Interview on ABC 891, Breakfast with Ali Clarke and David Bevan
David Bevan: Welcome to Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, and South Australian Senator.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning David, Ali and listeners.
David Bevan: Sarah Hansen-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia.
Sarah Hanson-Young: Good morning
David Bevan: Penny Wong, Labor Senator for South Australia and Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, good morning to you.
Penny Wong: Good morning
David Bevan: Penny Wong there's a very good chance that this time next year you will be the Foreign Affairs Minister.
Penny Wong: Well I never take these things for granted – we have to win an election yet.
David Bevan: But there's a very good chance that you will be. Will you raise the internment of up to a million Uyghur in western China with the Chinese Government?
Penny Wong: Well we already have raised it publicly, I've put a public statement out in September I think it was ahead of the human rights council meeting to discuss this.. raising our concerns... Bill's raised it I think in a response to an interview or a speech he gave on foreign policy, when he was asked at the Lowey Institute and I note also that the government has raised it through their report to their contribution to the human rights council – and that is a good thing.
David Bevan: Now China has dismissed this as gossip. That there's nothing to see here. Is that the end of the matter?
Penny Wong: Oh well look. China will you know – assert it's position and I think Australia should assert our position and our position is that – and I think this is a bipartisan position publicly that we are deeply concerned by these reports. There are reports of mass detention of the Uyghur population, there are reports of violations of human rights oh and I think those, those those are concerning and I welcome the fact the government has raised those publicly as well as Senator Payne, the Foreign Minister indicating those concerns have been raised privately.
David Bevan: Unless it comes to the issue of sanctions though this is, it's just talk… and that's not going to help the people who are in detention centres in Western China.
Penny Wong: I know that in a lot of foreign policy areas people immediately reach for sanctions, I think there are a range of ways we should be raising these issues and I think what the government is now doing is the appropriate way which is to make these concerns very clear publicly and privately. Look you're right, we can't change what other countries do within their own borders on a range of issues, what we can do is express our views. No government can wave a magic wand and fix everything within someone else's country, but as we have seen over the years and in terms of our advocacy, public and private under both governments in various nations, in South-East Asia and elsewhere- you can have an effect.
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham you've just spent the last few days in China, as trade Minister. You are cutting a deal with people who are detaining up to a million people in detention centres – does this factor in to your negotiations at all?
Simon Birmingham: David, I did a couple of weeks ago now spend most of the week in China, in the China International Import Expo. Australia has, in a long standing sense made representations about different human rights issues to China and at the same time we have encouraged China to open up their economy and in their time of doing so we have seen some 800 million plus people lifted out of poverty and that living conditions and circumstances in China are much better today as a result of our economic engagement in China and their greater openness to the world than they were a couple of decades ago.
David Bevan: Well what do you think?
Simon Birmingham: But there are, but there are…
David Bevan: Well what do you think they are doing in those...?
Simon Birmingham: But there are issues…
David Bevan: What do you think they are doing in those detention centres?
Simon Birmingham: But there are, indeed, and there are still serious issues and the circumstances of the Uyghur population are of deep concerns and that is precisely why, despite the fact that we have those strong economic ties with China we are not bashful about raising these concerns – we've done so through appropriate United Nations Fora, we've done so directly in conversation between Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, and with her recent meeting in Beijing with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. These are the types of approaches people would expect Australia to, to take and we'll continue to make representations which we've also done alongside many other nations. And the mere fact that we are talking about this, that we are open about the fact that we are raising it, does I hope give Chinese authorities cause to look at the concerns that nations are expressing and think about how best they address those concerns.
David Bevan: I think you are going to have to do more than come on talk back radio to influence the Chinese Government. What do you think they are doing?
Simon Birmingham: We are doing much more than that David
David Bevan: What do you think they are doing in these detention centres?
Simon Birmingham: Well David, there are various stories and reports about the treatment of individuals in those facilities, that's the reason why we have expressed concern, there is and we believe credible evidence to suggest that there may be large numbers of Uyghur detained in what are so called re-education camps and that's precisely why we've taken the steps of raising those concerns publicly, through the UN, direct with the Chinese Government. Now we do that in a respectful way, because what we've learnt over the last couple of decades is that respectful engagement with China has provided benefits in China in terms of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, ensuring that there are better living circumstances, but we continue to have these human rights concerns and so we raise them very directly with the Chinese Government and in the appropriate places.
Ali Clarke: Sarah Hanson-Young.
Sarah Hanson–Young: This is really getting to a crunch time. We've got to seriously consider select sanctions, I think just saying that we've been raising this obviously isn't working the numbers of people reportedly held in these education, re-education camps. .. concentration camps – let's call them for what they are, are growing. I met with the, the Uyghur leader ah Rebiya Kadeerlast you know last visit. She was in Australia in April, I was one of the few members of parliament who met with her, I was disappointed that she couldn't get an audience with the member of the government, disappointing that she couldn't get an audience with any of the senior members of the Labor party when she visited, and her story of her people, but also her own family are horrific. She is living in exile now as the leader of her community, in America, because they have given her refugee protection. But she's got members of her family locked up in these re-education camps. Grandchildren locked up in these conditions. The Chinese communist party and the government there are clearly doing this quite boldly in the face of international condemnations… they're thumbing their nose at the international community and it's time we held them to account.
Ali Clarke: While we are talking about foreign affairs and this is to you Penny Wong – Lisa has actually called and she wants to know what you think of President Trump's defence of the Saudi Prince and in the light of his reported involvement by the CIA, of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi?
Penny Wong: Well I think we've, we've had deep concerns about the murder of Mr Khashoggi – really tragic event and the details which have come out over time have really been truly horrific. I do note that the reports are… the CIA has made certain , you know, conclusions, or have come to certain conclusions about that, obviously I haven't been party to those. Ultimately Mr Trump's words are a matter for him , whatever relationship the US and the current administration chooses to have with the Saudis and how they choose to engage with those in authority there is ultimately a matter for the United States but we have really horrific set of allegations and obviously a tragic death of a journalist which we and the government and I think all parties have voiced their concerns, their sadness and their horror about.
Ali Clarke: It's coming up to a quarter to nine, that's the voice of Labor Senator for South Australia, Penny Wong. Sarah Hanson Young Greens Senator for SA is here as well as the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham.
David Bevan: Actress Pamela Anderson has accused the Prime Minister of making lewd comments about her. The background of this is that she's raised the issue of Julian Assange, The Australian wiki leaks founder and her Mr Morrison responded by err saying that um that he had plenty of mates who've asked me if they could be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson. Simon Birmingham um does the Prime Minister regret those comments?
Simon Birmingham: Well I haven't spoken to him about those comments err look ah I…
Ali Clarke: Well Should he?
Simon Birmingham: I'm sure, I'm sure he, I'm sure he would not wish for any offence to have been taken in what was clearly a light hearted comment made in a radio interview... ah in the end um I think what matters more is what the government's policy is, is in these sorts of areas and just over the course of yesterday and today we've been outlining $109 million worth of investment in women's economic empowerment…
David Bevan: Is there a discrepancy between your policy and the comments made by the Prime Minister?
Simon Birmingham: No. Not…
David Bevan: So they are consistent?
Penny Wong: Not between a light hearted remark in a FM radio interview compared with what is serious detail of government and getting on with policy initiatives to ensure that we provide greater flexibility for Australian women in terms of how it is they access and take their paternity leave maternity leave – that's really critical support for people to give that flexibility and I know that they are reforms that have been warmly welcomed which Kelly O'Dwyer was outlining yesterday.
Ali Clarke: So Simon Birmingham what the Prime Minister says on FM radio is fine to stay on FM radio, is that what you are saying?
Simon Birmingham: Um no Ali, I'm saying he made a light hearted remark on FM radio station. I haven't spoken to him about it and I think what is a far greater …
Ali Clarke: Do you think he should…
Simon Birmingham: and I think what working women and everybody of your listeners across Adelaide would think is, is that the government's policy actions matter a lot more, a lot lot more than…
Ali Clarke: Than how the Prime Minister of this country…?
Simon Birmingham: A radio interview that relates to Pamela Anderson…
Ali Clarke: represent themselves and how they think of a certain women. Ok well let's go to… Penny Wong... your thoughts?
Penny Wong: Well I actually had to ask my staff about this, what is this stuff about Pamela Anderson? How did this even come up? So obviously I'm not listening to FM enough, but I just thought it was pretty weird, frankly. I think it's a very odd thing for a Prime Minister to say, I understand what Simon says, he says it was light hearted but I just thought it was weird. You know I thought Kelly O'Dwyer. I'm surprised you didn't back it in Simon. I thought she said at the Press Club yesterday the Prime Minister regrets those comments. I thought if that's the case well there you go. It doesn't appear that he did regret them?
David Bevan: Penny Wong is it a bit rich for?
Simon Birmingham: I haven't spoken to him about it…
Penny Wong: Fair enough, Fair enough.
David Bevan: Penny Wong, Penny Wong is it a bit rich for Pamela Anderson who has built her career on good looks criticising…?
Penny Wong: Why are you having a go at her?
David Bevan: No I'm just asking?
Penny Wong: No well, well so what, so what…
David Bevan: If I could finish – can if finish the question?
Penny Wong: Actually I think you should get Ali to respond to you.
David Bevan: No, no if I can put the question to you and then you'll know if you should be outraged – alright?
Penny Wong: I'm not outraged, I'm just don't understand why you're getting into her…
David Bevan: Perhaps if you listen to the question you'll understand. So I'll ask the question to you…Pamela Anderson has built her career on her good looks, is it a bit rich for her to criticise the Prime Minister for saying ,"well I know plenty of blokes who would like to come around and talk to you?
Penny Wong: So only ugly women can say we should be treated well? Is that what you are saying?
David Bevan: No, what I am saying to you is that she has built her career on looking good in a swim suit. I'm pretty sure that's why she got the job in Baywatch.
Penny Wong: I don't know I never watched Baywatch. I'm pretty boring, clearly. David I think people should be treated appropriately and respectfully regardless of how they look or what they might have worn at some point.
Ali Clarke: Sarah Hanson Young
Sarah Hanson–Young: Oh look this has gone from Scott Morrison trying to pretend he's a daggy Dad to the creepy Uncle now I just think he's really trying too hard to be some kind of jovial you know some kind of blokey bloke and it doesn't suit him, no-one believes it.
David Bevan: Did he do anything wrong?
Sarah Hanson–Young: Well I think it's pretty smutty, David, I don't think it came across well… I don't think he earnt any ticks of support from women out there and I think most blokes look at him and go, god you are giving us all a bad name.
Ali Clarke: Alright we will have to leave it there. Sarah Hanson-Young, Penny Wong and Simon Birmingham thank you for time. On the text line it says Simon, don't speak for women I want policy and the Prime Minister to respect, to speak respectfully... someone else says Pamela Anderson has traded on her sex appeal big time c'mon and then Janet of Prospect is saying those comments are outrageous and completely unacceptable – so there you go you are split down the middle. Now speaking of splits, what's going to be happening in the schools next Thursday with your children and/or grandchildren we'll find out after this…