Interview on Sky News Live with Kenny Heatley

Topics: Bomb threat in Botany; DP World industrial relations dispute; Taiwan election; 

07:45AM AEDT
9 January 2024


Kenny Heatley: The bomb squad was called in to investigate a homemade explosive device placed on a car in Sydney’s south. A bomb disposal robot inspected the scene before it was cleared as safe. The car owner says he believes it was a threat for him to take down a Palestinian flag flown at his home. Joining me live is Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Good to see you, Simon. You came out on X, formerly known as Twitter, with very strong words against the reported bomb threat against a person flying a Palestinian flag. Pretty shocking to see this in Australia seem like it struck a chord with you as well.


Simon Birmingham: Was very shocking indeed, Pete. This has no place in Australia. We are a democratic nation, a nation of free speech, a nation where even if you disagree with somebody flying the Palestinian flag and frankly, I think it sends the wrong signal at present. And I’ve been very clear with you and many others throughout the events since October 7th about the need to support Israel’s right to self-defence and to remove Hamas as a terrorist threat. But regardless of that, these types of actions a bomb threat, a bomb hoax, whatever it was, has no place in Australia. Now, whether it was driven by a neighbourhood disagreement or out and out, Islamophobia doesn’t matter. It speaks to intolerance. It undermines the type of freedom of speech we have. And value in Australia, just, of course, as the deeply appalling acts of increased anti-Semitism also have no place in Australia. We’ve got to be very, very clear about this. It has been a weakness since October 7th, in some of the political response and, frankly, legal response to addressing issues. And that, of course, is why today, Peter Dutton is making clear that the Coalition will support and urge the government to take action that can rein in hate speech from religious clerics or any others that seek to fuel the type of division that hurts us in Australia and can indeed divide us and lead potentially to acts of violence.


Kenny Heatley: The situation with DP World, Australia’s second largest port operator, and its dispute with the Maritime Union of Australia, seems to be going from bad to worse. Already, the industrial action from the Union is costing the economy $80 million a week by slowing things down. Now, DP World is saying it’s going to dock the pay of workers who deliberately slow down unloading and loading of cargo. This might cause an even larger response from the union. This is a cost of living issue because if the ports don’t function, it can cause prices to rise on shelves. Does this concern you and what needs to happen here?


Simon Birmingham: It’s very troubling for the economic impacts for Australia, as well as the cost of living impacts for everyday Australian households. Who will ultimately feel the pain of disruption and price rises as a result of this type of industrial dispute and the increased industrial disputation we are likely to see under the Albanese government’s industrial relations reforms. The big question here is where is the government? There are powers for Tony Burke, the Employment Minister, to be able to act and to intervene and to try to bring this dispute to an earlier resolution. But they seem to be missing in action in terms of wanting to use those powers or stepping forward in relation to this. There’s been plenty of energy from the Albanese government when it has come to ramming through the parliament, increased union friendly industrial relations laws. They’ve been happy to give unions greater powers since they’ve been in government. But why are they unwilling to use government powers to try to bring to an end an industrial dispute, a strike that is going to cost our economy and cost Australians deeply?


Kenny Heatley: Well, Taiwan’s main opposition party says its victory at this Saturday’s election would reduce the chances of a catastrophic war in the Indo Pacific and buy time for Australia’s AUKUS nuclear submarines, mainly because it thinks that the Chinese Communist Party prefers dialogue with them. Quote, the KMT can buy time for Australia, unquote. If the incumbents get back in on Saturday following the election, does this increase the chances of war sooner rather than later? Because that seems to be the suggestion here.


Simon Birmingham: I’m certainly not going to buy into that type of speculation, nor to pick a side in Taiwanese elections. What I would say is that Taiwan is a vibrant democracy, and it is a valued partner and friend in our region, and the Taiwanese elections are something to celebrate that we have such a vibrant, successful democracy in our region, such a successful nation. And speaking before, as we were about the importance of trade and supply chains, Taiwan is also one of our largest trading partners. Indeed, I think our sixth largest trading partner in terms of two way trade, our fifth largest export destination and one of the world’s biggest suppliers in terms of critical componentry into global supply chains. And so a strong Taiwan is good for Australia, it’s good for our region, it’s good for the world. And the Taiwanese elections are something to celebrate as a vibrant democracy. Of course, we want to ensure that whatever happens on the other side of the Taiwanese elections, peace is maintained and that should be maintained by respecting the will of the Taiwanese people and ensuring that their views are respected, whether that be from the People’s Republic of China or anybody else across the region, in respecting their democratic will and how they go about exercising it.


Kenny Heatley: Simon Birmingham, really appreciate your time. Thank you.