Topics:  China-Philippines confrontation; Solomon Islands election; National Cabinet; Foreign investment reform;

06:45AM AEST
1 May 2024


Pete Stefanovic:  Let’s bring in the Shadow Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham, on that note. Simon, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning, as always. So how alarmed are you about that kind of stuff? I mean, it’s not new. It’s been going on for a long time now, which was the point of the story, but still quite alarming, isn’t it?


Simon Birmingham: These confrontations have been occurring for a long time, but they’ve also been escalating in their frequency and their severity. The actions of China are dangerous. They’re provocative and they’re unjustified. China should be having regard to the rulings that have been made by independent arbitration in relation to the UN convention on the Law of the Sea. And that does not give China the right to behave in this type of way or to sustain the type of claims that they make. And ultimately, all countries need to be standing firmly with the Philippines against this type of aggressive behaviour by China, which risks dangerous escalation in the region and which is completely unjustified given the way in which international law has been determined in this regard.


Pete Stefanovic: Still related to China, Simon, Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has stepped aside. Do you think that will change anything when it comes to China on the island, or will it be more of the same?


Simon Birmingham: With all elections deliver messages in their outcome. And whilst overwhelmingly the Solomon Islands election would have been a domestic matter, there’s no doubt that the voting trends that we’re seeing would have contained some international factors and consideration of the way in which Solomon Islands had taken its international relations in recent years, and that has seen Prime Minister Sogavare move aside after the poor result by his party and in his electorate. A new government will be installed and the test for the Australian government is to make sure that, in deeds as well as words, Australia is genuinely the preferred security partner of choice for the Solomon Islands, and that we are able to work as closely and comprehensively with the Solomon Islands government to have a really effective relationship of Pacific Island nations leading Pacific solutions to Pacific problems.


Pete Stefanovic: Okay, just on to domestic matters now. Today, National Cabinet starts in two hours time on domestic violence. That’s going to be the key issue today. There’s going to be this push for tougher restrictions, including ankle bracelets as well as access to online content. What do you hope to see, and are there any South Australian examples that could be used here?


Simon Birmingham: Well, Pete, look, we certainly give bipartisan support to all efforts to combat this scourge to make sure that that Australian women are safe and that we reverse what has been a disturbing trend in seeing the numbers go in the wrong direction around the number of women who are tragically dying as a result of family and domestic violence. South Australia is in the midst of beginning a royal commission that will be led by Natasha Stott Despoja. That that should provide additional insights, but it shouldn’t be a case of states, territories or the Albanese Government waiting for that royal commission to report next year. It should be a case of ensuring that all urgent action that can be taken now is taken, and that laws are strengthened where appropriate in relation to coercive control or the like, and that Natasha’s work is, as a royal commissioner, equally can build and add, and I have no doubt it will to the type of legal frameworks and actions that can make for a safer environment.


Pete Stefanovic: Okay. We’ve got the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, coming up on the program next hour to Simon. He’s got an announcement today that overseas investors with proven track records will receive accelerated approvals under a revamp designed to lure more foreign capital into Australian shores. What are your initial thoughts on that?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the devil will be in the detail. Australia is a country that has benefited enormously from foreign investment, and we should be making all foreign investment as easy as possible to access in Australia, unless it is contrary to the national interest, unless it presents a danger or risk to our national security because of the type of sector it’s invested in, or the type of purchaser that is involved. I’m concerned if the government is saying it’s going to give some type of easy process to its preferred industries, therefore suggesting that the less preferred industries have a harder time in the foreign investment landscape. If it can be made simpler-.


Pete Stefanovic: Such as?


Simon Birmingham: -it should be made simpler. Well, it’s up for the government to define who their preferred and less preferred industries may be. My message is that if foreign investment processes and procedures can be made simpler and faster, they ideally would be made simpler and faster in all circumstances, except for where there is a national security threat or where it is clearly contrary to the national interest.


Pete Stefanovic: Okay. Simon Birmingham, the Shadow Foreign Minister, appreciate your time. As always. We’ll chat to you again soon.