Community Safety

Transcript | Sky News First Edition | 04 July 2024

July 4, 2024

Thursday 04 July 2024
Interview on Sky News First Edition
Subjects: Senator Payman to quit Labor, Labor abandons Israel again

PETER STEFANOVIC: According to the AFR this morning, Senator Fatima Payman will quit the Labor Party today and join the crossbench with the backing of Muslim groups. Let's go back to Canberra. Joining us is the Shadow Home Affairs Minister, James Paterson. Good to see you, James. Thoughts on this?

JAMES PATERSON: Good morning, Pete. Well, this is a symptom of a weak Prime Minister and a divided Labor Party, and particularly on issues like Israel-Palestine. The Labor party is deeply divided and has frankly, been in an internal fight for the best part of nine months since the 7th of October, unable to choose whether or not we should stand with a liberal democracy being attacked by a listed terrorist organisation, or whether, in fact we should have sympathy for that terrorist organisation and its attacks, as many on their left wing flank want them to do. And if Fatima Payman follows through, quits the Labor party and starts a new political movement today, then that is on Anthony Albanese and his mismanagement of this issue from day one.

STEFANOVIC: How credible do you think that threat is of political unrest? If a teal style Muslim political group emerges in parts of Sydney and Melbourne?

PATERSON: Look, I think it is credible. I think there are parts of our community who are very detached from mainstream politics. And I think it would be a retrograde step if we were to start having religiously based parties in this country. That is not our history in Australia. And, if there are political parties for the Muslim community, then why wouldn't there also be political parties for Hindus or Jews or Catholics or Anglicans? And wouldn't that be a retrograde step? In fact, we look at other countries around the world that have parties based on ethnicity or race or religion, and we worry about them. And we worry about what that means for their social cohesion and their sense of unity. So I don't think it would be a positive development.

STEFANOVIC: The Greens have been accused of turbocharging things here by flushing out Fatima Payman. How calculated do you think it's been?

PATERSON: Look, in one respect, the Greens are entitled to push whatever political line they want, and it's up to the mainstream parties of government to resist that. And so they’re entitled to move whatever motions they like in the Senate on whatever issue. Where I think the Greens have crossed the line is the way in which they have, frankly, stoked the flames of division in the community, encouraged some of the protests that we've seen in the community, whether it's on university campuses or outside electorate offices. And I think that has been dangerous and unprincipled. I think we need to draw a very bright line between fair and legitimate political debate and disagreement on policy issues and weaponizing a foreign conflict for dividing our community, which I think the Greens have strayed into from time to time. Particularly this week when we saw Senator Jordan Steele-John defend the defacing of the war memorial by saying it wasn't a politically neutral space and that the diggers fought for free speech, so it was fair game to violate the war memorial with graffiti. I think that was an appalling thing for them to say, and a dangerous thing for them to say.

STEFANOVIC: Let's just go to this other store that we just mentioned, the Daily Tele reporting it this morning, that the Albanese government hauled in the Israeli ambassador with a warning that Israel shouldn't expect Australian support if it goes to war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Your thoughts on this?

PATERSON: Well, the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, needs to step up today and explain exactly what it was that her assistant minister, Tim Watts, meant when he hauled in the Israeli ambassador and told him that if our friend and ally Israel found itself in a war with Hezbollah, a listed terrorist organisation, that they could not count on our support. That is a deeply disturbing revelation. And it needs to be urgently clarified, because Hezbollah has been attacking northern Israel since the 7th of October, every day. This is the world's best armed terrorist organisation, and Israel has had to evacuate tens of thousands of its own residents who are internally displaced and cannot return to the north while that threat of Hezbollah remains. Let's remember that the international community, including Australia, has signed up to the UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which was passed in 2006, which says that southern Lebanon below the Litani River should be a demilitarised zone and it is nothing but. It is exactly where Hezbollah was operating from and launching these attacks against Israel.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Good to see you, James. Thanks for your time.

PATERSON: Thanks, Pete.


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