PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
JOY FM 94.9
SATURDAY 2 JULY 2022
Subjects: Taiwan de-escalation, Pacific Minister and Solomon Islands, Jobs Summit – no Opposition MPs
DAVID “MACCA” MCCARTHY, CO-HOST: You are on Sunday magazine Joy 94.9 with Macca and Tass. Our next guest is Peter Khalil, Peter is the Federal Member for the Australian Labor Party for the seat of Wills, my local member. You know, when I drive past your office, there’s a shop not a long way away from there, which I won’t talk about on air because some people don’t agree with that sort of a shop, but there’s also a fabulous grocery shop further up the street. It’s just awesome that part of Sydney Road, you know, the shops are just incredible. When you want to get something to eat there, you’re absolutely overloaded with choice.
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Spoilt for choice. That is the modern way. What with content on television, on radio. Except for your programme.
MACCA: Well, of course
ANASTASIOS “TASS” MOUSAFERIADIS, CO-HOST: Is this the first time you’ve been here since the election?
KHALIL: Since the election, yes, but I had been in the studio when you first opened up.
MACCA: Yes, he was.
TASS: You know well, I just wanted to say congratulations on winning the election and not just you, but government.
KHALIL: Thank you. Well, it’s a great feeling to be in a new government.
MACCA: Sitting on the right-hand side of the speaker.
KHALIL: Yeah. Well, we haven’t had that opportunity.
MACCA: No, that’s July 26?
MACCA: How does it feel, Peter, after all the years of work to finally be on the government benches and to have direct input into the decisions and everything that governments are going to make?
KHALIL: Well, that is a great question because you’re in politics to actually implement your vision, your policies, to do things that make a difference to people’s lives, and you can only really do it from government. I mean, you can help a lot of people in opposition, and you know, you work and serve your constituency which I’ve done and that’s very, very satisfying and it gives you a sense of purpose to help people. But you could do it on a much grander scale or a bigger scale with your vision being implemented through the Federal Parliament and the executive power that you have.
MACCA: There’s one issue that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about and it’s probably not in the way that you think. It’s about staffing for independents. No, my position is, and I raised this with Josh Burns last week, but I believe all parliamentarians, whether they are opposition, whether they’re backbench, whether they’re crossbench. They deserve better resources.
MACCA: You know, people go. Oh, you know, oh it costs money, you know. The government has argued.
TASS: My question to Macca was how do you determine what’s the right level?
MACCA: Well, you don’t turn the right level by cutting it, and to use the argument, we’re saving one and a half million dollars on this, well, you could save that in comcar in one week.
KHALIL: It’s not a question of saving money here. I agree with your premise, which is that there should be more resources. We get 4 electoral officers and I represent 200,000 people. So, we get thousands of people emailing us, coming to the office and if you’re really doing your job at helping and working for your constituency, it’s not easier to do it with four people.
TASS: So, you don’t get an advisor?
MACCA: Do you get someone that runs your office in Canberra, is that someone that comes up from the electorate office.
KHALIL: No. You get four full time electorate staff, that’s it. So, my point about this is that I think we should be treating every Member of Parliament with the respect that they deserve. They’ve got work to do, they’ve got to review legislation, they’ve got to work on the committees, they’ve got to make their contribution to debate in Parliament, but I don’t see the difference between, say, Michelle Ananda Rajah, who’s the member for Higgins and Monique Ryan, who’s the member for Kooyong. They both have the same level of work. Look, are we really saying that because you’re of a different party or you’re an independent that somehow, you’re going to work harder than a Labor MP or a minor party MP? Every MP should be allocated the same amount of resources and we can judge what that requirement is. What’s happened is the Prime Minister has said they had four additional staff on top of the four electoral staff. They’ve still got one extra staffer than every other MP, the Teals and yet there is this kind of outrage about the fact that they’ve been, you know, they’ve had three staff removed. Well, they’ve still got more staff than us.
TASS: And more importantly, they have not been in parliament and here they are demanding something that they don’t even know about yet really, technically speaking.
KHALIL: Again, I respect, I think we should be working with every Member of Parliament on the crossbench in good faith around legislation and whether there are good ways to amend Bills and so on and so forth. All of us have to do that work.
TASS: What I said to Macca is that it’s not about the number of people. It is about the support that’s in place. Do you have the right infrastructure, the right advice, the right policy briefs, the right codes of conduct, but all those sorts of things that help the whole machinery of government or Parliament work better, rather than saying you’re entitled to four pieces and then go off and do your own thing.
KHALIL: Well, I think the good thing is that Prime Minister Albanese has increased the resourcing and staffing of the Parliamentary library, which is a fantastic resource.
TASS: That’s a fantastic resource.
KHALIL: Which is four parliamentarians, because they do a lot of research and the code of conduct that you talked about that’s part of the Jenkins review as well and we’re going to implement all the recommendations. We’ve got our own party codes of conduct as well.
TASS: Support for staffers and support for MP’s, support for women, all the domestic violence stuff and all those sorts of things, I think, are probably more important than just allocating more staff. That’s my view.
KHALIL: I think it’s important to point out we do an important job, a lot of the public might think, oh, why should they get more staff? But you do have four staff to cover a lot of people and if you’re going to do your job properly, I think more resources would be helpful.
MACCA: Ok, good. Hong Kong.
TASS: Oh ok. [laughs]
MACCA: When are you going there? Winnie the Pooh, otherwise known as President Xi.
KHALIL: Oh yes. So, you can say that here?
MACCA: Well, I can but in Hong Kong I’d be arrested. In fact, I’d disappear.
TASS: You might be arrested anyway, mate. And you might disappear.
MACCA: You made some comments yesterday on an afternoon briefing you were talking about Hong Kong and the 25-year anniversary of where the Chinese Government first lied to the people of Hong Kong, they’ve been doing it for 25 years. He, President Xi said yesterday, you know one country, two systems.
KHALIL: Well, that doesn’t really apply anymore. I quoted yesterday, Chris Patton was the last governor of Hong Kong and he actually nailed it, I think he said that President Xi and the Communist Party are terrified of what Hong Kong actually stood for. Free press, freedom of speech, democratic governance. All the things that we kind of take for granted terrify them, because it threatens their total control of the territory. What’s happened in the last couple of years is that there’s been a complete erosion of democracy, free press, freedom of speech in Hong Kong. There has been attacks on the independence of the judiciary, the national security law that was put in place a couple of years ago, on the anniversary on 1st of July, a couple of years ago, has been used to arrest pro-democracy activists. So, saying something like what you said, would put you under the national security law because it applies to people outside of Hong Kong.
MACCA: I know if I go to Hong Kong or China, I could be arrested.
KHALIL: You would be arrested. I’d do my best to get you out, Macca.
MACCA: Would you?
KHALIL: I would.
MACCA: Would you? Leave us. Perhaps you and Josh. I know who the rescue squad could be.
KHALIL: Is it worth your while though, Peter?
MACCA: No, no it could be Peter, Josh Burns and Dean Smith. Dean could run a diversion.
TASS: Yeah, help me. [laughter]
MACCA: So, what this means, the promises that Deng Xiaoping made, but that President Xi has broken. The people of Taiwan, what is the chance of the people of Taiwan going, ‘Ah, well, actually, we think we should unite with the mainland and become a special administrative region.’
KHALIL: I don’t understand the CCP’s strategy here because by repressing and the suppression that they’ve applied to Hong Kong in such a very, very harsh way, it sends a very clear message to Taiwan and obviously the Taiwanese are looking at that thinking, ‘there’s no way now we want to unify’. I never understood the wolf warrior diplomacy, the aggressiveness, the coercion, and all that, because I would have thought that that would be counterproductive for China’s longer-term objective. To park that aside, I do have to say that the bravery, the courage of the people of Hong Kong has been remarkable. They have actually stood up, protested for their rights, a lot of them have been arrested, thousands have been arrested and suppressed. So, we should never give up on that and we should show solidarity.
MACCA: And Tass has got a question, but I’ll say about President Xi. One president, two faces.
TASS: Be very careful, Macco. Just be very careful.
KHALIL: When he travels.
TASS: Yes, I agree. Now that you’re in government, Peter. Yes, tell us what’s on your priority list of things to deliver for our community, for the rainbow communities.
KHALIL: Well, in my electorate particularly or broadly speaking.
TASS: No, no, no, no. Nationwide. You’re in our national government, so, what’s the government going to deliver for our people?
KHALIL: So you talked about equality and this is a really important point because there are laws that you can put in place that lead the way as far as making changes to society, but there’s also the culture of a government, there’s also the way that the government engages with communities with respect and listens, consults and that I’m seeing from our government already in the sense that our engagement with the LGBTQI+ community and other communities frankly is one of respect, mutual respect but also listening to what is needed. That might translate into laws, particular laws, particular needs and if we’re addressing inequality, no matter the persons background, their gender, their sexuality, their ethnicity, their faith, whatever it might be, it’s all about giving everyone an opportunity, regardless of their background, the same opportunity and that to me, is the starting principle.
TASS: Love it. That’s a great principle and they give us some concrete actions, but what’s an Albanese government going to deliver for us?
KHALIL: Well, are you talking about funding for Joy Radio?
TASS: Well maybe that. I’m actually more interested in legislative reform. You’ve talked about a change in culture, and that’s very much welcomed. We had experienced over the last four years or three years in particular divisive politics where members of our own community were thrown under the bus for political expediency.
KHALIL: Yes, sure.
TASS: I know that’s gone and that’s very refreshing and it’s very welcomed, but there is still work to be done.
KHALIL: Yeah, there is and if you’re touching on the religious discrimination bill and that whole process and the way that was politicized and used in the community as a wedge in politics and so on. That’s all gone. So, I think when dealing with bills like that, when it comes to the sex discrimination bill or the racial discrimination bill or religious discrimination, it’s going to be dealt with in a much more respectful way. Mark Dreyfus has made that very, very clear, those commitments. I think that’s something to watch there because that bill is coming to Parliament as well and he has publicly discussed what that process would entail, and I know he’s been engaging with the community on that basis. So, I think legislatively, that’s the one coming out of the horizon that might be problematic if you’re looking at more positive legislative change, well, I’d have to ask Mark about where we’re going to go with that and what the needs are and that’s the listening process, that’s the consultation part of it.
TASS: So, can we expect to see a federal minister for equality or?
KHALIL: Oh, that’s a good idea.
MACCA: Or parliamentary sec. even.
TASS: Or even a Commissioner for equality.
KHALIL: Would you like to nominate me?
TASS: Yes, I’d love to nominate you go for it.
KHALIL: Look, I think that’s a great idea.
MACCA: I mean Tass would make a great Commissioner.
KHALIL: Are we just handing out jobs here? [laughter]. But that’s a great idea actually and that’s something that we could talk to the Attorney General about, see what his thoughts are.
TASS: Fantastic. Fantastic. Even if it’s a parliamentary secretary, it just elevates it to put it on the agenda.
KHALIL: Look at the legislative agenda, look at the legislation as it currently sits, see if there are gaps there that need to be addressed. That’s a great idea.
MACCA: What’s your thoughts Peter, the Prime Minister’s been overseas, has been to NATO and various places. The thing I found most interesting is Anthony Albanese and Mathias Cormann sitting beside each other at the OECD and Mathias Cormann taking different policy positions to what he’d had for the last nine years. I give full points. I give full points to the Prime Minister for his expression, which didn’t change. This is what makes politics really strange, sometimes. Isn’t it?
KHALIL: I understand the problem with that, because if you’re not genuine and you don’t have authenticity and conviction around the things that you believe in when you’re in politics and suddenly it appears after politics, I think that’s a big problem. But on the broader issue around the Prime Minister being overseas at NATO, he’s really repairing our relationships. The dinner that he’s having with Macron and the warmth of that, it’s all about resetting, repairing the relationships that have been damaged over a period of time under the Coalition and I think he’s doing a particularly fantastic job in that space and had from the very get go immediately. So, I’m encouraged by the very good start on that.
TASS: I think we’re nearly out of time, Macca.
MACCA: We are, and you’ve got another event to go to. Are you speaking? Are you eating? You’re opening? What’s happening?
KHALIL: The Myanmar Democracy Protests at Federation square this afternoon and a Somali community event. So, busy, busy.
TASS: We used to have the Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
KHALIL: I was formally a Victorian multicultural commissioner before politics. So, very, very committed to diversity in all its forms. It makes us, it’s the strength of who we are.
MACCA: It is. Thank you, Peter.
KHALIL: Thanks Macca, Thanks Tass.
TASS: Thank you for coming to the studio.
MACCA: And we look forward to seeing you again soon and if you bring some Federal Government money, all the better.
KHALIL: Thank you.
MACCA: You are on Saturday magazine, Joy 94.9 with Macca and Tass.