PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
JOY FM – SATURDAY MAGAZINE
SATURDAY 18 MARCH 2023
Subjects: LGBTQIA+ Health Announcement, Cost-of-Living
FIONA BROOK, HOST, SATURDAY CO-HOST: You’re on Saturday Magazine with Nevena and Fiona. It is Saturday morning, just after 11:00 AM.
NEVENA SPIROVSKA, SATURDAY CO-HOST: Fiona, we have our next guest on the line; the Federal Member for Wills, Peter Khalil. Peter, welcome to Saturday Magazine.
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thanks for having me, Fiona and Nevena. Good to be on again.
SPIROVSKA: Peter, there’s been some recent announcements made by the Albanese Government during World Pride in support of our community. We’d also like to talk to you about what’s coming up in the next sitting week. But firstly, what have you been up to, and tell us: did you make it out to World Pride?
KHALIL: I didn’t, but the PM did, and he marched for the first time, which was a pretty significant act, I think, to show support. And look, Albo, he’s been a supporter for decades and this is just a natural thing for him to do. I know he was pretty chuffed about being able to walk in support during World Pride Day. But you know, all that is really important, and it’s not just symbolic, but the government is also looking at really serious efforts to support the community in other ways. I was talking to Jay Carney last night, actually, the Assistant Health Minister, and she’s just sort of overseeing this whole policy area around a 10-year National Action Plan for the health and well-being of LGBTQIA+ people. It’s a significant investment, as well; some $26 million in health research grants and improving service delivery. And look, a lot of people that I talk to in the community tell me that – and the government knows this – there’s a lot of specific challenges in accessing healthcare. There’s various reasons for that; I guess stigma, unique and complex health challenges, other reasons that lead to poor physical and mental health; and a lot of advocates have been pushing for an action plan. So we’re delivering one, which is really good for the community, and it’s really about reforming the health system to improve access and outcomes for LGBTQIA+ people across Australia. So, you know – you’ve got to have the symbolism, but you’ve got to have the substance as well, really.
BROOK: Well, absolutely. And also, you have some more work ahead of you because you’re going into some sitting weeks now. We’ve had Josh Burns on this morning to discuss some of the priorities for him and some of the bills ahead, but I thought it would be great to hear from you on what your priorities are for the coming sitting weeks, and what some of the barriers might be to getting those achievements.
KHALIL: Look, for me and my role; the Prime Minister’s got me working on a lot of the intelligence and security work. I’m the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, so I do a lot of oversight around our intelligence agencies, our security agencies. That’s important work to make sure that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing – that there’s taxpayer dollars being spent wisely and correctly. So that’s a pretty intense workload because we have a number of inquiries ongoing when it comes to different elements about counterterrorism laws, our Intelligence Services Act, the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme we’re reviewing. We review a lot of laws, so that keeps me pretty busy, that work. But more broadly, the government is looking at a number of really important bills next week, in Parliament particularly, and I think the first and foremost thing is going to be a bill around changing the processes around notifying Parliament and the Australian people when the Minister is actually appointed. And this is sort of the legacy of the Morrison Government; I think he was minister of 52 different portfolios or whatever, but –
SPIROVSKA: 53, Peter, 53.
KHALIL: 53, so I lost count. But I think that’s really important. People are really worried about the lack of trust in democracy, sort of a trust deficit in democracy. So I know the PM and our government are really keen to restore trust in democracy, and part of that is integrity. I think the crossbenchers are very much committed to that as well. It’s all about making sure that people can actually trust that governments are accountable, and that’s why we passed so quickly the National Anti-Corruption Commission into law, which is going to be starting very soon and it’s about making sure that the laws have transparency as front and centre and accountability. So this is the one we’re going to be doing. We found out actually last week, that there was another appointment of a close ally to the Department of Home Affairs, who manage important processes like visa applications and humanitarian programmes, a close ally of Morrison that was appointed to that role. So there really needs to be transparency restored to the system, and government should be held accountable as well. So that’s one thing; cost-of-living is the other big thing as well. People are really suffering with rental stress, mortgages, energy prices; the whole lot. And this is really everyone’s feeling. So we passed a law late last year to put a cap on energy prices to provide some relief, and that’s something we’re also putting through the Senate, as well this coming week, taking action on that to cap prices. So that’s really important for a lot of Australians across the community.
SPIROVSKA: Peter, you are the chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security, and this morning a major story has broken about the Australian Army launching an urgent investigation after discovering serving soldiers with links to Neo-Nazi groups, and they’ve also made links between extremist groups and the Australian Defence Force members. What are your feelings about this? Because these are incredibly important institutions, and what’s your message to any Neo-Nazis looking to infiltrate the Army, Queensland police, or the ADF?
KHALIL: Yeah. Thanks for the question. Look, can I start with my personal feelings? I mean, listeners won’t be able to see this, but I am from an Egyptian background and a person of colour. I’ve experienced racism and attacks by Neo-Nazis over the decades; it used to be pretty bad back in the 80s. But personally I feel really upset about this infiltration – the rise of Neo-Nazi groups across Australia. This is, by the way, happening in other countries around the world. There’s this sort of phenomenon of far-right extremism. We weren’t going through all the analysis about it, but it is happening and it’s deeply concerning and it’s important that the Defence Department is moving so quickly to investigate, and being unequivocal about there being no place for this behaviour, these types of groups infiltrating our Defence Force or any of our security and intelligence agencies. And the defence do work very closely with our intelligence agencies to combat this type of extremism, in fact. You know, one of the single largest rises of threat is coming from the far right, and that’s been consistent over the last couple of years. So there is a strong vetting process, and I’m actually – my committee is overseeing the security vetting agency reforms to make sure that we are able to get out people who have come from extremist groups and so on. So this is really concerning; on a national level, I know that the Prime Minister at national cabinet just last month also agreed on the need for a national gun database, because a lot of these extremists have active weapons and so on – and making sure there’s a register across the space and territories that’s really important. And he highlighted the need for better cooperation across jurisdictions, so making sure that state and territory leaders are getting that interaction with Asia, which does a lot of that counterterrorism, counter-extremist work. The federal government is really committed to making sure our national security agencies have the resources available provided to all the states and territories to do what they need to do as well. But just in conclusion, my message is very clear. It is not acceptable for those groups to be part of our national security agencies, our security agencies, our defence force. Those forces are there to protect all Australians. That ideological – that far right extremist view – does not put the national interest first. It is a twisted, bitter ideology which is full of hate for others, for people who are different. And my view of Australia is one where, you know, obviously I’ve experienced a lot of prejudice and racism growing up, but nonetheless Australia has changed significantly and our multicultural diversity, our diversity across our difference is something to be celebrated and embraced. This is what makes Australia a better country, and this is something we all have to fight for constantly against those who use hateful ideology to try and separate us and divide us and to attack various groups; whether they be the LGBTQIA+ community, whether they be people from a diverse background, or a migrant background, or different faith group. It’s about making sure that we have a unity in this country and that’s the important work, I suppose, as a political leader, not just a politician –
BROOK: Peter, we actually only have a couple of minutes left. I guess in that in that short time – do you think that China is going to invade Taiwan?
KHALIL: Wow, one minute. Who asked that? Was that Fiona? Or Nevena?
BROOK: This is Fiona.
KHALIL: Fiona, you asked a really tough question.
BROOK: I’m asking the tough questions today.
KHALIL: Yeah, well, I’ve done a bit of media over the past couple of days around some of the attacks that Paul Keating, for example, Uncle Paul – who I have great respect for, by the way, he is one of our great Prime Ministers – who’s gone after Penny Wong, for example. I think there’s a misunderstanding about the achievements that you can get through soft power and diplomacy, and Penny’s been amazing in resetting our relationships across the Pacific of Southeast Asia. And the strategic purpose of what we’re trying to do is to actually reduce tension with China; to avoid confrontation and conflict. Diplomacy is a big part of that; defence capability is a part of that. It’s got to be done in combination. And frankly, my criticism of the previous government was that they beat the war drum significantly to whip up fear and anger. Our strategic goal is to have a good economic relationship with China and to deter – whether it be China or any other actors in the region – from using force or violence to reach their strategic ends, and diplomacy is a big part of that. And she’s been very successful in resetting those relationships and engaging across the region on things that are, frankly, existential for us and for Pacific Island states, like climate change and action on climate change. And so I think the answer to your question is: I’m not trying to avoid it, but what we want to do is try to avoid the scenario in which you’re painting and ensure that we continue with the kind of stability and security framework in the region that that has actually given us such quality of life and the prosperity that Australians enjoy. And that’s our goal.
BROOK: Well, Peter, we could literally talk about this all day, but we have the marvellous Misha Ketchell coming up and we’re going to be able to chat with him, more about this. So thank you so much today for your time, and we look forward to catching up with you again really soon.
Thanks, Fiona. Thanks, Nevena. Great to be on with you guys. Cheers