JOY FM – Election, ICAC, Aged Care, Community Radio, Religious Discrimination Bill



FRIDAY 13 MAY 2022

Subjects: Election, LGBTQIA+ rights, ICAC, Aged Care, Community Radio, Religious Discrimination Bill

DAVID “MACCA” MCCARTHY, CO-HOST: Now on Saturday magazine JOY 94.9 with Macca and Tass: our first interview this morning will be with Peter Khalil. Peter is the federal Member for Wills for the Australian Labor Party. And just in case you didn’t hear the rules, Peter: in a moment I’ll give you 30 seconds or so to make your initial pitch, then Tass and I will ask you some questions. We ask that if you can, keep your questions to 30 seconds so I don’t have to say “the honourable Member’s time has expired”, and at the end of that we’ll give you some time for a closing statement.


MCCARTHY: I’m not going to time the answers, but bear in mind, from when we say “go”, you have about 12 minutes, so don’t waste it. Tass, would you like to ask the first question?

ANASTASIOS “TASS” MOUSAFERIADIS, CO-HOST: Yes, I’m very happy to. Good morning to you, Peter, and it’s great to have you back on the airwaves. Our first question to you is: how do you rate the performance of our federal government?

KHALIL: Well, you wouldn’t be surprised: not very well. And governments make a difference to people’s lives. When I grew up, I saw what they could do: they housed a new migrant family like mine in public housing, allowed me to get to university, access to a quality education. And Labor governments did real things that made a difference to us: universal healthcare, education. And for me, Scott Morrison – and I think he was interviewed a month or two ago and he was asked what his legacy would be – he said he didn’t believe in a legacy. And that is just indicative of who he is, because governments, Prime Ministers, leave a legacy. They change the country. I think Paul Keating once said “if you change the government, you change the country”. And I know that if we are elected on the 21st of May, we will change the country for the better with our policies around easing cost of living pressures, real action on climate change, putting through the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and working through making sure that we provide education and healthcare funding: the things that matter to people. And on social policies for the LGBTQI community, it’s Labor governments that made those significant reforms over the years: decriminalising homosexuality, equalising the age of consent, apologising to gay men convicted of old sodomy laws, health responses against HIV/AIDS, anti-discrimination legislation, free and open military service, birth certificate and passport reform for trans people, banning and outlawing gay conversion therapy, legalising adoption for same sex couples, and of course, the overwhelming support for the marriage equality bill when it passed. Even though we were in opposition, we were the party that voted overwhelmingly, with the most votes, for it. So there is a track record there for the community, but also for all Australians, to change their lives for the better. I hope that was 30 seconds.

MACCA: It wasn’t, but that’s OK. As I said, you’ve got 12 minutes in total. Peter, why do you think trans people have been the subject of so much nasty debate recently? And what does that say about our federal government?

KHALIL: Well, you can choose in politics to go for fear and division to scapegoat people, or you can choose to try and unify. And the latter is much more difficult, Macca. It really is. Fear is an easier tool or weapon in politics. I don’t agree with that. I think we have to go the harder path and try and unite people. They’re always looking, this federal government, to scapegoat people. Ever since the marriage equality bill passed the Australian Parliament, they were looking to find another way of playing ugly politics. So I think that’s the kind of reason for this. And we have to stand up against that, patiently, and explain to people the importance of rights for all Australians, regardless of who they are.

TASS: Peter, it’s Tass here again. What will be your top priorities for the LGBTIQA+ communities? What will you do, and how can we expect you to engage with our communities?

KHALIL: That’s a good question. Look, I’ve talked about the track record that Labor has had. We haven’t been perfect, by all means, as a party, but we have a really good track record of implementing reform where it matters: real stuff that actually makes a difference to the community. I think aged care is a really interesting area because there needs to be inclusive aged care options for LGBTQI senior Australians when they’re looking for aged care in their later years. They need to know that they have residences that they live in that will treat them with equality and respect, and I think that’s important. I’ve spoken to Claire O’Neill, our Shadow Aged Care Minister, about that, and that’s an important one. My passion is foreign policy, you guys know, so I’m hoping to be able to be in government and work with Penny Wong and human rights as kind of a central focus for me. Certainly, human rights protections for LGBTQIA+ people at all of the international fora, I think, is an important thing that Penny is committed to as well, and I hope to have the opportunity to work on that at the international stage, if you like.

MACCA: So, Peter, are you committed to ensuring that our Sex Discrimination Act will protect people with diverse genders as well as diverse sexual orientations? And how will you advocate for that within the Party and within the Parliament?

KHALIL: Yeah, that’s a good question. Look, you both know that it was the Gillard Government that successfully amended the Sex Discrimination Act to include protections for people on the basis of their sexuality, and importantly, their gender identities – and the law as it stands today ensures that trans and non-binary people cannot be discriminated against in many areas of public life, so employment, education, access to government services, renting, buying property, and so on. And a good example of this is that if a shop assistant refuses to serve someone because they are trans or non-binary, or perceived to be, that is unlawful discrimination and we need to maintain and build upon those reforms. And if we’re in government, we’ll make sure that those laws are strengthened where there’s weak spots and expanded to actually address those issues.

MACCA: Peter, a follow-up question to that. Labor said it will bring in a religious discrimination legislation and also wants to protect diverse genders and sexual orientation in the Sex Discrimination Act. Those bills can coexist, can’t they?

KHALIL: Well, this is my argument, Macca. I think that we have always supported federal laws against discrimination regardless of one’s gender, sexuality, faith, ethnicity, whatever it might be, but you can’t put laws like that up – which is what Morrison effectively did – that usurp the rights of another group. And that’s effectively what happened. It was used as a political wedge. But I do think they can coexist. This goes back to this idea of unifying rather than dividing. Now, you both know that on that particular bill, I stood up in the caucus and opposed it. And then we went for amendments to it. I spent pretty much the whole night, up until 4:30 in the morning, trying to convince Liberal MPs to cross the floor to protect trans kids with amendments that we put forward, with some with some success, to the extent that the whole thing was dropped by Morrison. Because it was always a political wedge, that’s all it was about. But I think, responsibly, we can protect the rights of Australians through anti-discrimination legislation without pitting them against each other, and that’s my starting principle.

TASS: Peter, I’m going to change the topic now, if I can. Moving on to media, what are your reflections on the media landscape and what do you see as being the future of community media outlets such as JOY?

KHALIL: Well, apart from this wonderful program, there’s a lot of fracturing in the media as you both know.

MACCA: Hahaha.

TASS: Oh, you’re after our vote, are you?

KHALIL: Yeah, well, that’s true. But the way that the people consume their media has really shifted, really in particular over the last five to ten years. There’s a lot of algorithms in play so that people are fed what they’re already biased towards – there’s not really a single point of reference that people share anymore, because they’re getting different platforms feeding them information. So there’s a real problem there. And I think diversity in the media is so important. Community radio stations like yours – I don’t know if you saw, but the Albanese government just committed $29 million for local news and community broadcasting to help regional, local and community media providers survive and flourish. And that includes $12 million for community broadcasters, which I think will provide some certainty for stations like yours, and beyond, just in the next year. So we’re really about enhancing listeners’ choices and viewers choices around the media they consume, and ensuring there’s a diversity of views.

MACCA: I like the sound of that; I’ll be following the money there. So, Peter: how can a party claim to represent all people when up to 60% of millennials are unlikely to ever be able to buy a house? How do we get millennials able to enter into home ownership?

KHALIL: Well, this is the perennial problem, isn’t it? For millennials and younger people, it’s like, the older baby boomers tell them to stop buying breakfast at cafes and save their money from all the money they spend on kale and avocados. But if you did that for 25 years, you still couldn’t save up a deposit because the median house price has just completely outstripped and expanded to the extent that it’s 12 times more than the median average income. So what we have said, if we win government, is that we are going to be putting $10 billion into a housing fund that basically builds 30,000 new social and affordable houses, including four thousand homes for women and children fleeing domestic violence. We also had a policy – which the government attacked – around helping younger people and people trying to get into the market with a smaller deposit, 2%, by supporting them at 40% of the equity of the property which they can pay back over time and allow people to get into the market. We also need to actually reduce the stress on renters, and that’s a big cost of living issue – that there’s a lot of stress on renters as well. And we need to be doing more on that front.

TASS: Peter, in the interest of time, we’ll move on. Integrity. A lot’s been said about integrity. What are your priorities for ensuring that there is an independent review process of politicians’ performance? And do you support an independent ICAC?

KHALIL: This has been a big campaign topic, hasn’t it? The national Anti-Corruption Commission. Now, I support a very strong one. We’ve made announcements around what we’re going to do if we’re win government: a federal Anti-Corruption Commission that actually has the power to investigate as it sees fit, arms’ length from government and the executive, not having the need for ministerial approval or anything like that. Our proposed national Integrity Anti-Corruption Commission, unlike the Coalition’s, will actually examine alleged misconduct from as far back as 15 years. So there’s a retrospectivity there that scares a lot of people, but that is important because this is all about rebuilding the trust in our democracy and our institutions. And that is something that we’ve been very committed to, and Anthony has been really strong on around putting that in place. When you look at their track record, they hate transparency. They hate accountability. They never take responsibility. Think of the sports rorts, the commuter car parks at train stations that don’t even have trains. The dodgy airport deals. All of their dodgy ministers doing their deals. That’s why we need a national anti-corruption body that has teeth. That will actually be legislated, if we win government, by the end of the year.

MACCA: Final question – answer that, then I’ll give you 30 seconds to wrap up: How are you advising voters in your seat to direct their preferences and why? I know it’s their choice, but what are your suggestions?

KHALIL: I’ve got a How to Vote, which – you wouldn’t be surprised – I’ve put One Nation last, UAP second-last, and the Liberals third-last, and then a couple of minor parties where I have the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th preferences and so on. You would know that my preferences don’t really float, but it’s important, symbolically, to put the preferences in that way. And it is up to people to make their own decision. It’s a guide for people rather than “they have to do it that way”, but that’s important to have that symbolic preference flow so that people know where we stand on principle.

MACCA: OK, Peter, you’ve got 30 seconds to wrap up.

KHALIL: Well, thank you guys. Tass, I know you asked me earlier about how we would engage with the LGBTQIA community. Engagement has to be respectful. It has to be genuine. It has to be something that is done from the heart because you care about people and their rights. That’s how I would and have done so with the community, but also with all Australians that I represent. It’s a difficult time for many people in our community, whether you’re experiencing prejudice because of your ethnicity or whether you’ve experienced prejudice because of your identity. And I know this, because I’ve experienced it throughout my life, and I’m very committed to making sure that people get a fair go, frankly. The laws that we make and pass in our Parliament – that, for me, is a guiding principle and my office is always open to the LGBTQIA+ community, and we’ve already made very deep connections. It’s not just getting on your show, it’s about dealing with people every day. And we want to change the government because you change the government, you change the country. And we will make a difference to the lives of millions of Australians. I’ve tried to make the difference to the lives of tens of thousands in my electorate. I want to do that on a large scale with the Labor government that makes a real difference to Australians’ lives for a better future for us, but also our place in the world. And that’s something I’m really committed to and excited about and hope to get people’s support to vote one for Labor on the 21st of May.

MACCA: The honourable Member’s time has expired.

KHALIL: I made it, I just made it.

MACCA: No, you went over, but that’s OK.

TASS: Peter, thank you very much for your time this morning.

KHALIL: Thank you. You guys should do you guys should do the next national debate. You are very good. Forget about Channel 9. It should be on JOY FM.

MACCA: Thank you. Actually, it’s JOY 94.9 please.

TASS: Peter, thank you very much for your time this morning. Enjoy the rest of your day. And as we said to all of our candidates who are participating in this process, best wishes to you and your election.