Topics: Chinese navy incident; Government meeting with Chinese delegation; High Court findings for detainees; Labor’s immigration chaos; 

07:45AM AEDT
Tuesday, 28 November 2023


Peter Stefanovic: You’re watching first edition on this Tuesday morning, folks. Well, there’s been another incident involving the Chinese military and the Australian Navy. On the weekend, a Chinese fighter jet shadowed Australian Filipino joint patrols of the South China Sea after HMAS Toowoomba completed a transit of the Taiwan Strait. Joining us live the Shadow Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham from Canberra. How provocative is this, Simon?


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, Pete. Well, again, this is troubling and concerning, and it is a pattern of concerning behaviour by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It is a pattern of behaviour that risks escalation of military conflict within our region because it puts troops in danger, creates situations where accident or miscalculation could occur, and that can always lead to escalation. That’s why countries across the region, and particularly countries like Australia, need to be clear and consistent in the principles they apply and their advocacy of those principles to the Chinese government, making clear that these dangerous practices need to cease, and that China needs to respect all of the international laws and norms of operation, including how it engages with other defence personnel across the region.


Peter Stefanovic: So is this an example and I want to bring up the sonar pulses here. Is this an example of an issue not being raised by the Prime Minister, therefore something similar just happening again?


Simon Birmingham: Well, that is part of the risk here, Pete. And what we’ve seen is that the first real test when it comes to a difficulty in the Australia-China relationship under the Albanese government and the Prime Minister appears to have dodged it. He doesn’t appear to have raised it directly with President Xi Jinping when he should have. He’s failing to be transparent about what he did or didn’t do, and the fact that he’s happy to list other topics he’s raised with him can only lead people to draw the conclusion that he has not raised these concerns about China’s military activities. So, it really is a failure in terms of providing the leadership and the advocacy for Australia to try to secure the type of peaceful activities in our region that we desperately need and want to see to ensure we can avoid any type of accident or conflict in the future.


Peter Stefanovic: So, it’s quite timely, Simon, that there is a Chinese delegation here at the moment, I believe Penny Wong is meeting with them in Canberra this morning. Would you expect this to be raised?


Simon Birmingham: I would expect this to be raised. It should be raised as part of normal dialogue between countries. The point of such dialogue is to be able to raise difficult issues and issues that need resolution, as well as the issues where you can cooperate. There is nothing more important than trying to ensure the safety of Australian defence personnel and all Australians, and the preservation of a peaceful region, which is why these activities by Chinese military forces must be raised by the Albanese Government in a direct, polite but forceful way with China to ensure that Australia’s concerns are well understood.


Peter Stefanovic: Simon, late yesterday, the Coalition voted with the Greens to oppose urgent laws which would criminalise released detainees going near schools or contacting their victims. It happened in the House. But why was this done?


Simon Birmingham: Well, today the High Court will release its statement of reasons in relation to the decision made several weeks ago, which the Albanese government was clearly so unprepared for. We think the best thing to do is to see the details in those statement of reasons to then pursue a clear preventative detention regime, which can make sure that the worst of these offenders, who pose a potential risk to Australians, can be detained and detained in ways that keep Australians safe. This has been a chaotic approach by the Albanese Government, and they were caught flat footed by the High Court’s decision. They then rushed legislation into the parliament they said that they didn’t need, but they brought it in anyway. Then they adopted all of the Coalition’s proposals for amendments, despite saying that it was as tough as it could get. Here, now, a couple of weeks later, they’re proposing yet more legislation. Today we’ll see the statement of reasons, and the government should be moving as quickly as possible to ensure that before the Parliament rises before Christmas, there is a preventative detention regime developed and that can enable within the constitution, within the laws of the land for Australians to be kept safe.


Peter Stefanovic: But just to be clear, should detainees be stopped from going near schools or contacting their victims?


Simon Birmingham: We will look at all of those sensible types of issues. Today’s the day when the High Court delivers its statement of reasons-


Peter Stefanovic: Right, so you just want to wait first of all?


Simon Birmingham: Remember that two weeks ago, we were the ones who put in place certain proposals in terms of exclusion zones around education facilities and the like that were completely absent from the Government’s initial proposal. So, the Coalition’s amendments to date have actually sought to make sure that we put in place the types of tracking facilities and devices that we put in place exclusion zones, other reforms that we’ve applied-


Peter Stefanovic: Okay. So, you think it’s already there? It’s already covered.


Simon Birmingham: Well, no, we’re happy to work through all of these other issues when we see the statement of reasons. But we also think there is a bigger piece of policy that Peter Dutton has proposed in terms of ensuring that it’s not just a piecemeal approach, but there is a clear, appropriate preventative detention regime-


Peter Stefanovic: There is a time problem here, though, is there not?


Simon Birmingham: Well Parliament has this week, next week and if need be longer to get this done before Christmas. The time problem is the Government’s chaotic handling in some ways, that they hadn’t developed appropriate responses as contingencies for the High Court decision. Now we’ll get the statement of reasons today, and the government needs to move as quickly as possible to have as comprehensive as possible a response following that.


Peter Stefanovic: Simon Birmingham, as always, good to chat.