ABC News Interview: Matter of Fact with Stan Grant: Fraser Anning, National Energy Guarantee, Territory Rights




SUBJECTS: Fraser Anning, National Energy Guarantee, Territory Rights

STAN GRANT, HOST : Well Andrew Hastie is the Liberal member for Canning in Western Australia and Peter Khalil is the Labor member for Wills in Victoria. I spoke to both of them earlier from Canberra. Andrew Hastie, Peter Khalil. Good to have both of you on the program.


ANDREW HASTIE, LIBERAL MP: Great to be with you Stan.

GRANT: It’s been an extraordinary week in Canberra. Been a  lot for us to talk about but we really must begin with the events of the past 48 hours and the speech by Fraser Anning and the response that we saw right across the political spectrum to that speech. What were you thinking Andrew when you either heard the speech or heard about it?

HASTIE: Well Stan, I went in to support the Prime Minister yesterday when made his remarks condemning the speech. I think anyone who uses the words ‘final solution’ is either being provocative or historically ignorant. When I heard those words I instantly capitalised them and went back to the holocaust. So I think it was a foolish, foolish thing to do. Very provocative and I know a lot of people were upset by it including myself. I went to the holocaust museum several times as a kid. But it does pose a deeper question about our public discourse and how we conduct debates.

GRANT: That’s really interesting too Peter because a debate began of the back of that. We had the really strong response politically people saying the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader, right across the political spectrum, Bob Katter excluded, who stood up and said no, this is not who we are. That there was a chance to re-affirm what it means to be Australian beyond the issues of race or ethnicity, or religion or culture.

KHALIL: You’re right Stan. I mean when I heard the speech I was deeply offended and more problematic than that it was a deeply divisive speech.  It was a narrative which was racist and a fascist world view when he is talking about race or ethnicity or faith being an indicator of what it means to be an Australian. For me being an Australian it’s not about your race, your ethnicity or your faith. We’ve all come from somewhere else, unless you’re an Indigenous Australian. Being an Australian is about embracing our democracy, it’s about embracing equality before the law. It’s about embracing the quintessential value a ‘fair go for all’ and that was re-affirmed very, very strongly across the entire political spectrum almost unanimously as you said the following day. By all political parties, by all politicians that re-affirmation in the face of that racist narrative that was put forward because the vast majority of Australians do not subscribe to that view.

GRANT: They don’t subscribe to the language but what is interesting is here Peter is that there is a debate about our community. You talked about the Australian values, you talked about democracy, we see from polls that have been carried out, the Lowy Institute poll that showed that 50% of Australians are concerned about the rate of immigration. The Scanlan Survery  done earlier in the year looked at what peoples’ concerns about what Islamic population, Muslim population, people who may be antithetical to those issues of democracy and pluralism. There is an important debate here Peter isn’t there about those issues.

KHALIL: And I think Andrew in his previous answer touched on that and the political discourse is left vacant you do have the fringes come in and fill that vacuum and that needs to be a political debate around our immigration levels without the racist overlay. I mean there is a legitimate debate to be had over our immigration numbers and the fact that I have spoken about this publicly, too many immigrants are going into Melbourne and Sydney and putting a huge strain on infrastructure. There’s  got to be more incentives for immigrants to go to more regional centres. Go over to where Andrew lives in Perth, you know not Melbourne in my city. You know, we need as a political class to have that debate without the fringes impacting that debate with racism and whipping up anger and hatred.

GRANT : but then Andrew we know that these frustrations can boil over. If we look at what is happening in Europe and up in the UK it is really changing the nature of politics there and the rise of populism and extremist politics, concerns that people have over the rate of change. Social cohesion, integration. Are you seeing the same things emerging here, not just questions of infrastructure, they are important but not just questions of demography they are important but fundamental questions about values in integration and social cohesion.

HASTIE : I do hear a lot of those concerns and they are not based on race. We’ve always been a generous nation, we’re built on migration. Peter’s parents came from Egypt , I think in the 70’s and we both married American women. We have people from all over the world but what people are concerned about when I speak to them is integration and Allen Tudge made a good point, you know the best way for people to integrate into this country is to learn English, to get a job and to get involved in civic society and if we don’t we end up in silos or balkanising our communities and it is less cohesive. People want to know that Australia as a country is cohesive and that’s where the concern lies in my experience.

GRANT : So Peter given that there is a measure of concern that about rates of immigration and corner about integration. Pauline Hanson has put out the idea and she has introduced this to the parliament, about a plebiscite about immigration. Why shouldn’t this be given to the people..

KHALIL : Well what you get Stan from the far right is talking about banning muslin people from coming to the country. So, they are making an assessment that someone won’t be capable or worthy of becoming an Australian citizen based on their faith. Now their  argument follows through on that there won’t be social cohesion, there won’t be integration. It really turns on how you define integration. What do we mean by this? Andrew made a few points there. Well, you know that’s right. My parents came from Egypt over 47 years ago. My nanna didn’t speak English bur she worked in a factory, she worked hard and she helped raise her family of 5 kids in Australia. My grandfather fought with the british army in ww2 in North Africa as an Egyptian with the British army against the fascist’s.  Language is an important thing you know, for people to learn English so that they can get by absolutely. But we have to be careful about this, because a lot of the fair right push this angle That unless you can speak English, unless you can integrate and that is loaded term then you’re not good enough to be an Australian. I think that there are millions of Australia’s who have come to this country who have built this country, made a contribution, paid their taxes, raised their families including muslin Australians.

GRANT: Andrew, I’ll just switch to another issue that there is a lot of concern about in the community and that is energy policy and the ability to get this right. The Prime Minister is claiming a win this week with support for the national energy guarantee from his party. This he says will bring about more reliable and cheaper power. You don’t agree with that why?

HASTIE: Well Stan the prime minister did win the support of the party room

GRANT: But not you.

HASTIE: We are the Liberal Party and we are entitled to disagree, as a backbencher. I want to make it very clear though that where I disagree with the government is on the Paris target which is set at 26%. We’ve signed and we’ve ratified the Paris treaty but I am not happy about legislating that target and imposing it upon our economy.

GRANT: How far are you going to take this? Are you going to vote against this and cross the floor.

HASTIE: Look Stan I have always said that this is a position of principal. In fact, I did no media about this until I told the party room, which I consider family. So, I wanted it to be a private
conversation but obviously it is out there. I said that I would reserve my position and I maintain that.

GRANT: So that option is still open to you? About still crossing the floor. With all that this may mean for Malcom turnbull if others join you and for his leadership. Because his link to this

HASTIE:  Well the media like to make a link Stan but it has got nothing to do the Prime Minister’s leadership. I would hate to damage the government because there is only one thing worse than crossing the floor and that is a Bill Shorten government. So especially when there is …

KHALIL: I disagree with that!

HASTIE: …at 45%. I specifically said that when I came in, we talk about assumptions here and we don’t get political. I’m sorry I crossed the line

GRANT: But Peter disagrees with that. But Peter there is a lot of pressure on Labor as well to support this. Pressure from the unions, farmers want this support, a lot of public pressure as well. Why doesn’t Labor give whole hearted total support to this?

KHALIL: Well the short answer to that Stan is that we’re prepared to negotiate with the government. We actually believe in strong emissions reduction targets

GRANT: Well you want to bring it up top over 40% and it’s 26%

KHALIL: Well that’s our policy and we put that to people in an election. We want to an agreeable agreement, we want certainty. What we’ve seen with this government is that Malcom Turnbull is held to ransom and I’m sure that Andrew is doing it based on principal but there’s a dad’s army, and Andrew was in the army, but there’s a dad’s army in that coalition party room with Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz and all these other Craig Kelly who are not going to agree. And because they don’t believe in climate change and they don’t want to actually change and they want to actually put money to coal fired plants

GRANT : But you’ve seen the worked CFMEU all coming out and saying that Labor, the opposition, needs to come out and support this as well.

KHALIL: Absolutely.

GRANT: So there’s pressure on Labor on this as well and Andrew you may find yourself in a situation where you’re going to vote against something because you don’t agree with the 26% renewable energy target and actually end up siding with Labor if Labor opposes it, who actually want a target of 45%.

HASTIE: You can war game all these…

KHALIL: No hypotheticals, Stan! No hypotheticals.

HASTIE: At the end of the day, I want to make it very clear that foremost in my mind is our economic sovereignty. I want our country to have maximum flexibility. I want seniors to be warm in winter and cool in summer. I want working families to have more in their hip pocket and at the moment I don’t see how signing up to 26% gets power prices down. Power prices is my foremost concern…

KHALIL: Well, I can answer that for you Andrew.

HASTIE: Please do, with your forty five…

KHALIL: Investment in renewables. And we know the investment in renewable energy, that renewable energy is in the long run cheaper than fossil fuels.

GRANT: And the key word there is in the long run, isn’t it? The key word there is the long run. Andrew’s not buying that idea.

HASTIE: No, I’m not. Absolutely. I wasn’t here in 2011 when the RET was legislated, but I’ll tell you what, it’s done all sorts of damage to our economy. People are struggling to pay their power bills because we’ve rapidly embraced renewables and it’s penetrated the market and we have all sorts of instability. That was the problem caused my state governments. The Federal Government is trying to fix the problem and with the Government I’m one hundred per cent behind that effort.

KHALIL: How does committing taxpayer funds, four billion dollars, to a new coal fired power plant actually help? I mean, renewables are cheaper. Investment in renewables is occurring and we’re seeing that. There is transitional fuels like gas which are coming on board as well as dispatchable and I think you guys, you’ve got this ideological idea that you can’t support Paris over 26%.

GRANT: Okay I just want to just finish on another issue, we saw this bill put to the Senate, essentially it was about euthanasia. It was also about territory rights, the Northern Territory and the ACT to be able to vote on this on their own. It is another issue. We’ve been talking about issues where there is broad based public support. Another issue where there seems to be broad based public support. It was voted down but it may end up in the house anyway with a separate bill being put there. How would you vote Andrew?

HASTIE: I would vote no. I believe foremost in the sanity of human life and I am opposed to euthanasia. Everywhere it has been introduced in the world I think the safe guides are insufficient.

GRANT:Is it euthanasia or territory rights?

HASTIE: Well ultimately I think that it is a move to bring Euthanasia into the Northern Territory and the ACT. The federal government does have responsibility for the territories. They’re not completely sovereign. We act as an upper house as it were, a house of review. So on this question I don’t want to see euthanasia legislated so I would vote no, very simply.

GRANT: Peter?

KHALIL: This is where I disagree with Andrew. He’s getting a bit ahead of the curve here and voting on the issue. This bill is really about affording the right of the territory assembly. The territory assemblies to debate democratically an issue. They may vote no Andrew, you don’t know that. This is really a question about territory rights, that’s the bill that is being put up in the house as well and on that basis well you have to ask the question, should the people of the territory through their elected representatives have the opportunity to vote on these issues.

GRANT: So it’s a no from Andrew and it’s a Yes from Peter which is where we’ll leave it. Thank-you both for joining us.

HASTIE: Thanks Stan

KHALIL: Thanks Stan