SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION WITH PETER STEFANOVIC
SUBJECTS: China, Hong Kong
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Peter, good morning to you, thanks for joining us. What are your thoughts on the move by the Chinese to say, well, don’t go.
PETER KHALIL, MP: Peter, I think obviously another disappointing announcement by the Chinese government around this travel advisory. And I actually thought Senator Birmingham, the government minister, handled that pretty well on the weekend when he noted how unhelpful those comments were. Look, you know, of course there are incidents of racism in any country really, and Australia has its problems with that as well. But in a relative sense, we are probably one of the safest countries in the world for international students. We obviously have had tens of thousands of international students who’ve studied here successfully and had a wonderful experience. So look, it’s hard not to see this in the broader pattern of those announcements on trade, and on barley, around the inquiry. And again, that is where the disappointment is. And I think my advice – if they’d ever take it, to the government – is to stand firm on these issues. We have to stand firm on our principles, and the way that we do things and not be deterred because of these types of, forms of pressure, if you like.
STEFANOVIC: And that is what appears to be happening when it comes to the government. So is it your view that it is the university sector that will be used as a pawn in the latest stoush between China and Australia?
KHALIL: Well, obviously there are economic interests that, you know, you turn the screws and there’s a lot of pressure on the university sector. There’s been a lot of reliance on international students, obviously. And obviously China is one of the bigger places where international students come from. When I say we shouldn’t be deterred as a nation, I think whatever those economic interests are, whether they’re in tourism or whether it’s the university sector, whether it’s the mining sector, whatever it might be, there has to be an understanding of the national interest on this and the importance of us standing fast to our principles around the rule of law, around doing things in a way which we can’t be split off. We can’t be separated and divided when it comes to these things. And it is difficult because we’re talking about significant impacts on some of these sectors. But if you allow one to fall, then the dominoes kind of fall.
STEFANOVIC: So, would you classify this as part of a trade stoush?
KHALIL: Well, it’s hard to pin it towards a trade stoush because the Chinese Government is well within their rights to offer travel advisories on any issue. If they want to offer a travel advisory to students, they can, or to tourists, they can – we do that as well, Peter – when we assess risks in other countries, we advise Australians not to travel. So I’m saying it’s hard to connect them all. Although some smart people might draw the dots together.
STEFANOVIC: Well, what do you mean by that? I got what you mean. Yeah, I know what you mean, okay (laughs). Now just onto Hong Kong, a lot more business folk out of Hong Kong have come forward in recent days, Peter and said that Hong Kong as we know it is dead. It’s been taken over by Chinese effectively; it is more of a Chinese state now than it ever has been before. And a lot of businesses are now leaving and going to Singapore and setting up business. Is this more of what we can expect going forward?
KHALIL: Well look, I’ve been talking about this and advocating on behalf of the people of Hong Kong for a couple of years now. And the great concern, the great worry that we all have is that the one country, two systems approach is being diminished, dismantled before our very eyes. Particularly in the more recent move of the national security laws. And you’re seeing people in Hong Kong who are starting to think, well, can we salvage this? Can we retain that autonomy under the basic law? And the majority start to think that’s not possible. The Hong Kongers themselves think that there’s no way forward. That’s very, very sad. So our great concern is that this is only going to go in this direction. And despite the bravery of those protesters, the bravery of the people of Hong Kong to stand up for their democratic freedoms, their rights, it is still going in a particular direction, which unfortunately means that the one country, two systems approach is really falling apart. And that’s the sad thing about what we’re seeing unfold in Hong Kong.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Peter Khalil, good to get your thoughts today. Thanks for joining us. We’ll chat to you again next week.