National Security

Transcript | Sky News Bolt Report | 09 April 2024

April 9, 2024

Tuesday 09 April 2024
Interview on Sky News Bolt Report
Subjects: Former Japanese ambassador comments, Labor failures on border protection, Israel-Gaza

ANDREW BOLT: Joining me from Canberra is Senator James Paterson, the Opposition Spokesman on Home Affairs. James Paterson, thanks for joining us. The former ambassador's comments. Is that sour grapes after his apparently early removal from Australia or something much more serious?

JAMES PATERSON: In my observation, Shingo Yamagami was one of the most effective diplomats in Canberra during his time here representing any nation. He ensured that his government's perspective was well heard and well understood, and he established a very strong rapport with the government when he was here. He's also someone who comes to these debates very well informed. His own background is in the intelligence community, and Japan has a unique and important perspective on China due to its proximity and its history that Australia needs to hear. It is very significant that a former ambassador is in such a candid way, critical of this government's approach to the bilateral relationship with China and anxious about what that means for Japan and others in the region. And I think we should listen to him. I think we should take very seriously the warnings of friends like Shingo, who mean the best for us and mean the best for our bilateral relationship, but are worried about the direction we're heading in.

BOLT: Do you think he was told to shut up? He says government MPs or MPs generally told him to shut up and about China. And do you think the government did have a hand in getting him recalled, perhaps early?

PATERSON: Unfortunately, Andrew, it's completely plausible that while he was ambassador here, he was told to tone down his comments about the People's Republic of China. That is, unfortunately, exactly what some people have sought to do in this country. They've sought to shut down debates about the PRC and its malign activities in the region and here at home, and it's on human rights record. So that's completely plausible. Whether or not the Australian government had any role in sending him home early, I have no visibility of that, but I hope that's not the case, because we should welcome truth from a friend. We should welcome honest engagement from a friend and he was a friend of Australia. Japan is a very important friend of Australia. They share our perspective and our interests and our values. In the Indo-Pacific there's no country that is better aligned than Japan on those issues, and it would be a real mistake if we didn't want to hear what they had to say.

BOLT: Now, said James Paterson. We last week had a boatload of apparently Chinese illegal immigrants land on the West Australian coast undetected, I might add. The Home Affairs Minister, Clare O'Neil, has now urged you today not to exploit these issues.

CLARE O'NEIL: [CLIP] I've been a bit disappointed in recent days to see people that I actually respect in the opposition coming out and, you know, telling untruths about this and calling into question aspects of this policy. The commander of Operation Sovereign Borders has been really open. That provides an alternative narrative for people smugglers, and I ask them to stop doing it.

BOLT: Are you, in fact undermining border security by criticising this poor woman and apparently telling untruths?

PATERSON: Andrew, I think it is dangerous and irresponsible in a democracy to characterise normal political scrutiny by an opposition of a government of its performance as being somehow detrimental to our national security. I actually think robust examination of the conduct of performance of a government is a very healthy part of our democracy. And the facts speak for themselves: in the last two years we've had 13 attempted people smuggling ventures come to our country. Three of them have broken through all the way to the Australian mainland, deposited people and left again without being detected. That is a virtually unprecedented event in the last ten years of border protection policy in this country. And if that doesn't call upon the opposition to hold the government to account, then I don't know what is. And unfortunately, the government has made policy choices which have led to this. In particular, the abolition of temporary protection visas and also their failure to deliver maritime surveillance and aerial surveillance of our north western approaches. Our Border Force commissioner himself, Michael Outram, has admitted that they are down 20% in terms of aerial surveillance and 12% in terms of on-sea surveillance. So it's no wonder that it's breaking through, and it's our job to call that out, to force the government to do better.

BOLT: The Albanese government is being very, very tough, not on China, but certainly on our allies in the Middle East. Israel, very tough, demanding, more and more explanation. Says he is not satisfied with the explanation so far for Zomi Frankcom’s killing in Gaza. Appointing, an admiral to go and investigate, Israel's investigation, etc., etc.. What do you make of its reaction, treating Israel like perhaps it was guilty of a war crime here?

PATERSON: Well Zomi Frankcom’s death was tragic, and it should not have happened. It is important that Israel and the IDF account for how that happened. And as a liberal democracy, it's going through that process right now. In fact, it's already conducted some part of its investigation and disciplined and sacked some of the soldiers involved. That's what we would expect, and that's what Israel has done. I note though Zomi Frankcom was tragically not the first or only Australian has been killed in this conflict. Galit Carbone was killed as well on the 7th of October in her home in Kibbutz Be'eri. I've stood in her lounge room in her house where she was killed by Hamas terrorists. And I've got to say, we haven't had the same strong response from the Australian government about her death. Where was the Prime Minister's outrage about that? Where was his action on that? There hasn't been the same. And I think that's very disappointing because all Australian lives are of equal worth and equal value, and their murders and their deaths deserve equal condemnation.

BOLT: I have to say, there's a guy called the Palestinian ambassador living in Canberra. He's called the ambassadors, he's met with Penny Wong, but she's never dragged him into her office to give him a what for, for the activities of Hamas. That's very interesting. Very interesting contrast with the treatment of Israel really. And if the government spoke to China like it spoke to Israel, that'd be interesting indeed. James Paterson, thank you so much indeed for your help.

PATERSON: Thanks, Andrew.


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