Topics:  China, Israel, Tuvalu, Gas Projects; Domestic Violence.

06:20AM AEDT
9 May 2024



Bridget Brennan: Well, China has accused Australia of spying on its military operations in the Yellow Sea and that’s why one of its fighter jets was forced to intercept an Australian helicopter last weekend. To get the Opposition’s view on this, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham, joins us from Tuvalu. Good morning to you, Mr. Birmingham.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning. Good to be with you.


Bridget Brennan: What’s your assessment of what’s gone on here? It sounds like it was quite a dangerous incident. Do we need more details about what happened to these Australian military personnel?


Simon Birmingham: We certainly need details. We need transparency from the Chinese Government and we need honesty and accountability from the Chinese Government. What we have seen is a pattern of behaviour by China in relation to dangerous military conduct throughout our region. And that has endangered personnel not just from Australia, but from other countries. However, in our instance, we’ve seen numerous instances over the years of conduct endangering the lives of Australian Defence personnel. It’s completely unacceptable and each time it happens there is just a further risk of serious harm or even loss of life occurring. And that type of outcome could only risk a type of escalation in bad relations and potential conflict that, whether it’s with Australia or any other country, we would always want to avoid. That’s why strong messages need to be delivered to China by the highest levels of government – the Prime Minister and relevant Ministers and to get China to change the way that it engages its operations.


Bridget Brennan: What does that mean? Does it mean the Australian Government using stronger language, is it picking up the phone to the Ambassador? What sort of steps would you like to see from the Foreign Minister and other Ministers?


Simon Birmingham: The Defence Minister, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister should be considering, should be acting in ways that engage with their counterparts, they should be seeking to speak with them. The Prime Minister has already acknowledged that China’s response so far has been unsatisfactory. Well, if it’s been unsatisfactory at the level of the officials that have been engaged to date – the unnamed officials or unidentified levels of engagement that have occurred, the Government needs to be clear that it is seeking to elevate that engagement. That Ministers are seeking to have Ministerial conversations to ensure they actually are getting these matters addressed by the Chinese Government.


Bridget Brennan: You’re in Tuvalu on an important bipartisan trip there, to an important part of the Pacific. Are their concerns there where you are about China’s activities in Pacific waters?


Simon Birmingham: Everyone across our region wishes to see peace and stability maintained. You can see elsewhere in terms of places like the Philippines, where there are real conflict points occurring and that is something we wish to keep a long way out of Pacific Islands region and indeed totally out of our region. It’s a welcome bipartisan trip into Tuvalu. It’s a continuance of initiatives begun by Julie Bishop and I welcome the fact that it continues under the current Government and the opportunity to be here with Penny Wong meeting with Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, members of their Cabinet, local community and leaders and discussing a range of issues from security, but also through development, climate and other critical issues to this key partner and friend of Australia.


Bridget Brennan: The United States has signalled it is pausing some shipments, military shipments to Israel, given that planned defensive in Rafah. We’ve heard this morning from humanitarian organisations with grave concerns about the civilian population there. Should Israel be pausing these activities immediately do you believe?


Simon Birmingham:  The US decisions of course are matters for the United States. They’ve been clear in terms of their recognition of Israel’s right to self-defence, but also the need for Israel to act with care and have credible plans in relation to how it conducts its operations in Rafah. We too, support Israel’s right to self-defence, the need to see Hamas removed as a terrorist organisation and any ability to conduct terrorist operations into Israel. But we also believe that how that is conducted is important and so Israel needs to, of course, ensure any activities have due regard for international law and seek to ensure that civilian life is protected so far as possible.


Bridget Brennan: We’re likely to hear more today, Simon Birmingham from the Government on its new plans to shore up additional gas projects, saying that we need this mix of energy into the market up until 2050. Is this the right step do you believe?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I haven’t seen the details. But I know that many international investors and others in the gas industry have been very concerned in recent years that they have seen the incentives to invest eroded under this Government and that they are in circumstance where in reality, all Australians are paying higher energy prices because of the way in which the markets have been mismanaged to date. And the Government needs to turn that around and turn that around urgently or Australians will continue to pay and industry jobs will continue to suffer.


Bridget Brennan: Simon Birmingham we’re hearing of another alleged domestic violence incident, quite horrific one if the details are correct coming out from Sydney, a woman in hospital. We know that dozens of women have died this year alone. What do you believe needs to be done to ensure our policy settings are right to ensure that those on the frontline have the right support to tackle this?


Simon Birmingham: Far too many Australian women continue to suffer and ultimately far too many deaths are occurring. We’ve given bipartisan support to the initiatives of government to date and to the convening of national cabinet that occurred recently. Importantly, we welcome the fact that there would be a follow up meeting to ensure that action is actually taken in terms of the legislative reforms, funding changes, the other steps that are so crucial in this regard. We’re pleased that the Government in terms of a longer-term cultural change has finally accepted our call for there to be stronger measures in relation to age verification on the internet and to try to tackle some of those cultural trends that sadly see too many young people, particularly young boys and men exposed to pornography and other material that only results in a lack of respect for women and risks the increase and the continuance of this type of cycle that we must must break.


Bridget Brennan: Thanks a lot Simon Birmingham and it looks like a beautiful day behind you there in Tuvalu. Enjoy your trip.


Simon Birmingham: Thank you very much. My pleasure.