DATE: 21/03/2023

Subjects: Iraq War, cost of living crisis, Ukraine War, healthcare, energy crisis, housing

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. There was obviously in the House yesterday an acknowledgement of the anniversary of the Iraq War and the men and women who served in that conflict. I just wanted to point out, Deputy Speaker, that all the Australian men and women who were asked to serve, men and women of the ADF, defence officials, diplomats, other security officials who were asked to serve in Iraq, did so whether they agreed or not with the war, whether they had issues themselves with the reasoning behind the war. They did their duty, and they did their obligation and went and served their country in uniform or in their capacity as a security or defence official in Iraq. There’s been a lot of commentary around the past 20 years and what it has meant to the Iraqi people and obviously we have also lost service personnel in Iraq, in that conflict as well, and we grieve for their families. I just wanted to make a note on this occasion, Deputy Speaker, that I spent a year in Iraq. I was asked to serve as a security and defence official in Iraq. I had made it publicly known in some media that I thought the war was wrong, that it was a strategic error but that it was also a humanitarian disaster that unfolded. But having said that, the people that did go to Iraq, the Australians who served there, whether they agreed or not with the war, they also had a responsibility after the Saddam regime had been removed to help rebuild that country and they did so professionally, and they achieved a lot in respect of that rebuilding. Iraq has had a lot of problems over many years, but it still is intact as a sovereign state and some of that, I think, is due to the work that Australians did at the time in helping rebuild the structures, the political and economic parts of that country during that period and it’s important to note the service of all Australians who spent time there.

Deputy Speaker, closer to home, we know as a government that cost of living is front of mind for many Australians right now. The basics are costing a lot more, Australians are walking away from the supermarket with less for their money, rising interest rates are making it harder to pay the mortgage and many renters are feeling the pressure of costs being passed onto their increased rent, and surging rents have kept many Australians trapped in the rental cycle for prolonged periods. So, we know this as a government, the Albanese Government is acutely aware of how difficult it is right now for people just to get by and that’s why we’re so focused on doing what we can to relieve the pressure on Australians.

Now, although we’ve been in power for some 10 months, we’ve done a fair bit to relieve that pressure so far. I’ll just run through a couple of them very quickly, Deputy Speaker, the childcare changes – as many parents would know, childcare costs are such a significant burden, and our cheaper childcare reforms will help families save up to 90% on their childcare. This will be providing much needed relief from 1st July this year and it will make childcare more affordable and accessible for Australian families and ensure families with children in care are better off.

The Albanese Government also has reformed paid parental leave, which recently passed the Parliament, which will now better meet the needs of modern Australian families with a single parent paid parental leave scheme. From 1st of July, new parents will be able to use a total of 20 weeks leave as they choose, sharing the leave, however it works best for that particular family. Parents will also be able to access leaving multiple blocks as small as one day with periods of work in between. The new combined family income level will also see nearly 3000 additional parents become eligible to access paid parental leave and have access to that 20 weeks of paid parental leave increased from 18 weeks. This is just a start. There’s more to do to help working families, and we will be delivering on paid parental leave of 26 weeks in 2026.

We’re also delivering cheaper medicine, and that’s already occurred, Deputy Speaker. Over 3.2 million prescriptions were cheaper in the first two months of this year and thanks to our policy, which came into effect on the 1st of January, Australians have saved more than $36 million since that time. The maximum out of pocket cost for most medicines on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is now $12.50 lower. For a family relying on two or three medications, that’s going to put as much as $450 back into the household budget, back into people’s pockets. That’s real. That’s making a difference to people. It’s delivering real savings, it’s relieving the pressure on families because of actions taken by the Labor Government – the Albanese Government. We are also working to strengthen Medicare and reduce the pressure on hospitals. That’s part of our $750 million package of strengthening the Medicare fund package which will implement the recommendations of the Strengthening Medicare Task Force Report. We’re delivering 220 million in infrastructure grants to strengthen general practice and we’re delivering 50 urgent care centres that will be rolled out over the course of this year. We’re committed to making it easier for people to see their GP and we’re expanding the Senior Health Care Card, helping more Australians access cheaper medicines and on their visits to the GP. This is why the government is committed to this, because it’s ensuring Australians receive the quality healthcare they deserve.

Now Deputy Speaker, we all are aware, I think it’s a fact we all know, that Russia’s illegal, abhorrent invasion of Ukraine has led globally to energy prices going to historic levels. Now, as much as the opposition will want to politicize this, that’s just a fact. It’s a reality of that war, and the Albanese Labor Government has taken action, though, to help shield Australians from the worst of those rising energy costs. Last week’s release of the draft default market offer, the DMO for electricity, showed increases that are up to 29 percentage points lower than the Australian Energy Regulator projected late last year. Now that wouldn’t have occurred if it weren’t for the action taken by the Albanese Government to cap late last year when we were called back to Parliament, all of us remember this, where we were asked to cap prices of domestic coal and gas. And if we hadn’t done that, Deputy Speaker, the increases would have been much more significant with estimates around 40 to 50% instead of 20 to 22%. That energy price relief plan includes consumer and small business rebates to protect Australians from the worst of the rising energy costs. That included targeted relief on power bills to households receiving income support, pensioners, Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card holders, Family Tax Benefit A&B recipients and small business customers. That’s the investment into those people, those Australians. I’ve got to say, those opposite said “no”. They voted against that relief. That’s also a fact that can never actually be changed. We came back because we knew how serious this was, we recalled Parliament, we came back to vote on this energy price relief bill and those opposite voted “no”. They voted “no” to relief. You voted “no”. You voted “no”. You voted “no” to that relief. And those facts will be there, indelibly, in the Hansard record, in the historical record, you opposed price relief for all of those Australians and that is something that you are responsible for. Thankfully Deputy Speaker, we got it through the Parliament and it is having an effect as I said.

Lastly, Deputy Speaker, I do want to touch on something else that they might be opposing, I hope not. But we all know that safe and affordable housing is central to the security and dignity of all Australians. It’s something I understand personally, as does the Minister for Housing, as does the Prime Minister. We grew up in a housing commission, we’re all housos, proud of it because it gave us a roof over our head, it gave us stability, it was something that allowed us to then maximize our potential and our contribution to this great country. So many Australians are struggling with rising rents, mortgage payments, struggling to buy a home. And sadly, too many are experiencing homelessness. That’s why our government is committed to a $10 billion Australia housing future fund and putting that in place. That’s 30,000 new social and affordable homes. It’s the most significant investment in generations, and it will deliver our commitments to help address acute housing needs: $200,000,000 for the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing and remote Indigenous communities. It will ensure Australians have access to safe and affordable housing, reduce the pressure on the rental market, help provide 40% of the purchase price and repayments from new homes in the help-to-buy scheme for an existing home.

This is the Government focused on addressing the housing and rental crisis and those opposite want to oppose it. Again, you’re going to go down in history as opposing all the types of support necessary for Australians to get through this difficult period and you should be ashamed of that.




Subjects: LGBTQIA+ Health Announcement, Cost-of-Living 

FIONA BROOK, HOST, SATURDAY CO-HOST: You’re on Saturday Magazine with Nevena and Fiona. It is Saturday morning, just after 11:00 AM. 

NEVENA SPIROVSKA, SATURDAY CO-HOST: Fiona, we have our next guest on the line; the Federal Member for Wills, Peter Khalil. Peter, welcome to Saturday Magazine. 

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thanks for having me, Fiona and Nevena. Good to be on again. 

SPIROVSKA: Peter, there’s been some recent announcements made by the Albanese Government during World Pride in support of our community. We’d also like to talk to you about what’s coming up in the next sitting week. But firstly, what have you been up to, and tell us: did you make it out to World Pride? 

KHALIL: I didn’t, but the PM did, and he marched for the first time, which was a pretty significant act, I think, to show support. And look, Albo, he’s been a supporter for decades and this is just a natural thing for him to do. I know he was pretty chuffed about being able to walk in support during World Pride Day. But you know, all that is really important, and it’s not just symbolic, but the government is also looking at really serious efforts to support the community in other ways. I was talking to Jay Carney last night, actually, the Assistant Health Minister, and she’s just sort of overseeing this whole policy area around a 10-year National Action Plan for the health and well-being of LGBTQIA+ people. It’s a significant investment, as well; some $26 million in health research grants and improving service delivery. And look, a lot of people that I talk to in the community tell me that – and the government knows this – there’s a lot of specific challenges in accessing healthcare. There’s various reasons for that; I guess stigma, unique and complex health challenges, other reasons that lead to poor physical and mental health; and a lot of advocates have been pushing for an action plan. So we’re delivering one, which is really good for the community, and it’s really about reforming the health system to improve access and outcomes for LGBTQIA+ people across Australia. So, you know – you’ve got to have the symbolism, but you’ve got to have the substance as well, really. 

BROOK: Well, absolutely. And also, you have some more work ahead of you because you’re going into some sitting weeks now. We’ve had Josh Burns on this morning to discuss some of the priorities for him and some of the bills ahead, but I thought it would be great to hear from you on what your priorities are for the coming sitting weeks, and what some of the barriers might be to getting those achievements. 

KHALIL: Look, for me and my role; the Prime Minister’s got me working on a lot of the intelligence and security work. I’m the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, so I do a lot of oversight around our intelligence agencies, our security agencies. That’s important work to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing – that there’s taxpayer dollars being spent wisely and correctly. So that’s a pretty intense workload because we have a number of inquiries ongoing when it comes to different elements about counterterrorism laws, our Intelligence Services Act, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme we’re reviewing. We review a lot of laws, so that keeps me pretty busy, that work. But more broadly, the government is looking at a number of really important bills next week, in Parliament particularly, and I think the first and foremost thing is going to be a bill around changing the processes around notifying Parliament and the Australian people when the Minister is actually appointed. And this is sort of the legacy of the Morrison Government; I think he was minister of 52 different portfolios or whatever, but – 

SPIROVSKA: 53, Peter, 53. 

KHALIL: 53, so I lost count. But I think that’s really important. People are really worried about the lack of trust in democracy, sort of a trust deficit in democracy. So I know the PM and our government are really keen to restore trust in democracy, and part of that is integrity. I think the crossbenchers are very much committed to that as well. It’s all about making sure that people can actually trust that governments are accountable, and that’s why we passed so quickly the National Anti-Corruption Commission into law, which is going to be starting very soon and it’s about making sure that the laws have transparency as front and centre and accountability. So this is the one we’re going to be doing. We found out actually last week, that there was another appointment of a close ally to the Department of Home Affairs, who manage important processes like visa applications and humanitarian programmes, a close ally of Morrison that was appointed to that role. So there really needs to be transparency restored to the system, and government should be held accountable as well. So that’s one thing; cost-of-living is the other big thing as well. People are really suffering with rental stress, mortgages, energy prices; the whole lot. And this is really everyone’s feeling. So we passed a law late last year to put a cap on energy prices to provide some relief, and that’s something we’re also putting through the Senate, as well this coming week, taking action on that to cap prices. So that’s really important for a lot of Australians across the community. 

SPIROVSKA: Peter, you are the chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, and this morning a major story has broken about the Australian Army launching an urgent investigation after discovering serving soldiers with links to Neo-Nazi groups, and they’ve also made links between extremist groups and the Australian Defence Force members. What are your feelings about this? Because these are incredibly important institutions, and what’s your message to any Neo-Nazis looking to infiltrate the Army, Queensland police, or the ADF? 

KHALIL: Yeah. Thanks for the question. Look, can I start with my personal feelings? I mean, listeners won’t be able to see this, but I am from an Egyptian background and a person of colour. I’ve experienced racism and attacks by Neo-Nazis over the decades; it used to be pretty bad back in the 80s. But personally I feel really upset about this infiltration – the rise of Neo-Nazi groups across Australia. This is, by the way, happening in other countries around the world. There’s this sort of phenomenon of far-right extremism. We weren’t going through all the analysis about it, but it is happening and it’s deeply concerning and it’s important that the Defence Department is moving so quickly to investigate, and being unequivocal about there being no place for this behaviour, these types of groups infiltrating our Defence Force or any of our security and intelligence agencies. And the defence do work very closely with our intelligence agencies to combat this type of extremism, in fact. You know, one of the single largest rises of threat is coming from the far right, and that’s been consistent over the last couple of years. So there is a strong vetting process, and I’m actually – my committee is overseeing the security vetting agency reforms to make sure that we are able to get out people who have come from extremist groups and so on. So this is really concerning; on a national level, I know that the Prime Minister at national cabinet just last month also agreed on the need for a national gun database, because a lot of these extremists have active weapons and so on – and making sure there’s a register across the space and territories that’s really important. And he highlighted the need for better cooperation across jurisdictions, so making sure that state and territory leaders are getting that interaction with Asia, which does a lot of that counterterrorism, counter-extremist work. The federal government is really committed to making sure our national security agencies have the resources available provided to all the states and territories to do what they need to do as well. But just in conclusion, my message is very clear. It is not acceptable for those groups to be part of our national security agencies, our security agencies, our defence force. Those forces are there to protect all Australians. That ideological – that far right extremist view – does not put the national interest first. It is a twisted, bitter ideology which is full of hate for others, for people who are different. And my view of Australia is one where, you know, obviously I’ve experienced a lot of prejudice and racism growing up, but nonetheless Australia has changed significantly and our multicultural diversity, our diversity across our difference is something to be celebrated and embraced. This is what makes Australia a better country, and this is something we all have to fight for constantly against those who use hateful ideology to try and separate us and divide us and to attack various groups; whether they be the LGBTQIA+ community, whether they be people from a diverse background, or a migrant background, or different faith group. It’s about making sure that we have a unity in this country and that’s the important work, I suppose, as a political leader, not just a politician – 

BROOK: Peter, we actually only have a couple of minutes left. I guess in that in that short time – do you think that China is going to invade Taiwan? 

KHALIL: Wow, one minute. Who asked that? Was that Fiona? Or Nevena?  

BROOK: This is Fiona. 

KHALIL: Fiona, you asked a really tough question. 

BROOK: I’m asking the tough questions today. 

KHALIL: Yeah, well, I’ve done a bit of media over the past couple of days around some of the attacks that Paul Keating, for example, Uncle Paul – who I have great respect for, by the way, he is one of our great Prime Ministers – who’s gone after Penny Wong, for example. I think there’s a misunderstanding about the achievements that you can get through soft power and diplomacy, and Penny’s been amazing in resetting our relationships across the Pacific of Southeast Asia. And the strategic purpose of what we’re trying to do is to actually reduce tension with China; to avoid confrontation and conflict. Diplomacy is a big part of that; defence capability is a part of that. It’s got to be done in combination. And frankly, my criticism of the previous government was that they beat the war drum significantly to whip up fear and anger. Our strategic goal is to have a good economic relationship with China and to deter – whether it be China or any other actors in the region – from using force or violence to reach their strategic ends, and diplomacy is a big part of that. And she’s been very successful in resetting those relationships and engaging across the region on things that are, frankly, existential for us and for Pacific Island states, like climate change and action on climate change. And so I think the answer to your question is: I’m not trying to avoid it, but what we want to do is try to avoid the scenario in which you’re painting and ensure that we continue with the kind of stability and security framework in the region that that has actually given us such quality of life and the prosperity that Australians enjoy. And that’s our goal. 

BROOK: Well, Peter, we could literally talk about this all day, but we have the marvellous Misha Ketchell coming up and we’re going to be able to chat with him, more about this. So thank you so much today for your time, and we look forward to catching up with you again really soon. 


Thanks, Fiona. Thanks, Nevena. Great to be on with you guys. Cheers 




FRIDAY 13 MAY 2022

Subjects: Election, LGBTQIA+ rights, ICAC, Aged Care, Community Radio, Religious Discrimination Bill

DAVID “MACCA” MCCARTHY, CO-HOST: Now on Saturday magazine JOY 94.9 with Macca and Tass: our first interview this morning will be with Peter Khalil. Peter is the federal Member for Wills for the Australian Labor Party. And just in case you didn’t hear the rules, Peter: in a moment I’ll give you 30 seconds or so to make your initial pitch, then Tass and I will ask you some questions. We ask that if you can, keep your questions to 30 seconds so I don’t have to say “the honourable Member’s time has expired”, and at the end of that we’ll give you some time for a closing statement.


MCCARTHY: I’m not going to time the answers, but bear in mind, from when we say “go”, you have about 12 minutes, so don’t waste it. Tass, would you like to ask the first question?

ANASTASIOS “TASS” MOUSAFERIADIS, CO-HOST: Yes, I’m very happy to. Good morning to you, Peter, and it’s great to have you back on the airwaves. Our first question to you is: how do you rate the performance of our federal government?

KHALIL: Well, you wouldn’t be surprised: not very well. And governments make a difference to people’s lives. When I grew up, I saw what they could do: they housed a new migrant family like mine in public housing, allowed me to get to university, access to a quality education. And Labor governments did real things that made a difference to us: universal healthcare, education. And for me, Scott Morrison – and I think he was interviewed a month or two ago and he was asked what his legacy would be – he said he didn’t believe in a legacy. And that is just indicative of who he is, because governments, Prime Ministers, leave a legacy. They change the country. I think Paul Keating once said “if you change the government, you change the country”. And I know that if we are elected on the 21st of May, we will change the country for the better with our policies around easing cost of living pressures, real action on climate change, putting through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and working through making sure that we provide education and healthcare funding: the things that matter to people. And on social policies for the LGBTQI community, it’s Labor governments that made those significant reforms over the years: decriminalising homosexuality, equalising the age of consent, apologising to gay men convicted of old sodomy laws, health responses against HIV/AIDS, anti-discrimination legislation, free and open military service, birth certificate and passport reform for trans people, banning and outlawing gay conversion therapy, legalising adoption for same sex couples, and of course, the overwhelming support for the marriage equality bill when it passed. Even though we were in opposition, we were the party that voted overwhelmingly, with the most votes, for it. So there is a track record there for the community, but also for all Australians, to change their lives for the better. I hope that was 30 seconds.

MACCA: It wasn’t, but that’s OK. As I said, you’ve got 12 minutes in total. Peter, why do you think trans people have been the subject of so much nasty debate recently? And what does that say about our federal government?

KHALIL: Well, you can choose in politics to go for fear and division to scapegoat people, or you can choose to try and unify. And the latter is much more difficult, Macca. It really is. Fear is an easier tool or weapon in politics. I don’t agree with that. I think we have to go the harder path and try and unite people. They’re always looking, this federal government, to scapegoat people. Ever since the marriage equality bill passed the Australian Parliament, they were looking to find another way of playing ugly politics. So I think that’s the kind of reason for this. And we have to stand up against that, patiently, and explain to people the importance of rights for all Australians, regardless of who they are.

TASS: Peter, it’s Tass here again. What will be your top priorities for the LGBTIQA+ communities? What will you do, and how can we expect you to engage with our communities?

KHALIL: That’s a good question. Look, I’ve talked about the track record that Labor has had. We haven’t been perfect, by all means, as a party, but we have a really good track record of implementing reform where it matters: real stuff that actually makes a difference to the community. I think aged care is a really interesting area because there needs to be inclusive aged care options for LGBTQI senior Australians when they’re looking for aged care in their later years. They need to know that they have residences that they live in that will treat them with equality and respect, and I think that’s important. I’ve spoken to Claire O’Neill, our Shadow Aged Care Minister, about that, and that’s an important one. My passion is foreign policy, you guys know, so I’m hoping to be able to be in government and work with Penny Wong and human rights as kind of a central focus for me. Certainly, human rights protections for LGBTQIA+ people at all of the international fora, I think, is an important thing that Penny is committed to as well, and I hope to have the opportunity to work on that at the international stage, if you like.

MACCA: So, Peter, are you committed to ensuring that our Sex Discrimination Act will protect people with diverse genders as well as diverse sexual orientations? And how will you advocate for that within the Party and within the Parliament?

KHALIL: Yeah, that’s a good question. Look, you both know that it was the Gillard Government that successfully amended the Sex Discrimination Act to include protections for people on the basis of their sexuality, and importantly, their gender identities – and the law as it stands today ensures that trans and non-binary people cannot be discriminated against in many areas of public life, so employment, education, access to government services, renting, buying property, and so on. And a good example of this is that if a shop assistant refuses to serve someone because they are trans or non-binary, or perceived to be, that is unlawful discrimination and we need to maintain and build upon those reforms. And if we’re in government, we’ll make sure that those laws are strengthened where there’s weak spots and expanded to actually address those issues.

MACCA: Peter, a follow-up question to that. Labor said it will bring in a religious discrimination legislation and also wants to protect diverse genders and sexual orientation in the Sex Discrimination Act. Those bills can coexist, can’t they?

KHALIL: Well, this is my argument, Macca. I think that we have always supported federal laws against discrimination regardless of one’s gender, sexuality, faith, ethnicity, whatever it might be, but you can’t put laws like that up – which is what Morrison effectively did – that usurp the rights of another group. And that’s effectively what happened. It was used as a political wedge. But I do think they can coexist. This goes back to this idea of unifying rather than dividing. Now, you both know that on that particular bill, I stood up in the caucus and opposed it. And then we went for amendments to it. I spent pretty much the whole night, up until 4:30 in the morning, trying to convince Liberal MPs to cross the floor to protect trans kids with amendments that we put forward, with some with some success, to the extent that the whole thing was dropped by Morrison. Because it was always a political wedge, that’s all it was about. But I think, responsibly, we can protect the rights of Australians through anti-discrimination legislation without pitting them against each other, and that’s my starting principle.

TASS: Peter, I’m going to change the topic now, if I can. Moving on to media, what are your reflections on the media landscape and what do you see as being the future of community media outlets such as JOY?

KHALIL: Well, apart from this wonderful program, there’s a lot of fracturing in the media as you both know.

MACCA: Hahaha.

TASS: Oh, you’re after our vote, are you?

KHALIL: Yeah, well, that’s true. But the way that the people consume their media has really shifted, really in particular over the last five to ten years. There’s a lot of algorithms in play so that people are fed what they’re already biased towards – there’s not really a single point of reference that people share anymore, because they’re getting different platforms feeding them information. So there’s a real problem there. And I think diversity in the media is so important. Community radio stations like yours – I don’t know if you saw, but the Albanese government just committed $29 million for local news and community broadcasting to help regional, local and community media providers survive and flourish. And that includes $12 million for community broadcasters, which I think will provide some certainty for stations like yours, and beyond, just in the next year. So we’re really about enhancing listeners’ choices and viewers choices around the media they consume, and ensuring there’s a diversity of views.

MACCA: I like the sound of that; I’ll be following the money there. So, Peter: how can a party claim to represent all people when up to 60% of millennials are unlikely to ever be able to buy a house? How do we get millennials able to enter into home ownership?

KHALIL: Well, this is the perennial problem, isn’t it? For millennials and younger people, it’s like, the older baby boomers tell them to stop buying breakfast at cafes and save their money from all the money they spend on kale and avocados. But if you did that for 25 years, you still couldn’t save up a deposit because the median house price has just completely outstripped and expanded to the extent that it’s 12 times more than the median average income. So what we have said, if we win government, is that we are going to be putting $10 billion into a housing fund that basically builds 30,000 new social and affordable houses, including four thousand homes for women and children fleeing domestic violence. We also had a policy – which the government attacked – around helping younger people and people trying to get into the market with a smaller deposit, 2%, by supporting them at 40% of the equity of the property which they can pay back over time and allow people to get into the market. We also need to actually reduce the stress on renters, and that’s a big cost of living issue – that there’s a lot of stress on renters as well. And we need to be doing more on that front.

TASS: Peter, in the interest of time, we’ll move on. Integrity. A lot’s been said about integrity. What are your priorities for ensuring that there is an independent review process of politicians’ performance? And do you support an independent ICAC?

KHALIL: This has been a big campaign topic, hasn’t it? The national Anti-Corruption Commission. Now, I support a very strong one. We’ve made announcements around what we’re going to do if we’re win government: a federal Anti-Corruption Commission that actually has the power to investigate as it sees fit, arms’ length from government and the executive, not having the need for ministerial approval or anything like that. Our proposed national Integrity Anti-Corruption Commission, unlike the Coalition’s, will actually examine alleged misconduct from as far back as 15 years. So there’s a retrospectivity there that scares a lot of people, but that is important because this is all about rebuilding the trust in our democracy and our institutions. And that is something that we’ve been very committed to, and Anthony has been really strong on around putting that in place. When you look at their track record, they hate transparency. They hate accountability. They never take responsibility. Think of the sports rorts, the commuter car parks at train stations that don’t even have trains. The dodgy airport deals. All of their dodgy ministers doing their deals. That’s why we need a national anti-corruption body that has teeth. That will actually be legislated, if we win government, by the end of the year.

MACCA: Final question – answer that, then I’ll give you 30 seconds to wrap up: How are you advising voters in your seat to direct their preferences and why? I know it’s their choice, but what are your suggestions?

KHALIL: I’ve got a How to Vote, which – you wouldn’t be surprised – I’ve put One Nation last, UAP second-last, and the Liberals third-last, and then a couple of minor parties where I have the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th preferences and so on. You would know that my preferences don’t really float, but it’s important, symbolically, to put the preferences in that way. And it is up to people to make their own decision. It’s a guide for people rather than “they have to do it that way”, but that’s important to have that symbolic preference flow so that people know where we stand on principle.

MACCA: OK, Peter, you’ve got 30 seconds to wrap up.

KHALIL: Well, thank you guys. Tass, I know you asked me earlier about how we would engage with the LGBTQIA community. Engagement has to be respectful. It has to be genuine. It has to be something that is done from the heart because you care about people and their rights. That’s how I would and have done so with the community, but also with all Australians that I represent. It’s a difficult time for many people in our community, whether you’re experiencing prejudice because of your ethnicity or whether you’ve experienced prejudice because of your identity. And I know this, because I’ve experienced it throughout my life, and I’m very committed to making sure that people get a fair go, frankly. The laws that we make and pass in our Parliament – that, for me, is a guiding principle and my office is always open to the LGBTQIA+ community, and we’ve already made very deep connections. It’s not just getting on your show, it’s about dealing with people every day. And we want to change the government because you change the government, you change the country. And we will make a difference to the lives of millions of Australians. I’ve tried to make the difference to the lives of tens of thousands in my electorate. I want to do that on a large scale with the Labor government that makes a real difference to Australians’ lives for a better future for us, but also our place in the world. And that’s something I’m really committed to and excited about and hope to get people’s support to vote one for Labor on the 21st of May.

MACCA: The honourable Member’s time has expired.

KHALIL: I made it, I just made it.

MACCA: No, you went over, but that’s OK.

TASS: Peter, thank you very much for your time this morning.

KHALIL: Thank you. You guys should do you guys should do the next national debate. You are very good. Forget about Channel 9. It should be on JOY FM.

MACCA: Thank you. Actually, it’s JOY 94.9 please.

TASS: Peter, thank you very much for your time this morning. Enjoy the rest of your day. And as we said to all of our candidates who are participating in this process, best wishes to you and your election.




Subjects: Liberal Party Infighting, IPCC Report, Aged Care

GREG JENNETT, HOST: Well, time now to check in on some of the main issues of the day with our political panel. Liberal MP Jason Falinski is in Sydney joining us this afternoon, and Labor’s Peter Khalil is in Melbourne. Jason, your party and in fact your state of NSW, very much in the spotlight. This election must be getting serious if you’re foregoing, as I hear you are, parent teacher interviews to be talking politics on the ABC this afternoon.

JASON FALINSKI, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR MACKELLAR: It’s about the only thing that gets me out of parent teacher interviews. And when I told my wife that Peter would be here, she said, well, you have to do it then.


JENNETT: There you go, you’ve got a leave pass. So why don’t we cut to it. We’ve had this e-mail going out to Liberal Party members from Matthew Camenzuli earlier in the day, prior to the court decision imploring members to front now and unite against Labor and the formation of an Albanese government. Will that happen in view of all the built-up acrimony in your ranks right now?

FALINSKI: Yes, it will, Greg. And I’m sorry to kind of take over a little bit, but I was just listening to the previous interview about carbon emissions in Australia, and it is not correct what Mark Howden said. Emissions in Australia have fallen on 2005 levels by 21%. If you exclude land management changes, that’s how you get an increase. That is just scientifically not correct to do. And I don’t think it’s right and Australians need to know the truth: that our emissions have come down by over 20% since 2005. But having said that, the one thing that the Liberal Party will do is come together to fight a Labor government, because we know that it will mean higher taxes and it will mean a country that is less well off if Anthony Albanese, Jim Chalmers, [and] Penny Wong are running the country instead of Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton.

JENNETT: Well, we might come back and revisit the IPCC report more substantively with Peter as a talking point in a moment. But it’s been made abundantly clear by people like Connie Fierravanti-Wells that some campaign workers just may not front – despite these exhortations from Matthew Camenzuli and others. This still hangs as a dagger over the heart for the Liberal campaign, doesn’t it?

FALINSKI: I think it’s a thorn to the side, not a dagger to the heart. I mean, Concetta lost a hard-fought preselection. I understand she’s disappointed. It’s human nature to want to lash out at those people we hold responsible. She’s done that to two previous Liberal Party leaders. I understand that she’s probably very disappointed at the moment. However, for the thousands of members of the Liberal Party in NSW who didn’t just lose Senate preselection’s, they know what is important about this upcoming election: cost of living, increasing home ownership, ensuring that we have a safe and secure economy and national defence and, of course, getting to net zero before 2050 as cheaply and as quickly as possible. 

JENNETT: Alright, Peter, you’re not going to be throwing stones while in a glass house, I imagine, when it comes to acrimonious federal interventions, because you sit in a state branch of the Labor Party which has gone through just that. So, can we expect some restraint in your commentary on this court case this afternoon?

KHALIL: Well, I’m glad that you’re trying to do a bit of a protection racket for Jason there. But frankly, the –

FALINSKI: I need it, Peter. I need it.

KHALIL: You do need it. The analogy doesn’t quite fit, Greg, because in the context of the Victorian branch, Anthony Albanese took a leadership decision to put the party branch under administration to sort out the issues that were bedeviling the branch. And here I have a real question mark again around the character of the Prime Minister. How does he justify having taxpayers pay for senior legal officers, in this case the most senior Commonwealth lawyer, the Solicitor General, to go to the High Court to take sides in NSW internal factional war? I mean, that’s another cross against his character. And look, don’t take it just from me, because you’ll say, “oh, it’s all partisan” and I’m throwing stones at the Prime Minister in an election campaign. Malcolm Turnbull, his own Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells – even crossbenchers like Pauline Hanson and Jacqui Lambie have all questioned the Prime Minister’s character. They can’t all be wrong.

Now, three years ago, people saw people saw Scott Morrison kicking a couple of footies around or trying to kick the footy around, throwing a couple of rugby balls, hitting a few tennis balls and wearing a baseball cap and thinking, “oh, there’s a daggy dad. He seems nice.” Now they’ve seen what he’s really like over the last three years – and more importantly, his government’s failures over the last three years, and that’s what they’ll be judging him on. 

JENNETT: Alright, well, to that point Jason: “Asset becomes liability” – is that the story of the last three years? 

FALINSKI: Well, that’s Peter’s story. I think Australians are smart enough to work out that Concetta’s smarting and not to take advice from a senator who got thrown out of the chairman’s lounge because she abused people who were trying to help her. On the question of character, they will be more focused on cost of living, home ownership, whether we have a safe and secure country and economy, and how quickly we’re going to get to net zero and how cheaply we’re going to get there. They’re the four issues that Australians will be focused on. They’re the things that matter, and they’re the things that we’ll be talking about because ultimately, it’s about them, not us.

JENNETT: Well, here’s the fifth issue, Peter, from your side: aged care front and centre for Anthony Albanese’s budget speech in reply. What’s unclear, though, and that was four or five days ago, is where all the nurses are going to come from to have one in each facility 24/7. Are you agreeing with Mark Dreyfus that there might need to be some sort of pause on the objective to have them in place by July 2023? 

KHALIL: Thanks, Greg. Look, the focus is on the commitment that we made, obviously that the leader made, around making sure that you get nurses on there 24/7 is important. It’s imperative. We know the aged care sector is in crisis, so that is a very important commitment.

JENNETT: But by when? 

KHALIL: There will be a challenge in hiring, absolutely. Part of this is around the pandemic and the borders having been closed, but obviously with the borders opening again there are more opportunities both for people to migrate to Australia and there’ll be more of a pool to recruit nurses as well. That’s been stopped, frankly, over the last couple years we have had real shortages over the last couple of years. So that is opening up again. The important thing is the commitment. This sector has been in crisis. The government, the federal government, the Morrison government has been in power for now nine years, and they have run it to the ground. They are responsible. We’re taking action. We’re making commitments: $2.5 billion, extra funding as was announced in the budget reply, meeting all of the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission and making sure those nurses are there 24/7.

JENNETT: But by when? Just quickly, Peter: on the nurse’s question, what is the back marker? What is the timeline for them to be in place? 

KHALIL: If we win the election, we’ll make sure that we do all the assessments – if we need to accelerate recruitment, put in initiatives to do that. That kind of work has to be done if you win government, but the commitment is there and that’s the most important thing: making sure that we get this done because the aged care sector needs it. The Australians that are in aged care, our grandparents, and our parents, deserve better.

JENNETT: Alright, Jason, because we promised to come back to it: leaving aside your quibbles with Mark Howden and his interview with Fran – when it comes to the baseline within this IPCC report, the latest, it is that there is an expectation that developed countries need to go above and beyond their Glasgow commitments. There is no possibility that a Coalition government will alter course, is there?

FALINSKI: Yeah, there’s a lot of possibility because of what Mark Howden was saying. Frankly, anyone who says that our emissions have gone up, you know they are being political. Anyone that talks about the 28% target without talking about the fact that our projections by 2030 are now at 35% and are only going to get higher. So, we are going to be way ahead of our target and our projections by this time next year. And the fact is, the same people who three years ago were saying you’d never get to 28% are no longer willing to say, “actually we were wrong and we’re now 7% above that target”. I suspect that as we go through this decade – and what Mark Howden was saying, this part was absolutely right – the cost of renewables is going through the floor. We have a program in Australia to get solar energy down to $0.30 per kWh. And to put that in context, your average coal-fired power station at the moment costs about $35-40 per megawatt hour. So, we are talking about massive reductions in the cost of energy. Now, that comes with problems and challenges around dispatchable power. We know that, and that’s why we’ve invested an extra $1.9 billion in ARENA to come up with the technologies that produce that. But Australia is about 1.2% of global emissions. What we can do here is show the rest of the world that not only is net zero possible, but it is profitable. And when we do that, other countries like China and India who are responsible for far more emissions than Australia ever will be, will be forced to follow our lead.

JENNETT: Right. Just quickly, Peter, very last word, will technology get us there? Certainly, the IPCC is holding out some hope optimistically that that it will. 

KHALIL: Well, the IPCC report is very confronting, but it’s fairly predictable. You get this when you have a government that likes, and we’ve seen this on display with Jason ducking and weaving, minimising our contribution to any real meaningful global effort. It’s the Prime Minister who sets some of the lowest, least ambitious reduction targets in the Western world. 

FALINSKI: I just said the opposite. 

KHALIL: The fact is that –

FALINSKI: That’s not true. 

KHALIL: They can become a renewable energy superpower, and the Morrison government is deliberately getting the way of that progress.

FALINSKI: That’s not true.

KHALIL: And I’ll tell you this for your viewers and the last word, if you stop interrupting me, Jason, you had a pretty good run there, it’s a missed opportunity because we know –


KHALIL: It’s a missed opportunity because we know, Labor knows, that we, by addressing climate change, there’s a real jobs opportunity there and we’re going to be making investments into renewable energy infrastructure. $20 billion to rewire the grid for renewables, 10,000 new clean energy apprenticeships, $200,000,000 for solar community batteries, making electric cars cheaper and a whole range of other policies that will make our renewable energy future real. We’ve got a commitment to 82% renewable energy by 2030. We will take real action, not talk about it like some minor parties, and not do nothing like the Coalition if we win the next election. 

JENNETT: Alright, we’re going to leave it there. We probably can get you two back together again in the campaign to kick this one around a little further. Peter Khalil and Jason Falinski, thanks for joining us on Afternoon Briefing.

KHALIL: Thanks Greg. Thanks Jason.

FALINSKI: Thanks, Craig. Thanks Peter. 



Mr KHALIL (Wills) (11:03): I also rise to speak on the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Pension Loans Scheme Enhancements) Bill 2021. It is an important scheme, the Pension Loans Scheme. It allows older people in our community who are asset rich but income poor to have a source of income. But like everything under this government, it has been botched, and now we are dealing with a bill that attempts to fix a couple of problems in the dying embers of this parliament just so the Morrison government can say: ‘Look at us. We have done something for pensioners.’

You may know, Deputy Speaker Andrews, that the Pension Loans Scheme, the PLS, is a legacy of the Hawke government. I’m not sure if you were here that early, Deputy Speaker. I know you’ve been in this place a long time. It’s a legacy of the Hawke government. Its purpose was to enhance the living standards of senior Australians who were unable to access the age pension because they were unable to meet the income test. The scheme, however, has very low take-up rates.

There are many barriers preventing Australians from accessing the program. Equality of access, complexity of financial products, unintended consequences of safeguards against excessive debt, interest rates and cultural issues come into play. The government made some modest changes in the 2018-19 budget, which expanded the eligibility to full-rate pensioners and self-funded retirees, increasing the maximum fortnightly payment rate under the Pension Loans Scheme from 100 per cent to 150 per cent of the full pension and reducing the interest rate from 5.25 per cent to 4.5 per cent. We supported those changes, and we welcome the government’s efforts to further improve the PLS. Senior Australians have waited far too long for the government to address the known barriers to accessing the program. And still, many remain.

It was only last year when I spoke on addressing pension portability, meaning pensioners would be able to retain the full rate overseas for longer than 26 weeks. If they were to travel overseas they wouldn’t have it cut off. Specifically, increasing the number of countries we have social security agreements with will ensure that Australians are able to receive their pensions while they are travelling overseas, when they start travelling again. Flexibility is important in decision-making, and that’s why Labor supports this bill. This bill expands the scheme further, introducing more financial safeguards and greater payment flexibility. It allows two annual advance lump sum payments to help participants with larger expenses.

As always with this government, they’ve focused on the marketing effort, giving the scheme a new name. They’ve called it the Home Equity Access Scheme. This scheme, allowing people to unlock their housing assets to improve their retirement incomes, should be fair and easy to access for all senior Australians. This bill is another missed opportunity to introduce significant and real change. It’s a job half done, taken up too late. Too little, too late. There are still cultural barriers yet to be addressed by this government. Only then will we see real change in the take-up rates.

As always, this government would prefer to have done nothing and been left unbothered by the challenges of the people it’s meant to represent. The government can’t claim to be giving senior Australians real choices in their retirement without addressing these particular barriers. There are still many older Australians unable to access the program despite owning real property. For instance, many tens of thousands of Australians live in land lease communities. These Australians own their own homes, but because they do not own the land they are unable to access the scheme. That’s unfair. The government must look at this issue, make further changes and open the scheme up for those Australians.

As I’ve said, to be fair, although there are some positive changes to the PLS in this bill that do assist older Australians—and that’s why we’re supporting it—I don’t think pensioners will be fooled by this government and what they’re trying to do here. They won’t forget the shameful track record of cuts and attempted cuts to the pension, making it more difficult for pensioners to access Centrelink. In a speech back in 2015, a freshly minted Treasurer, the now Prime Minister, made comments stating that the age pension should not be regarded as an entitlement for all. Just let that sink in. It should not be regarded as an entitlement for all. The then Treasurer also outlined the Turnbull government’s vision for an overhaul of the country’s retirement income system by both reducing expenditure on welfare payments and limiting the amount of revenue forgone through tax concessions.

Deputy Speaker, you know, and most of us who represent our communities know, that the vast majority of pensioners have worked very hard throughout their working lives, and they’ve contributed all of their lives. They’ve paid their taxes. It’s not just because of their age that they deserve respect and dignity in their retirement. It’s because of that commitment, that social contract. They’ve paid their taxes. They’ve paid their dues. They’ve contributed to this country. So we have an obligation to give them respect and dignity in their retirement but also to fulfil our side of that contract. Many of those in the firing line of the coalition’s many attempts to cut the pension are migrants. These are migrants who came to this country 40 or 50 years ago, who worked very hard to build a new life for themselves and their children and who have contributed into building Australia up into the great country that it is today. They’re now pensioners. They’re at retirement age. They worked hard, they paid their taxes and they built their lives and their families here. They’re people who helped make this country what it is today. Those people should be able to receive a pension that allows them to at least live comfortably and in dignity.

Deputy Speaker, you would be aware of many of the recent instances where the government have tried to get their scissors out and start cutting, start undercutting and start diminishing their side of the commitment of this contract. In 2015 the Prime Minister, when he was doing such a fantastic job as Treasurer, tried to cut the pension and increase the age of entitlement. In the 2014 budget, the government tried to cut the pension indexation, a cut that would have meant pensioners would be forced to live on $80 a week less within 10 years. This unfair cut would have ripped $23 billion from the pockets of every single pensioner in Australia over that period. In the 2014 budget, the government cut $1 billion from pensioner concessions, support that was designed to help pensioners with the cost of living—and wouldn’t that be handy now for those pensioners? In the 2014 budget, the government axed the $900 senior supplement for self-funded retirees receiving the Commonwealth seniors health card. That infamous budget also saw the government try to reset deeming rate thresholds, a cut that would have seen 500,000 part pensioners made worse off. In 2015 the Liberals did a deal with the Greens to cut the pension of around 370,000 pensioners by as much as $12,000 a year by changing the pension assets test.

In the 2016 budget, the government tried to cut the pension to around 190,000 pensioners as part of a plan to limit overseas travel for pensioners to six weeks, which I referred to earlier: the portability issue. In the 2016 budget, they also tried to cut the pension for over 1½ million Australians by scrapping the energy supplement for new pensioners. The government’s own figures show that this would have left over 563,000 Australians who are currently receiving a pension or allowance worse off. In 10 years this would be in excess of 1.5 million pensioners. In August 2020, more recently, the government was caught out by Labor on its pensions freeze for 2½ million pensioners.

Pensioners will not be surprised to hear that the coalition has tried to cut their pension this many times, again and again, over the past nine years. The government’s obsessed with it. They’ve tried to do this in every single budget. Cutting the pension, unfortunately, is in the government’s DNA; building and supporting the pension is in Labor’s DNA. When we were last in government, we increased the pension by $30 a week.

We have seen stagnant wages, the slowest growth in a decade, productivity in decline and the cost of living going up, all under the coalition government. The Morrison government likes to do a bit of a smoke and mirrors act to pretend to care about cost-of-living pressures because, guess what, the election is around the corner. It’s going to be called within a week or so. If they really cared about cost-of-living pressures on Australian families, they wouldn’t have spent the last decade attacking wages, job security, pensions and Medicare. The government has no plans to turn the economy around. They’re just paying out with handouts. The billions of dollars that Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister; and Josh Frydenberg, the Treasurer, spray around in this budget won’t change the reality for Australians that everything is going up except their pay.

The age pension is a proud Labor legacy introduced decades ago to ensure older Australians could live with dignity. It was doubled by the Whitlam Labor government in 1972 and increased again by the Hawke and Keating governments. The changes have been enormous, but the principle of giving older Australians security, support and dignity remain the cornerstone of the system. That is the Australian way, and it’s always been the Labor way—to meet our obligation to those Australians who’ve made that contribution throughout their working lives, who’ve worked hard, whether it’s the pension, Medicare, unemployment benefits when they can’t find a job and they’re looking, superannuation, the NDIS. These are the sorts of era-defining policies that Australians can actually trust the Labor Party to deliver. These are the kinds of policies that the Liberal Party, in contrast, for some reason, hate. They are always trying to knock down, diminish, destroy, slash and cut at the earliest opportunity, much like we have seen in the pattern of this current government over the past nine years. Australians expect better from their government, and I am sure they’re pleased that there is an election coming so that they can make their own choice.


Subjects: Beijing Olympics Boycott; George Christensen; Vic ombudsman; Nicolle Flint

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel. Liberal MP Dave Sharma and Labor MP Peter Khalil. Nice to speak to both of you. We have to start, Dave Sharma, with George Christensen who has supported comments likening Australia’s COVID-19 health measures to Auschwitz and the Tiananmen Square massacre, what are your thoughts on the way he should be reined in? I know that we’ve heard some condemnation today, we just heard it from Michael McCormack, but surely this needs a proper rebuke from the Prime Minister, and should he really be sitting on the Government benches?

DAVE SHARMA, MEMBER FOR WENTWORTH: Let me say first of all that I think what George Christensen has said in the interview, participating was grossly disrespectful on so many levels including to the victims and survivors, particularly of the Holocaust but also Tiananmen square – I mean those sorts of comparisons should never be used lightly and certainly not in a flippant and offhand way as they have been in this instance. I mean, I am glad to see that Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack and David Littleproud and a number of the senior Nationals have come out, and condemned these comments, because they should be rightly condemned as they would be, I think, by all right-thinking Australians and it is important that others do so as well. George is not a member of the Government. He sits with the LNP party room from time to time, he hasn’t been voting with the Government in the last week or two of parliament. He’s indicated his intention to not contest the next election. I think that is the right thing. If he was putting up his hand for LNP preselection again I would be arguing strongly against it.

KARVELAS: Peter Khalil does that settle it?

PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: No not really. I think George Christensen is a member of the government. Scott Morrison must condemn him, categorically, clearly for his outrageous comments and if he doesn’t it is a failure in Scott Morrison ‘s leadership. And, you know, we’ve all condemned this. There is no moral equivalence in comparing, obviously, Auschwitz to health restrictions in Victoria or COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. It is absolutely irresponsible. It cheapens the political debate and, you know, the misinformation and disinformation about vaccines, the giving oxygen to dangerous right-wing extremist kind of media, all add up to diminish our democracy, and this is another manifestation, Patricia, of how we are heading more and more to this polarised extreme where the sensationalism and the provocation in these areas is just serving to go to a very small sectional interest which tips over into violence and right-wing violence and it is just unacceptable and Scott Morrison has to condemn it publicly and categorically.

KARVELAS: Dave Sharma, should he be condemning it publicly, categorically? We didn’t hear from him today on this.

SHARMA: No, I’m sure when he is asked, he will. I won’t speak for him, but I am sure he shares the views that I expressed, and Barnaby Joyce has expressed and David Littleproud and Michael McCormack. I’m sure he finds these comments just as abhorrent as I do and just as distasteful and just as inappropriate for any elected representative of Australia to go around making these sorts of remarks and engaging with these sorts of platforms to be honest. It is not the sort of behaviour we would expect of our friends or fellow citizens, never mind an elected representative of Australia.

KARVELAS: I want to change the topic to talk about the Beijing boycott. National senator Matt Canavan says he thinks it is inevitable Australia will pursue a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics as the United States has announced. Dave Sharma, should Australia boycott?

SHARMA: Well, look I think it is important to make the distinction here, and it is an important one, between a diplomatic book and a wholesale boycott. A wholesale boycott is when the athletes don’t participate, no delegation is sent like we had in the 1980 Moscow Olympics or the ‘84 for Los Angeles. What the Unites States administration is talking about is they are still going to send their athletes, their athletes will still participate, there just won’t be any official US Government representative at the winter Olympics. Now, I think that is something that Australia should certainly consider. I wouldn’t want to see our athletes pulled into a boycott. I think it’s something we need to consider but we also need to take a decision in our own national interest, and I am of a view that we should keep lines of communication with China open with China, I know they don’t want to have them open at the moment and they haven’t been wanting to engage with us at a ministerial level. But I think that I would always be inclined to keep dialogue open, even if the dialogue is used to criticise the policies of the other countries rather than shut off those channels altogether

KARVELAS: Peter Khalil, should Australia be boycotting, at least in the diplomatic part? Obviously not athletes.

KHALIL: Yes and I called for this a number of weeks ago, well before the Biden administration made the decision, that Australia should have a diplomatic boycott of the Games. I am not sure about Dave, he might have to clarify, but I remember at the time, he seemed to have a different position where he didn’t support a diplomatic boycott, he seems to have shifted, which I welcome. And I called on it following the disappearance of Peng Shuai not just because Peng Shuai is a high-profile case which we’ve all spoken of but it’s just one of hundreds, if not thousands of examples of people who have disappeared, the detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates, journalists, artist, Chinese citizens who have been critical of the Government, as well as forced labour camps of the Uyghurs, the human rights issues in Tibet, the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and all of the other international acts such as what is happening with the economic coercion in trade in South China Sea, the international community has to send a strong message that that is unacceptable. Federal Labor is very clear that we will provide bipartisan support to the Federal Government if they decide to join the diplomatic boycott with other allies, but I think it’s a really important message that needs to be said by the international community.

KARVELAS: I want to move to another issue. Liberal MP Nicolle Flint has labelled a podcast from Youtuber ‘Friendlyjordies’ as sexist and called for Labor and others to condemn it. I will start with you, Peter Khalil, have you seen it, and do you condemn it?

KHALIL: Well, I haven’t seen it, I have seen reporting of some of the lines if you like in this comedy. Look, there’s a place for political satire in comedy about us as politicians. I think that is part of our free speech. Where we get into the grey area is when those become personal attacks based on a person’s gender or their ethnic identity, as so on, then it is not so funny. I have never found that funny when you attack someone personally. I think it is crass. It is not effective even as satire and just crosses the line. So, what I saw of the comments, I thought that they crossed the line without having viewed it myself, reading them I thought they crossed a line and were unacceptable, and so that needs to be called out, absolutely, and especially if Nicolle has taken great offence and other people who’ve been attacked in that have taken offence.

KARVELAS: Yeah Dave Sharma, obviously, I think the point that was made by Peter was a really important one. Satire has to be kind of protected and is part of our free speech, and we don’t want a society where we kind of stop people being able to make jokes, particularly about politicians, but does this breach a line?

KHALIL And journalists!

KARVELAS: No, not journalists. Just politicians.

SHARMA: I listened to a bit of this last night, my wife was actually playing it last night, I found it disgusting and abhorrent. I didn’t see there were any grey areas there at all. I think whatever line exists was well and truly crossed and was in the other side of the ballpark. It doesn’t mean I am going to say that we should silence him, or de-platform him or put him in jail or anything, I just think this stuff is just in poor taste and I don’t think it adds to the quality of our political debate. He is denigrating women, not just Nicolle Flint, Lisa Wilkinson, a number of other people. Just cheap shots, poor humour, poor taste. It is just really crass. I am sorry that we are even having to talk about it because I think it gives it more legitimacy than it deserves.

KARVELAS: Just finally before I let you both go, really interesting report from the Victorian Ombudsman saying that the State Government failed to exercise discretion when reviewing exemption applications for border permits. Deborah Glass joined me earlier and made quite a compelling case for the way she read the situation. Peter Khalil, should the Government take on her recommendations and really reflect on the conduct on this?

KHALIL: Yes. Here is a really interesting and stark contrast with the way that Deborah Glass has provided some very constructive criticism where the executive has overreached, for example, or there is inconsistency in rules. When you compare that to George Christensen, who is kind of sensationalising this and peddling misinformation. Here are some really constructive criticisms about decisions that governments have made that have an impact on people. I have made a lot of representations on behalf of constituents trying to get back in, I thought there was lack of common sense around some of these rules, especially as our own outbreaks in Victoria took off, it didn’t make any sense why there was such overly restrictive rules, with respect to crossing the border. So I think, yes, absolutely, the Victorian government should look at this. Victorian Government, other state governments, federal governments, have all made mistakes during the pandemic. It is important that there are checks and balances to the executive power and we are seeing a lot of debate about that. I think Deborah Glass has played a really important role in our democracy to highlight issues so that we can actually address those issues. And some of us, it is incumbent on some of us to actually make the same points and hold governments to account.

KARVELAS: I know you’re not from Victoria, Dave Sharma, but obviously some of the hard and fast rules we have had around dealing with COVID have been a broader issue, right?

SHARMA: Yes. I think anyone who has seen this stuff up close, particularly with constituents who wanted to cross state borders, they’ve known intuitively that there has been a kind of a bloody-mindedness or a dogmatism that’s infected some of this decision-making that should never have been there. We saw it certainly with the Queensland-New South Wales border but also with the New South Wales-Victoria border. This is a sensible recommendation and an argument for a bit of proportionality, common sense and a touch of humanity when dealing with these situations which touch people’s lives deeply.

PATRICIA: Humanity. We need more of it.

KHALIL: Before you go, Patricia this is the last chance we’re all together, me, you, and Dave.

KARVELAS: We will be together again but yes, the last Afternoon Briefing where the three of us will be together. I just know we will be together again

KHALIL: Good luck with the radio.

SHARMA: I am going to miss this routine.

KARVELAS: You will both be listening to me on RM breakfast every morning, correct? I’ll send you 700 selfies of myself, It’ll be fine. Thank you so much.

KHALIL: Thanks Patricia

KARVELAS: Liberal MP Dave Sharma and Labor MP Peter Khalil joining me there.

House of Representatives 30/11/2021

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (18:48): It’s not often in this place we are given an opportunity to vote according to our conscience. When these times do come around, it is a moment of great import for this parliament because, while we disagree much of the time in this place, what makes this type of vote different is that our debate will be not just along party policy lines but also based on each member’s philosophy, values and conscience.

The Mitochondrial Donation Law Reform (Maeve’s Law) Bill 2021 amends existing acts to make mitochondrial donation legal in Australia. We’ve heard that mitochondrial donation is a procedure that allows women to have a biological child in a way that minimises the risk of transmission of mitochondrial disease. We’ve heard that this is a disease for which there is no cure, that can leave young children with multiple organ failure or heart problems, can cause seizures and can be fatal. Mito disease is a genetic, often inherited, disorder that can be passed on from the mother and, in some cases, develop at conception. Each year, here in Australia, around 56 children are born with a severe form of the disease. That’s one child a week. The tragic projection for these children is that many will die within the first five years of their lives.

One of these children, and the namesake of this bill, Maeve Hood, has a severe type of mitochondrial disease that was diagnosed at 18 months. Thankfully Maeve is one of the more fortunate children and is still here with us. She’s five years old and has just finished her first year of kindergarten. But her family, of course, lives with the uncertainty that each day brings. As a father of two young children, and I know many of the members here would have the same feeling, I can only imagine the heartache and anguish of parents of children who suffer from such a devastating disease. There are significant mental health costs associated with watching a family member’s child or friend die from mito.

Also, the financial costs associated with mitochondrial disease are high. The Mito Foundation estimates lifetime healthcare costs for a child born with a rare disease, such as mito, is around $2.5 million in the UK and about $5 million in the US. Aside from these sorts of costs which are incurred, there are social services, income disability support and reduction in economic participation from affected individuals, parents and other carers. In his submission to the Senate inquiry, Professor Thorburn, a co-Group Leader of Brain & Mitochondrial Research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, estimated that mitochondrial donation could provide between $33 and $66 million a year in healthcare savings based on a conservative estimate of five to 10 children per year born without mito.

The purpose of Maeve’s Law is to legalise mitochondrial donation for particular research, training and reproductive purposes. Mitochondrial donation is an IVF based technique known as assisted reproductive technology, or ART. There are several mitochondrial donation techniques, including maternal spindle transfer, MST, and pronuclear transfer, PNT. Both of these techniques are currently legal in the United Kingdom. Basically, depending on these techniques, nuclear DNA is removed from the affected mother’s egg at different stages. With MST it’s pre fertilisation and with PNT it’s after fertilisation of the egg. The nuclear DNA is removed from the affected mother’s egg, which contains the mutated mitochondria, and the nuclear DNA is inserted into a healthy donor egg which has had its nuclear DNA removed but retains its mitochondrial DNA, which is the donation part. For the record, this is only 0.1 per cent of the entire human DNA. This is not a treatment for people who already suffer from mito, of course, but the procedure aims to allow a mother who carries mitochondrial DNA mutations to have a genetically related child who has a reduced risk of mitochondrial disease occurring. The Mito Foundation estimates that in Australia between 50 and 60 children each year could be born free from mito if mitochondrial donation was legalised.

We know that there are a number of medical and ethical concerns that have been raised with respect to the legalisation of this procedure in Australia. I recognise these concerns and have engaged and consulted with stakeholders over the past 12 months. In 2018 the Senate Community Affairs References Committee undertook an inquiry, which I’ve referred to, into the science of mitochondrial donation and examined the impacts of the disease and the legal and ethical considerations associated with a mitochondrial donation. One of the issues raised is the status of the embryo, and many stakeholders raised ethical concerns that the creation of an embryo for the purpose of destroying it violates the dignity that is owed to the embryo. I would note that this objection also applies broadly to the ethical use of embryos. It is not limited to mitochondrial donation but in fact applies to all forms of ART, including IVF, which, as we know, has helped families have children for some 37 years.

It’s important to note that there are different religious views and interpretations about the moral status of the embryo. Not all faiths are the same. Even within the Christian faith, there are big differences between the Catholic faith and the Orthodox faith, for example, about at which point in time the embryo is considered to have that moral status. This is why some of these faiths have different views around contraception and IVF and other types of technologies.

The other big issue is the so-called third-parent issue, which we’ve heard some people raise. As part of the inquiry, a question was raised as to whether mitochondrial donation is different or distinct from germline genetic modification. ‘Germ line’ refers to the cells through which DNA is inherited by offspring. In humans this includes reproductive cells. In most jurisdictions, germ-line modification is illegal as it allows for the alteration of certain characteristics of a child. The inquiry by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee received a number of submissions on this issue. The committee’s report concluded that mitochondrial donation should not be considered a form of germ-line genetic modification, even though it results in changes to mitochondrial DNA that can affect future generations—again, noting that this relates to only 0.1 per cent of the entire human DNA—because mitochondrial DNA has no effect on the traits or characteristics of a person such as personality, appearance, intelligence and so on. The committee accepts that there is a substantive difference between mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA. It’s the latter that changes the characteristics of a person. The genetic contribution of the so-called third parent in this process is the donation through the process of MST or PNT, where the mitochondrial DNA is donated, and it is vastly smaller than the contribution of the intending parents.

In the UK, where mitochondrial donation has already been legalised, the donor is considered to be the equivalent of an organ donor. This is an important point because the UK took the view that MST and PNT resulted in some germ-line modification, because the effects are passed on. However, it was decided that mitochondrial donation techniques do not constitute genetic modification, since this was defined as requiring germ-line modification of the nuclear DNA—the majority part of what makes a person a human being. That is what can be passed on to future generations. There were similar fears raised about heart and bone marrow transplants when those technologies were first proposed and utilised.

There are of course issues in relation to carryover mutated mito-DNA and haplogroup matching—very scientific and very technical—which I have spent a fair bit of time going through, as I think all members have, to try and better understand the science. We know that mitochondrial DNA is transferred maternally through the biological mother and that, therefore, the mitochondrial DNA changes can transfer through the female child. Hence there has been a call in some submissions and in other jurisdictions for only male embryos to be used so as to limit that transfer. There are also issues around haplogroup matching and whether that should be a voluntary matching by the parents with the donor and the mother’s eggs. These are issues that I have raised, discussed and consulted on with stakeholders who are medical professionals, scientists, religious leaders and other stakeholders to satisfy myself as a lawmaker that these issues are substantively and ethically dealt with in this legislation, particularly through the very careful and staged approach to the implementation of this technology in our jurisdiction.

Another issue that has been raised is whether donors should be anonymous or whether the child has a right to know the identity of the donor. This question needs to be considered from the perspective of the donor and the perspective of a child who may be born of this technique. In the United Kingdom they allow a child to discover only non-identifying information about the donor from the age of 16, making the donation effectively anonymous. On the other side of the debate, under UK law a donor is entitled to know how many children have been born from their donated material, the sex of those children and the years in which they were born. The rationale in the UK for making the donation anonymous is that mitochondrial donation is more akin to organ or tissue donation than to reproductive donation, and the preference for anonymity reflects that fact.

On the other side of the debate too, women who choose to donate their eggs for mito-donation may be making a small contribution to this process, but it is fundamental to the child born as a result. To understate this contribution overlooks the significance of the physical donation and the difference it will make to the child’s life. There are many other significant factors to consider, including the child’s right to know their biological heritage and the shift in Australian attitudes towards making known information about a person’s biological heritage in both the adoption space and other forms of IVF. These factors led the committee to find that children who are born from mitochondrial techniques should be entitled to know the donor if they want to but that it should be conceptualised as being similar to an organ donation, because they are donating non-nuclear genetic material. As such, the bill sets out the Mitochondrial Donation Donor Register, which will be a safe and secure record for storing details about those born as a result of mito donation. It will also allow the child, once 18, to find out the identity of their donor. Other groups have identified concern for anticipated consent, which is the issue about whether the child would consent to the procedure, something that we can never know for sure, obviously, but it’s important to note in this debate.

I do want to note for the record that I support the amendments to this bill, which address some of those ethical and medical concerns raised through the committee inquiry process, particularly clarifying that donated mitochondria must be sourced from human eggs; expanding and clarifying the circumstances in which ‘proper consent’ is needed before mitochondrial donation techniques are used; clarifying the circumstances in which the Embryo Research Licensing Committee is able to seek expert advice when performing its statutory functions; enhancing mitochondrial donor privacy through provisions relating to the register; and further enhancing privacy by ensuring that the ERLC statutory reports to parliament cannot disclose identifiable personal information. These amendments reflect the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills. No doubt, the science around this is immensely complex. The United Kingdom conducted four scientific reviews that concluded the benefits outweighed the potential risk, and these reviews are utilised as the basis for many conclusions that we have drawn here in Australia.

It is also important to note that mito donation will be introduced in a very staged and closely monitored way as part of this legislation, the first stage being donation legalised for certain research and training purposes, including for the purpose of undertaking a clinical trial of the use of mitochondrial donation techniques, whether it be MST or PNT or some of the other, more experimental techniques as part of the human ART. The second stage will commence when regulations are made prescribing mito donation techniques for use in clinical practice. These arrangements have been based on the approach the UK has taken in legalising mito donation.

I strongly support this staged introduction of mitochondrial donation and the very close monitoring that is part of it. This law is not about allowing Gattaca style designer babies, free of all genetic alteration; it’s not about that, as the previous speaker noted. It provides strict legislative oversight, allowing one or two medical facilities to start trials to find out which methods work best. The reality is it will likely be a decade or more before any treatment will become available outside a clinical trial setting. But it provides families with hope that this terrible disease will not be passed on through future generations.

I would like to recognise the work of Maeve’s parents, Joel and Sarah Hood, the many tireless advocates, and the member for Macarthur and the member for Higgins for their advocacy on this law. The bill is in Maeve’s honour, but, if passed, will ensure that other children and parents don’t have to suffer the consequences of this horrible disease, like Maeve and so many other children and parents have had to deal with—children that otherwise would have lived a rich, full life past the age of five. I support this bill and the amendments.

Federation Chamber 29/11/2021

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (17:03): I second the motion and I rise to speak in support of the motion moved by the member for Higgins relating to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. We are honoured to be co-chairs of the Parliamentary Friends of UNICEF and advocates committed to the GPEI. We are also very fortunate to be living in a country where polio is eradicated and a world in which polio is 99 per cent eradicated. It is a remarkable achievement. Today the disease is almost forgotten except by the few whose lives were and remain directly affected.

It was once hard to imagine that 70 years ago polio was rife across the globe. But over the past 18 months we all got a taste of what a worldwide pandemic actually looks like and feels like: cities shut down, borders closed, isolation from friends and family, spending most of our days online—they didn’t have that luxury 70 years ago—working from home, watching Netflix. The only possible domestic travel was to the edge of your five-kilometre radius, as some of the lockdowns in Melbourne restricted us to. We’ve gone through the Rolodex, through many kinds of public health interventions, in our struggle to stop COVID-19 spreading. Now, just like with the polio epidemic, vaccination is the primary means by which we’re aiming to end the pandemic for good.

Thanks to vaccines, the prevalence of polio has been reduced to a small sliver of what it once was. At its worst, in the late 1940s, it infected hundreds of thousands and paralysed more than 35,000 people a year. Polio remains in only two countries—Pakistan and Afghanistan—with the entire African continent certified as polio free on 25 August 2020. This is a testament to science and what it can achieve and to vaccinations. It is a historical legacy of achievement, and it also speaks volumes as to what can be achieved when the international community works together. Much of this is thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The GPEI leads the world’s efforts to end polio, bringing together the World Health Organization and many stakeholders with the core objective of ending polio once and for all. And we’re almost there.

It’s fitting that we’re talking on this motion today, given the new strain of COVID-19—omicron. This new variant, which was first identified in South Africa, has shed light on the low vaccination rates in developing countries. Despite the repeated warnings of health leaders around the world, our failure to put jabs in the arms of people in the developing world is the reason the virus has come back to haunt us with this variant. We were forewarned, yet we are here. Vaccine equity was critically important. The WHO asked every country to vaccinate at least 10 per cent of their population by September. More than 50 countries have missed this target. Most of these are in Africa. Our neighbour in the Pacific, Papua New Guinea, has achieved only 1.7 per cent coverage of the vaccine.

Why are we forgetting that we are part of a global community? Why have we forgotten this, from the very beginning of the pandemic? Why are we forgetting that Australia has to play a role in protecting our region, supporting our friends and partners and stepping up to support that part of the developing world? We have delivered only 18 per cent of the COVID vaccinations that we promised to developing nations—just 18 per cent. This is not a partisan point here. I’m imploring the government to do better, because it affects all of us into the future. Until we vaccinate enough people, we will see this happen over and over again. We are literally in an arms race to vaccinate the world.

I call on the Morrison government to step up. They talk about the Step-up policy in the Pacific. Well, they’re not stepping up. It’s time now that they do so, because it’s in our interests in Australia and it’s in our common global interests to actually vaccinate the parts of the world that have such low vaccination rates. I implore the government to do what is necessary to get those vaccines to our friends and partners, particularly in the Pacific as well as in other parts of the world. We are a wealthy nation. We are privileged in many respects. We could do so much better in helping our friends around the world with vaccination, and, by doing so, we would be helping ourselves as well.


Subjects: vaccine mandates; PM’s Hawaii holiday

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Time now for my political panel this afternoon, Liberal MP Jason Falinski, and in a moment, Labor MP Peter Khalil. Just beginning with you if I can, Jason? Gerard Rennick and Alex Antic are threatening to abstain from voting on the controversial religious discrimination bill until the Prime Minister opposes state vaccination orders. Firstly, I just want to get your take on this behaviour, is this appropriate from Coalition Senators?

JASON FALINSKI, MEMBER FOR MACKELLAR: No, it’s not PK, it’s not appropriate from anyone who is a member of the Liberal or National Party frankly and I’m not going to itemise them for you, but everything I vote for in the Parliament is not necessarily something that I would have done that way or that I agree to. But the fact is that we live in a democracy, a parliamentary democracy, and majority rules. And the view of what happens in the party room is the view that we need to stick with. Now what’s happening here is that the Prime Minister is being put in an impossible position. He has no influence – well he might have influence – but he has no capacity to tell the states what to do over vaccinations and whether they’re mandatory or not, and I just don’t think what’s happening here is either fair to him, fair to the Liberal-National party, and it’s certainly not fair to the Parliament or the Australian people.

KARVELAS: Is it fair though that your government prioritised this bill in the first place?

FALINSKI: Which bill would that be?

KARVELAS: Pauline Hanson’s bill.

FALINSKI: For those of us in the House of Representatives, what goes on in the Senate can be sometimes very mysterious. But my understanding is that this was a matter where there were always these negotiations with the crossbench and to a certain extent they have latitude about what bills they put up so this wasn’t actually a matter of the Liberal party or the Government prioritising the bill. It was a matter of in order for the Senate to function there are these arrangements in place where crossbench parties, both the Greens and One Nation and others, can put bills forward that they deem to be priorities for themselves.

KARVELAS: Peter Khalil, does that stack up to you?

PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: No mystery here, Patricia. No mystery here, Jason.

FALINSKI: The Senate is one giant mystery to those of us in the House of Representatives.

KHALIL: If you are going to interrupt me, Jason, it’s a pathetic argument. The government allowed this bill to come up for debate, they knocked over the bill that Senator McMahon was so interested in, which was scheduled around the territory issues. And they probably did it, and I’m being cynical here because you’ve interrupted me, because they’re pandering to Pauline Hanson, they are afraid of her threat that she would not vote for any government legislation if she wasn’t allowed to put this bill up. And then we saw five Coalition Senators cross the floor and vote with her on this bill. And it took the rest of the government Senators and the opposition to oppose it.

KARVELAS: So Jason, I suppose the question is – in relation to the substantive issue as well. The government has been arguing, or if you’re listening to the Prime Minister, you should be able to go to a café if you’re not vaccinated in Brisbane. In your own state in NSW, in Sydney where you come from, you have to be vaccinated to go to cafes or restaurants, isn’t that reasonable?

FALINSKI: I think to a certain point it is, I’ve got to say though at some point in New South Wales – I think it’s December 15 – it all becomes a bit silly. When you’ve got vaccination rates around the 92-93%, forcing people, well saying businesses can’t serve people or have to check whether a person is vaccinated or not, really becomes just a bit, I don’t know. Someone would have to explain to me the health reasons behind that. I mean we’re in Canberra at the moment, Peter and I, and I think they have vaccination rates over 98% and we’re all still wearing masks around the building. What do you want it to be, 101% before we start relaxing some of these restrictions?

KARVELAS: Okay but – Peter you want to speak.

KHALIL: Well that wasn’t the question that you asked, Patricia. But anyway, the point really is about the fact that these measures have actually led to the high vaccination rates that Jason is celebrating – they were part of the reason why we have such high vaccination rates. Its about following the medical advice, and the fact is the Prime Minister is selective when it comes to being critical. The very same rules are in New South Wales yet they are unmentioned by the Prime Minister yet he picks on, it’s very partisan, he picks on Labor premiers and states that have Labor governments in there to be critical of them and yet New South Wales not a mention.

KARVELAS: Yeah look, Jason, I’ve been watching this very closely and it is the case that it was actually New South Wales that began these mandates really before anyone, on teachers, then on these venues. It’s actually a Coalition state that began proposing these mandates for participation in society so why is it just the Labor states that are getting hand-picked for criticism?

FALINSKI: Do you mean mandates so people could enter the venue, or do you mean mandates so people could work in the venue?

KARVELAS: Both because we’ve seen both of those happen, I’m thinking of the teacher mandate that all teachers had to be vaccinated, that happened in New South Wales first, right? Those who work in aged care because your government keeps saying they support it in aged care. But clearly in schools it’s happening in Victoria and New South Wales, in both states.

FALINSKI: Yes, so I think the difference is between New South Wales and Queensland is that in Queensland, baristas are being forced to get vaccinated or else you can’t work – that’s not the case in New South Wales – but you are allowed to go into a restaurant or a bar or a café if you haven’t been vaccinated so I assume that includes people who aren’t – and hairdressers as well – so I assume that includes people who work in those venues but that is something that will come off on December 15. With teachers, I’m not sure in New South Wales that’s something that comes off. And let me be clear, I understand that vaccine mandates for workers in aged care, I certainly understand it for frontline healthcare workers, but a broader mandate across all sorts of sectors where it’s not necessary, seems to me a bit intrusive.

KARVELAS: What do you think, Peter? Is it intrusive?

KHALIL: Well, I think with all of these rules, the inconsistency of these rules is one big problem. And I think part of the broader point here is actually in the breakdown of our federal system in many respects, the lack of national leadership, particularly by the Prime Minister, the abrogation of responsibility to the state premiers and chief ministers, the lack of consistency across all of the states and territories, the breakdown in national cabinet. He has overseen the diminishment, I think, of our federation. That to me is a really big cross against his record as far as the need for a Prime Minister to be showing national leadership during this period and not mitigating his responsibilities to others. He sometimes takes credit for when the premiers get it right, and when things aren’t working well, he’ll hoe in hard and be quite critical and run the political lines. So, the politicisation of this is something that has disturbed me as well. On the substance of the issues very quickly, Patricia, obviously these rules need to come into some form of consistent framework as we go forward, as we are at 90 and 95% vaccination rates, that is an excellent thing. We need to see a standardisation of these rules across the nation.

KARVELAS: Do you think there should be a standardisation too, Jason? Because it is confusing.


KARVELAS: You don’t?

FALINSKI: No, I mean the whole point of the federation is that there is public policy experimentation so this sort of absolute need that what happens in Sydney must happen in Perth is actually not what federations are designed to do. They’re designed so that you can experiment with one set of policies in New South Wales, if they work then maybe you can adopt them across the board. If they don’t work then we go and look at other stuff.

KHALIL: So you think federation is a petri dish? That’s what you think, Jason? You think our federal is an experimental lab? Like come on. Where’s the national leadership on this? We’re not six different countries, okay. I mean it’s pathetic to say that it’s an experiment. No, it’s not – it’s supposed to be a form of governance and functioning. Yes, there is decentralisation within our constitution where it actually matters because there are different conditions obviously in some states and territories and cities. But we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about basic rules, health, we’re talking about travel that goes on between states and territories, it’s very different.

KARVELAS: Alright, you clearly disagree on this issue.

FALINSKI: What I would say is that Peter is simply misunderstanding the founding principles of liberal democracies which is that we have limited government that allow people in states, so that you have governance that is closer to the people. That is the basis of the EU, that is the basis of the United States, that is the basis of Canada. Federations are fully understood in that form. For him to suggest that policy experimentation is not meant to be part of a federation goes against nearly three-hundred years of how federation works. [inaudible]

KHALIL: Thanks for the lecture, Jason. I actually studied constitutional law.

FALINSKI: It interests me that Peter and the Labor party are very happy to talk about “we need national leadership on these things” but are quite happy to see state borders closed to other Australians. So, it interests me where this leadership is meant to begin and end. If there is one thing that should be national, all Australians should be able to travel from one part of the country to the other.

KARVELAS: I want to put a pause on this very animated conversation and have another animated conversation if we can. Starting with you, Peter Khalil, bit of a weird stoush at the end of question time, the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader really gave conflicting accounts about an SMS about whether the Prime Minister was going to Hawaii. The Prime Minister has now since clarified saying he didn’t actually tell Anthony Albanese where he was going on a holiday. This is of course the very controversial holiday to Hawaii. Why does this matter? Why is Labor pursuing this?

KHALIL: Because it goes to integrity, Patricia, it goes to trustworthiness. It goes to the fact that this Prime Minister has a glass jaw and lies about things blatantly. He basically said that he, well he revealed on 2GB, that he text messaged Anthony Albanese that he was going on leave. And then he came out on the chamber and said “I told him where I was going” and Anthony was like “I didn’t release this. I didn’t make the text exchange public, you did. Also, you did not tell me where you were going.” And he has gone back and forward, I think he’s gone back into the chamber twice to actually clarify his statements. And he was huffing and puffing, he was all over the shop because he was actually caught out telling porkies again. This guy cannot be trusted, he can’t be trusted with a basic thing like a text exchange with the Leader of the Opposition where he uses it for political purposes when he is under the pump on a radio interview. That was a private exchange, but he chose to make it public and then lied about it.

KARVELAS: Well Jason, it seems like a pretty big own goal from the Prime Minister because now he’s talking about the Hawaii trip again, and he also had to clarify that he didn’t actually say that it was Hawaii. What’s going on?

FALINSKI: So, the Prime Minister was asked in Question Time whether his office lied about whether he was on holiday or not. He stood up and he said “I didn’t lie. I can only speak to what I said which was that I was on holidays and that I texted the Leader of the Opposition when I was on the plane that I was taking leave to go with my family to Hawaii”. The last part of that which was that he was going to Hawaii, he didn’t tell the Leader of the Opposition. He went back into Parliament and clarified that he did tell him that he was going on holidays but he didn’t tell him where he was going. Honestly, if this is what politics in the 21st century has been reduced to by the Labor party, really no wonder Australians hold us in such low regard.

KHALIL: Really? Integrity, trustworthiness is not important? Is that what you’re saying?

FALINSKI: Seriously? This is it, because he told him he was going on holidays?

KARVELAS: Just finally to you, Jason Falinski, are you guaranteed that this religious discrimination legislation is coming to the party room tomorrow?

FALINSKI: Nothing in politics is guaranteed, PK. But my understanding is that it is coming to the party room tomorrow. I really haven’t seen it or know much more about it.

KARVELAS: Would you like to? Are you feeling like this is something you’d like to scrutinise?

FALINSKI: Look, I’m not trying to show off or anything but I’ve been very much focused on the housing affordability enquiry that I’m chairing with a whole bunch of other members of parliament which has been very interesting, and very worrying I have to say, so I haven’t had a lot of bandwidth to focus on the religious discrimination bill which I understand is coming to the party room tomorrow.

KHALIL: That’s because we haven’t seen it.

KARVELAS: Alright, well let’s hope that we do see it tomorrow if it’s going to be taken to the party room – and people come onto this show and show-off all the time, Jason, so it’s okay. Thank you so much for coming on.

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.