Sky News Interview: First Edition: China Wine Dumping Allegations, Wuhan Pool Party, Hotel Quarantine Inquiry



SUBJECTS: Wine exports, Wuhan Pool Party, Hotel Quarantine Inquiry. 

Peter Stefanovic, Host: Peter, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us. First of all, I want to get your reaction to China. China’s at it again, they are accusing Australian wine growers, this time of dumping our product into their market. What’s your reaction to this? 

Peter Khalil: Well, Peter, good morning, Peter. I think obviously concern for our wine industry. This investigation has been conducted by the Chinese ministry of commerce, as I understand. And if you look at some of the facts, obviously Australian wine is not subsidised, which is what is being alleged, and they’re not being sold at below market prices. So, this is a very concerning investigation being put forward by China, somewhat similar to the barley one that was a couple of months back. And I would say that the Australian government has to do everything possible and appropriate through diplomatic channels, as well as making sure that they address these allegations in the sturdiest and most forthright way, as China goes through the investigation. Because if China puts levies on imported or import duties on Australian wine, that’s going to be devastating to the Australian wine industry which I think about a third of exports go to China. So, this is a real concern, and it goes to that kind of broader relationship difficulties that we’re having with China. And you would note that, I think it was the Chinese ambassador to Australia, he’d actually given a bit of a warning on the wine investigation a couple of months ago. That it was coming. 

Host: Yeah, he’s definitely followed through with that. I mean, do you think this is about anti-dumping or do you think this is something more sinister and it’s part of the broader trade war that we’ve got with China at the moment, Pete? 

Khalil: Well, certainly I would say, if you look at the facts, these allegations seem to be very perplexing. Australian wine is not subsidised by the Australian government. And when you look at the prices of Australian wine, as I understand it, they are much higher than locally produced Chinese wines. So, this idea that Australia’s dumping cheap wine into the Chinese market seems to be quite preposterous. And I would hope that in any investigation, these facts are born out. The problem of course, Peter, is that it’s being conducted by China’s ministry of commerce. So, we’ve got to go through that process, and I’d be interested to see what kind of other actions could be taken at the international body level if they proceed. But we can’t second-guess that investigation for the moment. Australia should do everything appropriate to defend the wine industry. 

Host: I’m not sure if you’ve seen these pictures out of Wuhan that have emerged in the past 24 hours, there’s a huge dance party that’s going on with hundreds, if not thousands of people who are in pools and they’re dancing to disco, doof-doof music, it’s almost like they’re thumbing their noses at the world. Wuhan, back to normal, and everyone else is kind of picking up the pieces. 

Khalil: Well, as a Victorian, Peter, in a particularly very cold morning, doing my early interviews with you, it’s not easy here when it’s two or three degrees in the morning. Watching anyone at a pool party is a bitter pill to swallow if you’re in Melbourne, but I’m just shocked by these pictures, given that Wuhan obviously was the epicenter, or the start, the origin if you like, of the virus, that this is going on with no social distancing. You remember that they had a second scare or outbreak in May. They shut down that entire city and that entire province, millions of people back when all of this started; very draconian measures, very, very strict measures, even stricter than here. And now they seem to be thinking everything’s okay, and I really hope that it doesn’t flare up again, frankly. 

Host: I’m with you there. I think we can all agree with you on that one. Yeah, It’s really interesting pictures. That’s, as you mentioned, they’re out of Wuhan, which was ground zero there for a bit. Just onto this stoush that’s taking place at the moment, Peter, between the ADF and the premier Daniel Andrews. Now he’s adamant that support wasn’t offered, but you had the Commander of the Defense Force, yesterday in a Senate select committee basically saying that well, ADF was offered, but it just wasn’t taken up. So, why do you think the premier would continue to deny that that is the case? 

Khalil: Well, I mean, Peter, you’re asking me to try and see inside someone else’s thought processes and to determine issues around facts. 

Host: But are you confused by that as well? 

Khalil: Well, look, I should say this, I’m glad we live in a democracy, Peter, because there is a Victorian inquiry that the Victorian premier has put in place with an independent former judge to inquire into all of this and that is bringing out facts. And that is rightfully what should proceed. There’s a Senate inquiry which the general Frewen testified before the other day. So, I think it’s probably true to say, and I can’t tell you what the truth is because these inquiries are going into it. I’m not in the state government, I’m a federal MP, but on this point, Daniel Andrews has called for an inquiry, the inquiry’s doing its job. He’s also accepted, there have been failures. I think that’s fair to say he’s fronted up and he’s taken responsibility and accepted responsibility for the failures that have occurred. And the inquiry itself is going to bring out all of those facts and there will be accountability. And that’s the most important thing I think in a democratic country that we have this accountability when our leaders make decisions and there are mistakes that are made. So, I can’t comment on the veracity or otherwise of one person’s statement versus another person’s statement. I would hope that all of that is brought out in those inquiries and the Senate committees and so on. And then we get a clear picture of what actually happened and why. And the fact is that those mistakes which the Premier has taken responsibility for, have led to this second outbreak, largely some of the genomic tracing you can see, I think it was 95%, or 99% were from those hotel quarantine breakouts. So, we’re going through this second lockdown, this severe second lockdown, because you could say some of the issues that occurred with the hotel quarantine breakout. So, it’s important that we get answers to that. And I trust that the Victorian government and the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, who’s put forward, who’s got this inquiry set in train, these answers will be forthcoming 

Host: Peter Khalil, good to get your thoughts as always, we’ll talk to you again soon