National Security

Transcript | Sky News First Edition | 16 May 2024

May 16, 2024

Thursday 16 May 2024
Interview on Sky News First Edition
Subjects: Senator Payman’s extreme comments a test for Anthony Albanese, university encampments, heroic plans to mothball Nauru, Budget reply speech

PETER STEFANOVIC: Labor Senator Fatima Payman has broken ranks with her party to accuse Israel of genocide. The West Australian senator's accusation comes in contrast with the prime minister's own comments on Israel's war in Gaza. This is some of the comments here.

FATIMA PAYMAN: [CLIP] Today more than ever is the time to speak the truth, the whole truth with courage and clarity. My conscience has been uneasy for far too long. And I must call this out for what it is. This is a genocide. From the river to the sea. Palestine will be free.

STEFANOVIC: Anthony Albanese has argued that chant from the river to the sea undermines attempts for a two state solution. So on that, let's bring in the Shadow Home Affairs Minister, James Paterson. James, thanks for your time, as always. Your response to that?

JAMES PATERSON: Well, Senator Payman has laid down the gauntlet to the Prime Minister today, and this is a very important test of his leadership. Will he show strength, or will he show weakness? Senator Payman has repeated a phrase that the Prime Minister has agreed is a violent statement. She's endorsed that phrase. In the Prime Minister's own analysis people who make this statement are in opposition to a two state solution, are in opposition to peace. She's not just undermining decades of bipartisan Australian foreign policy. She's undermining decades of Australian Labor Party policy. And she made a very extreme demand of the Prime Minister and called him out by name, saying that Australia should end all trade with the state of Israel, our friend and ally. This comes at a time where we've got unprecedented levels of anti-Semitism in our community, the Jewish community say they feel unsafe, and this is going to further undermine and test social cohesion. The Prime Minister really has to step up today and deal with this, and we expect him to demonstrate that there are consequences for Senator Payman.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. So when you say he has to show strength here, what does that mean? What does he need to do?

PATERSON: Well, the Prime Minister has said these phrases have no place in Australia. He has said that these are violent statements. He has said that they are in opposition to peace. He said that people who call for Palestine to be free from the river to the sea are calling for the abolition of the State of Israel and a one state solution. So surely he cannot accept a member of his caucus having rhetoric like this. Either Senator Payman needs to recant what she has said. Or the Prime Minister needs to take action.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Meanwhile all of this, when you say take action, what are you referring to there?

PATERSON: Well, that's up to the Prime Minister to decide. He's the head of the Labor party. He's. He's the Prime Minister of this government. He sets the standard of his caucus, but we expect him to take action.

STEFANOVIC: All right, okay. Meanwhile, as you just saw, we've still got these protests that are happening in Melbourne. Still the sit-ins at the university. What would you like to see there?

PATERSON: Peter, I strongly support the right to protest. I strongly support the right to free speech. I strongly support the right to freedom of association. But none of those rights allow you to trespass on private property, and none of those rights allow you to indefinitely occupy public space. And that is what is happening at many universities around the country, including Melbourne University. Vice chancellors have been far too accommodating with these protests for far too long, and they need to take action. It is not acceptable what is happening at Melbourne University. The university must take action, must call in the police, and must ensure that the campus and the buildings on the campus are open to all students, not just extremists.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, we've got a few other items to get through this morning, James. The federal government expects to mothball Australia's refugee processing centre on Nauru within a year. So that's a $250 million saving. But then it comes after a number of boats arrived in Australian waters in recent months. What are your thoughts on this, which was a line item in the budget?

PATERSON: Well, it's a heroic assumption, to say the least Pete. After three boats have arrived in the last week, six boats have arrived in the last six months to Australian territory, and 17 boats have arrived since the election. This is a government which has lost control of its borders. So the idea that they're going to be able to close our only regional processing centre in as little as 12 months, I think is bordering on delusional. The reality is they're going to have to scramble to top up the budget for regional processing again and again and again, because the assumption that they’ve made in this budget, that they'll able to close Nauru is delusional.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Just finally James got the budget reply tonight. I don't expect you to say much here, but I'll try anyway. The Opposition Leader, he told Peta Credlin last night it was going to be three planks housing, security, on that note, and migration. Can you give us a steer on how your policies will be different to the government's?

PATERSON: Well, Peter Dutton will outline our alternative approach in his budget reply tonight around those themes, as you say, and it will be geared towards making Australians lives easier, because under this government it's got a lot harder. If you have a mortgage, on average, you are $35,000 worse off under this government. And Jim Chalmers third budget makes those matters even worse by adding $315 billion of new spending. That is going to mean interest rates have to be higher for longer than they otherwise would be. And the Reserve Bank's job is harder in tackling inflation and bringing interest rates down. So Australian mortgage holders are going to be waiting for relief for longer, and we'll be outlining our alternative plans to improve their circumstances.

STEFANOVIC: James Paterson, thank you as always, we will talk to you soon.


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