Sky News Interview: Jerusalem Embassy Move, Wentworth By-Election, Middle East Peace, New Zealand Resettlement Deal



SUBJECTS: Jerusalem Embassy Move, Wentworth By-Election, Middle East Peace, New Zealand Resettlement Deal

LAURA JAYES, HOST: Let’s get to our panel now. Craig Kelly and Peter Khalil join us to get back to the rough and tumble of politics inside Parliament House this morning. Peter Khalil I’ve got to start with you, what’s wrong with this idea to look at moving the embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL LABOR MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well what’s wrong? Good morning everyone, but Laura I think it’s pretty self-evident that, there has been a long standing bipartisan policy that the final status of Jerusalem is bound to the negotiations on a two state solution, and that moving the embassy would not be conducive to that two state solution coming about, and Scott Morrison as Prime Minister has basically made foreign policy on the run. It smacks of desperation to try and win a handful of votes. I know that everyone is saying that you know, it’s not the case. Josh Frydenberg said that this morning. Who do they think we are? It’s quite obvious what he’s done, he hasn’t even actually made the decision. He’s saying he’d consider it. It smacks of desperation, also demonstrates immaturity as Prime Minister because as a matter of principle, a good Prime Minister, a good government, does not make foreign policy based on sectional interests for a confined period of time or for some votes.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST:  Craig Kelly, strong reaction from Peter Khalil, but also, a strong reaction from more than a dozen diplomats from Middle Eastern countries in Canberra expressing their concern. Also we’re hearing concerns out of Jakarta as well. Do you think the government has thought through those ramifications appropriately?

CRAIG KELLY, LIBERAL MP: Well, Kieran at the moment, we’re only just discussing and floating this idea. Remember the US has made this announcement that they’re going to move their embassy in Israel to West Jerusalem. It makes sense, if the US is there, if that’s where the head of government of Israel is, one of the only true democracies in the Middle East, it makes much sense to me, that Australia should also have their embassy there or at least that we should be discussing, and I can’t see what Peter’s hyperventilation on this issue is all about.

KHALIL:  It’s because the studio’s so hot in here Craig, but I’ve got to… sorry Laura, go, go on.

JAYES: Hyperventilation, oh that is… that is very unkind. Peter Khalil, you being a bit precious there, I think.

KHALIL: [laughter]

JAYES: But no, seriously, I mean this is a move in a different direction. It’s been done by the United States, I mean Wentworth or not, why shouldn’t it be considered?

KHALIL: It doesn’t mean just because the United States and Guatemala, by the way the only two countries in the world have this move, that doesn’t mean it makes it right. What this announcement is, was a shallow, craven attempt at winning votes in a by-election, without any due process, without any policy serious consideration, the head of DFAT Frances Adamson said that this is not the way to go, the former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said this, and Scott Morrison himself, just a few months ago, when he was asked about this, said no, no, no, that’s not what we should be doing. If they really are serious about engaging in Middle East peace, let’s have a substantive policy announcement; let’s talk about Australia being involved with Canada, UK, France, other countries in engaging Israel and the Palestinians to move them out of the status quo, where they’ve been stuck for so long. And Australia can play a role. We’ve got good diplomats.

GILBERT: Ok, let’s consider, I want to consider quickly another issue get your thoughts on it both of you, Craig Kelly do you sense that there’s been a shift in the electorate, at least to some extent, to say that look there needs to be, obviously the government has thought it’s been on a winner in terms of stopping the boats as it’s described. But five years on, people languishing in Nauru, families separated, kids still there, some of your colleagues think that the pendulum has shifted and now politically, there’s pressure on you to do something, is that why the government’s now looking at this New Zealand option more closely?

KELLY: Look, Kieran remember, what we inherited, the mess from the Labor Party in this area, was something like six thousand children in detention. That was the Labor Party’s legacy. Now, we’ve gone through and worked through this methodically. We’ve stopped the boats, we put policies in so there’s no more children being put into detention, you’ve got about seventy young people left on the island of Nauru. We’re trying to resolve that. It appears the New Zealand option if we want to call it that, is one possible solution going forward now, that bill is in the Senate, this issue could be fixed today, if the Labor Party and Greens, they like to make a lot of noise about how they care and how they’re so socially responsible, well if they are, go and vote for the bill in the Senate.

JAYES: Well, Peter Khalil, let me ask you. Are you letting the perfect be the enemy of the good here?

KHALIL: No, not at all Laura. Scott Morrison can pick up the phone and call Jacinda Ardern today and accept the offer. We’ve been calling for Scott Morrison, the Turnbull-Morrison government, for years to accept the offer that was made by New Zealand. This idea that you have to support, the lifetime ban legislation which they put forward in 2016 and wasn’t even put to a vote because everyone was against it, because it’s ludicrous and its overreach. Are we really saying, that a refugee that goes to New Zealand and in ten or twenty years’ time, becomes a Minister in a New Zealand government, can’t come back to an APEC meeting in Australia? Are we saying that? And furthermore, they made the same condition around the US resettlement deal, with the US, saying you have to support this lifetime ban, but then when we rejected that they still went ahead with it, so there’s no connectivity there. Morrison is playing politics again with this issue. He can pick up the phone to Ardern accept the deal. Now we have gone ahead with Private Members Bill around medical transfers for children to get them off Nauru with their families to seek the urgent medical care that they need because of this chaotic government, and their inability to provide the care and the obligations they owe to these people.

GILBERT: Labor’s Peter Khalil and Liberal Party’s Craig Kelly. Gents, thanks so much.