Television Interview - Sky News First Edition

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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8 April 2024

SUBJECTS: Appointment of Special Adviser Mark Binskin; Hamas-Israel Conflict; Operation Sovereign Borders.  

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in our Monday morning panel now. The Liberal Senator, Holly Hughes, and the Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite. Good morning to you both. Matt, we'll start with you. What do you hope that Mark Binskin's appointment achieves?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, I think we owe it to Zomi Frankcom and her family to try and get to the bottom of what actually occurred in Israel. There are international laws and rules that, despite being in a conflict zone, ensure the protection of humanitarian and aid workers. And that didn't occur in this case and World Central kitchen certainly provided the Israeli Defence force and the Israeli government with information about where their staff would be working, including Zomi, and that didn't occur. So, I think that we owe it to Zomi's family and to the other aid workers that were killed to try and get to the bottom of this and former Chief of the Defence Force, Mark Binskin is perfectly placed to be able to conduct those inquiries.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, Holly, what do you think? Was this appointment needed?

HOLLIE HUGHES, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR NSW: Look, I have no problem with this investigation happening. I think what's disappointing, there's a woman's name, Galit Carbone, you don't hear it coming out of anybody's mouths, particularly in this Government and that was an Australian citizen who was killed on October 7 by Hamas. This Government seems to have an anti-Israel bend that is just really disappointing in everything that we're seeing. They have refused to condemn what occurred on October 7, in I think, an effect that has given comfort to Australian citizens who are of the Jewish faith and it continues to not acknowledge that it is Hamas that started this, to point fingers at Israel in its right to defend itself. You know, it's a tragedy what happened, but it is a war zone. And we do know that even any conflict Australia has been involved in, there has been a loss of life, of civilians, which is a terrible thing. But to somehow or other point the finger at Israel defending itself without looking at what happened and in somehow dismissing what happened on October 7 and the fault of Hamas here is continually disappointing for the Government.

STEFANOVIC: Matt, does this and coupled in with the appointment today of Mark Binskin, does it all show that you just don't trust Israel?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I'd like to dispute what Holly just said there, Pete. I don't think that that is a true characterisation at all of the Government's approach. We've been very consistent, going back to the bipartisan motion that was passed by the Parliament, and that's very clear in its condemnation of Hamas and their actions and calling for the immediate release of hostages. The Australian Government's position on that has not changed since October 7. We have, of course, with the international community, supported a call in the United Nations for a ceasefire. At the end of the day, the Albanese Government and the Australian people want peace and the loss of any life, regardless of who or which nationality that person is, is the same across the board and we want to avoid the loss of any life. So, that's why we've been very consistent in calling for the release of hostages and an immediate ceasefire.

HUGHES: Haven't heard that call for a while. Haven't heard anything about 130 hostages still being held after six months. That sort of died down a bit. I think there is a mistrust of Israel, and I think it's incredibly disappointing. This Government is continuing to deride our relationship with what is the only democracy in that part of the world has been a long-term friend. And if Matt doesn't agree with me, well, then he should go talk to some Jewish Australians and see how those groups are feeling. I spend a great deal of time with them, and I can tell you they don't feel supported and they don't feel that this Government is supportive of Israel and its right to defend itself.

STEFANOVIC: We've got to move on because we're almost out of time. But, Matt, you're in the west this morning. Are you on the lookout for more stray boats?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Pete, I'm here to go to HMAS Stirling for further infrastructure announcements. So, we're announcing today a further $83 million of important infrastructure upgrades to vitally important infrastructure for the Australian Defence Force and in particular, for our Navy as we gear up for AUKUS and the submarine rotational force coming through here.

STEFANOVIC:: Holly, I think he missed that one. Anyway, another boatload was picked up and sent to Nauru. I mean, that's what. That's what you would have done if you were in power, right? If boat people arrived - found them, moved them on.

HUGHES: Yeah, but we also wouldn't have abandoned temporary protection visas. We wouldn't have said to the high court, oh, well, you know, if we're having problems resettling them, we're just going to acknowledge we can't resettle them. I mean, that was a sign to people smugglers that we're open for business. It's an absolute furphy. Yeah, we've got a big coastline, but guess what? We've guarded it before. We've protected it before, but when you cut funding to border force, when you cut aerial patrols, that's what's going to happen. And the people smugglers are going to reopen for business. I'm pretty sure. There's a big old poster of Andrew Giles in people smugglers businesses saying we welcome you with open arms. We know that that's Mr Giles political leanings. He worked in Defence of those on the Tampa. His heart's not in this portfolio and I still cannot believe that Mr Albanese is leaving him in place. It's going to start seeing more tragedies at seas again.

STEFANOVIC: Matt, are you expecting more boat arrivals?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, Operation Sovereign Borders is a bipartisan policy. It's the same as it was under the previous Government -

HUGHES: (interjecting) Temporary Protection visas is a pillar. 

ASSISTANT MINISTER:  I completely reject the notion that -

HUGHES: (interjecting) Where are Temporary Protection visas? 

STEFANOVIC: Finish the point please, Matt? Just on TPP there too, that point that Holly makes.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: We've increased funding by $470 million over the forward estimates for Operation Sovereign Borders. The policy is the same as the previous Governments and that is that anyone who does come to Australia illegally will be transferred to a third country. 

STEFANOVIC: So, there will be more though. There will be more you expect?

HUGHES: (interjecting) Absolutely - 

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, the policy is the same and the resources are being increased to ensure that the policy remains in place and is an active deterrence to people trying to come illegally to Australia by boat.

STEFANOVIC: We are out of time. Matt and Holly, always a pleasure. We'll talk to you again next week. 


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