National Security

Transcript | Channel 9 Today Show | 08 April 2024

April 8, 2024

Monday 08 April 2024
Interview on Channel 9 The Today Show
Subjects: another illegal boat arrival under Labor, AUKUS and Japan, Supermarket review, AFL

KARL STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the show. A planeload of asylum seekers has touched down in Nauru, becoming the third legal arrivals since November. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson. James, good morning in the current affairs reporter Neil Breen. All right, James, you are first up. It's only three boats. Do you think that keeps Aussies awake at night?

JAMES PATERSON: Well it's three boats that have made it all the way to the Australian mainland Karl. That's virtually unheard of in the last decade of Australian border protection. It's actually 13 boats since the election. I think it's now clear that the Prime Minister has lost control of our borders, and it's because he's undermined and repealed the successful policy of the previous government.

STEFANOVIC: Three boats isn't a wave though, come on?

PATERSON: Well, three boats to the Australian mainland is an extraordinary thing. 13 boats carrying more than 300 people in the last two years, is a significant load of asylum seekers. And it's because they've cut Border Force. It's because they've undermined maritime surveillance and aerial surveillance, they have failed to deliver the hours, and they repealed temporary protection visas. We warned them do not do this. We said if this happens the boats will start again. And look at what we're seeing right now. Exactly what we predicted.

STEFANOVIC: Neil, this is the first Chinese boat to reach Australia since 2012. It is a real problem of perception for the government.

NEIL BREEN: That hits the nail on the head, Kyle. It's just the public will sit back and go, okay, what's happening here? It is only three boats in the last several months. It's not opened the floodgates. It's not cause for massive panic. But we know what people smugglers do and we know what their business model is. Well, it's not a new government now, but a change of government to test the waters, see what happens, push the boundaries, and they are pushing the boundaries because there has been 13 boats since.

STEFANOVIC: If they get sent to Nauru and get sent home?

BREEN: Then then it didn't work, then it didn't work. But if they get sent to Nauru and several of them get to Australia, or there's this claim and that claim, it's sticky. We've seen legal actions and everything. Yeah. And I can understand why the opposition's driving hard at it.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah well, you get sent to Nauru and then at some point down the track you get let out, maybe.

BREEN: Maybe, you know, that's the plan anyway.

STEFANOVIC: Well, Japan could soon join the AUKUS military technology sharing the pact alongside Australia, the US and the UK. James, AUKUS becoming JAUKUS I can't see China having a problem with this.

PATERSON: It rolls off the tongue, doesn't it, Karl? Look, it's possible that our friends in China might have some objections to this. And if you are going to invite any country in the world to join AUKUS, Japan would be the logical one. Their technological and industrial capabilities are very well fitted. Plus, they have got really strongly aligned values and interests and perspective. Having said that, we've got a lot of work to do already with both pillar one, the submarines and pillar two, the advanced capabilities. We need to make sure that the first three countries in AUKUS have that well and truly nailed down before we start inviting any other country to join us.

STEFANOVIC: You don't think China's going to have an issue?

PATERSON: Look, they might, just might be just a little objection. Certainly they do worry about allies, likeminded democracies coming together, working together to defend our interests and uphold the status quo for all nations in the Indo-Pacific, which is what we offer.

STEFANOVIC: We just got wine back on track, Breenie. It's obviously a big boost for our regional alliances. And do we really care what China thinks with the 370 ships?

BREEN: We care a lot Karl. I think the problem we're having in Australia is the mixed messaging over China. The federal government's being very friendly with China. Lots of visits, re-establishing the relationships. We know under the previous Coalition government. The relationship was shattered, we go and do the deal with AUKUS and everything now. But here we are doing these massive deals with these major superpowers around the world to protect ourselves. Yet at the same time, our government seems to say, there's nothing to fear here we get along with China.

STEFANOVIC: Richard Marles has said to our program a couple of months ago, James, they as a government can walk and chew gum at the same time, whereas you guys couldn't.

PATERSON: Well, I think Neil's right. I think a lot of Australians are confused. On the one hand, the government is stopping their criticism of the Chinese government, whether it's their human rights abuses, their activities in the South China, say, or their interference in our own democracy. And on the other hand, they're telling the public we need to spend billions of dollars on AUKUS to defend ourselves. And we won’t say from what. I think a bit of directness and plain speaking is necessary here. The Chinese Communist Party and their navy is building the Australian Navy every single year to add to their existing navy, and they're not just doing that for the fun of it. They're doing it to project their power and their influence in the region, and they might use it, and we have to be ready to defend ourselves.

STEFANOVIC: A supermarket review has recommended billions in fines if grocery giants are found ripping off supplier, James, rather than break them up, fine them. That's a better solution, isn't it?

PATERSON: It's a good start, but we also think a targeted divestment power is also necessary because otherwise consumers are going to be taken advantage of by anti-competitive conduct by the big supermarkets. And when Australians are struggling with the cost of living, that's just not good enough. And the Prime Minister's excuses don't add up.

STEFANOVIC: So you'll back that?

PATERSON: Yeah, I think it's a good start, but it's not sufficient on its own. And we'll be introducing our own measures.

STEFANOVIC: Neil, the complexities of this when you drill into some of the detail, it's ensuring that farmers don't get ripped off. I mean, that's easier said than done.

BREEN: It's all about all suppliers. Yeah, it's about protecting all suppliers because I think there's this voluntary code. This is making it a mandatory code. And under the voluntary code, there were six complaints from suppliers over the last several years, and none of them won. But I see this review by Craig Emerson, a former Labor person. Is he the very best person in Australia to do it? We just get an old mate to come in here and do this report. I read through all the news stories today and I was battling to find some detail and some real solutions for Australia.

STEFANOVIC: The coalition has just backed it. What more do you want?

BREEN: I want to blow it up. No, no honestly Karl. I did the shopping at Woollies on Saturday with my daughter. Yeah, we were actually laughing in the aisles about the prices of things. How massive it is and the inflation and the cost of everything. And you have to times this by all the people in the suburbs and the regions of Australia battling away battling. And here's a report and we're going to bring in a code and we'll get the ACCC involved and an old Labor hacks done this. And then the treasurer says I'll take this under advisement. I'll look at it later. It's as weak as water.

STEFANOVIC: But it's just been backed by the Coalition, anyway.

BREEN: I'll get the Greens or someone fired up about it.

STEFANOVIC: Let's get the Greens onside. James, just before we go, Richmond got beaten by aliens. According to Ross Lyon on the weekend, that must have been a bit of a surprise for you.

PATERSON: Mate, it hasn't been a very promising start to the season. I've got a five year old who is just getting into footy. I think this is probably not the year to take him to too many games otherwise he might switch teams on me.

STEFANOVIC: All right. There you go.


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