Sky News Interview: First Edition: Coronavirus, Veterans Suicide Announcement, Greens Leadership, Climate Policy



SUBJECTS: Coronavirus, Veterans Suicide Announcement, Greens Leadership, Climate Policy 

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let’s go live back to Canberra now. Labor MP Peter Khalil joins us. Peter Khalil good to see you. We’ve seen a huge response to the Coronavirus. We’ve also seen some criticism out of the Chinese embassy yesterday, levelled at the Australian Government. Was that warranted? 

PETER KHALIL MP: Good morning, Laura. Look, I’m a bit confused because the reporting is suggesting that the Foreign Minister Marise Payne did in fact inform Chinese officials, senior Chinese officials in China, after that national security committee made that decision. And yet we’re hearing something quite different from the embassy. Regardless of, what the facts are there, I would say that Australia’s sovereign right to make laws and implement policies that protect our citizens and protect our borders. That is something that I think should be respected by other countries. And so while the Chinese embassy is well within its rights to make points about their citizens, Australia has every right to do what is necessary to ensure public health and safety. 

JAYES: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve seen another important announcement today, if I could change tack and it, it comes after a long campaign in the media also within the veteran community to do something about veteran suicide. It is something that we should be embarrassed and quite frankly, really ashamed of, that 400 veterans have taken their lives since 2001. There were calls for a Royal Commission that hasn’t happened, but there will be a new commissioner who has all the powers of a Royal Commission. Is that good? 

KHALILYeah, look first I want to say that it is horrible. It’s 419 suicides that we know of that have been reported. Obviously there could be some more, but it’s a horrible scourge on the veterans community and the families for those who served, put their lives on the line, serving our country. And we’ve been calling for a Royal Commission. I think I mentioned this on the program last year. Shayne Neumann, our Shadow Minister has called for a Royal Commission, Leader Anthony Albanese last year as well. And so we welcome this announcement by the government. Labor welcomes this announcement. Shayne did the doors this morning welcoming that announcement. But we want to make absolutely sure that the new Commissioner has the powers of a Royal Commission. So the devil is going to be in the detail a bit. Obviously if they’re going to establish a Commissioner, there’ll need to be legislation. So we want to have a look at that detail to make sure that they have those powers. We don’t, I mean, as you’ve heard a lot of the vets, it’s that extra layer of bureaucracy that is part of the problem trying to cut through to get the services or the help that they need and being frustrated, without being able to do that. So, we need to make sure that we get this right and this is the chance to do it. So we, we support, there’s bipartisan support for this step. I would just make one other point, about this, Laura. And this is a bit more of a personal point. I mean, I was in Iraq for a year and I saw firsthand, well I came out it, and I got an army psych evaluation at the end of that. Even though I was a defence official and I think once this is established, it would be good to see if, the services and the work could be expanded to include intelligence officials, defence officials, DFAT officials who are also working on the front line and experiencing some of the more extreme, experiences if you like, that you get in conflict zones and war zones. Because there are many Australians who serve in national security type roles as well that need to be considered. So I think that’s just an additional thing that might come down the line. 

JAYES: Yeah, that’s a really good point as well, Peter Khalil. I suggested to Ben English, the Editor of the Daily Telegraph a little earlier in the program that if we do get some recommendations out of this, they are implemented and we can see them working, there could be extrapolated to not only the cohorts you’re talking about, but the broader community. I mean 3000 to 4,000 young people in every age group a year in Australia are killing themselves. 

KHALIL: Yeah, I mean that’s a good point. If there are lessons to be learned from this that can, as you say, be extended to the broader community to reduce, eliminate, if we can suicide, that’d be a good thing. What I don’t want to see though is that this becomes just another layer of bureaucracy. That’s why we are very, very strongly saying that we want to make sure that the Commission has the powers of a Royal Commission that’s absolutely necessary baseline. And all those powers are necessary for them to do the work that’s necessary. So I think it’s a good thing going forward, we support it. We want to see the detail, obviously, when it comes to the Parliament, the legislation. But it’s something that veterans around this country and their families and I’ve got to say too, the great work of Julie-Ann Finney and all the mums and dads who, you know, were bravely, meeting with political leaders to push for action in this space. They should be commended for the work they’ve done, particularly difficult for them given what they’ve experienced, losing their, you know, their loved one. 

JAYESYeah, very well said. Peter Khalil on that note, that’s such a lovely note of bipartisanship. Could I just quickly ask you about what we saw happen yesterday. We saw a new Greens leader who’s even further to the left than the old one, in the National Party, we have seen Michael McCormack re-installed but with a calls for him to arguably go further to the right. What does that tell you about where Labor should be? 

KHALILWell, can I not be bipartisan anymore and get a bit more political with this answer and say, I think one of the disappointing things about yesterday was that yesterday was supposed to be about us paying our respects, commemorating acknowledging the sacrifices that have been made by our firefighters. Nine who lost their lives in these fires over summer and 33 people overall. It was about us as a parliament being united in our acknowledgement of that in our commemoration of that and being united in our response to that and for the recovery and everything else that we need to do because this is still going on. The fires are still happening, as you know. And yet we had two parties, playing politics, doing their politics in the morning. I mean, really couldn’t they have thought of another time to do this? Waited until next week maybe. And there was a fair bit of self-centeredness there, I think, by both. And I know the Prime Minister said, oh, I’m glad they got it out of the way in the morning, but seriously, this was really bad timing. And as a nation we needed to be united yesterday. We largely did that for the rest of the day, which was good. But those political parties on the extremes, if you like, your question is where should Labor be? Well Labor will be where we know we should be, which is the sensible centre. We are working through our policies and we’ll deliver policies to the Australian people as the alternative government, we’re the official opposition. We know that we have the responsibility to implement those policies in government. 
JAYES: I’m going to try for a quick yes or no answer here. Should your climate change emissions reduction policy be done this year, closer than to the next election? 

KHALILThis year? Yeah. Well, you know, I mean. 

JAYES: I tried for a yes or no! I didn’t think it would work! 

KHALIL:  I’m sorry about that Laura. But in the sense that I think we need to get to zero emissions. Obviously there are many of us who believe that. We need to invest in renewable energy. How, the detail of those policies and there should be a massive investment in renewable energy to transition and so on. And there should be a very strong and just transition for workers, over the decades. The detail of that policy needs to be worked through. And I think we’ll announce it when we’re ready to announce it. 

JAYES: Okay. Thanks so much. See you soon.