Topics: Hamas hostages released; PM should visit Israel; Microsoft announcement; 

07:54AM AEDT
Tuesday, 24 October 2023


Pete Stefanovic:  Well, let’s go back to Canberra now because joining us is the Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham. Simon, good to see you as always. So, we’ve had that positive news that’s come from Gaza this last hour that two more hostages have been released, two elderly hostages. Now the US still wants Israel to delay its invasion so more negotiations can continue and so more hostages might be released. Are you of the view that the US is right here, or do you have concerns that that delay just kind of plays into the hands of Hamas?


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Pete. Of course, the release of the two hostages is welcome. But let’s be very clear here. These hostages should never have been taken in the first place. As part of the horrific attacks that Hamas undertook and all hostages should be released. Hamas is not doing great humanitarian gesture by releasing just another two of 200 plus hostages. It is simply seemingly playing for time. And now, ultimately, all of the hostages should be released. Hamas stands quite rightly condemned for the attacks that they’ve undertaken. Israel, quite rightly, wants to see Hamas removed from positions of power and capability to undertake such terrorist attacks in the future, and we continue to support Israel’s right to do that. But to urge all parties to try to minimise the loss of innocent lives as much as possible in what is a huge and horrific event that has been occurring.


Pete Stefanovic: Are you still of the view that the Prime Minister on this current trip should be making time to physically visit Israel? And if so, what could his presence add that he couldn’t add by just talking on the phone?


Simon Birmingham: It would be a very welcome show of support and solidarity by Australia for the Prime Minister to, on his way back from the United States, change plans and go via Israel. I know the government keeps highlighting only the permanent five members of the UN Security Council who have been. But they are not the only world leaders to have visited. Indeed, the EU Commission President von der Leyen has visited German Chancellor Schulz visited. You’ve seen Romania’s Prime Minister visit. You’ve seen foreign ministers from a range of other countries as well. So, the visit by our prime minister or a senior minister would send a very strong signal of our support, of our solidarity and, of course, also enable clear messages in terms of Australia’s desire to see a flow of humanitarian support and assistance occur as well.


Pete Stefanovic: Just finally, while not specifically related to China or that’s what the Prime Minister says today, this $5 billion tech announcement. I mean, you know, a lot of commentators read into that, that it is about China. What’s the opposition’s response to the big $5 billion announcement today, Simon?


Simon Birmingham: Well, any investment in Australia is welcome. This one is really made possible in terms of the partnership between Microsoft and the Australian Signals Directorate by the huge investment the previous Coalition government made in our last budget through operation REDSPICE, in terms of scaling up the capabilities of the Australian Signals Directorate. So we recognised the crucial role that cybersecurity was going to play in Australia’s future. We knew that we needed to have one of the world’s strongest and most capable government cybersecurity agencies able to work in private sector partnerships, and the fact that a company like Microsoft is wanting to work with the Australian Signals Directorate is a big vote of confidence in the uplift of operation REDSPICE and the policy settings that we left in government.


Pete Stefanovic: Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time. As always. We’ll talk to you soon.