Subjects: US Pentagon leak, TikTok Ban, China-Australia trade relations


Alright, changing tack a little and Parliament’s Joint Intelligence and Security Committee has been taking evidence this week on a review of the powers and supervision of this country’s most powerful intelligence agencies. Keeping secrets is a big part of the review and it’s timely, I suppose, in light of sensitive leaks out of the US revealing intel and planning around the war in Ukraine. The Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Labor MP Peter Khalil, joins us now and Peter, just to, I suppose, join the dots between the process that your committee is going through and the somewhat embarrassing leaks that have come out of Washington, what are your observations on just how secure documents at the Australian end are and should be, using even only the existing powers that we have?


Yeah, good afternoon, Greg. Look, on the question of the leaks, the Pentagon leaks, of course the Government has been very clear that there’s a great deal of concern around the leak of those classified documents. Obviously, it’s clear that the Department of Justice and the US and the US system administration is looking into those leaks pretty carefully and seriously given the gravity of the leaks and it would be sort of, I think, it’s not appropriate to comment further about that investigation. From our end to your question about Australia’s classification system and the security of our documents, it’s a very robust system that we have in place. Obviously, there’s always room for improvement, areas that can be strengthened and also our committee, the committee that I chair, plays a really important role in the oversight of all the intelligence and security agencies and that includes their administration, the way they go about basically ensuring that classified material is kept safely and transmitted safely between departments and within the government system. So that’s an ongoing effort and an ongoing job that we take very seriously at the committee level.


Would it be fair to say, based on recent experience, and there’s the current round of what they’re calling the Pentagon leaks in Washington, but Snowden and WikiLeaks before it, that the greatest point of vulnerability to Australian intelligence leaks is not onshore in our society here, but through processes that share that intelligence with other countries, Five Eyes is the most common expression, that that is a more vulnerable point of leakage?


Well, you raise an interesting point because when information is transmitted from country to country, from agency to agency, there are always systems in place to ensure the safe transmission of that information and making sure that that is carefully looked at and constantly reviewed to ensure that there’s no leaks that come from that particular point in time. But these things are really hard to predict, Greg, you know, because human beings are individuals, and sometimes they make certain decisions that are unpredictable. It’s important, though, to have the structures in place to protect information that is of national interest and goes to our national security. But on that point too, there has been a real development, particularly recently, where you’ve seen intelligence agencies release information more publicly, particularly to ensure that what are called false flag operations or misinformation and disinformation, particularly in the early parts of the war when Russia invaded Ukraine, were called out effectively. There were decisions made by the US administration to release top secret and secret classified information to basically expose Putin and some of the lies that were being put out by the Kremlin when it came to the invasion of Ukraine, so there is an evolution going on with respect to how intelligence is used. And then finally I should say there is also so much information on what’s called open source, that there’s so much data now and the way that information is assessed, the way that algorithms and software are used to get to that information or the bits that are important is also another aspect of the evolution.


Yeah, OK. Now where are we at? Is your committee taking any interest in follow up on the TikTok ban on government-owned publicly funded taxpayer devices? That was a ruling that’s relatively fresh in this country. Is there likely to be any follow-up on that to ensure that points of leakage there are satisfactorily closed down.


Well, a couple of points on that. The Attorney General’s Department, as you know, announced a prohibition of TikTok as an app being used on devices issued by the Commonwealth departments and agencies and that was based on advice that was provided to Government. It was a report, a review that was commissioned on cybersecurity and the impact of digital platforms on government and our national interest that went to the Home Affairs Minister and the AG’s. So that was a response to that, and it follows, frankly similar actions taken by a number of countries, the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and so on, and the European Commission and that direction is going to come into effect as soon as possible. As far as our review of that, we are looking more broadly obviously at the way that digital platforms and cybersecurity more broadly and the impacts that they have on our national security, our national interest, the impacts on society, these are important issues and there are important public policy responses that we need to, as a Government, be mindful of and put in place to address some of these issues.


Yeah, alright and the final one just quickly we’ve been reporting a bit of a thawing or what may be a thawing in Australia’s trade relations with China. Should that follow the trend that it’s kind of taking? Early days, I know, would you expect any moderation in that country’s behavior on the security front as well in this region?


Well, a good question, Greg. Look, there is a visit by the Executive Vice Minister in China meeting our counterpart in the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. They’re going to have a really good discussion around a lot of bilateral issues, particularly around trade and consular issues. Frankly, more broadly to go to your question, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Australian Government since coming to power, really sought to try and stabilize the relationship with China, because removing some of the trade barriers that have been put in place is, I think, mutually beneficial for both countries, frankly, and we’ve seen some progress in that, particularly with the announcements made yesterday by the Foreign Minister and the trade minister with respect to Bali exports being reviewed by China and going through that process. So, I think there’s some really good signs at the reduction in the temperature and the tension in the relationship and an engagement which will be, I think, important for both countries. But I will say this, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister have been very clear that in engaging with their counterparts, they’re not resiling from our values, they’ve raised issues around human rights, around trade, around consular issues, which are important for Australians and Australia’s national interest. So, we do so, I guess diplomatically from a position of strength, to improve the relationship and get the benefits, particularly out of the economic relationship.


Interesting, will pay on results, I suppose over the long term, very interested in your views on all of that, Peter Khalil, we’ll wrap up and do it again soon. Thanks for joining us.


Thanks, Greg. Cheers.




Subjects: TikTok, Daniel Andrews trip to China

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Also, in the US there is currently debate over whether to ban TikTok in the country. Yes, it’s that social media app that’s taken the world by storm but concerned many security experts because it is ultimately China owned. Joining me live now is Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, Labor MP Peter Khalil, the Chair of that committee, no less, I should mention, that as well. What do you make of this at the moment?

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, it is a very topical issue, Tom, for a lot of important reasons because of the national security and national interest implications, and the government is taking a considered, deliberate approach to how we go about regulating social media, digital platforms and how they are accessed and how consumer information is stored. There is a review that has been commissioned by the Minister for Home Affairs and that’s landed, and she’s considering the recommendations that come out of that. I don’t want to preempt the Minister’s announcements about what the government’s decisions will be around regulation, but I would say that the review is very broad, it looks at all the national security implications around, multiple national security risks, as well as other implications around social media platforms, and that’s important. I just wanted to point out too, this is not a new thing, by the way, Tom. I think TikTok was launched back in 2016, so the previous government had a fair bit of time to look at this. There are a number of reports internally, but we’re looking at this very seriously. As I said, the Minister will be making some announcements around reform. 

CONNELL: Would it be unprecedented to totally ban an app purely on privacy reasons, essentially? 

KHALIL: Well, look, obviously some government departments have already instructed their staff to do that.

CONNELL: Yeah, and I think even Twitter and Facebook, there are concerns around how they operate, but I’m talking about the wider issue.

KHALIL: Sorry, just on that point. The difference between those apps that you mentioned where there is a commercial imperative versus an app that’s sort of state owned, I guess, is, is where some of the concern lies. But the decisions that the government, again without preempting the government decisions on this, they’re looking at where the implications on our national security are. Broadly speaking, whichever social media app it is the hoovering up of data and personal information is a privacy issue, it’s a real issue. The use of that data by whoever’s got it to influence populations including disinformation and misinformation. I think there was a report on TikTok in the US because it’s before Congress. There was reporting around the fact that some journalists were being tracked.

CONNELL: Critical of TikTok, apparently the journalists were. 

KHALIL: So be careful. If you’re critical, you might get followed around, but that is the real concern. So, the way that those technologies are used is something that we’re looking at very, very seriously. 

CONNELL: So, would it be the right approach if, because you can’t sort of sit there as a government and take an app by app approach. So, is the right approach setting out parameters for how apps need to or need to avoid doing that in Australia?

KHALIL: I think you’re right about that; I think you’re instinctively right about that. You need regulation and legislative frameworks to look at apps, not app by app, but certainly look at social media platforms.

CONNELL: How it shares things, whether it feeds information back to any government.

So, this wouldn’t be a China thing, but if an app shares information, whether it is to a government or can do, whether it might be.

KHALIL: Yep. It might be. It’s the way that information is used. The way that it is manipulated. The way that it might be added algorithm to use on it.

CONNELL: And what information does it get as well? 

KHALIL: I’ve tried to explain this to a lot of people where you know, I’m like your dancing cat video on TikTok might not seem that serious, but what we’re talking about is all that data, the personal information, the behavioural patterns, that attract in the way you use the app and the information that you provide as well. That’s all hoovered up, and then algorithms are used to then try and influence behaviours back the other way. So that’s a concern.

CONNELL: So, can the Australian people then expect the government to set parameters around how apps need to work in Australia. Is that where we’re headed? 

KHALIL: Well, there’s always a balance with the individual’s right and privacy to use whatever application versus the collective. 

CONNELL: Yeah, understand that and you’re not going to be overly strident and go well, look, if you want to let them hoover up stuff, sure, but there’s a red line if you like. 

KHALIL: Yeah, it’s not as simple as that, but it’s similar to what you’re saying, because there are obviously national security implications and implications around social cohesion. But again, getting that balance right, I think is a critically important thing and that there will be a debate about that. 

CONNELL: Daniel Andrews is off to China for a trip. Not taking media. What did you make of that?

KHALIL: Did you want to go did you? 

CONNELL: Haven’t asked my wife. She wouldn’t be happy with two young kids. Shouldn’t journalists be invited to these trips?

KHALIL: I don’t know Tom. You would have to ask the Premier and his office about that. My understanding, by the way, I’ve seen some reporting is, there are back-to-back meetings, and you know they’re getting straight into business, so to speak. And the trip is an important one because it is about stabilising a relationship and I saw some of the opposition’s kind of criticism of it. Frankly, that’s a bit lame because the Premier himself has said clearly that foreign policy, defence policy, all those strategic things, are matters for the Commonwealth. He’s going there to reset, to see if we can get economic opportunities, particularly around international students coming back to Victoria and to Australia generally and whether there are other economic opportunities that can benefit Victoria.

CONNELL: Sure, but you can do all that with journalists. I mean, this is a government that once signed a Belt and Road initiative, which the federal government didn’t approve of at the time. How did you feel about that, was that the wrong thing for a state government to do? 

KHALIL: My view on that is that the strategic policy, defence policy, foreign policy is a matter for the federal government.

CONNELL: So, they shouldn’t have signed it?

KHALIL: Well, it’s a matter for the federal government. I know that the Victorian Premier has spoken to the Prime Minister about this particular trip and the Prime Minister is very enthusiastic about Premier Andrews visiting and opening up the relationship.

CONNELL: But what about being open to media? What do you think about that? 

KHALIL: Again, you’d have to ask the Victorian Premier’s office about that. My understanding is that they are doing back-to-back meetings where the media won’t be in those meetings, but you’d have to ask them. It is important though to help stabilise the relationship. We’ve got Tim Ayres, the Assistant Trade Minister travelling to China this week. We had Penny Wong visiting China last year. We’ve had the Prime Minister having constructive discussions with his counterpart, President Xi, so that’s all good to reduce tensions in the relationship. It’s still a very important economic relationship. 

CONNELL: Of course, it is. Our biggest trading partner. I didn’t ask you; do you have TikTok on any of your phones?

KHALIL: No, I don’t. Certainly not on a government device nor on any personal devices.

CONNELL: Ok. Is it allowed on your government device?

KHALIL: I’d have to check that, but I certainly don’t have it on any devices at all. 

CONNELL: Fair enough. Thought I’d ask. 

KHALIL: Yeah, no, that’s a good question. 

CONNELL: Talk soon, Peter Khalil.

KHALIL: Thank you.







Subjects: Anti-trans rally, Neo-Nazis

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: In the aftermath of the confronting protest outside Victoria’s parliament, the state government is moving to ban the Nazi salute. On Saturday, a group of about 30 men from the Nationalist Socialist network marched along Spring Street in Melbourne, disrupting counter rallies held by anti-transgender activists and pro-transgender rights activists, but experts are divided over whether a ban on the Nazi salute will have an impact on far-right extremism. Labor MP Peter Khalil is the chair of the Federal Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. He joins us now, Peter, welcome.


KARVELAS: This isn’t the first time Neo-Nazis have publicly saluted in Victoria. Are we seeing a rise in far-right extremism?

KHALIL: The answer unfortunately is yes. All the security and intelligence agencies have indicated that one of the increases in threats and their assessment is that far-right extremism, Neo-Nazis and other groups, white supremacist groups, are one of the groups that are on the rise as far as they’re a threat to our social cohesion, our society, and this is really, really disturbing, Patricia, for a whole host of reasons, obviously. As we all know Nazism and that fascist kind of ideology is built on hatred, on ignorance, on violence, on discrimination, against not just trans people, but gay people, right throughout all identities, ethnic identities, Muslims and Jews. This is an ideology that has been responsible for the deaths of 6 million Jews, millions of others based on their identity during World War Two and this salute itself is a kind of symbol of that hatred that there’s been a continuum of this since World War Two. No one can be under any illusions about what that means. So, I think the Premier of Victoria is spot on by saying there is no place for Nazis in our state, in our country and they’re taking some actions around that, but we shouldn’t think that banning the salute will be the only thing that is necessary to address this problem.

KARVELAS: What else will be necessary?

KHALIL: There are deeper and structural problems here. Often, the rise of the far-right occurs when there might be issues around inequality or socioeconomic issues, people are manipulated in the community. Let’s not forget what they are trying to do here. They are picking, in this case, it was targeting the trans community. They pick out minorities to attack, they try and sew division and hatred and fear of the other, that is their ideological playbook. We should be aware of that and the way that they try and manipulate and get oxygen in their actions and trying to manipulate the community, we need to address that.

Now the security intelligence agencies play a role in that, but more broadly, as a society, we have to address some of those underlying issues, and it starts with education, it starts with people at a younger age not being captured by or radicalized by these types of groups. There’s a lot of work being done by the federal government across not just the Security Intelligence agency, but I know across the entire government, because this is fundamental to our social cohesion as a nation.

We talk a lot Patricia about multiculturalism and the diversity of our nation as a strength and that’s all very, very true, but there are those who would seek to divide us based on our ethnicity, based on our identity, based on our sexual orientation and that is the contest that is going on now and unfortunately there has been a rise of these groups, particularly over the last 5-10 years.

KARVELAS: The Group of Neo-Nazis showed up at the rally, organised by UK gender activist Kellie Jay Keen and supporters in Australia, including a parliamentarian in Victoria. Do you believe there is a link between the two groups? Because the women that were demonstrating against transgender rights, those women say we’re not linked.

KHALIL: I’ve seen a lot of commentary and different accounts of the event. With any political demonstration or protest, it’s important to go back to the first principles, why are you there? And if you’re there for a vision for a fair and more just society, if you’re an activist in that respect, great. But if you’re there for the opposite, there’s a big question mark, and if you’re attempt at civil dialogue is attracting Neo-Nazis to your protest, then there really needs to be a reassessment of the approach.

Now I know John Pessuto, the Victorian Liberal leader, is taking a leadership position here and seeking to ban the MP that was involved in that rally and that’s something that he’s doing. I would hope that the federal Liberal leader Peter Dutton also shows the same level of leadership and condemns that type of behavior, condemns the Nazis. Remember, he’s a former defence minister, there were 40,000 Australians who died in World War Two fighting fascism and fighting the Nazis. People died to give us the country that we’re living in today effectively, that generation, which not many of them are left. So, I would hope that he comes down and condemns this unequivocally and supports his colleague in the Victorian Liberal Party.

KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

KHALIL: Thanks, Patricia.




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: PJCIS Report on the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Bill

SHARON CLAYDON, DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I give the call to the Member for Wills.

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. On behalf of the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the Committee’s report on the Inquiry into the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Modernisation) Bill 2022. Thank you. The Committee supports the measures of the bill, which would enhance the oversight of Australia’s intelligence agencies by –

CLAYDON: Sorry, Member for Wills – I believe you need to seek leave to speak.

KHALIL: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.

CLAYDON: Is leave granted? Okay, now we can go over to the Member for Wills.

KHALIL: Thank you, Deputy Speaker, not as graciously as for the Member for McNamara, but that’s okay, I’ll forgive you. I present the Committee’s report to the Inquiry into the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Modernisation) Bill 2022. The Committee supports the measures of the bill, which would enhance the oversight of Australia’s intelligence agencies by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. During its inquiry, the Committee has acknowledged the important role of the Inspector General in providing assurance to Australians that its intelligence agencies are performing their functions appropriately. At the same time, Deputy Speaker, the Committee also considered that while there were other legislative provisions that provide for the Inspector-General to share information with the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, there are also some legislative barriers to information sharing that could be improved. Therefore, the Committee has recommended that the government consider appropriate legislative amendments to facilitate better information sharing.

Additionally, the Committee carefully considered evidence regarding the eligibility for appointment to the role of Inspector-General of Intelligence. The Committee recommends that an individual’s eligibility for the appointment to the role of Inspector-General should occur after an appropriate period of time to be determined by government following that individual’s employment in an intelligence agency. The remaining recommendations comprise a minor amendment to align the provisions of the bill with equivalent legislative provisions and to recommend the Office of National Intelligence develop an employment framework governing staff engaged under its own enabling legislation. Deputy Speaker, the Committee acknowledges that the amendments put forward in the bill form only part of the implementation of several recommendations from a series of independent reviews. The Committee notes that the implementation of remaining recommendations is currently under consideration and the Committee looks forward to the opportunity to consider further advice and action in this regard in due course. On behalf of the Committee, Deputy Speaker, I extend my thanks to the Deputy Speaker, other members of the Committee who participated in the inquiry within such a very, very short time frame, I might add for the record – and so there was a fair bit of compromise amongst all of us to try and get this done. So I do thank the Deputy Speaker and all the members of the Committee, and the secretariat, of course, for making this possible in such a short time frame. It’s quite unique. We had submissions provided and appearances at public hearings in record time, so I want to thank the secretariat for all their hard work on this inquiry and the report. Deputy Speaker, I commend this report to the House.




Subjects: AUKUS announcement, Paul Keating Press Club address 

LAURA JAYES (HOST): Paul Keating has accused Labor of making its worst decision in a century, signing a $368 billion AUKUS agreement. The former PM also denied that there’s any imminent threat from China. Joining me live is Labor MP Peter Khalil. Would you call it vintage Keating yesterday? How would you describe it?  

PETER KHALIL, FEDRAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Yeah, vintage is a good way to describe it. Obviously, though, those pithy one-liners are very headline grabbing, but look, Laura, the former Prime Minister was a great Prime Minister, I have great deal of respect for him, that his achievements as Prime Minister will stand the test of time, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with every comment he makes, and he’s entitled to his views. But frankly, when you set aside the kind of personal attacks or playing the woman or the man instead of the ball, which I think is that type of politics, catches the headline, but it doesn’t actually deal with the substance. I think he’s misrepresented the government’s approach on AUKUS, and he’s also misrepresented or, or he’s willfully blind to the changed strategic circumstances that we face today in 2023. And so I think he’s fundamentally wrong in his strategic assessment and I’m happy to you know counter all of those points on, you know, a matter of substance.  

JAYES: OK, it sounds like you’re saying that he’s lost it. He’s lost touch.  

KHALIL: Well, he has a particular view, he’s entitled to that view. We are not in the 1990s, the benign environment which, when he was operating as Prime Minister, is no longer the case, and what’s interesting here is that – let’s take on merit here, his views. He has an assessment of the strategic environment which is one that, that China and other actors in this environment, which is quite volatile, is benign. That flies in the face of the reality that we’re facing today in the sense that it ignores or is blind to the fact that China has, particularly in the last half decade deployed aggressive economic coercion with trade barriers, militarised the South China Sea, there are the human rights issues, the brutal suppression of democracy in Hong Kong, the human rights issues in Xinjian, Tibet; that doesn’t factor let alone the grey zone area of cyber security and that kind of activity that we’ve seen in the last couple of years as well. So that strategic environment is very volatile and this is the really important point: the AUKUS decision is a defence capability decision. It’s meant to actually provide a defence capability and work with a collective deterrence with our partners in order to avoid confrontation, to avoid conflict. The greater your capability, the greater your deterrence, and it makes adversaries, whether they be state actors or non-state actors think twice about using force to achieve their strategic ends. 

JAYES: Sure. Whilst I thought there’s a lot of personal criticisms, I agree with you. One thing I did find myself nodding along to is that we should be facilitating this contest of ideas, not just in politics as a whole, but particularly when it comes to the $368 billion deal. And I think because there is bipartisan agreement, we’re depriving the public of a debate around costs and what this actually does for the region. Do we need to be honest and say, OK, by actually doing this deal, partnering up with the US and the UK, yes, we have drawn the ire of China, and that might make us more of a target? 

KHALIL: Well, there’s two parts to your question. The first one around the point about a public discourse, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I think it’s extremely important that we have a debate, a discussion and engagement with the Australian people, both at the political level, but more broadly in the media and elsewhere around our strategic choices, our strategic circumstances. And that discourse is very important because the environment has changed, as I was saying earlier, and this is a conversation we have to have with the people. So, in that sense, Paul Keating does us a service by getting the media involved in this. I will say, though, that there has been a lot of engagement or op-eds and discussion around AUKUS for a long time, for a number of years now. But people maybe are not interested or maybe are not connected the way that media is fractured, we won’t go into all of that – but you understand the way that media platforms work now, kind of direct people through algorithms to certain types of stories and so on.  

JAYES: But it’s not just the media. It’s kind of where we go in the political debate. Sure, it’s how us here at Sky News have covered it, but I think that we have certainly done that, Peter Stefanovic’s documentary and talking about it day in, day out. The one thing that I still think is unanswered and we’ve heard from both the opposition and Richard Marles that this $368 billion cost for up to 8 nuclear submarines is somehow modest. How is it modest and why are we paying four times as much than we did for the French subs and, and $368 billion – I mean, no one is talking about the sacrifices we’re all going to have to make to get them.  

KHALIL: So, a couple of points of clarity around that figure that’s been bandied about: the estimates are between $268 billion and $360 billion.  

JAYES: Well, this is the problem though as well Peter Khalil. If I could quickly just interrupt – I mean, we’re told 0.15% of GDP, that’s briefed out from the Prime Minister’s office and then we’re left to extrapolate what that actual dollar figure cost would be because no one knows in normal voter land knows what 0.15% actually means? 

KHALIL: Some clarity around this, I think, is important. So first of all, those figures that are being bandied about look big, but that’s out to 2050. That’s over 27 years from 2023. We’re talking about defence spending on these capabilities out to 2050. You mentioned the 0.15% – it’s actually .15% increase in defence spending, so, rough calculations, you can say we’re talking about 10-12, maybe a little bit more billion dollars on defence spending in the budget each year over a 25 year period. But importantly in the short term that is actually offset by the fact that because of the cancellation of the French Subs deal, which is around $6 billion, and other savings that the government will be finding that come out of the defence strategic review and decisions made by the cabinet of around $3 billion. The costs of AUKUS will be offset by those savings as well. So that’s an important point for the public to understand. But in the long term there is a commitment to defence spending. In fact, defence spending as a percentage of GDP is at 2.25, it’s gonna go to I think around 2.35 projections by the end of the decade. That’s an important point that the public – we need to talk about that: why should we be spending a little bit more on defence as a percentage of GDP? Well, it is a very volatile strategic environment that we live in. It’s not the benign environment that we live in anymore. There are a lot of threats to, our democracy, our way of life and the way to deter further threats, and to deter confrontation and conflict, is to ensure that you have a very robust defence capability, and you work with your partners in a collective deterrence. The whole point of deterrence is to make adversaries think twice before they use force and violence to achieve their ends.  

JAYES: Sure. But if I could just ask this one last question, Peter Khalil, I mean, we could spend a whole hour on this, and I’m tempted to do so, but not today. We talk about deterrence, but what’s happening now? If the threat is so real – and we heard Richard Miles just the day before, say it’s the biggest conventional military build-up we’ve ever seen on our doorstep – what is 8 submarines in 30 years going to do when the threat is so real now apparently? 

KHALIL: Well, so AUKUS also has, to, to answer that directly, AUKUS also has an element of advanced capability sharing, which is extremely important for our cybersecurity. So this involves missile technology, hypersonics, AI, quantum computing, drones, other types of capability that are really important that are time sensitive. So that’s a very important element of AUKUS. It’s not just about the submarines. But to answer your question about the now: this government is different than the previous government in that our diplomatic effort and the use of the three d’s that I call them, our statecraft: diplomacy, defence, development, for example, work in conjunction. So, we have been trying to reduce tensions. Obviously, there’s been engagement with China. It’s an important economic partner, we want to engage on our economic relationship, we wanna reduce tensions, we wanna avoid confrontation. And part of doing that is obviously good diplomatic efforts both in the region and with partners and with China itself to steer all the nations towards abiding by the rules-based order that has served us so well. That’s what we wanna achieve, that’s our ends. Part of that is also making sure your defence capability is robust enough, as I said earlier, to deter others from thinking that they can use force. It is a combined effort. It is not so simplistic to say “yeah, it’s linear that you just have to do defence capability”. It’s gotta be diplomacy, it’s gotta be development assistance, it’s gotta be our engagement with Pacific partners, which we’ve done very, very well, as Penny Wong has done. And I think Keating completely misunderstands what you can achieve through soft power in diplomacy as well. That is a very important element of foreign policy and all that works together to do one thing which is our objective, which is to ensure the ongoing security of the region, the stability of the region and the ongoing prosperity that we as Australians have benefited from for decades, through the abiding by that liberal rules-based order. There are those that would seek to diminish that, frankly. And there is a strategic contest, Laura, at the heart of this, between different models of governance: authoritarian states who would like to just do whatever they want when they want, through the use of power and brute force, and liberal democracies who want, as middle powers and smaller countries, frankly, to abide by a security framework, an international rule of law which benefits them in trade and in peace and stability. And that is really seen starkly in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, where a big authoritarian state has invaded a neighbour that is not the world we want to live in or accept, that that is a something that is the norm. And that’s what is at the heart of this. And AUKUS is one small part of the defence capability bit that, that gets us to a point where we protect that rules-based order.  

JAYES: Peter Khalil. Pleasure to talk to you. 

KHALIL: Thanks Laura.  




Subjects: AUKUS, Paul Keating 

WARWICK LONG, HOST: “The worst deal from a Labor government since Billy Hughes tried to introduce conscription back in World War One.” That’s how Paul Keating described the deal to buy subs and sign up to the AUKUS military agreement from Anthony Albanese’s Government today. It was an extraordinary address at the National Press Club in Canberra, and they’re – including a lot of personal attacks for Labor ministers that are currently sitting and signing up to this deal. Peter Khalil is a member of that government, a Labor MP for the northern suburbs, seat of Wills, Chair of the Parliament’s powerful Intelligence and Security Committee, former advisor to prime ministers on national security as well. You’re on the program now. Welcome. 


LONG: Should we start with the decision itself? Does your government’s decision stand up to this scrutiny? 

KHALIL: It does, and I just want to say: I have great respect for Paul Keating. He’s one of our great prime ministers and he’s – 

LONG: You’ve written that he’s your hero. 

KHALIL: Yeah, he was a hero of mine. I just fundamentally think he’s wrong on this. He’s really misrepresented the government’s approach, and the circumstances that we face today and into the future. When he was Prime Minister, the strategic circumstances – the world was much more benign in the 90s. And the fact is – and I respect Keating so I’ll take his points – you had a quote up there of him saying we’ve manufactured a problem. Well, the facts are that the military buildup we’re seeing from China has been unprecedented. It’s been the biggest conventional military buildup anywhere in the world since the end of World War Two. But when you add on to the fact that China has put up economic barriers – talk to our barley makers, our growers, our wine makers – to some of our exports; the issues around human rights, whether it be Hong Kong or Xinjiang; the militarization of the South China Sea. This is all a reality of the strategic environment we’re facing, and it’s important to point that out. We are responding in the sense of making a decision, and this decision is important for our national security and our national interest because we want to avoid confrontation. We want to avoid conflict. And the best way to do that is to ensure that your defence capability. Is up to scratch so that it actually – 

LONG: The biggest stick, if you will. 

KHALIL: Well, it adds up to collective deterrence and it says to adversaries and to others – whether they be state actors or non-state actors – to think twice about using force or using violence to reach their strategic ends, or their objectives. And that is exactly why it’s so important to prepare. The old saying is “the price of peace is to prepare for war” and that is exactly what this decision is about: working together with our partners in the region to ensure that we avoid confrontation and conflict. And also, frankly, protect the liberal rules-based order, international law; the rule of law which is so beneficial to Australia as a trading nation. 

LONG: You said he was a hero of yours. Is he a hero no longer? 

KHALIL: Oh, look, his record will stand the test of time as Prime Minister. All of his reforms, economic reforms, his involvement in foreign policy, all of that as Prime Minister will stand the test of time. It doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything, and I think he’s fundamentally wrong on this issue – 

LONG: So does that risk, I suppose – just in terms of you believing is fundamentally wrong on this issue at the moment, it was quite personal, his address today. Does this risk another civil war in the Labor Party while in government again? You were there to see the last one. Is that at risk here? 

KHALIL: No, it doesn’t Warwick. And look, he’s always very entertaining. He’s always very entertaining in his interventions and his pithy one liners. Being from a football state, he’s playing the man – or the woman – instead of the ball. Look, the fact is, his attacks on Penny Wong and Richard Marles are just not borne out by the reality. Every observer of foreign policy, every Australian, who’s seen the tremendous work that both Penny and Richard have done in just 9-10 months of the Albanese government to reset our relationships in the Pacific; to reset our partnerships in the region; to reduce tensions – I mean, she visited every single Pacific country. And his throwaway line that you know that’s foreign policy is not handing out money. I mean that that is not –  

LONG: Well, let’s listen to that. Here’s Paul Keating taking a jab at the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong’s diplomacy. 

PAUL KEATING, FORMER PRIME MINSTER: No, we’re not using diplomacy. Running around the Pacific islands with a lei around your neck handing out money, which is what Penny does, is not foreign policy. It’s a consular task, fundamentally. Foreign policy, what you do with the great powers, what you do with China, what you do with the United States. This government, the Albanese Government, does not employ foreign policy. 

LONG: Do you think he overstepped the line, going that personally? 

KHALIL: Well, two points on what he said. First of all – and I’ll take his statement and I’ll respond to it. First of all, he contradicts himself because on one hand, he says he’s critical of the soft power efforts of the government in, in our diplomatic efforts, our development assistance in the region as it as if that’s not foreign policy, which is fundamentally wrong. And then he says ‘real’ foreign policy is dealing with the great powers, and yet he’s criticising one of the most important strategic decisions around defence partnership and strategic partnership with the US and the UK. And by the way, other partners? This is not just the Anglosphere, as he talks about. Last time I checked, the Japanese and the Indians are not Anglos; nor are the Filipinos; nor are the Vietnamese, nor are many other countries in the region who want to maintain the stability and security of the region and the prosperity of the region as trading nations. And so there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what foreign policy is all about. And in fact, the substance of what Penny Wong and Richard Marles have done in the region in resetting the relationship, in engaging with our Pacific neighbours as partners – without the paternalism and the arrogance of the previous government – engaging on issues like climate change that are substantively and existentially important for all of us, especially our Pacific neighbours. And engaging with them on defence and the economy and on our cultural exchange, this is mutually beneficial for Australia and those countries. 

LONG: So that’s your thought on the issue and what Keating’s addressing here. I wanna know what you think about the personal attacks on ministers in your government, your colleagues? This is a former Prime Minister. Usually they’re in great standing in the community, and he has taken the time and the position today to take a great shot at this government decision and not only do that, [but] get very personal, as we just heard, talking about with Penny Wong running around the Pacific Islands, getting leis around her neck. Has he gone too far in the personal attacks? 

KHALIL: I’ll tell you what, Warwick. The record even in the in the first ten months of the Albanese Government stands for itself, just as his record as Prime Minister stands for itself. The work that Penny Wong and Richard Marles and the Prime Minister have done to reset our relationships and advance Australia’s national interest, whether resetting the relationship with France, whether it’s our Pacific partners, whether it’s our friends and allies in the region working together on so many aspects of what is so important for Australia’s national interest, our economic interests, stands for itself. People can judge that. And personally, I don’t think playing the man or the woman instead of the ball is probably not a good way – I might give you a couple of good one-liners, but it’s not real politics and I think that people will judge that on that basis. 

LONG: Paul Keating says the grassroots members of the Labor Party support him and his position on AUKUS. Are the Labor Party members in your seat of Wills with him or with you on this? 

KHALIL: That’s a tough question, but every individual is different. Every member has their own views, and we respect their views and they’re part of a broad church, as it were, of the Labor Party, and they contribute to policy. And I have meetings with members in my electorate every day. I talk to them all the time. I’m constantly speaking with them at branch meetings. That’s the great thing about our party. There’s a really good membership base who make a contribution to foreign policy and economic policy, and so on, and there are differing views. Some might agree with Keating. Not many, I don’t think in the sense of the kind of personal attacks that he’s making. The Members that I speak to, frankly, have been telling me that they’re very, very pleased with the with the job that the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have been doing in foreign policy and in national security. It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the beating of the war drums of Dutton and the previous government. Look, the big difference is – and he sort of tries to say that we’re it’s no different than the Morrison Government – there’s a massive chasm. There’s a massive difference in how we have conducted ourselves compared to the previous government. What Penny has done, and Richard and the Prime Minister, is to reduce tensions; is to work – and we’re very happy to talk to partners in the region, including China, about our economic relationship. But at the same time, we’re not going to step back on our values. We’re not going to meet certain conditions or demands in doing that was one of the first. Things that Prime Minister Albanese said when he when he became Prime Minister: “happy to talk, happy to have that good and positive economic relationship, but we’re not going to take a backward step on values and on our national interest.” 

LONG: A couple of really short questions because I know we’re conscious of time here, and your time as well, Peter Khalil. Will you try and speak to Paul Keating after his address today? 

KHALIL: I don’t know about that Warwick. No, probably not. 

LONG: And you were a national security adviser to Kevin Rudd. In that time, if this deal came up, would you have advised Kevin Rudd to take the deal? 

KHALIL: That question doesn’t quite work as a hypothetical because it mixes both temporally challenged in the sense that the strategic circumstances that we face today are not the same as we faced back in 2008. And it’s a very different world and it’s changed significantly. 

LONG: Would Kevin Rudd – does Kevin Rudd support this? Would he support a deal like this with AUKUS or – 

KHALIL: You’d have to ask Kevin about that. He is someone who’s a keen analytic mind on these strategic issues, and he will have his views. I think it’s safe to say from my perspective though, the strategic circumstances that we face today are so much different than they were even five years ago, because we’ve seen a shift in China. It’s China that has changed, not Australia. And we are doing everything we can to avoid conflict, to make sure our capability adds to the collective deterrence to those who might want to use force to maintain the stability in the region, the liberal rules-based order, which includes human rights and trade, and the security framework which is beneficial to us and so many other countries in the region. It’s no accident that so many nations in the region are working together to protect that rules-based order because it’s in all of our benefit. 

LONG: Peter Khalil, thanks for your time. 

KHALIL: Thank you very much. Cheers. 



ABC Afternoon Briefing
Wednesday 15 MARCH 2023

Subjects: Keating, AUKUS

GREG JENNETT, HOST: We’re going to bring in our political panel today, and it’s another all-Victorian combination. We have Labor MP and member for Wills – he’s also chair of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence [and] Security – Peter Khalil is with us, and Liberal MP and member for Flinders Zoe McKenzie joins us now. Welcome to both of you, and Zoe, I promise I won’t turn this into an interview on Paul Keating with our ALP member Peter Khalil but kind of irresistibly, I do have to start there.

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: I’m sure you’re going to talk about it.

JENNETT: Alright, so former prime ministers, like former presidents, Peter, command esteemed places in a nation’s political history. Paul Keating’s views, I think it’s fair to say, are diametrically opposed to current Labor thinking. Is he recklessly endangering the AUKUS alliance?

KHALIL: Well, first of all, I have great respect for Paul Keating as one of our great prime ministers. But he has seriously misrepresented the government’s approach on AUKUS and the strategic environment that we face today. It’s not the benign world that he was living in the 1990s. The world has changed considerably, and that strategic environment is one in which there’s been the largest conventional military build-up, unprecedented really, since World War Two, where there’s been a militarization of the South China Sea, there’s been economic barriers placed on our exports by China. And there is a strategic contest at the heart of this between models of governance, whether it’s a liberal democratic model with an international rule of law and a framework around security and trade and human rights that we live in, or a model in which authoritarian states get to do what they want when they want because of their ability to use force. And I just make this point that Keating fundamentally is wrong about the capability acquisition that that is within AUKUS is important because it raises our ability to contribute to what I would call collective deterrence amongst a number of nations across the region. So, it’s not just the US and UK, there are other nations who have an interest in protecting that liberal rules-based order.

And that deterrence is important to deter countries from using force as a means to reach their strategic goals. We want to avoid confrontation. We want to avoid conflict. And the best way to do that is to make sure your capability and your defence is good enough and strong enough to make sure that it is part of a deterrent effect on that. There’s an old saying that says “the price of peace is preparing for war”.

JENNETT: I’ve got a few more questions on Paul Keating to cast back at you, Peter, but Zoe McKenzie – Paul Keating’s criticisms are as much directed at the Coalition in many ways. Even though he was targeting his own side, you implicitly support everything around AUKUS. How would you characterize your response, particularly in light of what Peter’s just had to say?

ZOE MCKENZIE, SENATOR LIBERAL PARTY: I obviously endorse what Peter said, and it’s good that the Coalition and the government are indeed as one on AUKUS. It was originally a Coalition policy, and one that we are very pleased to have seen taken forward so wholeheartedly by this government, with the series of announcements yesterday that the Coalition has endorsed and stands ready to assist with the implementation. The intervention by Paul Keating today was indeed a fascinating one, obviously very different from the viewpoint that Peter said out here. Peter has been solid for a long time – he’s a dear friend. But can I say what concerned me about his intervention was the proximity he intimated with the Prime Minister. It would appear he’s had the Prime Minister’s ear for some time on this as he does a number of people who look up to him. You know, Jim Chalmers’ Ph.D., I think, was written about the leadership of PJK, and so I found it interesting to realize just how present he had been in the debate, at least until February, when he last reached out to the Prime Minister’s office and indeed, his vast disappointment that he’s not being listened to.

JENNETT: TY that point, Zoe, he doesn’t have much sway, though, does he? I mean, it’s one thing to have each other’s phone number in your contacts, but it doesn’t count for much.

MCKENZIE: He sat down with the Prime Minister for an hour before the G20 meeting it. It’s not just occasional text messages, it’s more than that.

Nevertheless, I don’t doubt what Peter has said. I don’t doubt what the Prime Minister has said in terms of their commitment to AUKUS. We have seen it writ large in the last 36 hours and we are very, very pleased that that is the case.

JENNETT: Can I take you, Peter, to a specific criticism of foreign policy as it is practiced by currently the Albanese Government, but maybe it was suggested that it was previously: “running around the Pacific islands with a lei around your neck handing out money, which is what Penny does, is not foreign policy, it’s a consular task fundamentally. Foreign policy is what you do with great powers”. That’s a very direct criticism of Penny Wong there. Peter Khalil, is there any validity to it?

KHALIL: Well, setting aside the fact that he’s playing the woman in this case rather than the ball, which I I think is poor politics: it gets you a good pithy one liner and some headlines, but it doesn’t address the substance. And frankly, every foreign policy observer, every Australian, has seen clearly the tremendous work that Penny Wong has done as Foreign Minister in a short 10 months of the Albanese Government. She’s been to every single Pacific island country. It’s not just about throwing money around. She has reset relationships with our Pacific neighbours and throughout Southeast Asia based on their resilience on infrastructure, on the economic part of the relationship, on cultural exchange defence cooperation –  which the Defence Minister Richard Marles has also been instrumental in doing – and that has been a substantive difference to the manner in which the previous government engaged with the Pacific, which was paternalistic, which was frankly very arrogant. Which ignored the existential importance of climate change as a front and centre issue for not just for us, but for Pacific countries. So, our engagement has reset those relationships, and Penny Wong has done it on a basis that those partners have chosen Australia as the partner of choice, frankly, and everyone can see that. So, Keating is fundamentally wrong on that. I should also say, he contradicts himself because he has a criticism of soft power which has been deployed by Penny Wong and Richard Marles and the Prime Minister across the region with respect to development assistance as well as diplomacy, and then at the same time criticizes our engagement with the big players that he says is what foreign policy is about. And frankly his other criticism around the Anglosphere is completely misdirected because last time I checked, India and Japan are not Anglo.

JENNETT: Fair point. Look, there were probably a few contradictions inherent in it. Zoe, you pay on results, though in foreign policy and in the Pacific, although this is a colourful criticism against Penny Wong, you’d have to acknowledge that she has results, doesn’t she? The engagement, the willingness of all of these countries to accept her as a high-level visitor is a marked difference to what was going on in the tail end of the Morrison years.

MCKENZIE: Look, I do think Penny Wong has been as visible and as present in the Pacific as is possible. She has also been incredibly gracious in that she’s taken bipartisan groups with her into our various most strategic and important partners in the Pacific. So, you won’t hear complaint from me on that point. We understand the importance of the Indo Pacific, and indeed our collaboration across the Quad. So, no complaint from me.

JENNETT: Alright. That’s fair minded, I guess. And Peter, I’d be negligent as the committee Chair if I didn’t put this one to you: “dopes and ning nongs in national security agencies, including ASIS” – has that been your experience?

KHALIL: No, it hasn’t, and frankly, I think it’s offensive by Paul Keating to run those sorts of pithy one-liners to degrade and denigrate the work that so many public servants do within our intelligence security agencies. Look, we can disagree on the politics. We can disagree on the execution of policy, on the substance of policy, and let’s have an argument about that. But to play the man and/or the woman, not the ball, should be beneath him. And unfortunately, this is something the media is quite excited to pick up on because it’s colourful. But it’s not substantive, and the people that are working in those agencies are dedicating their lives to protecting Australia and Australia’s interests, and I think it’s pretty poor form to criticize them in that manner.

JENNETT: Alright, look, really quickly because I want to move on to AUKUS proper, but Peter, again, not turning this into an interview with you, but the Labor membership: I think it was suggested by Paul Keating that he is in touch with a view that is out there in the branches. Are you?

KHALIL: I speak to members all the time about calling members and talking to them about policies and getting feedback. There’s a broad range of views, diverse views across our membership base right across the country. To claim that he represents the membership base, I’m not sure what polling he’s using to make that claim. It’s a bit of a throwaway remark. Frankly, people understand. People are intelligent. They understand that the strategic circumstances and the environment we live in are unprecedented. They’re the most volatile since World War Two. They also understand that we are taking decisions as a government to protect Australia’s interests and it is really about the world that we want to live in, what kind of world do we want to live in? Do we want one where human rights, the international law, where trade is respected under a normative framework, or do we want one where authoritarian states can dominate, invade their Neighbours like Russia has invaded Ukraine, without any consequence. I know which world I want my children and grandchildren to live in.

JENNETT: Yeah, that’s the framing of it. Zoe McKenzie, why don’t I take you to AUKUS? All that lies ahead, of course. Money makes the world go ‘round, and some big funding decisions are going to have to be made on both revenue and on spending. Are you ready to participate in this in a mature way that looks at both sides of the ledger? Because you’re not going to get to $368 billion by nips and tucks.

MCKENZIE: Look, it is a colossal amount of money. I think on the weekend we were talking about 150 billion, by Monday morning it was 200, and by the time the actual figure came out yesterday, it was between 268 and 368. As I understand it, that the commitment for the forward estimates the next 4 years is 9 billion, 6 of which will come from repurposed funds for the original plan for submarines, and 3 billion is to be saved from the Defence Department. As your guest before us said, it is going to be hard yards indeed to find out from Defence. And I think there’s a certain amount of nervousness about where that may come from. You don’t want to actually undo some capability in pursuit of another one. So yes indeed, we need to sit down and talk about it. I think one option that is – you know, there’s a parliamentary joint committee in relation to intelligence and security. Maybe it’s time for a parliamentary joint committee in relation to AUKUS as well, and its implementation so that all issues can be looked at in a healthy, bipartisan way as we have seen over the last 48 hours and would be nice to see going forward. So, in terms of savings and budget appropriations, yes, it is going to be a hard time ahead. And I think our leader, Peter Dutton, and together with Andrew Hastie have said they are happy to sit down and work with government to find those savings so that we can afford it. I’m also mindful, though, that our government increased funding for defence from about 1.5% of GDP to over 2 without having to increase any taxes. So that is what we would like to see here as well.

JENNETT: Yeah. Alright, Peter, there is an elegance I suppose to that suggestion there from Zoe that not unlike your committee, there might be a dedicated bipartisan one for AUKUS. Do you see some merit in that?

KHALIL: Look, an AUKUS caucus might work. I think that the parliament’s role through the implementation process of AUKUS will be an important one, and I think there there’s merit in some of those ideas to engage parliamentarians across the aisle, across the crossbench, both houses in the substance of AUKUS business. Such an important strategic decision for our future, so I’m supportive of exploring those ideas. I will just say on the budget, really importantly, some facts here. The first part of the AUKUS is being offset. The costs are being offset by the cancellation of the French submarine deal of 6 billion and further savings that are going to be coming out of the Defence Strategic Review within the defence budget. But the defence budget is actually increasing, and under our watch it will go up from 2.25% of GDP up to about 2.35 by the end of the decade, and everyone bandies –

JENNETT: Is that the upper limit though, Peter, do you think? 2.35 [by the] end of the decade?

KHALIL: Everyone bandies on about this enormous number of 300 billion, but that’s out to 2050. So actually, you’re talking about increases in the defence budget in a quantative centre of around 10-12 billion a year. It’s about 0.15% increased in the defence budget each year – that’s what it sort of equates to. But remember, this is out to 2050 yeah, and that’s what we’re talking about: 27 year time frame. So that’s important to note. And I think the issues are so important for our national interest. I welcome the bipartisanship across the aisle with crossbenchers as well to work together on this because this is actually very important for Australia to maintain the stability and the security of the region that we live in and the ongoing prosperity that we’ve all enjoyed for decades and make sure that goes forward with respect for that rules-based order that we can all abide by.

JENNETT: Well, it’s probably necessary because it looks like it’s going to outlast all of our careers, in your case, in Parliament, in mine, just outside it and reporting on it. It is a massive endeavour, that’s for sure what’s been undertaken this week. Look, we could go on, but I know time’s going to beat us if we happen to dip our toe in the water on energy prices. We could be here locked up talking about it for fully 20 minutes. So we might sidestep it and conclude what has been a mature debate on all things strategic and defence. Zoe McKenzie, really appreciate your thoughts today, and Peter Khalil as ever, thanks to both.

KHALIL: Thanks Greg. Thanks Zoe.






Subjects: PJCIS Report

IAN GOODENOUGH, DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I call the honourable Member for Wills.

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. On behalf of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, I present the Committee’s report, entitled: “Annual Report of Committee Activities, 2021-2022”, and I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with that report.

GOODENOUGH: Leave is granted. Please proceed.

KHALIL: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. I present the Committee’s annual report of its activities for the year 2021-2022, which was presented out of session and published on the 22nd of February 2023. In line with the legislative obligations set out in the Intelligence Services Act 2001 that the committee report annually on its activities, the report provides details of the Committee’s work in the financial year ending on the 30th of June 2022. Of course, this is in fact a report of the activities of the former Committee during the final year of the 46th Parliament. The Committee recognises its responsibility to the Australian public to provide as much transparency as possible with respect to its oversight functions for agencies within the national intelligence community, while at the same time respecting the unique secrecy and confidentiality requirements of those agencies. Between July 2021 and April 2022, when the 46th Parliament ended, the Committee maintained a very high pace of activity despite the impacts of COVID lockdowns across many jurisdictions. In those nine months, Deputy Speaker, the Committee worked in a bipartisan manner across 21 inquiries and presented 17 reports. Over the review period, the PJCIS completed work on 4 statutory reviews, 7 bill inquiries, 2 administration and expenditure reviews, and three reviews of terrorist listings under the criminal code. This reflects the significant increase in matters referred to and required of the Committee over recent years. Moreover, during the period, 4 new acts included amendments to the Intelligence Services Act, adding further to the functions of the Committee. During the period, the Committee also worked on two general policy inquiries referred by ministers. These examined the national security risks affecting Australia, Australia’s higher education and research sector, and extremist movements and radicalism in Australia. With recent legislative changes, we continue to see the evolution of the intelligence community. It is crucial, Deputy Speaker, that parliamentary oversight through the PJCIS similarly evolves to keep up with the intelligence sector and its work. Ensuring that the legislation which enables this Committee’s work is fit for purpose is essential in this regard. The Committee therefore looks forward to the opportunity to review the Intelligence Services Act during the 47th Parliament with a view to assessing where it should be updated. We know the operations of the PJCIS are central to ensuring accountability and providing oversight of Australia’s intelligence agencies. The Committee has and will continue to take this role seriously as we look to safeguard the interests of all Australians. On behalf of the Committee, I wish to thank all those who made contributions to the various inquiries and reviews undertaken over that period of 2021 to April 2022, that financial year, and I acknowledge the work of the former Committee and my predecessor, who was Chair at the time, Senator James Paterson, in leading that work. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I commend the report to the House.




Subjects: Defence Strategic Review 

DAVID MCCARTHY, PRESENTER: You are on Saturday magazine, Joy 94.1. Listeners may still be appalled, but probably not because of our next guest Peter Khalil, the Member for Wills. Welcome, Peter it’s been a little while since we spoke to you. How are you going?  

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: G’day, I’m well. Is it too late to say Happy New Year?  

MCCARTHY: No, you just said it, so. Now my co-host Dave Allen, he is champing at the bit. He wants to ask you a question about men and women in uniform.  

DAVE ALLEN, PRESENTER: The Defence Review, Peter. 

KHALIL: The Defence Review, yes.  

ALLEN: Yes. So, obviously this is a large question and for those listeners who didn’t read the brief, there was a landmark defence review handed down this week into what is needed to up Australia’s defence capacity for the long term. Now we’re talking billions of dollars, massive pieces of infrastructure and not just the AUKUS Pact – we’re talking frigates, we’re talking missiles, we’re talking hypersonic capability. Can you speak to that? And can you also talk about the risk of perhaps potentially lapsing into what’s previously been described as irresistible defence technology as opposed to just on the ground defence technology? How do we get through this review without betting the farm?  

KHALIL: Wow, that’s a big question though, but I’ll do my best in 45 seconds. First of all, the Defence Strategic Review, the DSR, which was authored by Angus Houston, former Chief of Defence Force, and Stephen Smith, former Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, was handed to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister just this past week. It is a full review, as you alluded to, of all of Australia’s force structure, its defence capability. And what we need to do to protect our national interests in the coming decades – and there’s been there’s some significant recommendations in it, which go to reshaping our defence forces; you touched on a couple of them – what do we need to protect our interests, the maritime approaches, the sea lanes, all the things that are important to Australia’s national interest and prosperity as far as trade goes and all the rest of it. To answer your question very quickly, defence capability equals deterrence. So, the whole purpose of this is having the kind of capability that will deter adversaries, whether they be state actors or non-state actors, from using force or attacking our interests and pushing them to other channels like diplomacy, for instance. And the more deterrent capability you have, the less likely you’re gonna have conflicts. So, the billions of dollars that you speak to are actually an investment to avoid spending a lot more if we ever get into a conflict situation which would damage our economy and damage the global economy and so on, so that’s the principal thinking behind the Defence Strategic Review and what it means. And lastly, I should just say that technology that you’re talking about, the advanced capability, is really important, because a lot of what happens now is in the so-called grey zones. Cyber security, cyber-attacks, interference in our critical infrastructure and our systems, so having those counter-capabilities, cyber defence and cyber security capabilities are very important in protecting our interests.  

ALLEN: Now talking of cyber security, our former Prime Minister yesterday said that a war with China in the future would be fought with bytes and bits. And obviously there is a lot happening in the Department of Communications at the moment around privacy and so forth. What percentage do you think of our defensive capability in the future is going to need to be against cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure? 

KHALIL: A lot of the spending already, our investment, has shifted to cybersecurity and there’s been, there was a big investment in the Australian Signals Directorate that does a lot of this cyber protection across critical infrastructure, across our systems, systems of importance, and I talk about our energy systems our academia, our boardrooms – all of the different systems that make everything work every day. So, a lot has already shifted in that direction and ASD is already within Defence, so that’s kind of part of the Defence budget. Those big toys, those big hardware pieces, there’s a big rethink about what it is that we need. Do you need a much more asymmetric-type capability, smaller drones and other types of capability, that can actually do what is necessary rather than the big hardware? 

ALLEN: We do keep hearing in Ukraine drones being used, and I gather China attacked a Philippine vessel with a laser this week. So, we’re hearing a lot about high technology.  

KHALIL: It’s advanced capability. You touched on hypersonic missiles and counter hypersonic research, there’s drones, there’s undersea water capability drones. Even those drones that you refer to, there’s an Australian company here in Melbourne that is manufacturing drones, they cost about $10,000. They’re very small, but they’re used very effectively by the Ukrainian Defence forces for what’s called intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance gathering. So they’re very effective, and because they’re manufactured here in Melbourne, people don’t really realise the capability that we have, the technology and the kind of potential that Australia has to work in this space. But that’s happening. It’s gonna be happening because there’s gonna be a real shift in the paradigm, out of this Defence Strategic Review when the government makes big decisions this year.  

MCCARTHY: You serve on a number of committees, and I think for listeners to understand that: parliamentary committees, whether it’s House of Reps. or Senate, they discuss and investigate issues and make reports, which ultimately does feed into policy. Can you tell us what are the committees you actually serve on? And I think you might chair some of them, Peter.  

KHALIL: Yes, Macca, the PM asked me to chair the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for the Parliament. That is a pretty intense committee. Its responsibility is to review any national security laws, all national security bills; we have oversight over all the intelligence and security agencies, their administration, their expenditure, their effectiveness and we do reviews and inquiries based on referrals from the PM or other cabinet ministers. For example, we’re doing an inquiry on radical right-wing extremism and other forms of radical extremism, so it’s an important committee. It also has a bipartisan tradition, and I hope that can continue, although that you know sometimes is not possible. There’s a tradition to try and really reach consensus for the national interest and put aside the partisan games that go on in politics. And I should say, and I’m also on the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence Committee. Committee work is interesting because it’s not sexy enough to get on the nightly news, but it allows members of Parliament from across the aisles to work together on policy issues and make recommendations for the government of the day on those policy areas. But because it’s not the same shouting and carry on that you see in Question Time it’s probably not newsworthy. I think people like to see a bit of conflict and a bit of biffo, maybe, but it would be pretty boring doing a one-minute piece on some members of Parliament agreeing with each other on the importance of this policy or that policy.  

ALLEN: Talking about security laws, I’m a journalist, outside of Joy, I’m a news journalist. We, Australia passed more national security laws in the wake of the 9/11 attacks than the UK and the US combined. Now I know as a journalist, that thicket of laws obviously has had a great impact on us, it has improved national security, but at the same time it has lengthened the time taken to do effective national security reporting and made it a legal nightmare and extremely expensive. Now obviously these are necessary laws, but is something being done to streamline that thicket so journalism can proceed effectively as part of democracy? 

KHALIL: No, you’re right, Dave. And I, and this is my view. I also know our new government is looking at this where the Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus is looking at a review of all the Privacy Act and the privacy laws. 

ALLEN: Big fan of Mark Dreyfus here.  

KHALIL: Yeah, no, I’ve got to call him KC now. Mark’s great. But you’ve really hit the nail on the head: the responsibility of government is always to get the balance right between individual liberties versus the collective or public security. And if it goes tilts too much in one direction, you remove those individual liberties. I think with respect to journalists, we are looking at the laws around what’s in the public interest. You mentioned the kind of bureaucratic nightmare that you’ve got to go through as a journalist. All these laws are being reviewed. There’s a review of the Privacy Act, there’s a review of our counterterrorism framework, elements of that of course go to what’s in the public interest, and journalism, and protection of journalists. And I was very critical of the previous Government going too far in actually diminishing what is a very important part of our democracy, and that is the right of journalists to report on these issues in the public interest. Of course, there are sometimes, as you would know, areas where you can’t go because it’s about protecting people’s lives, but I think the government tilted way too much towards diminishing the right of journalists to report on what is in the public interest, and we’re trying to redress that through these reviews.  

MCCARTHY: Unfortunately, Peter, we’re out of time. But thank you for that, and we’ve got a whole lot of different segments rostered for you in the future and we look forward – some of them are a bit longer, so I do appreciate you giving the time and explaining the role of those committees. I think a lot of listeners are not sure. Because it’s not that sexy, some of it, and people like me sometimes like watching it, but you know. I think there’s three other people in Australia who watch it as well.  

KHALIL: There’s so much on Netflix, Macca and you’re watching committees. I don’t know what’s going on there.  

MCCARTHY: Look, I really briefly did watch Phillip Lowe in the committee hearings that he was in. And you know, he clearly was under pressure, but his most recent appearance, it was clear to me he had the shits with you all.  

KHALIL: You like a good interrogation, that’s what you like.  

MCCARTHY: Well, he’s the Chair of the Board but the Board is 9, three of which are ex officio, so there’s another six, and decisions have to be a majority. So, you know if we’re going to have a crack at him – believe me, I’m not about defending Phillip Lowe – but how about people should actually have a look at who else is on the board and the decisions that are made rather than just targeting him, I think it’s a bit unfair. But his body language is interesting. He doesn’t like you lot.  

KHALIL: I’m not on that committee, but I’ll pass it on to my colleagues.  

MCCARTHY: Anyway, that’s my 13 cents worth. There you go. Thank you.  

MCCARTHY, ALLEN: Thanks Peter, appreciate it.