SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
SUBJECTS: Hong Kong Protests, Sydney Knife Attack, National Security Laws
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Thank you so much for your time. Things in Hong Kong have escalated once again overnight. China’s reaction has been most notable. What do you make of it?
PETER KHALIL MP: Yes, Laura it’s really concerning this is ongoing. But I don’t see it ending anytime soon and the real concern is what the next step will be particularly from China at the moment. Carrie Lam and the authorities in Hong Kong still at least are sort of have some degree of autonomy with respect to responding to the protests. The concern that we all have I think around the world is will China step in at some stage? And we saw this tweet from President Trump talking about intelligence that he received. I mean that’s a whole other issue – talking about intelligence on Twitter but that there was a build up of Chinese forces on the border or there were exercises done. So that’s a real concern there. There is already a garrison of Chinese forces Chinese PLA army in Hong Kong already. They haven’t been called out as of yet. But that is a real real concern. I’ll just say one more thing about this – the motivation behind the protests are two fold. The people there in Hong Kong are clearly fighting for their future. They know that in 2047 the basic law ends and that two systems one country approach is going to end. So they are fighting for their future democratic rights. But right now they are also fighting even now for what they believe – against an erosion of those democratic rights particularly with the extradition bill.
JAYES: Absolutely and Scott Morrison was asked about this yesterday. China had not explicitly called these protests terrorists, protesters terrorists, but China said it was on the verge of terror. What do you make of those comments and also Morrison’s response to that? How important?
KHALIL: The exact comment I think was that demonstrators are showing “sprouts” of terrorism I think that’s the translation from the statement. I welcome Prime Minister Morrison saying that those comments are not helpful and they shouldn’t be characterised that way. It’s not the outright condemnation that I would make. I’ve called as you know for more leaders of the democratic world to be very forceful and stand up vocally and loudly in support of the protesters in Hong Kong because they are fighting for their democratic rights. The very same rights that we enjoy. So if democratic leaders around the world are not going to stand up for them who will? But it’s welcome that Scott Morrison has stepped in and made those comments. And he’s also, as Anthony Albanese has called for, Carrie Lam to listen to the concerns of the protesters and try and find a peaceful way through this issue and address those concerns at that level – at that Hong Kong government level – and we all hope that’s what actually will occur rather than this becoming more violent or worse in that respect.
JAYES: We certainly do. A second straight day of chaos at the international airport at the moment. This is the economic centre for the Southern hemisphere as well. Peter Khalil, focussing on Sydney now. We saw a very scary incident in the CBD yesterday. We don’t know what the motivation was as yet. This man has not been charged. He’s still under police guard in hospital. Well what we did hear from the NSW Police Commissioner yesterday is that he has no firm links to any terror groups. But he did appear to have an ideation. He had a USB stick that clearly showed that he had a fascination with mass killing overseas. What do you make of it?
KHALIL: Yeah it was really concerning the visuals that we’ve all seen of the attacks and perpetrator being held down. I would say the bravery of not just the police but obviously just Sydney locals who took it upon themselves. You know most people would run when they see something like that but there were a number of brave individuals and others who stopped him basically. The other point I’d make is it really is so important that we have such good strong gun laws in Australia thanks to previous Prime Minister Howard and what was done there because this could have been a lot worse as we would all be aware with the mass killings that we have seen in the US but the fact that there are strong gun laws in Australia is really a positive in this respect even though this has been a horrible attack. With respect to his ideation as you call it the police are not investigating this as a terrorist incident but there clearly are and there’s been reports about mental health issues that this individual may have had or has and clearly people with mental health issues, severe mental health issues, could be very much influenced by different forms of violence that they see or extremism and so on so that’s a concern and we constantly have to evolve our work in the security agencies and law enforcement to deal with these evolving different types of threats by individuals. It’s very hard obviously to prevent these kind of things but obviously if it’s a mental health issue there would be some I think serious need to look at funding in that space and further work in trying to prevent people getting to this stage.
JAYES: Well just quickly and very separate to this incident. We had Mark Dreyfus on the show yesterday and he essentially said that now is perhaps a good time to review our anti-terror and security laws because the threat of Islamic terrorism seems to have plateaued and he was citing I would argue selectively the words of Duncan Lewis. Is now the right time to look at perhaps watering down some of those laws and is this Labor policy?
KHALIL: A couple of points on that. The first is that Labor has played a very constructive role in ensuring over the last 5/6 years that the law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies get the laws, the policies and the laws that they need to effectively combat the threat of terrorism. But we’ve also been constructive in the sense that we’ve made sure there are safe guards and checks around privacy and civil liberties and individual liberties and I think that we’ve tried to strike that balance. Mark was referring to the fact that none of these laws were permanent. They always have to be reviewed constantly reviewed because my point is we are facing an evolving threat. We just talked about an issue with a sort of lone wolf or a sub-variant of that with respect to someone who has got mental health issues. You constantly have to evolve your laws, your policies to meet the next threat not the last threat. It’s important that we do that. It might be a need to strengthen those laws, it might be a need to review them and change them to adjust so that we can deal with the threats that are evolving and that I think is what is a really I think the right path forward with respect to getting it right for our law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies.
JAYES: Peter Khalil, as always, thanks so much for your time.