ABC News Interview: Afternoon Briefing: US Protests, Homebuilder



SUBJECTS: US Protests, Homebuilder 

PATRICIA KARVELASHOST: I’ll start with you, Katie Allen, will you be going (to the Melbourne protest), or what do you make of this kind of movement here? And are you thinking about going.  

KATIE ALLEN MP: Look, I won’t be going, but that’s because of the public health side of things, not because black lives don’t matter, I absolutely support the right for peaceful protest but we have COVID legislation in place at the moment. And I hope that those who do choose to go to peacefully protest, make sure that they don’t have any symptoms, that they’ve downloaded, COVIDSafe. And if they can attempt to keep some distance and make sure they’re using hand sanitising, that would be also good. Of course, that’s going to be awfully difficult to implement. So I am very hopeful that people are respectful and that they are keeping their distance from each other and they’re not making the problem any worse, but of course this whole issue of black life matters is really taken off around the world. And I think these issues and movements are incredibly important.  

HOST: Yeah, let’s go to that. Peter Khalil, I will ask you the same question. Are you considering going? 

PETER KHALIL MP: Yeah, I’m going to try and down there PK. I mean I have been asking a question for over a week. Why does it take rioting and looting in the United States for there to be more action, more activism, more protests around the issues that we’re grappling with as a nation and, you know, over 400 deaths in custody, since the Royal commission, and this is an ongoing issue, obviously it’s very different than the US but these are issues that we have to grapple with in our own way and I know this has taken on a global movement. It is something that we’re all seeing on our TV screens and there are some deep seated issues around racism, institutionalised racism in the U S and they’re grappling with for 400 years and this is one that’s been exacerbated obviously by the fact that the lack of national leadership if you’d like. I know David Speers was talking about the delicacy around Donald Trump. Well, I’m sorry, you know, you’ve got people like General Mattis. You’ve got people on the Republican side of politics coming out and speaking very clearly about the lack of leadership being demonstrated rather than trying to unite Americans. There’s this divisive approach and pouring fuel on the fire which is tragic in many respects. And that’s just a view from a backbencher, but so be it.  

HOST: So Peter, you’re going to be going along that’s despite the fact Daniel Andrews, the premier says that people should not go to the rally? 

KHALILWell, I’m going to try and go. I mean, I don’t know, I’ve got a couple of other things on this weekend, but I’m going to try and get out there. The thing about the protest movement protest is important. Absolutely. But protest has to be paired with politics because when you want to effect change, protests actually raises public awareness. So that’s a good thing, but people understand what’s been happening, educating themselves, but to actually effect real change, you need to translate that into political action. That means going out and voting, voting for candidates, voting for candidates and parties that want to take action on these issues. Actually trying to get reform done through legislation. That’s what it means and protests on its own is not good enough. You’ve got to gotta have the politics with it.  

HOST: Katie, I just want to ask you another question on the way it’s been handled. What do you make of Donald Trump’s leadership on this? You’re also a backbencher, so can speak a little more freely. Are you disappointed with what you’ve seen?  

ALLEN: Look in my view and I’ve, I’ve made public comment about this. I think that we’ve got to take the context of the fact that this is a U S political cycle, it’s coming into election in November. And what is striking is the fact that Donald Trump has politicised the relationship with the States. And that’s something that’s been very different from what we’ve seen here in Australia, where the States and the Federal governments have worked in a really wonderful bipartisan way, formation of the national cabinet, and the people of Australia are really happy with the way the governments are working together to solve problems for the community. And we’re seeing a lot of buck passing that’s happening in the U S with Donald Trump saying that the States, which are often dominated by democratic governors. And he seems to be doing a bit of back passing. So I suppose that’s been extremely disappointing. Of course what’s happening in the US is, is incredible. I mean, from a health point of view, the amount of deaths is unbelievable. We were seeing a third of the world’s deaths. There’s currently more than 300,000 deaths around the world. A third of those are happening in the US and disproportionately amongst black people. So when we look at these black lives lives matter,  the unfortunate death of George Floyd, I think is a tipping point for a boiling over of tensions. And I’ve worked in the U S for a number or a couple of years and the US racial relations are very, very complicated, longstanding, issue. This is not a first nations issue. This is actually a racial tension issue, which is very different from other racial tensions around the world. And blacks in America have really terrible health outcomes, but the Covid crisis has affected blacks in America in a very disproportionate manner to whites in America. So it’s the elderly and those of Afro-American descent that are doing really poorly. So I think there’s a bubbling over of tension. There’s also a bubbling over from the health and economic consequences of Covid as well. And I think that you can see this tension causing this absolute outpouring from this tipping point. That was this really terrible and tragic death that occurred over in the United States. So in Australia, we’ve of course got a very different situation. Indigenous, there are many indigenous and chronic Indigenous problems that the Australian government, the state governments have been trying to address since the 1987 Royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. And there have, as Peter said, been more than 400 deaths in the last 35 years, but the number of deaths and violence in the US even per-capita, is at a much greater level than it is here in Australia. That’s not to belittle that there’s terrible problems here in Australia that we do need to address. And the Closing the Gap report recently was extremely disappointing because of the 10 items that we were all aiming for. Only two of them were actually successful in closing the gap. So there’s a lot more work to do with regards to our Indigenous population, but I will say with regards to particularly the Coronavirus epidemic in stark contrast to what is happening in the US we’ve been managing our first nations population very carefully. I sit on a National Health Covid Response Committee, and we’ve been working very closely with a number of experts right across infectious diseases, epidemiology to make sure that our Indigenous population are very carefully supported. There’s a lot of testing that’s going on in the communities. As we know, there’s been a very quick closure of the communities to the outside world to make sure that we keep our First Nations people very safe. And I think the Covid response has been very carefully aware of how our Indigenous population are at risk of a poor outcome from Covid. So there’s been a lot of work done by the experts here in Australia and by the State and Federal governments to protect Indigenous people. And that’s a good thing.  

HOST: Let’s just talk about this HomeBuilder grant. That’s been a scheme that’s been announced today. $25,000 grants will be given to eligible homeowners. Peter Khalil, do you think that that will work at stimulating the kind of construction industry, and are you happy with the kind of means testing around it?  

KHALIL: Oh, PK smoke and mirrors again, smoke and mirrors by this government, seriously, how many Australian’s have $150,000 lying around under their bed in this particular period of time,  in normal circumstances even? That they can just pull out 150 grand and say, here we go, give me another extra 25 grand, and I’ll go ahead and do a renovation. I mean, there is not $1 in this package around social housing, either for construction, for repair or maintenance. And we’re talking about public housing. I grew up in a housing commission back in the seventies. The total public housing stock was about 6% in Australia. It is now dropped to lower than 2%, not a single dollar on public housing, not a single dollar for mums who are experiencing and their kids who are experiencing domestic violence, trying to find them places to live, not a single dollar for veterans sleeping rough on the streets, not a single dollar for frontline workers. I mean, seriously, you’ve got to ask that again. Is this just incompetence by the government, or is it a deliberate ideological decision to put a subsidy towards a small section of Australian society that could afford this rather putting that investment where it really matters?  

HOST: Okay. Just a brief answer for you, Katie Allen, I need to get to my next guest, but the social housing in particular, would you like the government to make some announcements around social housing as well?  

ALLEN: Well, I think the first thing to say is that housing is a state issue, but the Federal Government already invests $1.6 billion in housing services and also provides $4.6 billion for rental assistance. Yes, we always need to do more particularly for homelessness and we have to be alive and alert to this issue going forward. But what I will say is that the construction sector was looking at a cliff going forward. We know that the construction sector that supports about a million jobs and this whole program is absolutely about jobs. We know that they are the biggest users of a Jobkeeper. And so we need to make sure that we start to move people onto jobs that have a supply chain of funding coming into it. And we want to actually activate private investment to make sure that people, aspiring families who may wish with the low interest rate to invest into this area, that, that we encourage them, incentivise them to do that, because this is an incredibly important sector. It’s worth about a hundred billion dollars to the domestic economy. So this is not a small sector and by pump priming it and actually moving private investment into this, we’re hoping to actually help to build the economy going forward because we need to be very forward-leaning and to really try and move forward out of what we’ve seen is a contraction in our economy. We need to move very fast to help move past this period for us.  

HOST: Thanks to both of you for joining me this afternoon.