumstances, and it has been done in the case of the au pairs for example, many other cases with respect to asylum seekers and refugees. The point that you’re making Patricia about bringing in religion and someone’s religious background. Of course one’s faith, one’s background, one’s ethnicity, one’s gender all inform that person’s values and for political leaders, they are informed and influenced by those factors. My view is however sometimes they have to actually weigh up the different factors that influence them, but they need to make a decision that’s based on the law before them, because they are representing not just their constituency but the national interest. And sometimes their faith informs them in those decisions. Sometimes it’s something they’ve got to do against their particular values. So, they need to do it on the basis of the national interest. In this case, the argument has been made, as everyone has been talking about, the massive community support, the value of that family to Biloela, the power that the Minister has to use discretion on compassionate grounds and in exceptional circumstances, is there, it is the law and Keith says they could apply it fairly well. They’ve used it before and they can use it in this case. 

KARVELAS: I want to move on to the national accounts figures today. Australia’s economic growth has slowed to a decade low. The Treasurer is trying to be up-beat but Keith Pitt, does this in your view mean that some things should be brought forward, perhaps more stimulus in the infrastructure space? Is that something that you would support?  

PITT: Well I think, firstly, this is good news. 

KARVELAS: Well, hang on a minute. It’s the slowest in 10 years. It’s the slowest growth in 10 years. They’re the facts. 

PITT: True, but it’s also 28 years of consecutive growth. And I think that is better than any other country in the world apart from a handful. So I think we should absolutely give credit where it’s due to the Australian people, the Australian businesses and the Australian economy. I mean, the real risk here is that we continue to have individuals who are out there wanting to talk down our economy, and want to talk Australia into a recession. Business is about confidence. I was in business for 15 years. Your decisions are based on, you know, what your opportunities are, what the risk is, what available credit and cash that you have, and how the country is travelling. And we are going very, very well compared to others around the world. We’ve also obviously got the changes in terms of taxation to come into the system in the next quarter of reporting. We know that there’s $100 billion on the table for infrastructure and projects. There’s growth and opportunity, and I think we should continue to talk up the Australian economy. 

KARVELAS: Would you like to see an increase in the Newstart rate, Keith Pitt? Do you think it needs to be looked at?  

PITT: No. No, I don’t. I think there’s a whole lot of factors out there that affect what people can survive and manage on, in terms of Newstart, depending on where you live, what opportunities there are, whether you’re in a capital city or a region, whether you use public transport, whether you have access to a vehicle. 

KARVELAS: Could you live on Newstart? 

PITT: Well, clearly my circumstances are entirely different. You know, I have assets, I have a very good job. I’ve got a background with a very strong education and a trade. I’m fairly confident I would find something to do. So I don’t think that’s a reasonable comparison. 

KARVELAS: Well it’s not about comparison. You’re saying you have access to never having to be on Newstart, and I suppose our viewers will think he’s lucky. Not everyone gets to be that lucky. So, could you live on Newstart if you were in those circumstances? 

PITT: Well firstly Patricia can I say I didn’t start out lucky. It’s the result of a lot of hard work and some risk and education and putting myself through training and a whole pile of other things. I’m the same as everyone else mate, I’m common as dirt. But the reality is my circumstances now are completely different. I obviously couldn’t pay the mortgages that I have on Newstart. I couldn’t support the fact I’ve got three children and one at university and two at high school. So I, it’s just a completely unfair comparison. I think the best thing we can do for people is to provide them opportunity to get off of Newstart, and particularly for apprenticeships. I think we’ve got a real opportunity now to deliver more apprentices throughout Australia which provides more tradespeople and provides more people with higher qualifications and it means they earn more.  

KARVELAS: Alright, I’ll give the final word to Peter Khalil on the national accounts. I’m hearing from your sounds you’re not as positive about the outlook?  

KHALIL: Well I mean the economy is doing relatively well despite the poor economic management of this government. 

KARVELAS: But you concede it’s doing well? 

PittThere you go. 

KHALIL: I’m saying the slowest growth and the weakest economy since the GFC. Now this government has got no economic policy. It’s like a desert. They’ve got a great political tactical strategy but that’s about it. So how about some ideas. What about raising Newstart? And the comparison is unfair – it’s not about comparing it to Keith. It’s about whether the average person can actually live on Newstart – it’s too low. What about bringing forward infrastructure investment? What about bringing forward part two of the tax cuts? I mean, they’re not doing any of this. You know what they are relying on Patricia, they’re relying on the very short rope of monetary policy, which is about to run out by the way. I mean, they keep leaning on the RBA to keep cutting interest rates because they have no fiscal plan, at all. They’re sitting on their hands, hoping that the RBA keeps cutting interest rates and somehow miraculously they’re going to get out of trouble and preserve their surplus. And by the way, the surplus being built upon dodgy numbers and algorithms of robo-debt that basically steals from the most vulnerable people in the country who don’t even owe the debt. And that’s what’s obscene about this government’s economic plans, because they actually target the most vulnerable in society to keep their surplus. 

KARVELAS: I want to thank you both for coming in. Very different perspectives that you have and I suppose that’s entirely unsurprising. Thank you so much for joining us. 



Peter Khalil: A very brave young man is home today. It’s a great news story, but it’s something that has involved the entire community and this parliament as well. Hakeem al-Araibi has landed in Melbourne. After four months of detention in Thailand, he’s home to his country, Australia—and we’re so happy to have him here. He was detained because he was under extradition orders from Bahrain, a country he fled because he stood up for democracy and human rights and was tortured and paid the price for it. He is now back home in Australia where he should be.

What happened was something very special. The entire community got together. He wasn’t going to be forgotten by his teammates on the pitch; he wasn’t going to be forgotten by this parliament and our leadership here; he wasn’t going to be forgotten by the community that loves him so much. With the incredible leadership of Craig Foster, or ‘Foz’, who raised his public profile, a campaign to save Hakeem was born several months ago. We all joined it, and the world knew about it.

I want to thank Labor leader Bill Shorten, Senator Penny Wong, the Prime Minister, and the foreign minister, Marise Payne, for working together to seek the release of Hakeem, because it wasn’t inevitable that he’d come back. At any moment we could have lost this young man forever. Through the work of Craig, this parliament, our leadership and the local community, he is back home where he belongs. His family and the broader football family will welcome him back at the Pascoe Vale Football Club, which is in my electorate—and I can’t wait for the first round!



SUBJECTS: Hakeem al-Araibi

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you Fozz. It really is tremendous, the work that you’ve done travelling around the world and back in a week and, for months actually, working on social justice and justice for Hakeem al-Araibi. And putting pressure on FIFA and the AFC and, also, doing so in a way that raised the profile of this case. Not just in Australia, but internationally. It’s been a tremendous effort and we thank you for it, Fozz.

My name is Peter Khalil, I’m the Federal Member for Parliament for the seat of Wills, which is in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. I’m up here for some meetings, but I had to come to this demonstration today because I missed Fed Square. Hakeem al-Araibi plays for the Pascoe Vale Football Club in my electorate and I was just down there with the boys last week. Again, spending time with them and of course they are deeply, deeply concerned. Devastating by what’s happened to their teammate. To their best mate. They’re really like a second family, as most football clubs are.

What was really interesting about the guys down there, they said to me, “we had no idea about Hakeem’s history”. He was such a low-key, modest guy. He was a great defender, right-back. But he went about his business. He didn’t talk about what happened to him. They had no idea that their teammate, their mate, this young man had actually stood up against a regime, talked on behalf of human rights for his people and people throughout the Gulf, in the region, and paid a price for that. For standing up for democracy and human rights. He was tortured. He didn’t mention it to any of his mates.

[Transmission fault – Inaudible]

They’re very concerned about his wellbeing and his health and the time that he’s spent there.

Now, as a Federal MP, we have all tried – the community leaders, the political leaders. The football community has been tremendous. The activist organisations, the union movement, the labour movement – standing in solidarity and really making an effort for Hakeem.

But it’s not just about Hakeem as Fozz said. It’s about a principle. In a world where international law is being diminished. In a world in which we have to actually fight for the basic precepts of human rights and for international norms, it’s encouraging to see so many of us and so many of the leadership doing this work for Hakeem, but for so many other prisoners of political conscience. For those who have been repressed. For those who have had their human rights quashed. That’s what we’re standing here for and Hakeem really symbolises that.

I wrote to Marise Payne back in November urging her to make representations on behalf of Hakeem and to her credit, as Fozz said, she made that effort, she went to Thailand. Unfortunately it hasn’t yielded results. We then called and urged and implored Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of a country that is proud of its sporting prowess, proud of its sporting history. We consider ourselves a sporting nation. And I appealed to him and I implored him to make the call to the Thai Prime Minister. Now, again, as Foz said, he did write to the Thai Prime Minister. But as a member of parliament, as a member of the federal parliament, I believe that this Government has to do more. Has to put more pressure on this situation and use the leverage that it has. Use the fact that Australia is a very important partner of Thailand to make that case for Hakeem. Because Hakeem is a refugee who is under Australian protection. He’s been granted asylum by our country. We owe him the responsibility and the duty to protect him and provide that protection.

This should never have happened and it is now incumbent upon the Prime Minister and the current Government to do everything they can to make the case for the Thai authorities to release Hakeem.

We will continue to put that pressure on. I know Fozz and the entire football community, the human rights community, the activist community, the union movement and the labour movement; we will all be working tirelessly for Hakeem. And we’ve got a lot of media out here today. But I can tell you this. If by the 8th of February there’s no result and Hakeem stays there and we appeal for months and months, we’re not going to forget about it.

The broader public might move on to the next issue, but I know Fozz is going to keep on it. I know all the people here are going to keep on it. And I’m going to work tirelessly to ensure that we get a result and make sure we get Hakeem back to his family. On behalf of his family, on behalf of the Pascoe Vale Football Club in my electorate, on behalf of the local community that is so concerned, we will keep working for his release. And I want to thank you all for coming out here today and particularly thank all the people who have worked so hard over the last several months to secure the release of Hakeem.

Thanks very much.




Peter Khalil, the Federal Member for Wills, has joined with players from the Pascoe Vale Football Club to call on Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to pick up the phone to his Thai counterpart to advocate for refugee and Pascoe Vale player, Hakeem al-Araibi, to be returned to Australia.

Hakeem al-Araibi was detained by Thai police as he arrived in Thailand for his honeymoon after an Interpol Red Notice from Bahrain and a tip-off from Australian Federal Police officers that he was en route. Bahraini authorities are seeking his extradition from Bangkok.

Mr al-Araibi said he has been targeted because he criticised Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al-Kalhifa, the current president of the Asian Football Confederation, who is accused of overseeing a committee that identified athletes involved in the 2011 Arab Spring, who were later tortured.

In a video published on social media, Mr Khalil said “[Hakeem] stood up for human rights and democracy and for that, he paid a price. He was tortured, he fled to Australia, he sought asylum and was given refugee status by Australia.”

“He’s weeks away from [being granted Australian] citizenship”

“I’m imploring Prime Minister Scott Morrison, please pick up the phone. Make the call to the Thai Prime Minister and, as the leader of a sporting nation, seek to have Hakeem returned to Australia where he belongs.”

Members of the Pascoe Vale FC seniors team stood with Mr Khalil and echoed his petition to the Prime Minister to “make the call” for Hakeem.

Video of the statement is available here.



Peter Khalil, the Federal Member for Wills, has moved a motion at the Australian Labor Party National Conference for the establishment of a Community Sponsored Refugee Program. The motion was passed by delegates at the conference.

The program will allow local community organisations to sponsor humanitarian entrants into Australia and allow an additional 5,000 refugees to re-settle in Australia on-top of Federal Labor’s commitment to an already expanded Labor Government funded intake.

The proposal would establish a program similar to the successful program run in Canada.

“This motion is about Labor empowering ordinary Australians to make an extraordinary and selfless commitment to lend their helping hand to vulnerable refugees seeking peace and security,” said Mr Khalil.

“Labor in Government has and can make a positive difference to so many vulnerable refugees that seek safety and security. That is what this motion does.”