Topics: Chinese military exercises around Taiwan; PNG landslide disaster; Labor’s detainee debacle; Minister Giles failing; 

07:48AM AEST
28 May 2024



Pete Stefanovic: Foreign Minister Penny Wong is expected to directly address the strategic challenge being posed by China’s naval aggression at a Defending Australia Summit today in Canberra. Senator Wong believes China’s naval actions are unsafe and unacceptable. She’ll say this has made defending Australia a far more challenging task in the most complex geopolitical environment since World War two. Joining us live now on that, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, good to see you. So, it’s not helped when China is targeting Taiwan and particularly Australian politicians who went to Taiwan.


Simon Birmingham: Morning. Well, indeed. Look, can I say firstly, in relation to those remarks, the Foreign Minister will make that we concur with that. But it’s important that the Albanese Government says those things directly to the Chinese government as well, at a ministerial level from the Prime Minister. We’ve seen far too much reticence from Anthony Albanese to actually take the initiative when these are terrible practices of the Chinese government have been undertaken that have endangered the lives of Australian service personnel or those from other nations. And we should have seen a direct representation from the Australian Prime Minister to his Chinese counterparts to make sure that our concerns were well understood, and we don’t even know if any ministers from this government have sought or tried to convey those concerns. Yet, what we do know is that representatives of the Chinese government have expressed concerns directly to Australian parliamentarians about even their attendance at an event marking the swearing in of Taiwan’s new president. That is deeply troubling that they would seek to criticise or in some way intimidate people from attending such events that simply recognise a point in history, an occasion in the life of an economy with whom Australia has strong trade ties, strong relations and seeks to ensure that we maintain those important ties with a fellow regional democracy.


Pete Stefanovic: Let’s turn our attention to Papua New Guinea, Simon. I mean, there’s estimates now that the death toll could rise to 2000, some suggesting even maybe beyond that, there is some help that our government has announced. But is there anything more we could be doing?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s a terrible, terrible tragedy that’s unfolded in the Papua New Guinean highlands. This is a remote part of the country. Clearly, the loss of life is enormous. As I made clear when news of this first broke on Friday. Our prayers, our thoughts, our hearts go out to all of those who are affected, to our Papua New Guinean friends. The Opposition was clear that there would be bipartisan support for Australian government assistance. I welcome the announcement today that there will be some $2.5 million of funding. I understand also technical teams to undertake the type of geological work or survey work you would expect that is necessary to try to provide reassurance about what will or won’t be safe from here on in for this community. It’s critical that happens as soon as possible and if more can be done, then we work with our very near and dear neighbours in PNG to deliver that.


Pete Stefanovic: Sure, just a final one here on local politics. I mean, the government’s going to be trying to sell its budget this week, but will you be targeting them over detainees?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the government lurches from one crisis to another when it comes to detainees, and these are crises of their own making. Andrew Giles, the immigration minister, changed directions as to how legal cases should be considered or treated. That’s resulted in more people being released and more people who have committed more crimes against Australians. He’s got to front up. He’s got to answer why he did this, why he hasn’t changed it back. And frankly, Anthony Albanese has to answer why he is standing by ministers who lurch from disaster to disaster in the immigration space.


Pete Stefanovic: Yeah. Giles not too keen on fronting up, that’s for sure. Simon, good to see you. We’ll talk to you soon.