Topics: UN Security Council resolution; Julian Assange; Labor’s fuel efficiency U-turn; Wages;  

07:45AM AEDT
26 March 2024


Pete Stefanovic:  Well, relations between Israel and the US are at a low ebb after Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a planned trip by a delegation to the Washington to Washington, I should say, after the US abstained from a UN vote this morning, which called for a Gaza cease fire and ultimately passed. What this means on the ground might be something entirely different, though. Joining us live is the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, so what do you make of this? It can’t be a good thing that Netanyahu and Biden are not very close at the moment.


Simon Birmingham: G’day, Pete. Well, of course, we would always prefer to see close partners work closely together and with one another. But ultimately, Israel is seeking to remove Hamas from office. I note that Hamas has perversely welcomed this motion, and that is of deep concern, particularly when, in welcoming it, they haven’t indicated that they would do as the motion calls for and simply release hostages. They’ve gone on to talk about doing some type of prisoner exchange and the type of conditions that Hamas would impose, and that is just a reminder of the barbaric and brutal nature of Hamas, who, all the way since October 7th, have continued to hold hostages and continue to place conditions upon the release of those hostages. We’d all wish to see a ceasefire, but the best ceasefire is one where the hostages are released unconditionally, and Hamas surrenders its terrorist infrastructure and capabilities unconditionally.


Pete Stefanovic: Is this also a reminder of how utterly pointless the UN Security Council is, though, when it passes a resolution but ultimately it means nothing on the ground? Nothing changes. Israel doesn’t change its view. Hamas doesn’t change its.


Simon Birmingham: There’s no doubt there are many pressures on the effectiveness of the UN system at present, and we’ve seen that in terms of the war in Ukraine as well as this conflict and many others, as well as other pressures in relation to the international system and the lunacy that happens from time to time when we see countries like Iran sharing human rights fora or women’s rights discussions or the like. And so, all of those things do undermine UN infrastructure and the way in which it is perceived, but ultimately a forum for dialogue and for countries to try to come and address things is better than none at all. That is that is why we have to continue to try to extract the best from those UN processes.


Pete Stefanovic: Simon, Julian Assange is going to learn his fate in London tonight. Whether his extradition process will continue in a different court in London, that’s if he’s successful. If he’s not, he’s on a plane. He’s going to be flown to the US, where he faces about 175 years behind bars if found guilty. Have you got a thought either way on which way you hope that goes?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I trust the British justice system, so I’m not cheering for one result or another. My belief is that we should have faith in the justice system that our own justice system was built upon. This has gone on for a long time, but much of that time has been of Mr. Assange’s own instigation, time spent in the Ecuador embassy and other appeal processes and the like that he’s pursued, which he’s perfectly entitled to do so. But it does mean that it takes a long time. If a British court makes a decision today, then that is the British justice system doing its job.


Pete Stefanovic: Yeah, so Sam Kerr, the recent example of how long that legal system takes in the UK. Just a couple of quick issues locally, Simon. It looks as though the government is going to buckle to pressure and lower emission standards, not just for Utes but heavy SUVs as well. They’ll have a different classing now, but that’s in exchange for the adoption of environmentally beneficial technology. I’m not sure what that is. Perhaps it’ll be outlined later on. But your thoughts on that U-turn?


Simon Birmingham: Well, Peter just goes to show that the Albanese Government can’t be trusted or believed on these things for the last few weeks since they released this policy the automotive industry and many other experts have been lining up alongside the Opposition to say this would have a real impact in terms of the prices Australians would pay for their cars and the availability of the types of cars Australians like to use. The Government has spent weeks saying that that was horrific scaremongering. Yet now what’s the government about to do? It’s about to do a massive backflip on this and change direction. Because it turns out that what the Coalition has been saying, what Peter Dutton has been saying, what the industry has been saying, and what experts have been saying all along was right. And what Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen have been saying was wrong.


Pete Stefanovic: All right and just finally, the ACTU pushing for an increase to the minimum wage of 5 per cent. That’s well above inflation. Your thoughts on that this morning?


Simon Birmingham: We support the judgement of the independent umpire when it comes to the minimum wage case, the independent umpire needs to weigh those matters carefully and make sure that the steps it takes and the minimum wage decision it hands down does support Australian families where they need it but does not add to the inflation environment.


Pete Stefanovic: Would 5 per cent add to that inflation environment?


Simon Birmingham: I’m not going to prejudge the outcome there. It’s for the experts to line up there. That’s the type of approach the government should take to not cheer on claims from the unions or elsewhere, but actually want to see an outcome that is fair for family and fair and sensible to keep inflation under control because there’s no point having an outcome that just feeds the inflation beast and ultimately leaves all Australian households worse off.


Pete Stefanovic: We’ll leave it there, Simon. Appreciate it though. As always, we’ll talk to you soon.