Sky News Interview: First Edition: Veteran Suicide, Drought Policy, Labor Review



SUBJECTS: Veteran Suicide, Drought Policy, Labor Review

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let’s go live to Melbourne now and joining me is Labor MP Peter Khalil. Thank you for your time. The Prime Minister will meet with mothers of veterans who’ve lost their lives to suicide today. There have been calls recently for a Royal Commission into veteran suicides. Is that something Labor would agree with?  

PETER KHALIL, MP: Good morning Laura. I think it’s something we need to consider. This is a very serious issues with a lot of the vets who are coming back from some pretty intensive theaters of operation. Australia has been involved in some pretty intensive conflict zones over the last several decades.  
We  are talking about Afghanistan and Iraq before that and even going back earlier than that to East Timor. A lot of the men and women in the ADF have done several tours to some of these zones. So it is a big issue and a lot of the vets are experiencing huge problems. And of course sadly and tragically there have been a number of suicides, and this is something that I know that Prime Minister is meeting with the parents and mums of some of these vets who’ve committed suicide. If a Royal Commission is needed I think that’s something we would consider.  

JAYESAre you doubtful whether it’s the right vehicle or not?  

PETER KHALIL, MPRoyal Commissions are there to look at big structural issues, the need for structural reform, if the law itself is not quite coping or breaking down. The Royal Commission itself has certain powers to try and investigate the situation. There could be good policies put in place to address some of these issues in a bi-partisan fashion without the need for a Royal Commission. We need to have the conversation. I don’t think it’s acceptable that this is happening. War is difficult. You come back from it and you experience – a lot of people experience PTSD. They struggle to just go back into civilian life, normal life, if they leave the force. There could be better policies in place and I’m sure there will be a lot of bi-partisan support to get this right.     

JAYESWe hope so. On drought policy, is there bi-partisan support there? We finally have an explanation from Bridget McKenzie explaining the farm household assistance and the legislation that is before the parliament. It has been extended to four years. There will be a one-off payment and then she says the minister in charge – i.e. her at the moment – has the discretion to basically extend that as needed.  

KHALIL: The problem that we’ve had with the Government’s drought policy is that it has been largely piecemeal and inadequate. We are talking about a Government that has been in power now for almost seven years, three different terms, and there’s been inadequate drought policy, there’s been no real strategy around it. We’ve called for them to release the report by Stephen Day that was put out. It’s not like a top-secret document. Put it out. And we’ve called for a bi-partisan cabinet that can work together on what is an issue that affects Australians who are doing it really really tough in the drought across the country. I don’t see why there is resistance to having that kind of bi-partisanship. But they have been really really mismanaged… This is the fear we have.  

JAYESBut on the farm household assistance, can we just address that more immediately?  

KHALIL:  The question is what?  

JAYESDo you support the way the Government appears to have structured this? That there is an extension of four years, another one-off payment, and then the minister has the discretionary power under the legislation to extend it as she sees fit?  

KHALIL: It has just come out today as you’ve said so I’ll have to look at the details of what they’re proposing. Any support for farmers who are doing it tough in the drought is welcomed. I don’t think that’s the problem – the detail that you’re talking about. Okay, great, fine. I’m talking about what is the overall strategy here to deal with what is a country-wide problem. That’s deal with that in a bipartisan fashion.  

JAYESOkay. The Labor review is due out tomorrow, what are you expecting?  

KHALIL: Well I don’t think there are going to be any great surprises. A lot the discussion in the media and the narrative has been all about how Labor lost and why it lost the election, and everyone has put their two cents in. I really agree with Tanya Plibersek’s earlier comments on the program and I’ve been thinking this myself. You know what? People don’t really care. The punters out there in our electorates really don’t pay that much attention to the internal navel-gazing of any particular party. What they want is to hear how we can actually improve their lives, how we serve them as constituents and how we put forward policies at the national level that will make a significant difference to their lives and their families’ lives.  

JAYESYou also have Jim Chalmers talking about the loss of Labor voters in the outer suburbs of our capital cities. Perhaps this from Claire O’Neil, maybe those voters are only hearing Labor talk about progressive social issues and that’s the wrong direction. Do you agree with those sentiments.  

KHALIL: I think some of the valuable contributions made by both Jim and Claire as front-benchers are on the money as well. As a backbencher I’ve talked about the need for us to engage with multicultural communities better. To look at their needs with respect to first generation needs of the older Italians and Greeks getting into retirement age as well as the new and emerging migrant groups. How do we support in business for example, and entrepreneurship. Things that actually make a difference to their lives. We need to be better at listening to a whole range of people across the electorate as well as putting together and working through our policies to make a real substantive difference to their quality of life?  

JAYES: Too much political correctness, Peter Khalil?  

KHALIL: I don’t know about that. From my perspective Laura it is for me about serving my community first and foremost, and then also working on policies that I think as a party we can put forward as an alternative government that can actually make a difference. Whether it’s education, healthcare, economic inequality – things that actually have a substantive impact on people’s lives. Reducing multi-national tax avoidance. Things like that can support the budget. These are thing that people want to hear about, not about how we lost or why we lost or how we didn’t talk about it correctly or whatever else. We can have all those conversations vis-à-vis our review, that’s important work we need to do, but ultimately it’s about putting forward policies for the national interest and articulating those policies so people understand that it’ll actually make their lives better.  

JAYES: I think you’ll have 28,000 words to wade through so good luck with that.  

KHALIL: Thanks Laura.