Thursday, 12 September 2019

Mornings with Gareth Parker 6PR



Subjects: Australians in Iran; Gladys Liu; base jumping Perth CBD

GARETH PARKER: The Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister is Christian Porter. He is in Canberra this morning.

Christian, good morning.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: I am Gareth, and it's very cold.

GARETH PARKER: I'm sorry to hear that. It's beautiful in Perth…


GARETH PARKER: … 21 degrees outside at the moment.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: I heard, talking to family this morning. Can't wait to get back.

GARETH PARKER: Alright. Well, it won't be long.

First of all, can you bring us any update on the situation of the Perth travellers in Iran?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, look, I mean, you'll understand that I'm a bit constrained in being able to tell everything that I may or may not know about it. We're working very hard to the benefit of the people that are the subject to this issue in Iran. But what I would say to all your listeners is that the Australian Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, has travel warnings. Iran's official advice is reconsider your need to travel. This is a very difficult place to deal with. That's probably stating the obvious.


CHRISTIAN PORTER: It's probably understating the obvious. And in other places like North Korea, the difficulty levels in dealing with actions of the sovereign Iranian government and their police force or whatever other agencies are operating in Iran for this Australian Government is very, very difficult. So, we are doing our level best. It's obviously a matter of serious concern, and one that we have been working on. But whether it's Iran or other places…

GARETH PARKER: So it obviously-

CHRISTIAN PORTER: people should be aware…


CHRISTIAN PORTER: … that the limits of the Australian Government are real.

GARETH PARKER: It obviously appears that they have been travelling over land in a Toyota Land Cruiser troopy for some months through India, through Pakistan and now apparently into Iran. Was that ill-advised?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, look, I mean, people will make their own travel plans but can I make this point; that the difference between travelling over land in India and Iran is a world of difference.


CHRISTIAN PORTER: They're very, very different places. Their relationship with Australia is very, very different and it's not excusing anything that's happened, from far it. But I'm just making the point that people who undertake travel are really well advised to think about each country as a separate sovereign entity and each country as different from the next. So obviously, this is a matter of significant concern and it links back to Perth, and the Australian Government is working very hard on the issue. But…


CHRISTIAN PORTER: … there are always going to be limits to what we can do.

GARETH PARKER: Is it your understanding that there's been an arrest made because a drone was put up? I mean, if you look at their travel videos, there's lots of drone footage from all over the world. It's beautiful. I mean, is that your understanding of the central issue that's led to the arrest?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look, I've seen reports of that. But it doesn't assist these individuals having a senior member of the Cabinet talk about the facts of…


CHRISTIAN PORTER: … the matter as they've been reported, or as we might understand it to be. It doesn't actually help them…

GARETH PARKER: Okay. I understand.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: … I'm not going to go into that. But I want your listeners to understand that these are things that the Australian Government works hard on…


CHRISTIAN PORTER: … and takes very seriously. But equally, there are always going to be limits. And there are very significant dangers with some countries around the world.


CHRISTIAN PORTER: …moving from country to country, have a great time, plan your travel, look at DFAT websites to get an assessment of how difficult places might be if you get into trouble. And trouble - none of us are immune from it and that's whether or not you're in Bali or Iran. It's just, we need to be very, very careful in these situations. There are some countries that you need to be extraordinarily careful in. And as I say, the official advice is reconsider your…need to travel to Iran.

GARETH PARKER: Okay. Chinese Communist Party trying to influence both sides of Australian politics?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Look, no person in Government, I think, has been more involved in setting up good systems to provide for transparent relationships around foreign interference and foreign influence. So I moved legislation, not uncontroversial legislation that passed Parliament that sets up a register, where if individuals or lobbyists or organisations are in effect contracted by an organisation that link bank to a foreign principal, that they need

GARETH PARKER: Yeah. So we agree that the Chinese are trying to influence Australian politicians and business people, particularly politicians. So did they try and influence Gladys Liu?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, can I just, all governments, like the Australian Government tries to exert influence in other countries, and the American Government, through a range of institutions and organisations, tries too. This is what countries do. This is why we have Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade. But what's been proposed by the Labor Party today, I am deeply uncomfortable with. And I say that from the perspective of a person who's been more intimately involved in trying to have a proper regulatory environment around foreign influence.

What the Labor Party is saying is that the first Chinese-Australian, Gladys Liu, born in Hong Kong, the Member for Chisholm, because of her previous association with an organisation that some people say has links back to the Chinese Government - which itself is far from an unusual thing - because of that previous association, she's is not a fit and proper person to be in Parliament. Now I am more than uncomfortable with that. I think that is an outrageous thing to say. I think it's actually quite wrong. I think it's xenophobic and I think that anyone of Chinese-Australian heritage hearing that, would have the right to be quite thoroughly disgusted by that proposition. This is a fine Member of Parliament…

GARETH PARKER: These are the sorts of things that Mark McGowan and his senior ministers said, exactly the same thing about Pierre Yang, in the case about Yang's ties to Chinese organisations in this State. No one forced Gladys Liu to go on television. If she obscures the nature of those relationships in the television interview, if she refuses to call the Chinese leadership what it is, and if she refuses to condemn island-building in the South China Sea, aren't people invited to draw certain conclusions?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I think there's three separate issues there. I mean, Andrew Bolt's a great interviewer and it's his job to make politicians look a bit unsteady from time to time, and he's done that to me, does that to the best of us - he's a great interviewer. The fact that Gladys Liu declines to adopt precisely Andrew Bolt's descriptive legislation of the Chinese Government, that isn't her doing something negative for Australia. I put you to this proposition; that's actually her doing something in Australia's interest. It's not in Australian interest to adopt precisely the language that was used on that show to describe the Chinese Government when other accurate and alternative language is available. With respect to the South China Sea, she said she absolutely puts Australia's interests first, which might be in some peoples’ view, an unsophisticated way of saying that she supports Australian policy. But nevertheless, that's what it is. With respect to these three organisations, she was asked about three organisations. One of them she said that she had previously been the honorary president of. One of them she was asked whether she was presently the honorary president, and she said she wasn't, which was correct. The third organisation she said firstly that she couldn't recall whether she was a member, and then afterwards said that she hadn't been a member. She was clearly confused. She's corrected that in a statement. But the fact of being previously a member of the Guangdong Overseas Exchange Association - as I said in Parliament this morning, that doesn't make you a Communist, that doesn't make you a traitor, that doesn't make you not a fit and proper person to be a Member of Parliament. A very similar organisation sponsored the travel of the Member for McMahon, the Labor Member for McMahon to China who's met with Communist Party officials.

GARETH PARKER: Who's that? Who's the Member for McMahon, sorry?



CHRISTIAN PORTER: And I mean, you know, there have been a number of West Australian Members of Parliament who have travelled to China at the host of organisations just like this. I mean people

GARETH PARKER: Which is why I say that it appears from the outside to be a very broad reaching, bipartisan sort of attempt here.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, people should be wide-eyed about associations and organisations. But the idea that a Hong Kong-born Chinese Australian should be excluded from being a Member of Parliament - this is what Labor are saying, that she should be excluded from being a Member of the Federal Parliament of Australia because she's had roles, membership roles in organisations that many Australians have membership roles in, that many Australians have travelled under the auspices of - that is quite wrong. It's completely xenophobic. And I think it's a deeply shameful argument to make for political purposes in Parliament.

GARETH PARKER: Thank you for your time. Just before I let you go, are you worried of people BASE jumping off your city office?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Yeah, I missed that. That would've been one of the more exciting days that we would've had at Exchange Plaza. But geez, that looks dangerous. And I mean, I watched the footage of one of….

GARETH PARKER: Is it a security issue?

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Well, I mean, you could argue that. I'm not clear about how exactly the building security works. I mean the floors that deal with the federal ministers have their own levels of security for a variety of reasons that you can imagine. But you know, that is super dangerous. And one of those guys, when he pulled the chord, he was really close to the ground. My concern with those things is that people are just going to kill themselves or god knows what with the traffic down below. I think it's actually a pretty selfish act. But yeah, I hope they catch them and sort them out.

GARETH PARKER: Alright, thank you for your time.

CHRISTIAN PORTER: Thanks for that, cheers.

GARETH PARKER: Christian Porter, Attorney-General.