TUESDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2021
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining me now is Victorian Labor MP Peter Khalil. Peter, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So what was your reaction to those protests yesterday?
PETER KHALIL, MEMBER FOR WILLS: Good morning Peter, good to see you too. Look obviously outrageous when you see this kind of violence, the vadalisation of an office, the union offices, and also disappointing in many respects was the actions of a very selfish few who have shut down or caused the shutdown of an entire industry for two weeks. And there’s a lot of people who are going to be at home now who had done the right thing, being punishment for the actions of those people who were at the protests. And any type of violent protest, we have to always absolutely condemn. People have the right to protest, people have a right to their civil liberties, but when it descends into this kind of violence, it’s just unacceptable.
STEFANOVIC: Sorry, Peter yeah. Particularly when, as Bill Shorten said this morning, that a lot of them weren’t even Tradies. They just went to the budget shop and just got themselves a cheap high vis vest, and wanted to go and have a fight.
KHALIL: So Pete what we’ve seen here, but look, there might’ve been some union members there, but a lot of them, as you said, were outsiders, and people in that anti-vax protest movement who we’ve seen with previous lockdown protests. In fact, just a couple of days earlier, there was violence against police by a lot of those people that went to this one as well. So then you’ve got this disturbing kind of undercurrent where people are going to these protests just to engage in violence, that you’ve seen there. So, it has to be condemned at every level and it has been.
STEFANOVIC: Well, Bill Shorten called the ‘man baby Nazis’ this morning, which was an interesting term. Have you got anything more colorful than that?
KHALIL: Well I don’t know if I’ll be about as colourful as Bill, but I will tell you that there is this unsettling and disturbing kind of connection to some of the far right wing extremists in this protest movement. Of course it runs across the political spectrum, but some of those neo-Nazi types or those far right types, probably have infiltrated some of this as well.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah, I mean, and so by that rationale, do you expect that to continue while these shutdowns are in place Pete?
KHALIL: Well, I hope not Peter. I think as restrictions ease around the country, that kind of will take the heat out of that as well and there’ll be less reason for that kind of protest. But I’m sure they’ll continue at some point, because there is this undercurrent as I said, very small minority in society who are manipulating some people who have genuine concerns about vaccinations or whatever who want to protest but actually are being manipulated and used in many ways for more violent things. And that’s something that I know that the security have been looking at very closely for many years now.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah and given that so many of these protestors were supposedly not even Tradies yesterday, do you think that there was a need to shut down, or at least pause, the construction industry for two weeks. Was that the right call?
KHALIL: Yeah look that is obviously a decision made by the State Government that you’re referring to, the Victorian State Government. They had some data that showed that, to give you a percentage of cases were coming out of construction sites and so they made that call based on their health advice. I will say also [inaudible], there is a debate around vaccination and mandatory vaccination for these work sites. This is a debate we are having as a country, and we need to have as a country. My starting principle is that, yes I encourage everyone to get vaccinated because it’s our way out of here. We want people to have a voluntary vaccination, we want to incentivise them to get vaccinated and we think that’s the best way to get high vaccination rates. But if you are forcing people, and this is the other thing, people feel what they’ve been forced. There is an ethical question usually being made by State and Federal governments, and by businesses, that they have to actually assure that their workforce is vaccinated and that is a complicated process. But Peter, as good looking as you are, when you go to the pub on a Saturday afternoon, if you’re wearing thongs and shorts, the pub owner has the right not to let you in, mate. So do they have the right or the authority to say that they only want people who are vaccinated and using the QR code. These are questions that we’ve got to answer.
STEFANOVIC: Well, thank you for the compliment, Pete and likewise might I say. Peter Khalil, good to chat. I’ll talk to you again soon.