Topics: Paul Keating;

05:10PM AEDT
Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Chris O’Keefe: Now for more, let’s bring in Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham. Senator, thanks for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Hello, Chris. Great to speak with you again.

Chris O’Keefe: So Paul Keating, is he fair dinkum or not?

Simon Birmingham: Oh, well, he certainly believes what he’s saying. There’s no doubt about that. It’s a truly remarkable unloading against the Labor Government. Labor, Prime Minister and Labor Ministers. It’s also an attitude, though, that is dangerous if taken to its logical conclusions, which would see Australia essentially abandon our alliances and our traditional partnerships, pursue a security strategy that would leave us with very little by way of ability to look to others, to strengthen not only our position, but that in terms of the balance within the region and that’s really critical. What AUKUS is about is ensuring that working together with partners, we have access to the most cutting-edge technology for our defence forces and our defence industrial capability, but also that we have cutting edge technology for our defence forces and our-

[Broadcasting issue]

Chris O’Keefe:…national interests in China.

Simon Birmingham: He has at different points since he left the prime ministership that have been publicised at different times. I couldn’t speak for his current interests.

Chris O’Keefe: Do you think he should disclose this before making comments? You know, backing China against the current government of the day and the current opposition of the day?

Simon Birmingham: Well, I think where former prime ministers are going to play prominent roles in the public policy debate, it’s probably incumbent upon them to reveal if they have conflicts of interest attached to those roles, just as serving politicians have to. Obviously, if they’re getting about their day-to-day private lives, then they can get about their day to day private lives. They are exes, after all. But if you’re going to play a big, loud, prominent role in the public debate, then it’s fair enough to expect that any conflicts should be disclosed.

Chris O’Keefe: Do you think Anthony Albanese has a right to feel a bit perturbed here?

Simon Birmingham: Well, we shouldn’t underestimate the fact that at least within some parts of the Labor Party, Paul Keating’s views will probably find some sympathy. Now not accusing the Prime Minister or indeed the ministers who were so vehemently attacked by Paul Keating of that-.

Chris O’Keefe: With who, with who Senator? Who do you think it would be? Who do you think in the Labor, the Federal Labor Party would be sympathetic to Paul Keating’s views on AUKUS?

Simon Birmingham: Oh, not even necessarily within the caucus, but within some parts of Labor rank and file and elsewhere, there’s no doubt debates that would occur. Now, of course, I don’t want to overplay that. It’s just a logical statement that he’s unlikely to be completely on his own in terms of those attitudes. And that’s why it’s important that as well as having taken the decisions they’ve taken, that Anthony Albanese and his ministers are very clear in rebuking Paul Keating for the approach he’s advocating and being clear about. As I say, the danger that’s inherent in that approach that it would actually leave Australia more isolated and our region less balanced and less able to secure the type of stability and prosperity that we want for the future.

Chris O’Keefe: Senator Birmingham, just before I let you go, this is one of the few things that we have a bipartisanship on AUKUS. Do we need to keep it that way? And people like Paul Keating should just butt out.

Simon Birmingham: Well, it is really important that we’re able to pursue what is a multi-decade pursuit of defence investment and technology with stability between and across government. So that’s why we are very pleased that the current government has delivered on the plans that we put in place when we signed up to AUKUS. We also established an 18-month process with a nuclear powered submarine taskforce. And that taskforce reported and this government has acted on the report of it, and we welcome that. And it’s important that we all continue to back it in, including not just the nuclear powered submarine aspect, but critically the second pillar of AUKUS in access to advanced technologies in terms of robotics, artificial intelligence, the type of hypersonic missile capabilities of the future, all of these things that are also critical for us as a nation to be able to have access to and to work in partnership with the US and the UK on.

Chris O’Keefe: Good on you, Senator. I appreciate your time.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks Chris, my pleasure.