PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
THURSDAY 27 APRIL 2023
Topics: Migration, housing
PETER STEFANOVIC (HOST): Alright, let’s keep that conversation going with Labor MP Peter Khalil and Liberal Senator James Paterson. Peter, we’ll start off with you. Is our migration system failing?
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS:
Yes, it’s broken. Good morning, Peter. Good morning, James. The migration system is broken. It’s in need of systemic reform. It’s unstrategic. It’s slow, it’s unplanned. Over the last nine years, under a Liberal government, it’s become a dog’s breakfast, frankly, and one of my main criticisms of the migration system – and I’ve written about this in op-eds – is the creation of what I would call permanent temporary workers, where there’s been an increase of temporary visas for temporary workers, whereas permanent migration has remained pretty much steady and unmoved. And these temporary workers have been underpaid, they’ve been exploited. And for me, the real problem with this is that Australia, when we had a migration system where we were having migrants come here, settle permanently, put a stake in the ground, start businesses, commit to becoming Australians like my parents who came here some 50 odd years ago – these are the types of migrants we want. They built Australia effectively post-World War Two. We haven’t seen that, that hasn’t been encouraged. So we’re losing people as well in a competitive sense to other countries where we don’t have a migration system that captures the best skilled migrants, those who want to become Australians.
And I heard what Sussan Ley said, and very quickly, I’ll say this: please. Please. They increased temporary migration numbers. They effectively doubled under the previous government. And they talked about congestion busting – they did a small cut to permanent migration, but temporary visas doubled, and 87% of those temporary visas, those workers, were in Sydney and Melbourne. So talk about congestion. The previous government actually added to that with their smoke and mirror play about the migration system. So we are seeking to fix this. There’s gonna be some major overhaul, and the minister’s gonna be talking about that today.
STEFANOVIC: There is that, but also you had the issue of COVID which basically reduced migration to zero, James, and now we’ve gotta play catch up, don’t we? But what’s the ceiling here? Because you let too many folks in, rents jack up – housing continues to become more unaffordable. So again, what’s the number here?
JAMES PATERSON, SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: Well, Peter, there’s no question, as Peter Khalil said, that migration built this country. We’re a stronger, richer country today than we would otherwise be if it wasn’t for the millions of migrants who’ve come from all around the world and chose to make Australia home. But the size and the composition and the timing of that migration intake are legitimate areas for public debate. And the government has been very critical and have had a lot of rhetoric about the migration system. It’s time for them to front up and provide some answers. What is their plan? How many people do they intend to bring? How are they going to reduce the numbers of temporary visa holders while also solving the skills shortages? And how are they gonna house the people that want to come here when we are facing the housing affordability and rental crisis? If Claire O’Neill isn’t able to provide answers to that today, then really I think we’ll all be wondering what the government has been doing for their first year in office if they’re not coming up with answers to those problems.
STEFANOVIC: We had this story a few weeks ago: 650,000 was gonna be the number this financial year and last. Is that gonna be too many for those reasons, Pete – rent and housing prices?
KHALIL: Yeah, there’s no doubt there are pressures on infrastructure, on housing, rental pressures as well. And James is right in the sense that you’ve gotta get the balance right. My argument, of course, is that the previous government increased temporary work visas and actually added to this problem to a certain extent, while not increasing or reducing permanent skilled migration, which is what we actually need to drive not just our economy, but our community. As we said, we both agree that it was built on migration, but the type of migration is really, really important. And so, yes, investment in housing: we’ve got a $10 billion housing fund, ask James why they’re opposing it. I think it’s coming up to the Senate. We’re trying to find and push through policies that will address some of these pressures and yet we’ve got an opposition that will not support that.
STEFANOVIC: Well, why not support it, James?
PATERSON: Well, because we have a very serious budget situation and the government is engaging in a whole series of off-book transactions where they’re gonna take on billions of dollars of debt for uncertain benefit at a time when interest rates are increasing and rising repayments on that debt is one of the greatest pressures on the budget. I’m very skeptical that that will make any material difference to the housing challenges we face. And it might make the fiscal problems that we face even more serious. I mean, this government’s gotta be serious about these issues if they actually wanna increase the supply of housing, what are they doing to do that, other than just spending more money, spending more taxpayer’s money in an inflated, overheated economy that we’re already struggling with the cost of living?
KHALIL: With all due respect, James, what it actually is, is 30,000 new houses, social and public housing. It’s hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade and maintain public housing. It’s thousands of new homes for vulnerable Australians, like women and children, who are fleeing domestic violence, and particularly, one of the largest increases in homelessness are women, single women above 55. That is real. And I can’t understand – on one hand you’re saying “it’s off-book, it’s uncertain”. On the other hand, you’re saying, “oh, we’ve gotta do something about it, where are these houses gonna come from”? They’re gonna come from legislation that we’re trying to get through the Parliament so that we can get on and invest in those new houses and you’re blocking it.
PATERSON: I’m interested to hear, Peter, that legislation can build houses. Last time I checked, it was people that build houses, and we’ve got a massive shortage of workers who build houses. We’ve got a shortage of the key supplies that go into building houses and that’s why that building industry is on the brink. I don’t think a new bill to the Parliament is gonna build a single new home.
STEFANOVIC: Alright, we’ll leave it there. We could keep going, but it’s good to have this debate about migration. It’s a timely one, but we’re out of time, James. We’ll see you soon. Talk to you soon. Coming up.
Federation Chamber 5/09/2022
Mr KHALIL (Wills) (10:54): Last week the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs made an important announcement: the Albanese Labor government will invest $36.1 million into visa processing to clear the backlog, to decrease waiting times and to welcome more people who decide to call Australia home. This investment will surge staff capacity by 500 people over the next nine months to address the crisis crippling our visa system. When the Albanese government was elected in May, nearly a million visa applications were awaiting processing. The previous government, the Liberal government, cut resourcing, drove department culture into the ground and intentionally slowed down processing times. They knew that, the harder and longer they made the process, the longer people would be living in limbo and uncertainty away from their loved ones. The longer businesses and workers couldn’t make decisions, the more likely people would be to give up. What has this gotten us? We have a visa-processing system in crisis. We are facing critical skills shortages and lagging in the competition to attract talent, and we have a reputation unbefitting a proud multicultural nation built off the back of generations of migration.
We are already addressing this issue. In the short time we’ve been in government, we have already cleared 100,000 applications. Last week the Minister for Home Affairs announced an increase of approximately 35,000 additional permanent skilled migrants, lifting the annual cap to 195,000 places. This means more skilled migrants to help fill worker shortages in critical areas like nurses, engineers and tech experts. Wait times are also down. Instead of being 53 days on average, the wait time for a skilled migrant is down to 42 days. Instead of 37 days for new businesses for sponsorship, it’s now 18 days, less than half the time under the former government. Student wait times are down from 40 days to 31 days. And more than 50 per cent of working holiday visa applications are now finalised within a single day.
What does this mean for Australia? It means that businesses can have certainty and can fill areas of skills shortages quickly. It means that families, some of which have been separated for many years because of the pandemic, can be reunited sooner. It means a boost to our economy, as migration has proven time and time again to create more jobs and investments that benefit all Australians. And it means that we can reclaim the true spirit of the Australian story, as a country that has welcomed people from across the seas, like my parents, who migrated from Egypt and worked hard every day not only to give their children—me and my sister—a better life but to give back to the country that gave them so much. They settled here as permanent migrants, as Australians, as new Australians. This story is common across the country. In my electorate of Wills, communities, whether they be generations of Italians and Greeks or Vietnamese, Lebanese, Iraqi, Indian or Pakistani—people from so many countries around the world—have come here to make a new home. We all know someone who was given the opportunity to call Australia home.
PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
WEDNESDAY 14 JUNE 2022
Subjects: Labor Government, Multiculturalism, Community Radio
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: My name is Peter Khalil. I’m the Federal Labor Member for Wills, which is an electorate in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, representing Brunswick and Coburg, Pascoe Vale, Glenroy, Fawkner, Hadfield, Oak Park, there’s a couple of other small suburbs, but it’s a very diverse electorate that I represent. It’s socioeconomically diverse, but it’s also ethnically diverse, with a lot of older migrant groups, but also new and emerging migrant groups. And it’s a wonderful part of Melbourne and it’s a wonderful place to represent. It’s a real privilege to be the representative in Canberra.
PERSEPHONE WAXMAN, HOST: I’m sure we’ll talk about that later because that’s something that’s really important to us here at 3ZZZ.
KHALIL: Of course.
WAXMAN: Yeah, that’s literally what we’re all about, ethnic diversity. But I think it’s important to talk about, the dust of the election has now probably somewhat settled. Everyone’s a bit more chilled out now, I guess. How was the election for you? How did it go?
KHALIL: We did well. We had a very small, modest swing towards us, which is a good result here in Wills. A small swing towards Labor, which was good given that there was a lot of swings. Here in Wills, it was a contest, really, between Labor and the Greens, first and second, so we had a good result in the sense that we had a little bit of a swing towards us. I think the campaign was five or six weeks, but really, you’re being tested based on your work for a couple of years as well. So, I think you know we worked really hard to help a lot of people. Served the community, you know, provide assistance. Didn’t matter whether someone came to you for a local issue, council, or state, or federal, we didn’t turn anyone away and we did our best to try and assist people and serve that community, even from opposition, you can do that. And I think that hard work is really important. And then I think also really having a genuine conviction around a number of policy issues which I worked on at the national level on refugee policy or on climate change – things that I’m very passionate about. So, I think that people made a judgment on that and gave me the opportunity to represent them for another three years.
WAXMAN: Speaking of the future, the next three years, maybe you won’t look that too far into the future, what does the rest of your 2022 look like?
KHALIL: Well, that’s a good question. You’re straight back into work, really. I think you don’t have much time for a victory lap in this because you have to work and represent people and that never stops. I think there’s also a big difference though, in that we’ve won government, so settling into that is a bit different as well, where we can actually deliver now on our commitments, the policies that we’ve announced, the commitments we’ve made for the community during the election campaign and a bit earlier. Now the work is about delivering those for the Community, whether it’s the solar community batteries for Brunswick and Coburg, whether it’s the $1,000,000 for the arts hub at Saxon St., whether it’s the $500,000 for the Faulkner Pool. These are things now we can just step in and put in place.
WAXMAN: Awesome. So, you did mention before, you’re the member for Wills. What is it about the electorate of Wills? You did kind of get at it before. What’s so special about the area for you?
KHALIL: Well, yeah, as I touched on it, I think it’s special because it’s almost like a microcosm of Australia. In many respects, it has every part of Australia, except probably the outer sort of regional remote areas that are in other parts of the country. But we have the inner-city suburbs, we have the sort of middle suburbs. We have the outer suburbs. We have a very diverse population both socioeconomically, but also with respect to culture and ethnicity. And so, it is kind of like what modern Australia really is and representing it. I obviously come from a migrant background, and my parents migrated from Egypt, or they escaped Egypt, really in the late 60s to come for a better life in Australia, to ensure that there was a secure and safe life for my sister and I. And that’s not a unique story. It’s one that I think that millions of Australians have experienced, people who’ve migrated to this country, come to this country for a better life, who’ve sacrificed their own lives to a certain extent or their careers to give to their children and the next generation. But also, they’ve made this country what it is. They’ve contributed in a way that’s made Australia a special place. Everyone talks about multiculturalism and how special it is to have a multicultural country.
In Australia, multiculturalism isn’t food and dance and costume and all that kind of thing. As nice as all that is, that’s not what I mean by multiculturalism. What I mean by multicultural diversity is the fact that the experiences, the culture, the language, the history that people bring to this country adds to the overall fabric of Australia. It makes us who we are, and I think the diversity is actually a strength of this country. It makes us a better place to be. Of course, there are people who want to divide us based on ethnicity and on difference, on gender, on whatever it might be, right? There’s all of that. That’s hateful. That’s divisive. Sometimes that’s easier and often it is easier for people to play those cards because fear works. It’s much, much harder to unite people about what they have in common and to see others as other human beings and people that we share our common humanity with. And that’s the special thing about multiculturalism as well. It’s about that diversity being a strength of who we are.
I’ve had a background in that policy space, so I’m very passionate about it. I think Australia has a future where we can really become even more special than we are in in many respects because of that migration story. But I think at the core of it, we have to address the issues with Indigenous Australia and reconciliation. This is why it’s so exciting that we’ve committed as a Federal Labor government to the Voice to Parliament, the Makarrata Commission, truth telling and treaty, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart. That commitment is at the core of it. We can’t ever really say that we are a genuinely multicultural and diverse country until we resolve that issue, because all the issues that we have kind of stem from that in some respects. So, it’s really, really important that we get this right over the next couple of years and I’m so excited, because we’ve got Malarndirri McCarthy, the Senator from the Territory, we’ve got Pat Dodson, we’ve got Linda Burney, we’ve got Jana Stewart, the new Senator from Victoria, our Indigenous MPs and senators and leaders are leading the way on implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
WAXMAN: So many amazing things.
KHALIL: Sorry, that was a long answer.
WAXMAN: No, no, I love everything you had to say. You did touch on something on how there are some people that like leading by hate, not by love, I guess. And as you’ve mentioned, the kind of reshuffling that government has gone through, I think has kind of brought in, hopefully a bit, people leading with love a little bit more from more diverse backgrounds. I guess the question is, why do you think it’s so important for people to be in Parliament that have actually experienced hardship, have actually experienced issues like having to, as your parents did, escape a country just to live properly. Why is it important to be led by people like that?
KHALIL: Resilience. I think that’s a big part of it. Like, I grew up in Australia in the 70s and 80s. It was quite difficult, and I learnt a degree of resilience because I faced racism and prejudice because of who I was. You know, people used to say to me, go back to where you came from. Like, I’m here and I’m from Melbourne. Where am I supposed to go? So, experiencing that wasn’t good, but on the other side of it, it’s like you understand better. You bring a different perspective to public policy and public life, and I think, to answer your question, why should you have people of diverse backgrounds, all diverse backgrounds, socioeconomic, gender, ethnicity, all the different things that make us who we are? Why should you have that diversity in in public life? Because it makes for better decision making. People have different perspectives. They can bring their life experiences to those decisions. They actually can see things in different ways, and when they engage with others around public policy and policy development and ideas and so on, you actually get better results. This is proven, by the way, lots of studies that you see, whether it be in academia or the corporate sector and so on for a long time, Australia didn’t have or hasn’t had in our public life, particularly in politics, a very diverse set of people representing it. I was kind of unique. It was myself Anne Aly and Penny Wong. 4% of the federal parliament were people of colour, basically. People who were non-Anglo or non-Indigenous. And that’s a complete disparity from the general population, where about 22% or 23% of Australians identify as people of colour, people of a non-Anglo background, whether it’s African, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, Asian Australian and so on. There’s not that kind of cohort of people of that diverse background in our public life. And I think we were suffering from that.
The great news is that we, in this last election particularly, our Labor MPs that have been elected, are all from diverse backgrounds. I think 80%-90% of them are from diverse backgrounds, people of colour who can bring all these experiences and understanding of the world and the experiences they’ve had to public life and public policy making. I want to say one thing about that though and for the 3ZZZ listeners, this doesn’t mean that you have to be of an ethnic background to represent a particular ethnic group. That’s a slippery slope that I think we need to really be guarded against, because what I’m talking about is opening up opportunity for people of all different backgrounds, whether it be their ethnic background, their gender, their culture, their whatever it is. They can represent all types of people. It’s about the skills that they bring to the job, the commitment, the passion they bring to the job, the qualifications they have, their hard work, their dedication. I can represent Anglo-Australians just as well as an Anglo-Australian and I’m sure an Anglo-Australian can represent people of different backgrounds just as well. What I’m talking about is making sure we open up the opportunities that if people do want to get into that political space, they have the opportunity. In the past it’s been a barrier to a certain extent, and not only in politics, but also, you know, in the senior leadership positions. I don’t want people of diverse backgrounds just to make up the numbers, like tick a box. They have to be there in decision making roles. They have to be there actually making a contribution to public life because that’s where you get the better decision-making.
WAXMAN: Absolutely – fantastic answers from you. Love it. Thank you. I did have one last question to just talk about: you did bring out 3ZZZ which is great. Thank you for coming on the podcast. It’s been lovely to chat with you. Do you think having multicultural and ethnic stations such as 3ZZZ actually help make change on a level, like Parliament? Even that high up?
KHALIL: Well, the media plays a really important role, and what we call diverse media plays an even more important role within our democracy. And we’ve made commitments, I think it’s tens of millions of dollars to community radio, including 3ZZZ to keep you on the air. And because we value the contribution that’s made to public life. But your questions an interesting one because you’re saying is it the same as politics? I think it’s a complementary role. It holds to account our leaders because that’s one of the roles that media plays. But the diversity of 3ZZZ and I’m a bit biased, I used to work for SBS so I can see the importance of multilingual and multicultural broadcasting that actually teaches Australians about all of the different cultures around them and who we are and the world around us as well. It opens up our eyes to the diversity that exists and the value of that as well. And so 3ZZZ, like these other broadcasters, play a really important role in connecting with the communities that are here in Australia but also for others. I’m sure lots of people listen to the programs even if they don’t speak the language. There might be programs in English that are about other cultures and so on – because they learn from that. So 3ZZZ plays a really important role in that connecting to language, to history, to culture. And I think more broadly, the arts and this type of sector is the heart and soul of any society. It has to be supported. I think it should be supported by government and that’s why we’re doing it. The state has a role in supporting the arts sector and the media and public broadcasting, particularly community broadcasting because, sorry for this long answer, but the fact that we’re in a world in which there’s such fracturing of the media, where we talked a bit earlier about how sort of there are those, I wouldn’t call them political leaders, or politicians or others who are using hate and fear and anger and whipping up that in a way to actually get a short term political benefit. It’s polarising. And the way that social media works now, it’s very easy with the algorithms and all the rest of it to get people into little angry groups around things. So public broadcasting, community broadcasting, is so important because it provides a kind of a space, especially with news and current affairs, more objective, obviously – but with respect to explaining to people and touching people with culture and language and difference, so they’re not afraid of that difference. So, it plays a critical role, and I think that’s a complementary role to what we play. As political leaders, we have that responsibility as well. As political leaders, true leaders would go do the harder yards and try and unite people through hope and through understanding through what you talked about: love, compassion. It sounds strange to connect that to politics, but that’s what actually fundamentally is the essence of public service is because you’re giving to others and you’re serving others or you’re making that commitment to public life. So that is very complementary with community broadcasting and public broadcasting and the arts in general.
PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
THREE TRIPLE R – THE PARTY SHOW
SUNDAY 15 MAY 2022
Subjects: 2022 Federal Election, Minor Parties, ICAC
HEADLY GRITTER, HOST: And on the line, another seat close to the heart of Triple R, Wills of course. And the Labor member for Wills is with us right now – the one, the only Mr. Peter Khalil. Peter, welcome back.
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thanks Headly, for having me on. You are in the heart of Wills, aren’t you?
GRITTER: Well, close enough to the heart of Wills, if Wills has a heart. Does Wills have a heart, Peter?
KHALIL: It does, absolutely. It’s a great community, very diverse and multicultural. It’s a really good community, a microcosm of Australia really.
GRITTER: Okay well, firstly, put on your Labor Party hat and tell us. Why Labor over the Liberals?
KHALIL: Well, it’d be easy for me to say, “do people really want three more years of Scott Morrison?” That’s just too easy. But I think the reason that I would put to people is that they have a choice about what kind of government they want to represent them, but also to leave a legacy. I think governments, despite all of the cynicism that we get around politics and government, they still make a huge difference in people’s lives, especially the federal government. Keating said, “you change the government, you change the country”. When I was growing up, I saw what governments could do. They housed in public housing a new migrant family like mine, they provided access to a quality education that allowed me, a houso kid, to study at university, and it was Labor governments that actually did real things, like protect Antarctica, international agreements around the ozone layer and Kakadu, the environment as well. They did things to make Australia better, the world better, and they left a legacy.
And I have to tell you, Scott Morrison, he was actually in the media a couple months ago, and he said he didn’t believe in a legacy. So, what are we here to do? What are we elected to do? To use political power, not just to retain it for its own sake, but to actually use it to make a difference. And that’s what a Labor government will do, and that’s what it’s about. And I think people have that choice. They can see the different futures ahead of them. And then on the policy side of things, of course, we’re talking about real action on climate change. We’re talking about delivering on the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We’re talking about free TAFE and university places being created. We’re talking about healthcare. About our place in the world and foreign policy and a focus on human rights. And that’s really the big difference, we will change the country if we change the government.
GRITTER: Now put on your Wills hat, and more pertinent to you. Why Labor over the Greens?
KHALIL: Look, I actually think that’s a simple answer. People have a choice between Albanese and Morrison, they have a choice between Labor and Liberal. At the local level, they have a choice between a Labor MP in me, and the Greens, basically, because the Libs come in at a distant third. The simple answer, if you want real action on climate change, on refugee policy, on the cost of living, the Labor Party can form government and exercise that power in executive government. They can take these actions. They can implement those policies. And you need executive power to make those changes.
Now, we might agree on a number of things, but it’s not just about shouting from the sidelines. That’s not going to get us anywhere. We actually need to implement these policies – a Labor government needs to implement these policies – which are 82% renewable energy on our grid by 2030 or better, a reduction in emissions of 43% by 2030 or better, cheaper electric cars. I’ve announced two community solar batteries, one for Brunswick and one for Coburg, plugging people into solar power. The policies that we will implement will make a difference. The $20 billion investment in renewable energy infrastructure to transition to renewable energy and to unlock that potential. This can only happen when you’re in government. And that is the big difference.
And I’ve heard this, “don’t you want minor parties to keep you honest?”. I don’t need a minor party to tell me my convictions. We’ve costed our policies, we’ve worked on them, we’ve worked fastidiously on preparing policies as an alternative government. We don’t need other parties to tell us what our vision is on this stuff. This is what we’re going to achieve in government.
GRITTER: Okay. One of the big issues and the big knocks on ScoMo was the lack of an ICAC.
GRITTER: Now, obviously if you get into government, you’ll make the legislation as weak as piss, whereas in opposition you’ll want it to be the guillotine reintroduced. Why don’t you give us your draft legislation before the election that you’ll stick to regardless of whether you get in or you’re in opposition?
KHALIL: I’ve heard this argument made by Morrison during the debates: “Ah, I’ve got 400 pages” or whatever he goes on about. Well, guess what? Your 400 pages are empty in the sense that they don’t have teeth. The way that he’s drafted his bill…
GRITTER: Yeah, correct. Now tell us why.
KHALIL: We have a policy for a federal ICAC with teeth – with the investigative powers and the independence from government to investigate corruption, to investigate that malpractice in a way that is independent from any ministerial intervention or executive intervention. And that is an ICAC with teeth, with the full powers necessary to conduct those investigations.
GRITTER: Well, the devil’s always in the details.
KHALIL: If we form government, you asked the question, if we form government, we will be drafting that legislation from government, with our drafters, as is the way that a government does, through the departments that are necessary to put their input in and the cabinet. And as Albo said just recently, I think last night, there will be legislation passed this year.
GRITTER: Yes but show us what it’s going to be. The devil’s in the details. You’ve got a Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus – it would take him, what, three days to draw up the legislation QC?
KHALIL: You’re giving him a lot of credit.
GRITTER: If you paid him his flat rate instead of his hourly rate, it’d only take him a day and a half.
KHALIL: Well, we’d be bankrupted if we had to pay him.
GRITTER: But that’s it, you know you’re going to weaken it if you get into government. Show us how strong you can make it before you get into government.
KHALIL: There have been very clear statements about how strong our policy is going to be.
GRITTER: Statements are good – give us the detail. Show us how tough it’s going to be.
KHALIL: We have provided the detail Headly because you’re talking about a draft bill.
GRITTER: Yeah, not hard.
KHALIL: Oppositions don’t draft bills. There’re some private member’s bills, that’s certainly true. That happens. But we want to win government, use the machine of government to do a good job in drafting a federal ICAC with teeth, and getting it passed through the parliament.
GRITTER: Okay, I’ll let that slide. We won’t go any further.
KHALIL: Well, I don’t have the resources, and I don’t think Mark Dreyfus has the resources, frankly…
GRITTER: Ah, copy and paste the Victorian one and put in “federal” where it says “state” and there, you got a bill.
KHALIL: Yeah, well. Could do that.
GRITTER: Well, your forte, personally, is foreign policy. You’re at the Centre for International Security Studies, you’re a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, that’s pretty good, Director of National Security for Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority. The Solomons. How serious a problem is it, and should we have outbribed the president?
KHALIL: Well, “no” to the last part of your question, “yes” to the first part. It is very, very serious. And everyone’s going on about, “oh, well, Morrison should have picked up the phone” and all this kind of stuff – and certainly he should have. But the fact is he’s failed over a number of years in a sense of diminishing the relationship with Sogavare and with other Pacific partners, because guess what? Well, people might know this. The way that Morrison does his business on bilateral relations is paternalistic, it’s patronising, it’s arrogant. When he goes on about the “Pacific Family”, that’s insulting. These are nation states. And part of the problem is that they have not been treated with the respect required of a partner in the Pacific. It’s been very paternalistic and patronising, and the fact is that it’s not all entirely the government’s fault; China has become more aggressive and coercive, particularly in the Pacific. But there’s a big contributing factor in the failures in Morrison and Dutton’s foreign policy over the last three years, but certainly the nine years of Coalition government, which has led to the conditions then which made it easier to see the situation we’re in.
Now, we’re not going to do it that way. And by the way, I should say: when you cut development assistance to the tune of $11.8 billion, when you cut bilateral assistance to the Solomons by 28%, these things have consequences, right? And Morrison has failed miserably. And Marise Payne, I’ve called her Marise “M.I.A.” Payne, where is she? You barely see her. These guys have no idea what they’re doing. All they do is run around like tin soldiers, beating their chests, talking a tough game on defence, and they still fail on that as well. They haven’t provided the defence capability that we need.
GRITTER: Okay, we’ll go on to the defence capability that we need. The ridiculously expensive, coming-in-decades submarines. Can you paint any scenario at all where we fire in anger upon the Chinese?
KHALIL: Well mate, what they have announced. They have shredded the relationship with France in the manner of the way they cancelled the contract. They went to the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines. But the problem with those, they may be, on paper, very good, and we’ve supported a review of those…
GRITTER: Yes, you have. Yes, you have.
KHALIL: I’ll tell you why. On a defence capability front, they’ve got greater stealth and endurance and so on. That’s fine. We’ve set certain conditions for that. No nuclear civilian industry, no nuclear weapons, adhering to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and if those conditions are set, that’s fine. But guess what? Dutton is not going to have any of those boats out on the water until the mid-2040s.
GRITTER: That’s right, I know. And who are we going to fire at? We’re not going to fire it at anybody.
KHALIL: My criticism of the government, as I said earlier, they talk a big game on defence, but they deliver very little. And they’re saying to us now in the next 20 years we’re going to have a defence capability gap in using the old Collins-class submarines. Now, my dad gave me his ‘77 SLR Torana 3300 in 1991. It had already done almost half a million clicks. I loved that car, but I’m still not driving it 30 years later. And we’re going to have boats that are 50 years old.
GRITTER: What’s the total bill for the subs? It keeps jumping, what is it currently?
KHALIL: I actually don’t know, to be honest with you, because it keeps going up and up. So, there is no actual clear indications of the costings because they haven’t actually tended, whether it be with the British or American version.
GRITTER: What’s the minimum it’s going to cost us? How many $billion?
KHALIL: Well, I know that what’s on the table now is a refurb of the current Collins so that they can keep going for 20 years. They’re doing a refurbishment of the current Collins. That costs between $1 billion and $2 billion, it might be even more, frankly, to refurb those Collins-class so they can keep going around in the water for the next 20 years. But that’s what I said to Dutton, you’re basically saying we’re going to re-fit the old Torana so that we can drive it around against Porsches and Maserati’s.
GRITTER: And the new subs are going to cost billions as well. Isn’t there a more urgent need for planes and helicopters to fight bushfires, flood relief, things that we’ll need over the next 20 years that we could have bought one less sub and it would’ve paid for all of it, wouldn’t it?
KHALIL: Well, you could make a comparison between this particular capability and that particular capability. I think the criticism of this government is that, for nine years, they have managed to be so wasteful with our spending, particularly defence spending, but by other forms of spending. The rorts, the waste, the big talk around defence and the very little delivery on defence capability that we need. And you mentioned natural disasters and so on, some of this defence kit is really important for working with our Pacific partners in the region around supporting them when it comes to regional cooperation on natural disasters and support for communities in the Pacific. So, they’ve failed miserably on that, and it’s been a lot of wasted taxpayer dollars.
GRITTER: While we’ve got you, it’s not an election question, but as a foreign policy expert, how do you see the Ukraine situation ending? Will Putin just say, “I’ve had enough”, or will it go on forever, or what do you think at this stage?
KHALIL: I don’t think it will go on forever. I think they’ve obviously been surprised at the courage and the ability of the Ukrainian Defence Forces to stand up to them and push back and push back hard. I was surprised too by the degree of western unity, particularly in support for Ukraine initially. When you see countries like Finland and Sweden and Switzerland, they’ve been neutral for hundreds of years, move out of neutrality in support of Ukraine. This was, I think, a real historical moment that you saw in support of Ukraine. And the courage of the Ukrainians to stand up to the barbaric onslaught. All war is barbaric, but there was particular, grievous war crimes that have been committed by Putin and his troops to stand up to this, and now to actually counter offence and push them back into the east where the battle is ongoing now, has been a remarkable story. And frankly, we’ve supported all the lethal and non-lethal support for Ukraine on this front. Where does it end? It’s a good question, Headly. Putin has boxed himself in. He needs to get some sort of result. He’s now focusing on the Donbass region in the east, to make gains there. He might draw a line down the middle of the country and say, “I’ve taken the east”. I don’t think it’s going to stop there. I don’t think Zelensky will accept half of his country being occupied by Russian forces. So, the war will continue, and the question is, internally, in Russia. Will the oligarchs, the business community, some of the elites, maybe even some elements of the Russian armed forces, start to say, “this guy’s got to go”? It’s hard to tell.
GRITTER: And just a general question of political leaders that have nuclear weapons going off their tree. What does the world do?
KHALIL: Well, that’s the really scary part. So, the way that the European Union and the western countries and some of the Baltic states and everyone, basically agreed. They’re not entering the war in a way that would trigger NATO being involved in the battle against Russia. And the reason for that, the reason they’re drawing a line there and saying, “look, we’ll provide certain equipment and weapons and so on, but we’re not going to engage”, is because if they did, then Putin would have had an excuse, frankly, to use nuclear weapons against some of the European states. And no one wanted to see that escalation occur, especially if he was caught in a corner, which he kind of is now. So, they’ve been very disciplined about that. Even to the extent, by the way, that when there was talk about providing fighter planes to the Ukrainian air force, there was a real debate about, “well, how do you man them? We can’t have Polish fighters.” The Poles wanted to give their MiGs to the Ukrainian air force. You can’t have Polish or NATO-affiliated fighters involved because that would have triggered that response from Putin. So, they’ve been very careful about that.
Does he go there? He’s in a desperate state, but the Europeans, the US, and the UK have been very disciplined in not giving him that excuse.
GRITTER: So, the basic answer is no one knows how it’s going to end? Is that what you’re telling me?
KHALIL: Well, we part-know. We know now that Putin is clearly not getting the quick victory that he thought he was and that his minions around him told him he was probably going to get. They were telling him early on, in the first 48 to 72 hours, that they were going to take Hostomel Airport, that they were going to take Kyiv. That did not happen, and now he’s redrawn his objectives to the eastern part of the country. I at least know this, I don’t think the Ukrainians are going to give up on the rest of their country. They’re going to keep fighting. There’re still fighters in the steelworks in Mariupol. It’s remarkable courage that these people are showing in the midst of this onslaught that they’re facing. So, I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. I think this war’s going to drag on unless and until there’s a move against Putin internally.
GRITTER: And it depends how many of these fellow leaders are supping from the same trough and don’t want that to end. You were first elected in 2016. What surprised you about parliament?
KHALIL: Particularly the issues around the culture. I was shocked and this has come to a head, obviously, with the Jenkins Report, that Parliament, which is a place in Australia where we make laws, did not have a mechanism to address allegations of sexual assault, harassment, bullying, and so on. In fact, every MP and Senator, kind of, was the judge and jury of their own office in some respects, their own little monarch. Now, that’s got to change. And I’m really glad that we’re committed to the 55 recommendations of the Jenkins Report being implemented, because there has to be a third-party legal and HR mechanism to address those issues at arms’ length from the MPs and senators and their offices. Everywhere I worked beforehand, whether it was in the public service or the private sector, you had these in place. It needed to happen in Parliament, so I was surprised about that. The second thing…
GRITTER: Haven’t you noticed since the beginning of time that politicians have exempted themselves from laws that apply to everyone else?
KHALIL: Well, no one is above the law, Headly. No one shouldbe above the law.
GRITTER: Well, I’ll just point this out to you. The first law passed by the Roman Senate was that senators were there for life, and the second law they passed was that senators pay no tax. And nothing’s really changed except that you can’t get away with as much as you used to. Sorry, you were saying: the second point?
KHALIL: Well, certainly we’re not there for life, we’re elected by the people, and we still must pay tax.
GRITTER: It’s not because of choice. If you could.
KHALIL: No, there’s a good balance of power. I know there’s a lot of cynicism around politics and democracy, but it’s not as common around the world anymore. We’re in a period now where the rise of, we were just talking about Putin, authoritarian regimes and autocratic states, dictatorships, they’re on the march. People in Myanmar are fighting and dying for their freedoms against the Tatmadaw, the military dictatorship there, people in Ukraine are fighting and dying for their freedoms. These are things that we sometimes take for granted, and we shouldn’t, because they’re actually quite precious. So, we can joke around about politicians or the system in Australia, but the institutions are pretty resilient, and democracy does work.
GRITTER: Well, we just want them a bit better with an ICAC to cut down on political donations of a questionable nature.
GRITTER: And all those things to keep you guys in check.
GRITTER: You should have bodycams so those of us in the electorate can watch what you’re doing, so if you’re taking the day off gone fishing, we can see that.
KHALIL: That’s a good idea. I don’t know about the privacy side of things, but anyway…
GRITTER: Fuck that.
KHALIL: But the second thing that surprised me about parliament was, everyone sees Question Time and the pollies shouting at each other and the circus, but actually the other 12 hours that we’re there working is actually pretty good in the sense that there’s a decent debate on legislation, on bills, there’s good committee work. Yes, there are disagreements, but people work in different parties on committees together trying to get a good outcome for the national interest. There’s a lot of good and reasonable debate, but it’s really not that exciting for TV, right? What’s exciting for TV is people shouting at each other. How boring would it be just me sitting around with the Liberals guy or Nationals guy or the Greens guy.
GRITTER: We just want to make sure that you’re not slacking off, that’s all.
KHALIL: Look, people work really hard in Parliament.
GRITTER: But you don’t have to, that’s the point. You can do nothing.
KHALIL: Well, that’s not true either. You do get caught out if you do nothing.
GRITTER: You get caught out eventually. You were Victorian Multicultural Commissioner and an Executive Director at SBS. That’s basically the same thing, isn’t it?
KHALIL: No, not at all. Well, both roles I played, and they were great roles, are very committed to the importance of multiculturalism to our state but also to Australia. It’s not about the food, and the dance, and the dress. I hate the politicians that run around cracking on about the kebabs and the souvlaki or whatever. That is not multiculturalism, okay? Multiculturalism is about plurality. The diversity in our community where people come from different parts of the world, we’re all migrants to this country unless you’re a first Australian. And the contribution that’s made is the contribution of the values, the work ethic, the culture, the language, the perspective that has added to our society and made it a better society.
GRITTER: Made it the fine tapestry that it is today.
KHALIL: Ah, you’re a poet!
GRITTER: Thank you. Peter Khalil, the best of luck for next Saturday and we’ll be watching with interest what happens in the seat of Wills. Good on ya, Peter.
KHALIL: Thanks, Headly. Take care, mate. Bye.
PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
THE WEEKLY WITH CHARLIE PICKERING
THURSDAY 28 APRIL 2022
Subjects: Diversity in the Australian Parliament
NAZEEM HUSSEIN, INTERVIEWER: Every three years, Australians come together to exercise our democratic right to choose who leads, us with a wide variety of choices. Ranging from this white guy, to this white guy with glasses, or this white guy with slightly different glasses. Or, if you’re feeling really cooky, this white woman, with red hair. We also elect around 150 people to the House of Representatives. But if elected politicians are supposed to represent the society in which we live, my question is, why do they all seem to be white? Australia is a diverse nation, with 30% of the population born overseas, with people coming here from nearly all parts of the globe. Yet, our parliament is far less diverse with only 4% coming from non-Anglo or European backgrounds. There was only one thing to do about it, run for office. But first, I needed to talk to an expert for some advice. A real life brown MP. You’re a glitch in the matrix. You do realise that you are an anomaly.
PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Do you know that like, people said to me, you can’t run. People won’t vote for you because of the way you look.
KHALIL: And I remember growing up watching TV and not seeing brown faces, except for Kamahl on “Hey, Hey, it’s Saturday”
KHALIL: Legend. So, I think that that lack of diversity in the media, present company excluded, you’ve busted through the barriers. I think just on talent, right?
HUSSEIN: Oh, absolutely. Pure talent, no box ticking.
KHALIL: But you know what it’s like. The amount of barriers and obstacles you’ve got to overcome. It’s hard for migrants and people of diverse backgrounds to do that.
HUSSEIN: Okay, Peter, how do I make myself more electable?
KHALIL: It’s really all about being genuine, Nazeem. People will know if you care, they’ll know that you’ve done the hard work on good policies.
HUSSEIN: I completely understand.
House of Representatives 29/11/2021
Mr KHALIL (Wills) (11:49): I rise to speak in support of the member for North Sydney’s motion recognising the vital contribution temporary visa holders have made to this country. But I think it’s a bit rich coming from the Morrison government. Let’s not forget that they have abandoned temporary visa holders and workers and international students at every stage of this pandemic. It was this Morrison government that told temporary visa holders to go home when the pandemic hit, it was this Morrison government that left temporary visa holders out of the financial support packages during the many lockdowns we have all experienced, and it was this Morrison government that ignored their pleas for help—and now they have the gall to move this motion! The government must think Australians have the memories of goldfish. It was this Morrison government that left temporary visa holders out of the financial support packages during the many lockdowns we’ve all experienced. And it was this Morrison government that ignored their pleas for help. And now they have the gall to move this motion. The government must think Australians have the memories of goldfish.
But I can speak, and I will speak, for the many temporary visa holders in my electorate who reached out to me. Trust me: they won’t forget. They won’t forget missing meals to survive. They won’t forget being out of work. They won’t forget not being able to pay their rent. They won’t forget the pleas for help that they made that fell on deaf ears, the support that they asked for from this government. They won’t forget that they were ignored by the Morrison government. What this motion and this Morrison government also hide is the disingenuous nature of the migration policy, which is increasing temporary work visas at the cost of permanent migration, which has effectively built this country post World War II. As a nation we have a history of welcoming migrants and asking them to join us—not just temporarily but as new Australian citizens. Yet for eight years the Morrison government have moved by stealth to a guest worker model. While they ensure that we reap the benefits of economic growth that are a result of migration, they haven’t given the migrants the other end of the equation—the long-term settlement and citizenship that come with permanent migration.
This government needs to be called out for its policy, which is at best confused but at worst deliberately misleading the public. Temporary migration has, and will have, its place if we have a genuine skills shortage, as we have had in the past. But it’s also plagued by wage theft, breaches of workplace rights and poor conditions for workers. Pre COVID, a government report suggested as many as 50 per cent of temporary migrant workers were being underpaid in their employment. That is unacceptable. Every worker in Australia, no matter their circumstance—Australian citizen or international student—deserves the same rights at work. They deserve the same conditions and to be paid fairly at award rates. Increasing temporary visas by offsetting drops in permanent migration has been the policy of this government, breaking the immigration model at the heart of our success as a nation post World War II.
During the last election campaign the Prime Minister announced a congestion-busting reduction in our net migration, from 190,000 to 160,000. But, while he reduced permanent migration, he increased temporary work visas, and the estimates are that some 87 per cent of those temporary work visas are held by people who live in Melbourne and Sydney. So much for congestion busting. These temporary work visa holders are not brought here under the permanent migration policy, which has the primary goal of adding new citizens to our nation, with all that commitment entails. What this Morrison government is doing is appealing to those who still hold fears that migrants will steal our jobs.
I have long called for us to again embrace permanent skilled migration. It’s Australia’s history of permanent skilled migration that has made us one of the most economically prosperous and successful multicultural nations in the world. Immigrants like my parents from Egypt, and millions just like them, built the social and cultural capital that we have drawn from to become a successful nation. These are migrants who became new Aussies not just for a few years but to start new lives, for the rest of their lives.
If the Prime Minister wants more citizens contributing to our nation’s success, he should increase permanent skilled migration rather than reduce it. The road out of COVID-19 gives us a chance to rethink as a nation. We have the chance to show vision and leadership. We have the chance to renew our commitment to permanent skilled migration and the welcoming of new Australians to this country to help rebuild and reconstruct this nation after what we’ve been through in the past two years. That’s something that we have a vision for on this side of the House.
ABC AFTERNOON BRIEFING WITH MATT WORDSWORTH
TUESDAY 17 August 2021
MATT WORDSWORTH, HOST: Let’s bring in Peter Khalil, a Labor MP based in Victoria. Peter, thanks for coming on the line. Great that we’ve got you finally.
PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thanks for having me.
WORDSWORTH: I just wanted to go backwards a step, because we’ve been talking with Dave Sharma about the situation in Kabul. The chaos and obviously the grave disappointment that the Prime Minister, due to the security situation he says, believes we can’t give a guarantee to all those people we helped, who helped us, in Afghanistan the last 20 years, that we will get them out. That’s a pretty grim picture for Australia is it not, Peter?
KHALIL: It is and I think, I mean, people have said this morning but it’s not just the moral obligation to get the people out who have worked with our defence personnel and our diplomats over several decades. It’s also a national security necessity in the sense that sending the message to the world that when you work with us as Australians we’ll have your back and we’ll support you. Especially the Afghanis whose have made such sacrifices, who have actually put themselves and their families in harm’s way. That is of critical importance from a national security perspective that we can send that message around the world, and frankly Scott Morrison and this government has failed abysmally and it’s not good enough to say this happened so quickly, you know, it wasn’t expected. We have been saying this for months. You know, it’s not a secret there was going to be a withdrawal of US troops. On this program back in May I said – get the interpreters out, get the families out, and the government has dragged their heels. I’m wondering what has Peter Dutton been doing in the National Security Cabinet for the last three, four months? Where are the plans? I mean again, this is an example of incompetence and an inability to actually take action and take leadership on a very important national security issue that is, critically important for people’s lives frankly.
WORDSWORTH: And Peter, just on that broader issue that you were touching on earlier, our reputation as an international partner is at stake here?
KHALIL: That’s the point, exactly. When people see that Australia has dragged its heels on getting people that have supported us, the personnel, the interpreters and the translators, the staff that have supported our military personnel and our diplomatic personnel for two decades, when they see we’re not able to do that effectively, that has the reputational damage on us and it has a knock-on effects on our ability to operate at the international level. It’s more than just reputation, as I said, it’s a moral obligation as well as a national security necessity to have done this correctly, and again, making sure that you get those people out in a timely fashion. Even on the program back in May I said – do what the US is doing which is to take some of the people, if you’re not sure, or certain about the vetting, for example the security checks, you can move them to a third country like in Dubai or the UAE or whatever, and do the processing of them and their families there. But he didn’t even do that. So, this is where I think there’s a big fail by the Morrison Government.
WORDSWORTH: And my colleague Andrew Probyn asked the Prime Minister at that media conference today will you be offering to resettle Afghan nationals because Tony Abbott did it in 2015, 12,000 places were offered. Labor has its own ideas on that. What number do you think we should be extending?
KHALIL: Look, I don’t know about the exact number. I think that it should be dependent upon need. There should be a program that is specific and tailored to Afghans who are vulnerable and who have worked with us. I also would say that any Afghans here in Australia currently who are on TPVs, Temporary Protection Visas, need to be given permanent refugee protection for them and their families and this fiction that it would be temporary needs to be removed by the Government because it’s just not realistic that they’ll be going back to Afghanistan. You talk to anyone in the Afghan community here in Australia, they’re not going back to Afghanistan, any time. So they should be given permanent status, and the Government should set up a program to ensure that they look after people who are vulnerable who are able to get out of Afghanistan and make that case for protection, and I hope they are doing that and operationalising that as we speak.
WORDSWORTH: And Dave Sharma, just finally to you about what Australia’s role in international affairs is from here forward, because we saw Joe Biden and Scott Morrison saying the big achievement here was we killed Osama Bin Laden, we held al-Qaeda at bay and Joe Biden said we prevented any further large scale terrorist attacks on US soil. But the other measures, which kept as there for so long, counterinsurgency and nation building seemed to be a big failure. So, does that mean that’s the end of Australia’s role in counterinsurgency and our appetite for nation building is over?
DAVE SHARMA, MEMBER FOR WENTWORTH: No I don’t think so, but look, I think it’s illustrative of the fact that nation building is exceptionally hard and I don’t accept that was sort of the main part of the mission in Afghanistan, that’s not the reason we went in there. It became part of the reason for us staying there but it’s certainly no reason to go in there. Look, you know, trying to build up the government institutions, and transplant the government institutions, on a country with quite different traditions, cultures, histories, is always exceptionally difficult and I’m a realist when it comes to these things about the limits of military force and a foreign presence to do these sorts of things, even in our own neighbourhood. In countries like the Solomon Islands where we had a regional assistance mission which was effectively a nation-building mission, in the early 2000s. The Solomon Islands, a country with a few hundred thousand people, that was an exceptionally hard thing to do and look we still haven’t created a Jeffersonian democracy in the South-west Pacific. These things are difficult. But I think you need to be mindful here in Afghanistan, we were never going to create, you know, Singapore and Central Asia but we also didn’t want to leave it a failed state or a state in a deep civil war and I hope that’s not what results from this withdrawal.
WORDWORTH: Yes indeed, as do we all. Dave Sharma, thank you very much for your time this afternoon. Peter Kahlil, thanks for joining us as well.
KHALIL: Thank you.
Peter Khalil, Federal Labor MP for Wills, alongside Labor Leader Anthony Albanese MP and Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles MP, will today launch the Labor Multicultural Engagement Taskforce (LMET) report.
The Taskforce was formed in late 2019 and engaged with multicultural stakeholders and community leaders across Australia for over 18 months and received more than 60 submissions to help inform how policies and services for Australia’s multicultural communities could be improved.
The report has put forward a number of policy recommendations for how a future Labor government would improve CALD access to government services and provide greater support to migrant-owned businesses.
One of the report’s recomendations is to establish a new CALD and Migrant focussed New Enterprise Incentive Scheme: Arrive and Thrive program to support new migrants and CALD communities in Australia in setting up small businesses. This would greatly increase access to government support by businesses owned by migrants and those from diverse backgrounds.
The report launch will take place at Melbourne’s Italian Museum in Carlton, and be attended by multicultural community leaders, multicultural media, those who engaged with the Taskforce and other stakeholders.
Commenting on the LMET report’s lauch Peter Khalil MP said : “As the son of Egyptian migrants who fled their home in search of a safer and brighter future, I understand what it’s like to grow up in a multicultural community. I know what it’s like to face prejudice, be confrunted by structural and casual racism, and to grapple with identiy and belonging.”
“Multiculturalism is about more than just food, festivals, and dancing. It goes to the core of our identity as a nation; who we are as a people.
“Migrants to Australia make a huge contribution to our communities and economy, with migrants twice as likely to start a business, and a third of small businesses owned by those born overseas.
“Even with this success in the business world, there are still structural barriers to Australians of diverse ethnic backgrounds across many other sectors of the economy.
“Despite accounting for roughtly a quarter of the Australian population, people of diverse ethnic backgrounds make up just a fraction of senior leaders in Australia. Fundementally our parliaments, universities, and corporate boardrooms are a closed shop.
“The report we’ve launched today is an important first step in building a more representative Australia, where people of diverse backgrounds feel as though no door is closed to them.”
You can watch my speech at the event here:
TUESDAY, 04 MAY 2021
SUBJECTS: India COVID-19 outbreak; Border closures; Federal quarantine failures.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, joining me live now is Labor MP, Peter Khalil. Peter, Good to see you, thanks for joining us this morning.
So we’ve heard from the Prime Minister. Well, we haven’t, but other places have, and he’s mentioned that it’s likely that repatriation flights out of India will resume on the 15th of May not before then, but what do you make of that? It seems as though that won’t be extended, despite the huge number of cases that continue to emerge out of India.
PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, good morning Pete. Look, I think the point I’ve made is that I thought that the decision by the Prime Minister was a poor decision because frankly it is either ham fisted or cynical. Well, because you could have set up federal quarantine facilities. You could use Christmas Island or Howard Springs. It should have been done a year ago and never before in our Federation has a government, a Commonwealth Government, made it illegal for Australian citizens to come home. At the height of the spikes in the US, the UK, Italy, this decision was not made to put a $66,000 fine or up to five years jail term for Australians wanting to come home. And I mean, the other thing I would raise too, is that if he had actually put in the effort and the resources into federal quarantine facilities that were safe, you could have people coming in. More Australians coming in doing their 14-day quarantines in a safe place, a facility that’s set up by the federal government. He didn’t do that. And it’s not like we’re Nostradamus here mate. Many, many people said the federal government has this responsibility and he botched it or squibbed it.
STEFANOVIC: Well, all the state leaders though decided they’d take care of quarantine back in March last year.
KHALIL: Well, that’s interesting that you say that because the State Leaders said they would do so with the assumption that the Federal Government would also come in and start to take responsibility for federal quarantine and that’s why they started all the hotel quarantine set up. Now we know that there’s been problems with hotel quarantine. My question has always been why is Scott Morrison averse to actually taking responsibility. Why is he trying to mitigate his risk in all of this? The Federal Government is responsible for quarantine.
STEFANOVIC: Wouldn’t you agree that hotel quarantine for the most part, less than 1% of cases have leaked out into the community, but for the most part, more than 99%, hasn’t it been successful?
KHALIL: They’ve done for the most part, a very, very good job, the States and Territories, absolutely! But we are also talking about numbers and logistics here. I don’t understand why Scott Morrison didn’t call out the ADF to support this effort. In fact, I remember last year, I think it might’ve been a senior ADF leader had said we could get this up and running in a couple of weeks. They’ve got the expertise, the ADF was used in Southeast Asia Pacific for humanitarian relief and disaster. They can be called out to support the civilian government in times of crisis, which this obviously is. That wasn’t done. I’ll just go back to the other point that never before has a Federation in our democracy made it illegal for Australian citizens to return home. It’s outrageous! It’s a distraction from the fact that Morrison has failed. He’s botched it. He overpromised and he undelivered. He said that he’d have all Australians home by Christmas and completely failed on that, on his own benchmark.
STEFANOVIC: But just for clarity purposes here, did you support a pause in the flights? Just the flights part of it. Did you support, do you support that?
KHALIL: Yeah well, the pause in the flights is fine. I mean, this is going to happen. If you have a serious situation and commercial airlines will make their decisions. It’s all on the government to pause repatriation flights, cause they haven’t got any. Where are those? That was another issue! Why aren’t we repatriating our people, our resident citizens like the US, the UK and many other countries have done. We didn’t even do that. I mean, there has been a complete pushing away of responsibility by the Morrison Government. Give all the risks to the States and territories. You said that they’ve done a fairly good job, good on them. But when is he going to step up? When is he going to be the Prime Minister of Australia and stop playing political games? Then he has this really clever thing where he says, “oh, well, there should be no politics in the pandemic”. He’s been playing politics from the very beginning. And that’s the disappointment I have because this is about the national interest and the precedent that is set with respect to laws against Australian citizens.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Peter Khalil, got to un, but good to chat. We’ll talk to you again soon.