SKY NEWS NEWSDAY
SUBJECTS: Fraser Anning, National Energy Guarantee
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let’s go live to Canberra now. Craig Kelly and Peter Khalil. Peter Khalil, first to you on this. Fraser Anning has made a very big point, you might say, with very intemperate language and he’s offended many in that Parliament. Are you one of them?
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL LABOR MEMBER FOR WILLS: Absolutely, Laura. His speech was deeply divisive and hateful because it basically was racist. It had a world view that was fascist in many respects because it was about judging people based on their ethnicity or their race or their faith, not the content of their character. And that all those who weren’t anglo would be excluded, or not capable or worthy to be Australian. And let me tell you this. And everyone has reaffirmed this in the Parliament today. Being Australian is not about your race or your ethnicity or your gender or your faith, it’s about embracing our democracy, it’s about embracing equality before the law and it’s about embracing what is a quintessential Australian value of a fair go for all, regardless of where you come from.
JAYES: What did you think about this speech, Craig Kelly?
CRAIG KELLY, LIBERAL MP: Look, he used the words in the speech ‘the final solution’ in talking about migration. Now, you can make a slip up in an interview, on a TV program, with a few words, but when you are doing a final (sic) speech you generally would draft every single word very carefully. You would let people around you have a look at every single word. And to have that phrase in a maiden speech, with the connotations that it has, was very poor and reflected very poorly on the Senator.
KHALIL: I think it was deliberate actually. Because you don’t… all of us have done our maiden speeches. You pour over those drafts for weeks, if not months, in preparation. So I don’t buy the idea that this was an accident. There was a deliberate narrative of hatred there. A fascist narrative which is about excluding the other. It’s excluding people of colour, people of different faith. And frankly, that’s not the Australia that we live in. Our multicultural model works in this country, because we don’t have to choose between our identity. We can be Australian, be proud to be Australian, proud of our cultural heritage, our faith, and still be Australian. And the fact that he’s got a platform and it’s the Australian Senate is the most disturbing element of this. And it made me very, very angry and upset yesterday. But I was heartened by the fact that all political parties today in the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, all sides of politics and the crossbench, condemned that speech and reaffirmed Australia as a vibrant multicultural nation. The diversity that we have is a strength of our nation. It makes us who we are.
JAYES: But Craig Kelly, I take Peter Khalil’s point that this was a guy that was elected on nineteen votes. Nineteen votes. He was elected on the coat tails of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and then he defected on his first day in Parliament. But that doesn’t change the fact that whilst, you know, we’ve all condemned these comments, the term ‘the final solution’ being used, that there’s got to be some people nodding their head along with what Fraser Anning has said last night. Do you think it’s a big enough group in Australia that agree with Fraser Anning’s views, that we should do something about it?
KELLY: Laura, I think those comments ‘the final solution’ are abhorrent to use in that context. I think no one in Australia agrees with those. And, look, the Senator can speak for himself. But I could not believe that anyone in Australian society would intentionally put those words in any speech, let alone a maiden speech that’s going to be recorded in Hansard.
JAYES: What about the broader point he was making about returning to a white Australia policy, banning all Muslim migration.
KELLY: There would be a very, very tiny minority who would be talking about a white Australia policy. We’re a very diverse culture, the most multicultural, I think the most colour blind nation of people anywhere in the world.
JAYES: Peter Khalil, what’s your view on that, because whilst I’ve said that the condemnation we’ve seen and in the Parliament in particular, we’ve seen some of the best and worst things in Parliament over the past twenty four hours, the best was the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader shaking hands across the chamber, Ed Husic embracing Josh Frydenberg, but is there a class of people out there that will agree with Fraser Anning? Is it a big enough cohort that we need to seriously talk about this?
KHALIL: Well, that’s a good question and I think the corollary question to that is, is giving a platform to this hateful narrative, this kind of racist narrative, also growing this class of people? It’s encouraging that view to be normalised or legitimised. In-fact, how many people have done so much work over the decades to fight against fascism. My grandfather fought with the British army in North Africa against the fascists in World War II. How many millions of Australians have suffered to give us a country that… and I would have hoped that it is colour-blind, but the fact is that it’s not, Craig. This kind of view needs to be stamped out…
KELLY: Tell me a nation around the world that is more colourblind than Australia.
KHALIL: Well that’s right. And this kind of hateful view needs to be stamped out. And it’s enough of the right and the far-right hiding behind the cloak of free speech. Free speech has never been unlimited under the law. That’s why we have defamation laws, that’s why we have laws against vilification and the incitement of violence. So it’s not good enough to say, oh, it’s free speech. No. There’s something beyond the law. It’s about human decency. It’s about understanding that the human condition goes beyond judging someone based on the colour of their skin or who they worship or how they worship because we are not seeing that human decency in today’s politics. This is global, by the way. It’s happening in the Trump America. There’s a lack of empathy to others. I’m not looking at Craig and seeing a white male. I will debate Craig based on his crazy…
KELLY: I’m not a male, Peter. Come on.
JAYES: Well, that was an assumption that you were making, Peter. He may wish to be referred to as ‘they’ or ‘them’. Perhaps you should ask him.
KHALIL: Well, the point I’m making Laura is, if your starting point is someone’s race or their ethnicity or their faith, you’re categorising them in a group. You’re not treating them as an individual. And you lose that ability to empathise with that person and to try and see things from their perspective. And we don’t have to agree, but we don’t have to…
KELLY: No, we don’t.
JAYES: What I want to get to is, and the term ‘final solution’, the white Australia policy, are just reprehensible terms in which to address his views. But Craig Kelly and Peter Khalil, this is a question I want to put to both of you, is there a debate that we should be having in Australia and should that debate be had by, you know, politicians like you who are in the centre, who represent both major parties. Because you’re not having that conversation, is it then giving the opportunity for people like Fraser Anning to then seize it. Craig Kelly, first to you.
KELLY: Laura, the best way to defeat a bad idea is with a good idea. And I think…
JAYES: What’s the good idea?
KELLY: We saw in the Parliament today, we saw the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader coming together. We saw the Parliament coming together. So this ideas that there’s some racist undertones in our society. If that idea was… we took that from Senator Anning’s speech… that idea was widely defeated today by what the Parliament did with that motion and the coming together of both sides of Parliament today.
JAYES: Peter Khalil, we’re talking about the broader conversation about levels of migration in this country. Now, they’re directly related because Fraser Anning put it in that way that he did last night. But is there a more serious conversation… do you need to seize the centre ground, that’s what my question is.
KHALIL: I think it’s a good question, because what you’re going to there is this idea that because there isn’t a debate amongst political leadership around immigration, around the pressures on infrastructure in our major cities, that this allows the fringes to fill that vacuum and that space. I think that’s a valid question. I think we do need to debate our immigration policy without the racist overlay that we’ve seen from Fraser Anning. And we can talk about the right levels and the numbers that come into the country and the amount of money that we should be investing in infrastructure. And try and incentivise people to go to regional cities for example. These are the things and the discussions that we do have in this Parliament and we don’t necessarily have to overlay it with a racist narrative.
KELLY: Laura, Laura, I could add there. We should also be able to debate the level of migration in this country now, or what the level of migration should be. Whether it’s three hundred thousand, or two hundred thousand, one hundred thousand or a thousand, fifty thousand. We should be able to have that debate without people who say, well, look, migration’s a bit too hot at the moment, without people throwing stones and say anyone who wants a smaller migration than we already have is somehow racist. That’s what we’ve got to get over. And if we can have that debate and have a debate about what the number should be and talk about infrastructure and talk about those things, that actually right there..
KHALIL: I agree with you there on that Craig, but I will say this. There is a red line here, though. I would very much be clear cut on the fact that we are not having a migration program that is based on race, ethnicity or faith. You don’t ban Muslims from coming to the country because they are Muslim.
JAYES: Peter Khalil, this is the question that I come back to about the media class, the political class and yes, I agree with you, but there is a cohort of our community that frankly, I think have concerns about the levels of Muslim migration. Whether that’s founded or unfounded. Would you agree?
KHALIL: Well, the point about social cohesion is bandied about by the alt-right and the far right. Let’s be very clear about this, Laura. All of our intelligence and security agencies have pointed again and again. David Irvine and others, who have been the head of ASIO and other intelligence services, that Muslim Australians are the frontline against extremism. Now, the vast majority of Muslim Australians are hard-working Australians who pay their taxes, who raise their kids and their families, who contribute to Australian society. And what Fraser Anning is doing is trying to create divisiveness. He’s basically doing what ISIS wants to do, which is to cast us asunder based on our religion or our faith or our ethnicity or the colour of our skin and cause us to have that conflict, because they see the world through the prism of race and gender and faith.
KELLY: In the same way we’ve got to make sure that, and I have said that our migration rates are currently too high. We’ve got to be able to allow people to say that without people saying, well, because you think migration is too high, you are somehow a racist.
KHALIL: Sure, but that’s a different point than saying you ban people from migrating based on their faith.
JAYES: That is a different point, Peter Khalil, but you have to agree that is often the point made when anyone like Craig Kelly, or Tony Abbott brings up the level of migration. There’s often a racist tag that is branded on them straight away and then there’s no evolution in the debate. So how do you overcome that?
KHALIL: Well, I’ve talked about immigration Laura. And I’ve said that, and I’ve done this publicly, where I’ve said that we need to look at the numbers that are coming into Melbourne and Sydney. There’s too many coming into the major cities and we should be going into regional centres and cities and maybe adjusting the number because the infrastructure is not keeping up with our immigration numbers and the pressures that it’s placing on our cities. So, you know, you can have that debate.
KELLY: Peter, it has been very difficult in the past. We’ve often opened that debate up before. People like to throw the racist bucket at you. Make those accusations. When it’s not racist at all. As John Howard…
KHALIL: Well, I assume you disagree with the idea that you should ban someone migrating because of their faith or their ethnicity.
KELLY: Oh, of course. Of course I disagree. But we should be able to have a debate about what the level of migration is in this country without people calling you a racist and that’s unfortunately, when you don’t allow that debate, when you shut that debate down, is when you get the extremist elements taking control of the debate.
JAYES: Okay, Craig Kelly, Peter Khalil, I appreciate the conversation and the time we’ve given to this today because I think it’s a really important conversation. I return to my original point. I do think the sensible centre needs to seize this middle ground and have a conversation about it, so you don’t have the likes of Fraser Anning echoing Nazi propaganda. But just before I let you both go, Craig Kelly, are you still opposed to the NEG? Are you still reserving your right to cross the floor?
KELLY: Yes Laura, I’m still waiting to see what the final legislation is. I still haven’t seen that detail. This is a very complex area of policy. The devil is in the detail. We’re waiting to see what Peter’s mates down in the Labor state, Victorian Labor, are going to do with this. The ball’s now in their court.
JAYES: Well, Peter Khalil, just quickly on that. The Labor states, Andrew Barr in-fact has said, well, Labor needs to make clear, Federal Labor needs to make clear what your position is. So what is it?
KHALIL: Well, we’re waiting to see what this Frankenstein monster of a policy, as it was called by the Leader the other day.
JAYES: Everyone’s waiting!
KHALIL: Whether some of the limbs are going to fall off, or whether Craig’s going to chop a few off in the party room, and what we end up with. And they need to get their act together.
JAYES: Yeah, well, it sounds like a big game of chicken at the moment. Peter Khalil, Craig Kelly, appreciate your time.