National Security

Transcript | Sky News Sharri | 10 April 2024

April 10, 2024

Wednesday 10 April 2024
Interview on Sky News Sharri
Subjects: Penny Wong's irresponsible Israel-Palestine speech, CCP spies reportedly targeting ASPI, Clare O’Neil’s confusing immigration numbers

SHARRI MARKSON: Now let's bring in Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson. Good to see you, James. Now, your colleague Simon Birmingham has written a brilliant piece for The Nightly. He says that Penny Wong is acquiescing to Hamas by giving them this recognition while they're still in control, just six months after a terror attack. What do you think about this proposition?

JAMES PATERSON: Sharri, I thought Simon put it brilliantly, as did Peter Dutton in a speech tonight in the Tom Hughes oration, where he excoriated the Albanese government and Penny Wong for this shocking betrayal of the Australian Jewish community and its shocking treatment of our friend, Israel. I mean, if you told Hamas on the 6th of October that if they undertake the next day the worst atrocity against the Jewish people since the end of the Holocaust, that the outcome of that will be Australia brings forward its unilateral, premature recognition of a Palestinian statehood, they would have laughed at you. They would have thought that was a ridiculous idea. But that's exactly what the Albanese government is proposing to do. Unless, of course, this is just a cynical political domestic play, which in fact in some ways makes it even worse. This is a sensitive international security issue. It should be handled consistent with the decades of bipartisanship in this country, which is that we do support a two state solution, but it cannot be imposed unilaterally from the outside. It can only come as a result of peace negotiations between the parties and right now Israel has no negotiating partner who is willing to enter into any sort of peace arrangement.

MARKSON: James, what about this contradiction? Penny Wong says there can be no role for Hamas in the future of Gaza. Quite rightly. But then she says there needs to be an immediate cease fire. Israel needs to lay down its arms now. It shouldn't go into Rafah, which is where the Hamas fighters have retreated to. So how does she actually propose that Hamas leaves Gaza? I mean, what world is she? What fantasy world is she living in?

PATERSON: Sharri, it's such a glaring contradiction at the heart of this government's Middle East policy that even the ABC pointed it out when she appeared on Radio National. How on earth does Penny think Hamas is going to be removed from power in Gaza if there is to be a unilateral ceasefire and the IDF is to withdraw? Do we think Hamas, having achieved what would effectively be a military victory over the IDF in these circumstances, who continue to hold hostages, who continue to control territory, is just going to give up their arms after the IDF withdraws? That is, going to become peaceful proponents after that? I seriously doubt it. And it is impossible to reconcile these two propositions from the government. One, let's get rid of Hamas, Hamas should go. But two, no one should do anything to remove them. It's utterly absurd. Of course, the IDF and Israel has to continue to pursue their legitimate military objective, which is the removal of those remaining Hamas brigades in the south of Gaza, around Rafah. That's the only way the hostages will be freed. That's the only way that the people of Gaza will be freed from the oppression of Hamas.

MARKSON: Just on another topic, there's been an extraordinary investigation that's just been published on The Nightly. They've uncovered that the Australian Strategic Policy Institute is a priority target of Chinese spies and their reporting text messages between the hackers, that they say have shown that they've been hired by the Chinese government with signed documents, seemingly from the eight government agencies, from the Cyberspace Administration of China. And yet, you know, over here in Australia, our government, Anthony Albanese and Glyn Davis are doing a review of whether ASPI should even get funding from the Commonwealth. What do you think of this amazing report that's been published this evening?

PATERSON: It is an extraordinary report by James King for The Nightly. And it shows some pretty sloppy tradecraft from these state sponsored hackers, who appear to be guns for hire that have been commissioned by Chinese state agencies to target a range of entities around the world, including ASPI. And if confirmed, it does indicate what we all know, which is that ASPI is a favoured target of the Chinese Communist Party and its agencies because ASPI has exposed some of the horrendous conduct of the Chinese government over recent years, in particular its human rights abuses in Xinjiang, but also its behaviour in Hong Kong, in the South China Sea, in the East China Sea, across the Taiwan Straits, even in our own democracy. I mean, ASPI research has been globally influential for an Australian think tank, has changed the conversation about the West's relationship with China in a positive way because it's brought reality to the eyes of all of us. So the prospect that the Albanese government is going to strip funding away from ASPI, I think, is a scandal and as we know, was a demand of the Chinese government on the list of 14 demands.

MARKSON: Yeah. All right. Just very quickly, the Home Affairs Minister, Clare O'Neil, today committed to apparently halving migration by the 1st of July. Here's what she said.

CLARE O'NEIL: [CLIP] We had the border shut for the better part of two years. And as is normal after a border closure, there was a boost in migration for the year that followed. What has happened since then is our government has taken action to halve migration for our country. We are doing that because we want to make sure that we maintain support for this really important program. We're happy to have migration here in Australia, but we want that to be sustainable.

MARKSON: James, I mean, is this feasible?

PATERSON: I thought I understood our migration program and our immigration numbers before that interview, but now I'm as confused as Clare O'Neil appears to be about her own portfolio. Over the last year, Sharri, three quarters of a million people came to Australia. It's a record. It's about three times the long term average to get that down to normal levels. As Dan Tehan pointed out today it would require over the next nine months, just a 100,000 people coming to Australia. Now, that will be a hell of a turnaround. I'm a little bit sceptical that the government will deliver it, but we will be watching closely and if they don't, I'm sure Clare O'Neil will have a very cogent explanation as to why.

MARKSON: Yeah, absolutely. All right. James Paterson, thank you very much for joining me for your sharp analysis, as always.


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