Sky News Interview: First Edition: Coronavirus, Economy, Uighur Human Rights Abuses, Josh Frydenberg’s Comments on the Hindu Faith



SUBJECTS: Coronavirus, Economy,  Uighur Human Rights Abuses,  Josh Frydenberg’s Comments on the Hindu Faith

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let’s go live to Canberra now. Labor MP Peter Khalil joins us now. Thanks so much for your time. How worried should people be about the Coronavirus? What are you telling your constituents? 

PETER KHALIL, MP: Well, I’d pass on the very good advice from our medical authorities, the chief medical officers giving briefings and we’ve seen that over the past couple of weeks and the basics, Laura, you know, good hygiene, good personal hygiene, making sure that you wash your hands all the time and if there are symptoms, if you’re feeling sick, making sure you get to a healthcare facility so that you could be checked and looked after and following all those rules. And I think it’s funny you should say that cause I was thinking that there is a real need for a kit of information that we could pass on. I think more generally out to the public at the local level. And that’s something that we’ll be discussing internally here. 

JAYES: Okay. Well, a kit perhaps is needed, an information kit to inform people because authorities are telling everyone not to panic, but the supermarket shelves tell us they are. 

KHALIL: I saw that, I saw the pictures of some of the empty shelves with the toilet paper and I was heartened to see, I think I might’ve been on sky, that there was a report that local toilet paper manufacturing is being ramped up. I didn’t even know that we still did that. So that’s good news. I think the other general message for the public is not to panic, because once you do that, that creates a whole other problem, right. And so people should go about their daily business, if they go shopping yeah look, a little bit of an increase on, on things that you need to have, make sure you’ve got the, all the medicines and, different things like that, the pasta and the rice, but don’t go overboard. And you know, I saw Costco, I think it was the one where people just loaded up and just bought out everything off the shelves. That’s not going to help. 

JAYES: Nope. It’s certainly not. At Costco you have to buy bulk anyway, so perhaps that’s part of the reason, but if yesterday’s rate cut doesn’t work, what does the economy then need for a shot in the arm in your view? 

KHALIL: Well, it’s interesting Laura. I’ve said this before, that this government has lent in heavily and relied on monetary policy on the reserve bank, the shortening rope of monetary policy and rate cuts to get it out of trouble because the fact is that wages have been stagnant under this government, there’s been underemployment, there’s been a lack of investment, debt and household debt and public debt have increased under this government. And this all happened, all of this happened before the coronavirus and the bushfires. And the governments been relying on [inaudible]. 

JAYES: So what would Labor do at this point? 

KHALIL: Well, we have given them so many opportunities to say, why don’t you look at raising Newstart? Why don’t you look at a whole range of issues that will stimulate the economy, like passing on the second phase of tax cuts. I mean there’s a whole range of things that Jim Chalmers and we have been banging on about to this government around fiscal stimulus that they have refused. 

JAYES: Yeah, you have been banging on about that for quite some time in fact last year, but the economic environment has changed significantly. So would Labor change its course of action? I mean some economists, Peter Switzer was just on the program calling for a special stimulus package, you know, that would rival that of the bushfire package, which is about $2 billion. Is that about right? 

KHALIL: Well, you went to the two billion bushfire package, which apparently hasn’t even been set up by the government and then only a handful of farmers have actually received a number of loans and so Scott Morrison announcing a 2 billion package that doesn’t quite exist yet and hasn’t been created. They need to do the work on that. And with respect to their fiscal package, which they haven’t provided any details yet, we’ll have a look at that. There needs to be a stimulus there obviously given the impacts of the coronavirus on the economy. The point I was making was that they can’t fall back on the Coronavirus and say, oh look, we didn’t, we didn’t expect this, no one expected it. No – under their watch, the economy was struggling. Clearly the statistics tell us that. So absolutely they should be (inaudible). 

JAYES: So what do you say then with the RPA mentioning Coronavirus eight times in its statement yesterday? I mean they do have some leg to stand on when blaming the Coronavirus wouldn’t you agree? 

KHALIL: No, I’m not denying that the Coronavirus is and will have an impact on the economy. What I’m saying is that the underlying economic foundations were already brittle under this government’s watch prior to the Coronavirus hitting, prior to the bushfires. And that’s something that the government has ignored, they kept leaning on the Reserve Bank to continue with monetary policy or interest rate cuts and refuse to make any stimulus because Josh Frydenberg wanted to hold on his surplus. 

JAYES: China is dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak and while it is doing that, perhaps a bigger issue is being swept under the carpet, a human rights one, and this comes to the slave labour of Chinese Uighers. Australia can do something about this, what should it be? 

KHALIL: Well, it’s a good question, Laura. Some of the images that we’ve seen a shocking, the ASPI did a report on this, which has exposed, practices that are, that are horrific. We’re talking about forced labour, modern slavery, the Uighers, which is a Muslim ethnic minority from Western China. There are reports that that tens of thousands of Uighers have been forcibly removed to factories around the country, to work in those factories, and look what can Australia do? Well, this parliament passed the Modern Slavery Act back in 2018, which we provided bipartisan support for that. In that Act, there are requirements for companies, Australian companies, to report on their supply chains if there are those practices within the supply chains. I’d like to see that strengthened, frankly, because this reporting is, voluntary, it’s not actually something that’s enforced, but we are seeing brands that are benefitting from this forced labour, this modern slavery, if you like, right through our economy and people would be shocked to know that, you know, whether it’s their Nike shoes or their Apple phone or whatever it might be, parts of it are being made by people who are, effectively, slaves. 

JAYES: Just finally, you’ve accused the Treasurer of mocking the Hindu community. Is parliament really becoming a joke free zone? 

KHALIL: No, there’s always a place for humor, Laura, with respect to, speeches made in parliament. That’s been a part of our tradition. The point is this, Josh Frydenberg thinks it’s okay to mock a particular faith, the Hindu faith.  

JAYES: Who’s been offended though? 

KHALIL: He has gone out there in the past. Well, hold on. He’s gone out there in the past and talked about the insidious nature of stereotyping of particular faith, particularly his own Jewish faith. Now, would he go out there and mock a Rabbi or his robes or an Imam? No but he thought it was okay to do it to the Hindu faith. There had been many Hindu Australians who have been very offended by this because he’s basically used [inaudible]. 

JAYES: Who, who exactly?  

KHALIL: [Inaudible] 

KHALIL: Yeah. There’s been a number of statements from the Hindu community that have said that this is offended them. There are some who’ve said that there’s no offense obviously, that the community is quite large, but there are many who have been offended by this. I’ll say this about this, we in parliament should lead by example. We shouldn’t be mocking any particular faith or person of background to make our jokes. Get your joke material right Josh is what I’d say to him and when he’s practicing in front of the [inaudible] has caused antisemitism in the past and he should know better. 

JAYES: Sorry, Peter, we just lost you. We are going to have to leave it there this morning. This is not a conspiracy, we weren’t trying to silence you, but we did have a few audio issues! We will see you soon.