SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
SUBJECTS: Donald Trump Racist Tweets, Superannuation, Newstart
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Back to Melbourne now, Labor MP Peter Khalil joins us this morning. Peter Khalil, good to see you. First of all, this is a story that is not going away in the US, and it seems to just be deepening in its division of politicians and America. Donald Trump’s tweets were they racist?
PETER KHALIL, MP: Go back to where you came from is something that I’ve heard growing up as well, many many times. It’s deeply offensive, it’s a racist trope, not just here in Australia by its implication but I think in the US as well given the migrant story of America. So I think, and many commentators have said, that it’s beneath the office of the President to use race to divide Americans and for political purposes. And look a lot of people know, or think they know what he is doing, which is to try to bring the moderate wing closer to the far left youth wing of the democratic party, that might help him with his base, but that to me, using that kind of politics and using race in that kind of politics is not only deeply offensive but I think it should be beneath the office of the President of the United States.
JAYES: These comments, what do they effectively do as you see in America, does it bring this racist divide bubbling to the surface that’s usually kept underground? Can you really blame him for something that already exists?
KHALIL: Well, the issue of race in US politics has been there for a very long time obviously. And a lot of US politics has turned around race throughout the 20th century, slavery, Lincoln all of that. It’s a big part of US politics and the way he is using it to solidify his base I guess, and to try to bring the democratic party, it has forced Pelosi and the others to support the squad. And he is going to try and use that against them, in its entirety. It’s deeply disturbing. What’s really disturbing is the way the polarisation of politics and racial politics, in the US is getting worse. And I really hope this doesn’t spread further to other liberal democracies and other western democracies, we have seen some of it here unfortunately that kind of race bating, we have had a Senator who has been very controversial and racist, so we hope that doesn’t spread further to the Australia.
JAYES: We have seen Theresa May comment on this particular issue in the last couple of days but we haven’t seen anything from Scott Morrison on this or I might say on any other international issues like the Hong Kong riots. Is that something you would expect our Prime Minister to delve into? Do you expect our Prime Minister to be commenting on every big international story? Where is the line?
KHALIL: It’s a good question Laura. You are not going to be a commentator on every single story that happens around the globe, of course not. That is not what I’ve been saying. What I have been saying though is that democratic leaders should be standing up for the right of people to protest peacefully and the democratic political freedoms that we here cherish in Australia, in our democracy. And there has been an eerie silence from the Australian Prime Minister, too quiet Prime Minister Morrison on this issue. He hasn’t stood up, he hasn’t made any comments. To give credit to the UK, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has made some substantial comments. Marise Payne who is also known as MIA Marise Payne, has put out two press releases on June the 12th and June the 16th and there has been silent since then, effectively. I think it is a very disturbing thing that the democratic leaders around the western world, the liberal democracies are not standing up more firmly on these issues. Because it is about, who is going to do it? If it’s not the leaders of democracies, who is going to stand up and speak up on behalf of people who are very courageously and very bravely, peacefully protesting for their democratic freedom.
JAYES: Interesting, is Marise Payne known as MIA in the Labor Party?
KHALIL: I just made that up then.
JAYES: Okay, right (laugh shared). That seems like you’re not the only one perhaps that thinks that. Look let me get to some domestic issues as well, where is Labor on Newstart? Are you clear as to what your policy is?
KHALIL: Well I have been very public in saying that it needs to be raised. Many of our team, our leadership team has said it’s inadequate, it’s too low.
JAYES: Some push for it to go, to be increased by $400. Is that your position?
KHALIL: Look, I don’t know, the number crunching on that, the work has to be done on that. Frankly, because you are looking at how much can the budget afford if you like, what’s possible. Acost has talked about a $75 dollar raise a week. I think Chris Richardson, another economist has talked around those figures. Whether it is 70, 60 or 50, 80 or 100 dollars, I think the point is that we are discussing something that needs to happen. And people have criticised Labor and said are you going to have an enquiry on Newstart and raising Newstart? Albo said this just yesterday, of course we are going to have an enquiry, the enquiry is to look at how much and how possible it is to raise it. We are not going to have an enquiry to lower it. It is a responsible thing to do, to do the number crunching properly. The work of opposition is to get those policies right.
JAYES: Is it responsible then for Jim Chalmers to turn around and say to the government to raise it immediately?
KHALIL: Well, the government has all the power of the civil service, the public service, they are not doing this work at all Laura. They are just putting up a stone wall and saying that they don’t want to talk about it. And when you have got people like John Howard saying it’s too low and it needs to be raised, well you start to ask questions about this government and the way that they operate.
JAYES: I guess the question is, how do you pay for it as well? Given the economic headwinds but that is perhaps another conversation. I quickly want to ask you about superannuation. The Department of Human Services has signed off on some 30,000 people using their super for other means, it has been revealed that people are tapping into it to have surgery for obesity, even for IVF treatment. Is this how the super system should be used?
KHALIL: Well I mean, yeah, there is a real problem because superannuation was set up by Labor governments for the express purpose of providing a comfortable and safe retirement for people not draining the public purse throughout a huge social security budget implication, with you know with the aging population of Australia. So it was a visionary policy by Paul Keating, so I think philosophically the purpose of super has to be adhered to and if it has been misused beyond the expressed purpose that was originally put in place, then there is a real problem.
JAYES: Just finally on Dick Smith he is on the front page of the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald this morning talking about franking credits. He says he has got more than half an million dollars in franking credit refunds in a single year and he said that it is an outrageous use of tax payer money. How should that be seen in the current debate your having, your party is having about what kind of policy you will take to the election?
KHALIL: I think the report I saw was $300,000, anyway it’s an exorbitant amount on credits when someone doesn’t pay tax and Dick Smith has raised this I think appropriately. And we have said in the lead up to the election campaign, we are talking about $8 billion dollars, up towards 8 billion dollars hit on the budget for franking credits which is a tax credit. A cheque being written by the government, given to people who don’t pay tax. When it was originally put in, Keating put it in, you could use it to bring down your taxable income until you get to 0, and then it stopped.
JAYES: Should it be means tested?
KHALIL: Well, that’s one possibility. There’s means testing, a cap, all these things need to be looked at. We took this to the last election because 8 billion dollars is more than we spend on public education a year so I don’t think it’s sustainable in the long term. Of course the leadership team is looking at all of these policies and how we will deal with it going forward in the next few years.
JAYES: Yep, you certainly are. Peter Khalil, always great to talk to you. Thanks so much for your time this morning.
KHALIL: Thanks Laura. Cheers.
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