National Security

US and Australian parliamentary visits to Taiwan 'very common': Senator Paterson on First Edition

August 2, 2022

Tuesday 2 August 2022
Interview with Peter Stefanovic and Peter Khalil MP, First Edition, Sky
Subjects: Labor’s debt spin, Nancy Pelosi Taiwan visit, PJCIS

PETER STEFANOVIC: Back to Canberra now. Joining us live is the Labor MP Peter Khalil and the Liberal Senator James Paterson. Gentlemen, good morning to you. James, I'll start with you today because you were watching there with me, that short press conference there from the Treasurer Jim Chalmers. He keeps using this line of a trillion dollars of debt with nothing to show for it that was accumulated by the Liberal Party. Does this need to be checked a little more? Because a lot of that is JobKeeper that the Labor Party supported and that Labor also has a big chunk of that debt as well. I mean, does all this need to be elaborated on?

JAMES PATERSON: Correct. Let let's do a live fact-check right now, Peter. If you go back, part of that trillion dollars is the roughly $300 billion of debt we inherited from Labor, which was left over from the global financial crisis. Because, of course, when we left government in 2007, we handed them a clean set of books. The budget was in surplus and there was no net debt. They racked up about $300 billion of debt over the GFC and then they left us a budget which was on a trajectory to go to far more than $1 trillion of debt because they baked in all this extra spending but no means to pay for it.

Now, we spent nine years trying to wrestle that back to balance. We did, just before the onset of COVID-19, achieve a budget balance, which means that debt was going to start to be paid down rather than increase further. And of course, COVID-19 came along and we had to take the measures that we did to support the economy, and we did so with the full support of the Labor Party. In fact, throughout COVID-19, they were egging us on to spend more. They were telling us we shouldn't switch off JobKeeper and we should continue it for

even longer. If we had of followed Jim Chalmers’ advice at the time, the budget would be in an even worse state today than it is. So, it's very rich for him to be complaining.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, well Peter over to you, over to you on this now. I mean it's, when he says there's nothing to show for it, there's thousands and thousands of jobs that were saved because of that expenditure, right?

PETER KHALIL: That was some just wonderful revisionist economic history there by James. Well done. We didn't say spend more. We said spend better. And one of our main criticisms in the way that the previous government spent the JobKeoper, by the way, they didn't want to do it. They didn't even want to do the wage subsidy from the beginning of the pandemic. We had to push them to do it. And I think only when Boris Johnson in the UK did something similar did Scott Morrison sort of follow suit. But we were critical about the way they spent it, the cookie cutter approach, the money that went to, for example, companies that were making profits, and the big gaps in the arts and entertainment sector and other industries. It was a cookie cutter approach. It was botched in that respect, and that was our criticism. Spend it more wisely, spend it more effectively. Get more bang for your buck for the economy. That was our main criticism. And anyway, my question back to James is if he really thinks that they've got no responsibility whatsoever for this trillion dollar debt, is he saying that every dollar that they spent was done correctly, spent correctly, spent wisely? Did you get all the big, the bang for your buck that you think you should have for the 700 billion? Even if I accept your analysis?

PATERSON: Well, I think it's very cute that the Labor Party, on the one hand, wants to take credit for JobKeeper, it was all their genius idea…

KHALIL: It was.

PATERSON: But they don't want to take responsibility for the costs that it enacted. It was a very expensive scheme because it saved hundreds of thousands of jobs, and I think ultimately lives because we know what has happened in previous recessions...

STEFANOVIC: And it's a, yeah...

PATERSON: The recession of the early nineties left massive scarring in the economy and generations of young people who...

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, and that's the point that I was trying to make...

PATERSON: [inaudible] much later and it, exactly.

STEFANOVIC: Sorry, sorry, James. Yeah, that's the point I was trying to make to Peter too. When he says there's nothing to show for it, I mean so many jobs were saved. That's, I'm talking about the Treasurer here, when he when he says that, I mean, it's just inaccurate.

KHALIL: No, no. Well, I haven't seen the Treasurer's press conference. I didn't have the...

STEFANOVIC: But I mean. That's just a line that he keeps going to.

KHALIL: Well, as I said, our criticism was that they spent the money in a way which was in a cookie cutter set up that where a lot of money was wasted. And then not to mention the rorts and all of those different programs that were under the previous Coalition government that for money that went to who knows where, which we're now trying to rein in. So, it's a bit rich of James to actually say they've got no responsibility for that trillion dollar debt when they spent in a profligate way, particularly on the sports rorts, on the car parks that were never being used, all of that stuff. And there's probably going to be billions of dollars that our Treasurer is going to save. Just looking at that.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Back to national security, James. Nancy Pelosi, it looks as though she's going to visit Taiwan. Do you think she should?

PATERSON: Yeah, it's a very good question, Peter, and I'll be a little bit careful about commenting on the travel plans of the US Speaker of the House of Representatives. It's a matter for her. It's not without precedent. Previous Speakers of the House of Representatives have visited Taiwan. It is very common for members of the US Congress to visit Taiwan. In fact, there was a delegation of US Senators who came through Australia just before our federal election who went through Taiwan on the way back as well as visiting Japan. It's a regular stopover. I myself have been to Taiwan. I've in fact met the President Tsai Ing Wen, a number of years ago. So, it's perfectly consistent with both the United States government approach to Taiwan and the Australian government approach to Taiwan that members who are not part of the executive, who are part of the legislature, engage in unofficial exchanges with the people and the government of Taiwan.

STEFANOVIC: Peter, what sort of reaction would you expect from China if she goes?

KHALIL: Well, it's been pretty obvious what their threat or their, you know, the threats that they've been making a lot of, the media's been all over that. I just would say this it's not for us to determine the itinerary of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, nor is it for China, frankly. I mean, she can travel wherever she wants. And what we're really missing here is the significance of this delegation. It's a congressional delegation led by the speaker to the Indo-Pacific. It's a, it's a reaffirmation of the Biden administration's commitment to the region. They're visiting Singapore and Malaysia and Japan. As James said, these are, this is a really important trip because it is all about US presence and US engagement, both

economic and in a security sense in our region as a stabilising force. And I think that's to be encouraged. And look, as I said, it's not for us to determine her itinerary, but I am pleased that she's taking this delegation to our region because it is so important for our stability and our security.

STEFANOVIC: Just close on this one, James. Looks like Peter's got your old job in the security committee. How do you feel about that?

PATERSON: Well, if Peter is the Prime Minister's choice to chair the Intelligence and Security Committee, I think that's a very wise choice. I don't want to damage his career too much by praising him. But we've worked very well together on the committee in the past. We led a bipartisan delegation to the United States in March. We met with the intelligence community in the United States, and Peter acquitted himself very well. And I think together we robustly advocated for Australia's national interests. So, if that's the Prime Minister's choice, then I would certainly welcome it.

KHALIL: Well, thanks, James. I've got to buy you a coffee now after this interview, but nothing's been formally announced...

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

KHALIL: So, but I will say this the only chair or former chair that we have with us is the illustrious company we have of Senator Paterson at the moment until the PM makes his decision.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, alright so you'll be, you'll be picking up from where James left off? Is that your approach if you get it?

KHALIL: Well, I really, really appreciate the work that James had done on the committee. His commitment to Australia's national interest cannot be questioned. I mean, this is not about partisan politics. There is a real commitment there and he has demonstrated both in his work on the committee as chair and his commitment to our national security. Really, he did a sterling job and look, we don't agree on everything obviously, we're on different sides of politics, but I think we agree that we love Australia and we want the best for our country and we do the work that we do because we want to make that contribution to Australia's national interest. And I have no doubt James will continue to do that as a member, hopefully of that member of the committee as well.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Peter Khalil, James Paterson, good to see you. We'll talk to you again soon.

KHALIL: Thank you.



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