October 15, 2019









SUBJECT/S: Syrian refugees; Turkey/Syria conflict; Climate Emergency


PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: I want to bring in my panel this afternoon, because the division is over, Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and Labor MP Anne Aly, welcome to both of you.


ALY: Thank you, thank you Patricia.


KARVELAS: Russell Broadbent, we’ll begin with you. On the sixty plus Australian women and children trapped in the al-Hawl camp in North-East Syria, should they be repatriated?


RUSSELL BROADBENT, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR MONASH: Umm… [long pause] look, the issues of Australians being overseas and why they go there, and taking their families and then… we have issues all over the world, I think this should be treated as one of those issues, that we’re dealing with all over the world, Australians in trouble [all] over the world.


Now, the fact that they’re female and children puts another overlay on top of that, which we’ve got to take in to account, you wouldn’t be a reasonable and compassionate person if you didn’t add to that, to know that they… have they been duped, by their…


KARVELAS: And if they have been duped, by some –


BROADBENT: …cult captors…


KARVELAS: [inaudible] – should they be brought back?


BROADBENT: That’s, I think that’s a consideration that should take some time to consider because we actually don’t know exactly who each… I think they should get consulate help that we can give, but how do you get consulate help to a region like that with all those problems and with what’s happening in Syria at the moment?

KARVELAS: Would you like the full force of the Australian deployment and resources be applied to this though?


BROADBENT: But I expect that the full force of Australian commitment to our people overseas is always there, and the force of that, or umm, the commitment to that, has to be decided on the ground by those people who are… have been briefed better than we are to understand what that situation is. That is not a cop out from me, I’m just saying, I’ve gotta be realistic about the situation that we face as a nation in regard to this.


KARVELAS: It is absolutely complex, no-one’s debating that, I think everyone agrees at least that it is incredibly complex. Anne Aly, is there a greater risk to Australia if the foreign fighters detained in Syria are brought to Australia or left in the region?


ALY: Oh look, I think there’s risk either way and really you can’t make any sweeping statements about the risk assessment here without understanding the individual cases, individuals’ trajectories towards violence, the reasons that they went to ISIS, the conditions under which they lived over there, what happened to them over there and that goes for the men and the women. Not all the women were duped. I know that it’s…sometimes it’s hard to go against the stereotype, but women have in many, many conflicts played an active role, including this conflict as well –


KARVELAS: Let me just pick you up on that, because actually it’s something that Peter Dutton said as well; some of these women are just as hardcore as the men, do you agree with him?


ALY: Absolutely. I think that the notion of the jihadi bride, the stereotype of the jihadi bride, was the dominant stereotype and absolutely some of them were duped, some of them were just children when they went over there, sixteen years old, one girl was just sixteen years old.


But there were some who went over there, of their own will, of their own accord, with their own agency and played a very active role over there. So we need to have a very comprehensive security and risk assessment for anyone who is coming back.


In terms of leaving them there, does that create more of a security situation; well when we were passing the temporary exclusion orders, I made this point in parliament, that leaving them over there simply gives an opportunity for a reiteration, a regeneration, of ISIS in some other form in the region. What we’re seeing now is really pointing towards that and I think that signals danger, it signals a risk.


KARVELAS: So is there any way of determining who was really duped to who was an active participant in this –


ALY: - Yes, there is –


KARVELAS: To ascertain who to bring back on that basis?


ALY: There is a way of doing that, it’s of course very resource intensive, you’d have to sit with somebody, you’d have to do a full psychological assessment, you’d have to have a look at what they did –


KARVELAS: And do you think Australia is capable and should be doing that?


ALY: I don’t know that we have the complete capability. Certainly, with international cooperation, we would have that capability. Extraction is also highly, highly dangerous and particularly now it’s even more complex and even more dangerous now to extract people from the camps.


So our hearts, I think everyone’s hearts, Russell’s heart, my heart, we’re all in the right place. But the practicalities of it really require us to think deeply about this and have a longer term strategy around this as well, because this is not going away any time soon.


KARVELAS: So you have some sympathy for what the government’s been saying then?


ALY: I have a practical approach that is about our security assessments and the risk assessments. And I have that practical approach because of my experience, my background and the work that I’ve done.


KARVELAS: Russell Broadbent, I’d love to hear from you on Jacqui Lambie’s comments. She’s been very critical of Donald Trump, the withdrawal of the US troops, do you think Donald Trump made the wrong decision here?


BROADBENT: No look, I heard Jacqui this morning, uh, [pause] look, everybody seems to have an opinion on Donald Trump –


KARVELAS: Well it makes sense, doesn’t it, because things he does have enormous implications for the rest of the world.


BROADBENT: Well the rest of the world, I don’t know whether they have enormous implications for Australia and what’s happening at the moment, I think um, listen, look at his, listen, look at his Tweets, I don’t, watch what he does, I do watch what he does, I do, because Tweets go in to the ether, that seems to be a daily activity, the only thing that tends to change with his Tweets is the money markets, uh so I don’t have a lot of money so I don’t need to worry about the money markets, so I put to you that… Jacqui’s opinion – look, I understand and there’s a number of people on our side of the parliament who have… direct involvement with the Kurds, they are particularly concerned about what happened, they feel that America has walked away from the Kurds, again –


KARVELAS: And do you believe that too?


BROADBENT: Well that’s what I understand from all the reporting that…


KARVELAS: You think America has walked away from the Kurds?


BROADBENT: I think America walked out of the situation leaving a vacuum that was going to be filled by the Turks, and then there are other issues. The Kurds I believe have made an agreement with the Assad regime so they can survive and it’s about survival of the fittest over there and all the people that are going to be displaced again and then you put in to that the mix of what we’ve been talking about and how we’re going to go in to that situation and sort out, you know, who’s an Australian citizen, who’s not an Australian citizen, who’s dangerous, who’s not dangerous, so that whole enormous… the enormity of the situation in Syria at the moment is playing another… it’s like another episode of the same story.


KARVELAS: So shouldn’t Australia, in that context, as a close ally, be more critical of the United States for allowing that vacuum to happen?


BROADBENT: No, I think they have to understand the United States as to what position they’ve taken and why they’ve taken the position and we’re not there to take the position on behalf of the United States or make a decision on behalf of Turkey, or on behalf of the Kurds who feel threatened, or Putin with his connection to the Assad regime.


And I don’t pretend to be an expert in those areas, but I do know – it’s a mess.


KARVELAS: Yeah well I think we can all agree there –


ALY: I think that’s a pretty good expert analysis of it all, that it is a mess, I would agree with you –


BROADBENT: Well as I’ve said this before Anne, with this situation –


KARVELAS: You two have been getting along very well, I’m sure our viewers are enjoying it actually, usually –


BROADBENT: It wasn’t fun when we were competing to get back to the house a few minutes ago.


KARVELAS: No, nudging each other. Look, I just want to talk about this motion for a climate emergency, were you disappointed with what Joel Fitzgibbon did in the speech that he gave?


ALY: No, no, I think disappointed is the wrong word –


KARVELAS: Use the word that you want to use then.


ALY: I understand, I understand that – I have a very small margin in my electorate and I have a very conservative electorate actually, and when you are representing an electorate you want to be able to speak on behalf of the people who elected you. So I understand that sometimes the majority opinion of your electorate may or may not be in line with what your party might be saying.


I’m not disappointed in Joel, I think he has a passion for his electorate and he was doing what we all in this place should do, which is speak on behalf of our electorate and represent their interests.


KARVELAS: Do you think there is a climate emergency?


ALY: Yes. I do. I don’t agree with Joel, but I understand his position in standing up for his electorate.


KARVELAS: Is there a climate emergency?


BROADBENT: I was here for the Rudd; dangerous climate change in every sentence that everybody in that government used, I was here for the nuclear emergencies of the earlier years, I said to you this is like another episode of the same story, uh when governments - my question is - and can I just say about Joel, Joel’s constituency is larger than just his electorate. It’s a lot of people across Australia that are right in Joel’s court at the moment and they understand where he’s coming from and I think if there are divisions in parties – I thought you were having a go at me before, when you said quite often you take positions that don’t reflect your electorate, but –


ALY: Oh gosh, no no no, not at all Russell.


BROADBENT: That’s my memory, Patricia would know. Importantly, there are a number of positions being put. Because of the election result, the Labor Party is in a world of woe at the moment –


KARVELAS: But is there a climate emergency Russell?


BROADBENT: Well no, I don’t think there’s a climate emergency –


KARVELAS: The signs show there is catastrophic climate change.


BROADBENT: I think the government should be doing all they can in their own capacity to address climate change and I believe this government is doing that and I pose the question to you Patricia, what would be the difference in the climate position now, of the government, if a Labor government had been elected. Nothing. There’d be no change. You’d be in the exact situation –


ALY: I beg to differ on that one Russell, and look I understand where you’re coming from, but I would argue that – and in fact, I’ve heard members of your party also say that they think there is an urgency around climate, they haven’t used the words climate emergency, but they have said it’s a priority and there’s an urgency around it.


We’ll go with the science. we’ll go with the other countries like Canada and France and the UK who have also declared a climate emergency. and I think one of the big differences at the very least we’ll have recognition of the need, the urgent need, around climate change.


KARVELAS: We’re going to have to leave it there, thank you very much to both of you –


BROADBENT: Well said –


KARVELAS: Oh come on, come back again, I want to thank my panel, Liberal MP Russell Broadbent and Labor MP Anne Aly.