Democracy or Disruption? | Q&A


(APPLAUSE) A very good evening, and welcome
to Q&A. I’m Hamish Macdonald. Here to answer
your questions tonight, the executive director of
the Ethics Centre, Simon Longstaff, Liberal MP Tim Wilson, who has just returned
from the streets of Hong Kong, journalist and researcher at the
Australian Strategic Policy Institute Vicky Xu, the Financial Review’s national
affairs columnist, Jennifer Hewett, and Labor’s spokesman
on cybersecurity, Tim Watts. Please put your hands together
and welcome our panel. Q&A is live tonight
in eastern Australia on ABC TV, iview and NewsRadio. And our first question this evening
is a video from a young woman that I met recently
covering the protests in Hong Kong. Her name is Sally Ho. So, we’ve seen a sharp deterioration
of freedoms in Hong Kong, especially since the
emergency ordinance was evoked to pass a mask ban. This sets the tone
for a slippery slope for more erosion of freedoms. Despite this, we’ve seen
the NBA retract previous comments to appease the Chinese market, we’ve seen Trump pledge
to keep quiet on the Hong Kong issue in a phone call and Australian Labor Party supporting stronger defence ties
with China. I guess my question to the panel is, is Australia willing to stand up for the rights and freedoms
of Hongkongers and risk angering China? Well, Tim Watts,
the question for you – is Labor willing to stand up
for those things? Well, Hamish, it’s pretty clear
that we’re in a new phase of our relationship with China
at the moment. A lot of the assumptions that we had about the ways that we could
engage with China from the early ’90s
through the 2000s, they’re showing not to hold anymore. Um, and in this new environment, this new sort of more assertive,
authoritarian…authoritarian China really demands more
of all Australians, not just political leaders,
business leaders, cultural leaders, it demands a greater understanding, greater dexterity in the way
that we approach things. But really what it requires is
us to see China for what it actually is. And that’s a country with a
different political system to ours, different values to ours. We really need to keep that
in the forefront of our mind in this engagement so that we don’t lose ourselves
when we engage with China with things that we do have
a shared interest on. But how do you justify
to a young person in this region who sees your party saying that Australia should have
closer military ties with China? Well, what we’ve said is that where
there are areas of shared interest, like international
peacekeeping missions to uphold a rules-based order, sure, Australia should work
closely with China on that. But on areas that we don’t share
the same objectives, we don’t share the same values, we need to set up clear boundaries,
clear guiding lines so that we don’t compromise
ourselves in that engagement. Tim Wilson, you’ve obviously made
your position on this clear. Do you think, though, Australia more broadly is willing
to muscle up to China? I think we have to stand up
very clearly for our values and what we believe in as a country when we’re engaging with any nation,
it doesn’t matter which one it is. Yes, I’ve made my view, obviously,
extremely clear. And for a number of reasons. Firstly, because –
and people forget this – in the last term of parliament,
Australia was… ..or there was a proposal
for Australia to ratify our own extradition treaty
with China. A number of backbenchers
including myself, Andrew Hastie, James Paterson, Jono Duniam,
amongst others stood up and opposed that and ultimately it never
made it to the parliament. And that was one of the core
original motivators of these protests. Also, obviously,
because I’m a liberal democrat, and I believe in the values that underpin a cause for
liberal democracy around the world. But the other reason
is also to make sure there’s proper scrutiny
and accountability with China. They know the world is watching and how they behave
and respond in Hong Kong is critical and that we all play a role in that. And that’s why I’ve been happy to see the Foreign Minister,
in particular, being very strong in her language
around China and saying that we don’t believe
in the crackdown on people in Hong Kong. They have a right to protest, and that’s obviously very consistent
with the things I believe in, too. But it’s a bigger question, though,
about whether Australia is willing to stand up to China
on all manner of things. Well, the… You can see the influence
that it has already in Australia. Well, that’s true, and I know
in the program before tonight there was a lot of discussion
around university campuses and the Education Minister
has actually put a very clear focus on making sure
that we’re not seeing education unduly influenced
by foreign influence. We’ve had our own government
and the Minister for Home Affairs focusing on unpicking
foreign influence in terms of our political system and, obviously, that’s still
got some to come out, and we need to keep doing it. And it’s not going to be
a singular approach. It’s going to be making sure
that we confront these challenges at every point, to stand up
for our national interests, to be proud of our values,
what we stand for as a country, but of course working
with other countries as part of a community
of nations in the region. We have an additional question
from Hong Kong, which, I suppose, adds to that. It’s from the former chair
of the Hong Kong Democracy Party Emily Lau. Does the panel think
that the Australian businesspeople and the politicians are maybe too eager to make money,
to get into the China market, and so are willing to turn
a blind eye to human rights violations
in China and elsewhere? Vicky Xu? Is that the case? Is China too hungry… Is Australia too hungry
for China’s money to really take a strong position? I think partly, yes. You know, China is a large market
with 1.4 billion people. So, of course,
it’s a very attractive market. But at the same time, I do think
we have a bit of blind optimism about the Chinese market. The government,
and also businesspeople, when they’re going into China, they’re not understanding
the risks and the consequences that could happen in China,
you know. Now we’re waking up
because we see NBA, we see even the gamer world
is realising that, “Wait a second –
Tencent owns 10% of the company, “and, you know, when one gamer
says something about Hong Kong, “he gets banned,
his prizemoney gets taken away.” We’re just waking up. But this has been happening
for decades. You know, just last year…
Sometimes not… You know, businesses get punished
not just for saying the wrong thing. Just last year,
because China and Australia, the relationship wasn’t great, um, China closed up a port, you know, to stop Australian
products from coming in. Regular businesses
not saying anything become collateral damage. So, while we know that China means
great opportunity for business, we also should know – and governments should make this
common knowledge and common sense – that China also means
great consequences. Jennifer Hewett,
do you agree with that analysis, that Australia displays
blind optimism when it comes to China? Well, I think there’s a reason
for the blind optimism, a very kind of strong
economic reason. You know, Australia has… The Australian economy
has been very dependent on the Chinese economy
for a long time now, particularly after
the global financial crisis, and since then our commodities
have been, you know, able to be exported and the Chinese market
was, obviously, very attractive. I think the, um…the challenges now about dealing with China
under Xi Jinping are becoming more apparent
to everyone. Um, at the same time,
I think it’s also very clear that Australia can’t afford to just, you know, try
and cut itself off from China. And it does have to behave
mostly in a respectful manner, even when it disagrees
with what China is doing. Have we been too focused on,
perhaps, China’s military rise and not focused enough on the way…
the other ways in which China uses its power? I think…I think that is right.
I think we, obviously, you know… Things like the militarisation
of the South China Sea are very, you know,
clear examples of that. I think what has been less obvious,
for example, has been, until recently, the impact
of Chinese influence in other ways. For example, in the universities,
what’s happening there. That has been very easy
and, again, very attractive for universities to ignore because, of course, they wanted
the money coming in. So, all of those harder choices now are becoming much more obvious,
I think, in part because China is no longer
being, you know, fairly… ..you know, hiding its light
behind a bushel, um, and is being quite assertive in how it sees the world, which is often extremely different
to how Australians see the world. Except, of course, we have
1.2 million Chinese in Australia. And many of those… I mean, it’s a very…
It’s an evolving situation. I think we’re still struggling,
um, as a country, as a cultural and political
leadership, and business leaders, trying to figure out
how to get the best out of our relationship with China
without compromising ourselves. There is no easy answer to that. Simon Longstaff,
money, principles – which wins? We’ve heard about two things
so far, fear and greed – neither is a particularly good basis
on which to engage in a complicated relationship
such as arises here. I think what we need
to try and do, firstly, is become much more clear for
ourselves about what we stand for and back that. And then I think…
Is that a problem that we’ve got? I think it is. I think that… I think we are quite uncertain here. I think our own
ethical infrastructure is either damaged or broken
in many ways. So we’ve got some work here. But Jennifer put her finger on,
I think, a very important point. It’s not just that you are firm
in your own convictions, you then need to think
how to engage also, on as constructive a basis
as you can, to bring about some kind
of meeting in mind and change. And the first thing, I think, is to try and better understand
China itself. It’s deeply concerned to avoid
a perpetual history, really, where the centre is constantly
weakened by rising provinces. You go right back
into the ancient history of China, and I think Vicky would
acknowledge too that in China there’s a deep
commitment to harmony and order… It…
..as a prior concern over some of the issues of liberty. Now, I’m not saying that
that’s right, but we should at least understand it
as a basis for how we engage. How I see it is, in China, you know, it’s entrenched in our education
and in the media that we have a history of, you know,
100 years of humiliation… Mm. ..but we also have to understand
that it’s partly true, but also partly weaponised
to entrench this idea that we Chinese and the West,
we’re on different sides – China’s rise has to be at the expense
of the West’s collapse. And if we want to become
strong again, we want to become…to rise
to superpower status again, it means we have to
beat down the West. Yeah, but does it have to be
like that, from your point of view? It doesn’t have to be like that, but we said we want
to understand China better – that is the psyche of a lot of… Yeah, but sometimes…
..Chinese officials… We shouldn’t be hypocritical
about this. Sometimes we do
exactly the same thing. The Cold War never had ended, right? Usually in countries like Australia
and the US, when under threat, we will suppress liberties
in the name of security and order. We do it all the time, and
a few people speak out against it, but otherwise we say,
“Oh, it’s just normally what we do “to make ourselves safe.” Is that what the government that Tim Wilson’s a member of
is doing? It has certainly done that and there have been governments
of all hues that have played
that particular card when curbing liberties
we would otherwise claim to enjoy. But I don’t make that to say that we should therefore
excuse the Chinese government or say that we are
always going to be like them. I think there are more
nuanced positions we can take to understand this and navigate
those very difficult waters. Alright. Our next question tonight
comes from Jenny Li. The Hong Kong problem eventually
is an economic problem which really has less to do
with freedom and democracy. Democracy is a weapon. If used by selfish
and uneducated people, it could only harm themselves. I’m surprised that Liberal MP
Tim Wilson could not see that. Could the Liberal Party
focus more on our own economy, rather than other people’s affairs? I guess…I guess that was why
we voted for you guys. We want you guys to improve
Australia’s economy so we can live comfortably, we don’t have to go to street and protest
against our own government. Tim Wilson, Jenny is asking,
why are you there worrying about the situation
in Hong Kong, rather than doing what she voted
for your party to do, which is fix
the economic problems here? Well, the Liberal Party has
many purposes. In fact, if you go to one of
the core statements of liberalism and the Liberal Party itself, it talks about how free people must be triumphant
everywhere in the world and it is core to who we are, and that’s the base
on which I sought election. Um, and there are… On economic freedom, on social
freedom, on political freedom, it’s critical
to who we are as a country. I mean, I was actually in Hong Kong talking at a conference
for The Economist on democracy, actually, in Australia
as part of South-East Asia. And I think, if we want to engage
with respect, and we want to engage with
the region in a constructive way, we need to have these conversations and be part of
advancing Australia’s interest with the community of nations and having that respectful
understanding of many countries. But…
Is it a constructive way, though, for you to go and participate
in a protest, some elements of which were violent? Well, I think every good cause
will always attract bad people. That’s the reality, and so… But you’re talking as a politician
about doing something constructive in that broader conversation.
Yes. Yes. I’m asking if that was the
appropriate forum for you to do it. I believe it was,
because if you actually go back to what I said right at the start, one of the reasons
why there is, uh… ..there has been an allowance for people to continue to protest
in an authoritarian regime, it’s because people know the world
is watching, and the point… ..one of the key points
that I was trying to make was that people in Australia –
and you can see it in the panel tonight,
the questions tonight – is that people are paying attention and people want to see…
and have a fondness for Hong Kong and for people’s right to live
their lives. How do you think Australia would
react if a Chinese politician came here and started protesting,
joining perhaps a climate strike? They’d be welcome to do so because we respect
people’s rights and freedoms. That’s the nature of our country.
(LAUGHTER) And that’s what it means to actually
live out the values of a country… SIMON: Unless you’re on welfare. ..and that is the principal basis in which we have the organisation
of our polity. Tim Watts, what’s your view of politicians from Australia
going to other countries, participating in protests? Is that the right way to have
a constructive conversation? Look, Hamish, the way I look
at this is that I think we are back now
in a world of competing systems. You know, like, probably
my father’s generation, they grew up
in that competing systems between the sort of Communist world
and the Free World. We’re back now in a world
of systems competition between, you know, the liberal
democratic order, open economies, um, and this new model
of technology-enabled autocracy, or techno-authoritarianism. Now, I don’t think that’s a battle
that’s going to be won by who’s able to give the best
lecture to another country… I need to ask you,
what’s techno-authoritarianism? (LAUGHTER)
Well, I mean, the way I view
techno-authoritarianism, it’s the use of technology
to control populations, to perpetuate the power
of a ruling body in a country. Um, and it’s certainly something
we’re seeing in a range of countries
around the world. So, all the cameras on the streets
of Hong Kong capturing all the images,
feeding it back possibly to Beijing? Well, it’s data collection
in a range of countries and the use of that data,
in a way, to control society, to control people within a country. But the way that we’ll win that
competing…competition of systems – and there are people that want
to bring that system into the West, into countries like Australia,
through populist campaigns – but the way that we will win
that competition isn’t overseas,
it’s in this country. We’ll win it by living up to
our democratic values, by championing
our democratic institutions, by saying that it’s wrong
for the Australian Federal Police to raid journalists, by properly funding the ABC, by, you know, really making
these investments in the things that protect
and preserve our democracy. So I suppose what I’d say to Tim is,
the next time I want to see Tim fighting
for those values in our country as an example
for the rest of the world. I wonder whether you agree with what
Simon Longstaff was talking about, which is that Australia’s problem
in responding to China is grounded in the fact that
we’re not quite sure who we are. That’s something you’ve been
writing about – our own sort of search
for our contemporary identity. Absolutely. I think we don’t spend enough time talking about what it is
to be Australian. I mean, I’ve got a new book out
at the moment. My publisher would kill me
if I didn’t say it… This is not for you to publicise it.
..The Golden Country. Available in all good bookstores.
(LAUGHTER) But, I mean, the point is,
is that we don’t do enough talking about what it means
to be Australian today and that inherent to those values
isn’t just mateship, egalitarianism, the fair go, those things
that we do treasure, but it’s also a respect
for democratic institutions and a model of society. Your wife, I think,
was born in Hong Kong and you’ve got two kids. What do you talk to them about in terms of what it is
to be Australian today, if we’re confused about it? Well, it’s an optimistic story. I think the genius of Australia is that our political system
enables us to change. My great-great-great-
great-grandfather was a member of
the anti-Chinese leagues in Geelong. He was part of a group that sent a petition
to the Victorian parliament opposing the poll tax
on Chinese arrivals to Australia. He didn’t want members of
my current family in Australia today to be part of the nation
that he was building. And they were wrong. Those were the values
that Australia was founded on at the time of Federation. It’s no coincidence
that the first really substantive piece of high policy,
as Edmund Barton called it, passed by the Federation Parliament was the Immigration Restriction Act,
the White Australia Policy. That wasn’t a coincidence
because that was really intrinsic to the kind of nation
we were building at that time. But we’ve transcended that,
we’ve outgrown it. Our democratic system
has enabled us to recognise the mistakes that we’ve made and to build
a far greater nation today, one of the most successful
multicultural nations in the world. Jennifer, do you think we’re lost
as a nation in that sense? No, I absolutely do not think
we’re lost. Um, and I’m happy
to read your book, Tim… (LAUGHTER)
..but actually I think Australia is actually one of the most
successful countries in terms of multiculturalism, in terms of being
a very high-immigrant society, far higher proportion of people
born in Australia… ..sorry, born overseas in Australia than, I think,
any other country in the world. And similarly
with second generation. And we’ve done that remarkably well. I think we spend
an inordinate amount of time speaking about ourselves
and trying to understand ourselves and how the country has changed. And, in general, I think
it’s been very, very successful. Yeah. There’s a ‘but’, though. And the ‘but’ is we’re
a successful multicultural society with monocultural institutions. So, we’ve got at the moment around 14% of the Australian
population of Asian heritage. Now, across our politics,
our business, our universities, our public service
leadership positions, Asian-Australian representation
is at, like, a maximum of about 3%. And to put that in terms
that are sort of understandable, that means,
in the federal parliament we ought to have
over 30 Asian Australians. Well… Just imagine how different
this conversation would be if we had representation like that
of those perspectives. Well, I do…
Look, I do think that’s right. I mean, and I think
this is an issue – for example, you could have
the same attitude about women… And we do. (LAUGHS)
..in leadership positions. But there’s lots
of reasons for that, and one of the reasons has been kind of different
kind of cultural backgrounds from a lot of people
from an Asian background who are not so keen to take
leadership positions in the same way or to behave in the same way that people who have grown up
in a different culture do. So I think
those are the types of reasons that we don’t see
the numbers changing. But I do think you see them in
a community level, and that is… ..and will change, and is changing
over time, in the leadership. See, I could believe that except
for the fact that peer countries like Canada, the UK, the
United States, they do far better at this representational issue
than we do in Australia. So, there is something intrinsic
in Australia, there’s something about
that representational level where Australian multiculturalism
works really well at the community level and then breaks down when
we get to the doors of power in our society, in our institutions. Can I just bring in Vicky here? You’ve come to Australia
in recent years. How do you observe this conversation? Do you think Australia
has a clear identity, that we know who we are
and what we stand for? I am absolutely with Tim
on this one. And I’ve been working in journalism
for…a number of years – I’ve had one editor
who’s not a white male. And…and I don’t think
that, as minorities, we’re not keen to take
leadership positions. And… Not as far as anyone that I know. I think
we’re all super keen to lead. (LAUGHTER)
Well, you are, anyway. I am, anyway. And I do think there is a lot
to improve on. I do think, uh, representation is
a problem in politics, in the media. Um, it is…it is improving. Um, you know, by sitting here,
I think… I’m grateful to have this
opportunity to be on this platform. It also means that we are
being given a voice – some of us, at least. But I don’t think it’s enough. And I think we have
a long way to go. But is diversity in the media
and in politics the same thing as a nation having
a clear sense of itself? Um… Australia
is definitely still searching, but I think Australia definitely
understands that it’s a democracy. Like, that’s something
that we can all agree on. And I wanted to circle back to
the thing about being respectful to authoritarian countries. Being respectful
to the Asian community or the Chinese community here
is not the same thing as subscribing
to those rhetorics such as, “China has been humiliated, “therefore we can not criticise
Chinese government policies.” Um… Ch… I think there is this effort from
the Chinese state to gaslight us by saying if you ever criticise
Chinese policies you are being racist,
you are being unfair to the, you know, millions
of tourists, students, and Chinese Australians. Um, and that’s completely false. And I think in building
a national identity of Australia, we also need to be clear how to… ..we also need to stand, really,
on democratic values… But this evening’s…
..and not cave in. This evening’s conversation, though,
started with a question, uh, to the Labor Party, to Tim Watts, about it wanting closer
military ties with Beijing. I mean, Xi Jinping,
in the last 24 hours, has talked about crushing bodies
and shattering bones. Is there any grey zone
on this matter? I mean, is China a country that
we should be moving closer towards in terms of military, uh, relations? Uh… As Tim pointed out,
there are peacekeeping missions that we can cooperate on. And you think that’s alright? Yeah. Uh, but, uh, you know, in terms of,
for example, the South China Sea, in terms of the Pacific,
I do think, um…I don’t think… ..unfortunately, there isn’t
much of a grey zone there. Alright. Well, our next question
tonight, uh, comes from Sarah Myatt. Sarah. While a handful of our politicians
have come out in support of the protests in Hong Kong, many have been quick to condemn
climate change protesters in Australia. What can young people
in Australia rightfully do to make their fears
and concerns heard? Simon Longstaff? Well, I think that
we should admire any person who is willing to take action
in defence of their beliefs. Uh, I’m immensely proud of the fact
that, particularly, young people have seen fit to do that. I think we also have to have
some point of discrimination between the kind of protest activity
which gives rise to inconvenience for other people,
as opposed to the protest activity which is INTENDED
to inconvenience people. If you get a couple of hundred
thousand people in a street or a larger number –
whether it’s here or abroad – it is bound to cause inconvenience for those who come
into contact with them. But, as I think Tim was suggesting, there are some people who attach
themselves to these causes who just want to cause mayhem
and havoc, and we should be deeply disturbed
by those people who bring violence
to those protests, who seek to subvert
their good intentions. So, I was pretty appalled
when I’ve heard people in Australia criticising those who’ve got
a strong, committed belief in the justification of their cause, and young, old and all sorts
of people going out, to find them criticised. And I mentioned in passing to Tim when he was talking
about the right to protest, I said,
“Except if you’re on welfare.” Uh, it seems to have been
suggested that you lose those rights
in certain circumstances. So, I’d say to young people,
don’t lose heart, that your voice matters, be prepared to act
in defence of your beliefs. That’s part of what it means to be
growing into the full citizenship that you ought to enjoy. Tim Wilson, how would you respond? Well, about 90% of what Simon
just said I completely agree with. I think some people have
misinterpreted some comments that were made by others
where they’re saying under a system of mutual obligation
around welfare, uh, that you can’t use protesting
as an excuse not to, um, meet your obligations, like going,
seeking out employment as well. But, I mean, I think we all want
to operate in a country where people have a right
to be able to protest so long as they
stick within the law. They don’t, uh… Then there’s an issue, there is an
issue around proportionality. Um, if people are deliberately
and malicious… Tim, can I just
pull you up on that, though? Because the question to Peter Dutton was whether protesters
who receive government benefits should have their welfare payments
removed. He said, “Well, I agree.”
Well… What was the nuance
that people missed in that? (LAUGHTER)
Well, but I think the point is, under the system
of mutual obligation, the objective is that people,
uh, have an expectation if they receive welfare benefits
and they’re seeking work, they should be able to do so. I don’t think things are blanket. Now, if you want more detail
on the nuance of his question, you’ll have to ask that,
but that’s the spirit in which I… But I think he should have been… I think he should have been far more
careful in response to that, because it seemed like, and it was certainly interpreted
by people, I think, of goodwill that he was suggesting that because you’re in a condition
where you’re on welfare that somehow or other
you’ve lost your right. And…and the reality is
that is not the case in this country and I believe that will be
the case in this country. But if people willingly go about
trying to obstruct other people and have no respect for their rights
and freedoms at the same time, uh, as they’re seeking to protest, then it raises issues
around the contest of rights. And so, we need to be able
to respect that. But if people have concerns
about climate change or any other issue…and the broad
principle that Simon started with is that people should be able
to stand up and speak out and have their voice, and that’s
the nature and the origins… ..the anchoring principles
of a liberal democracy. I suppose that what you would have
observed in Hong Kong, though, is that it’s a very small
coterie of people that are actually causing
the violence… Yes.
..doing the wilful destruction. And yet, the authorities,
the people with power, use that small group
against the entire lot. Yes. Can you see parallels
between those reactions there and what’s happening
here in Australia? No, no. Well, you take the most
recent Extinction Rebellion, uh, people at the moment. Nobody’s saying that they reflect
all of the concerns of everybody who’s protesting on climate change. They’re a very specific…
Hm. But are some of them alright? Are you OK with some of the people
in the Extinction Rebellion group? Well, from what I have seen
of their behaviour, they deliberately go about – to their own detriment
of their own cause – frustrating people
being able to live their life. And a gentleman who’s emailed a few
of us on the panel tonight talked about how, with a disability,
he’s been deliberately obstructed and put in extreme hardship
as a consequence of their behaviour and they’ve completely
disregarded it. So, they have a right
to have their voice heard and express their opinion,
they have a right to associate and to come together and protest
that, but do they have a right to just shut down everybody
else’s life in the process? No, that’s going too far. I have a feeling the person
that’s emailed some of you has also emailed us.
Oh! The next question is a video
from Matthew Zammit in Thornbury in Victoria. My name is Matthew and I’ve been heavily disrupted by the protests last week. Many people have. But as somebody
with a few disabilities, it hits people like me harder. I tried to raise these concerns
with protesters when they blocked my bus by
chaining themselves on tram tracks. I was already in a lot of pain and already had to walk
with my crutch much more than usual that morning. When I attempted to speak with
people on one side of the street, I was jeered at
and called offensive names. I struggled over
to the other side of the street and had fruitless arguments
with protesters there. I agree climate change
is a very serious issue, but what balance do you think
should be struck between the rights of people
with disabilities and the right to protest? Tim Watts, how do you do that? Um, well, look, Hamish, I think
it’s a bit of a theme of mine. I think we just need
to spend a little bit more time listening to each other in society, and there’s a lot
of talking past each other, a lot of shouting at each other in the current media
and political environment. Get touchy-feely
with Extinction Rebellion? Yeah, sure.
Like, I think…genuinely, I think Extinction Rebellion
protesters should listen to what Matthew just said there. Take it into account. I mean, I’ve seen those protests
make room for ambulances to get through,
things of that nature. It seems pretty reasonable to say that they ought to be accommodating
people with disability – that can’t be the purpose
of their protests. I’m sure they’re not trying
to, uh, inconvenience, cause physical pain to people. So, they ought to really listen
to them. Jennifer Hewett, it’s not just
Extinction Rebellion, though, that some of our leaders
have had a problem with. They’ve had a problem with teenagers
leaving school for the day to go out and protest. Where do we draw the line? Well, that’s…it’s always
a question of balance and judgement, isn’t it? I mean… We seem to struggle with that
a bit these days. Well…well, these… Well, we do. Um, I think we actually…
We always have, but now it’s kind of more in the…
more in the open. And everybody can have an opinion, so everybody can
shout at one another and be heard via social media. It must be exhausting
being a columnist. (LAUGHS) Well, I don’t shout,
of course. Um… Uh, but I do…do think,
for example, you know, Extinction Rebellion protesters, um, obviously, you could, um, sympathise
with some of their aims, but I mean, an awful lot
of their aims just seem to be a kind of nihilistic,
kind of doomsday cult where, you know, we’re all ruined and we all should
just kind of give up, um, any fossil fuels tomorrow as if there will not be any kind
of massive economic impact and…and shocking,
you know, results for millions and millions of people. Um, so I think that type of balance and that lack of balance
is a problem. Of course we should, um, be able
to talk to one another more easily, uh, than we do. And I think, um, that’s kind of,
again, what we’re struggling to learn to do in this world, where shouting has just become
the kind of, um, de facto reality for everybody. And somebody… In fact, um,
Cath Tanna, from Energy Australia, um, was talking about
the energy debate, um, at Financial Review Summit,
the other day, and she said it was like being, you know,
at the bar at closing time. Everybody just wanted
to yell at one another and they’re all convinced
they’re right. And I do think that’s a big issue
in society today. You should try going on Twitter.
(LAUGHTER) I log… I tend to avoid it,
if I can. Vicky, do you see the parallels,
though, between the reaction here
to some protesters and the reaction to protesters
in Hong Kong, who clearly want to disrupt? I do. I do. I do a lot. I think, you know, Hong…
the protests in Hong Kong, they started out
as just two million people walking on the streets, peacefully. It’s a bit like the climate strike
from schoolkids. And they didn’t cause any trouble. They were largely peaceful. But when the government
doesn’t respond, they grew desperate
and then they start, you know, a small num…a small group of them
started disrupting and it’s just the same here. The climate act…you know, the
people who were pro-climate action, they started to disrupt. This is a show of desperation. These people are taking
these measures, knowing the price they have to pay. So, it’s more a reason
that we should listen to them. But at the same time, I think what
it takes – I agree with Tim again – um, it takes a bit of empathy
from all sides. You know, in Hong Kong, um, in… Well, still now,
but more earlier days, in last month and the month before, the protesters, they actively tried
to help people who, you know,
they’ve caused trouble to. They tried to apologise. They tried to persuade people, “We’re doing this for democracy,
we’re doing this for our cause. “Please forgive us.” So, I think this is something
that maybe Extinction Rebellion could learn from. You know, try to empathise a bit
more and try not to inconvenience other people too much, while
getting your message out there. Now, remember if you hear
any doubtful claims on Q&A tonight, let us know on Twitter,
and keep an eye on the RMIT ABC Fact Check
and The Conversation website. Uh, our next question this evening
comes from Tyler Gerszewski. Thank you, Hamish. As an American citizen, I see
so many countries around the world starting to lose faith
in the once nation that I loved. Australia always had a strong
relationship with the US, but where and when
does the country draw a line and stand up to the US
on issues such as Syria? Tim Wilson, is it time to stand up
to the United States? Well, we always work with countries and make pretty clear assertive
statements – both publicly and privately –
as we have been with China, and the Prime Minister’s
actually been quite clear that he’s quite concerned about the developments, um,
that are occurring in Syria. Uh, I am too,
just for absolute clarity. Uh, and…but it’s not just about
the United States. There’s a number of parties
that are actually involved in what’s going on here. At the moment, we’re concerned about the withdrawal
of the United States. We’re concerned
about the inaction of Europe over a long period of time. But, frankly, the thing I’m most
concerned about is the involvement of Turkey, and their behaviour
in crossing over the border. They were given a pretty big,
public green light. I… Well… That… I don’t quite agree with that
phrasing, but I do think it’s… Wh-wh-what…? How would you describe
the US decision to withdraw and what signal that sent to Turkey? The US had made a decision, um,
some time ago and had announced
they were seeking to withdraw. Now, whether or not I’m agreeing
with that decision or not, there was a time frame to that, and other countries had a
responsibility to step up as well. I don’t think that’s –
“Oh, by the way, green light, “you can just go in
and, uh, and basically, uh…” But there was a Trump tweet…
“..create a military conflict.” ..that said Turkey
is about to do this and the United States is leaving.
No… Well, and what he’s also said is he
believes there should be sanctions and everything else.
I’m not trying to… He said that afterwards.
I… Sorry? Once there was a bit of a storm. As I’ve said,
I have very deep concerns around the position
of the United States and what they’ve done. But I don’t think we should also
be turning a blind eye to the decisions of Turkey and also of the European Union,
which were all extremely serious. But this was a question about
our alliance with the United States. That’s right. And as I’ve said,
we’ve made it quite clear that we have deep concerns
about the decision that’s been made. Have you articulated your position
on the US decision here? What is it?
Sorry, to…to the Prime Minister? The US decision to… No, publicly, have you said
what you think about the United…? Well, I just did. So, do you think it was the wrong
thing for the United States…? I have deep concerns about it,
and I want those communicated. But… And what are… Why
are you expressing deep concerns? Can you articulate that? Why? Because there’s obviously
consequences to the decisions that are being made, but there are
also consequences to the decisions that are being made by Turkey and the inaction of
the European Union as well. So, I have concerns
on a number of fronts, across a number of countries. Tim Watts, do you think Australia
is being forthright enough in expressing
those sorts of concerns? I think the government could have
been more direct in this particular instance
in saying that… What should they have said? Oh, saying that…
announcing the withdrawal in the way the announcement
was made – on Twitter, I might add –
wasn’t helpful and has really triggered a very, uh, catastrophic situation in that area. I just want to sort of address
the nub of Tyler’s question, though, and say, look, we get it
in Australia, you know? Like, to paraphrase one of the great
poets, um, of the United States, like, “America contains multitudes,” you know, “Contains
the best of the world “and some pretty horrible
things as well.” And the Australia-US relia…
Australia-US alliance, it transcends any individual president-to-prime-minister
relationship. It’s bigger than any
individual president. Um, Australia and the US,
we do share similar values around the world. And Australians work
with US diplomats, with US aid workers, with US military forces
and intelligence offices, to try and build that
rules-based international order that is really essential
to a middle power, a sm… ..a country like Australia’s
economic prosperity and our security interests. So, we would miss the Americans
if they’re gone. They are flawed. I understand that. And we ought to express it to them
when they make mistakes, privately in smaller instances and publicly, like, for example, with the decision
to go to war in Iraq in 2003, when the Australian Labor Party
publicly said to the Americans,
“You’re making a mistake here.” Um, but, again, we would miss
the Americans if they’re gone. The net contribution they make
to the world is far more on the positive side
of the ledger. We’ve got a number of Kurdish people
in the audience tonight, including Nader Gariban. Do you think
what you’re hearing shows that Australia is willing
to muscle up to the United States and say if it thinks the US
has done the wrong thing? Do YOU think the United States
has done the wrong thing on leaving northern Syria? Well… (CLEARS THROAT) ..I don’t
think that the United States has done the wrong thing – I think Trump
has done the wrong thing. I should say we thanked the
United States for the help that they provided us
during this war. But what Mr Trump has done is… Absolutely I don’t see
any justification in there. Because today, I was just listening
to one of his speeches, that he was saying that, “We can’t
even protect our southern border. “How can we protect
you guys over there?” Well, if this is the case, how come you call yourself
the leader of this world? How come you send 3,500 soldiers
to Saudi Arabia just a couple of days ago? So, the United States relied
on the Kurds in northern Syria to fight against ISIS. Uh, they were an important ally. How do the Kurds now view, uh,
President Trump as an ally? Well, we…you know,
uh, we…we feel betrayed. You know, that is the word
that we use. I don’t think that
the decision that he’s made is in the interest of anyone,
including the United States. He could have
kept 50 soldiers there. That would have been enough
to prevent Turkey and he’s…then the sort of
jihadist people to advance into the Kurdish area. Do you think, Tim Wilson, that President Trump
has betrayed the Kurds? I think he’s left them
in an incredibly difficult position. Now, I don’t think I can actually
say whether… That’s how he feels, obviously,
and I can understand. I don’t actually think, as not
being part of that community, that I can project that,
but I do think he’s left them in a incredibly difficult situation. And that’s why
I’m extremely concerned. But it… As I keep going back, that’s obviously a decision
of Turkey, which is very, um…disturbing. There’s obviously the role
and the influence that the European Union
could be playing in this theatre and there’s also the role
of the United States. Or… And as you say, your
criticisms toward President Trump. And I’m concerned
about all three parties. Simon Longstaff? President Trump
has betrayed the Kurds. He’s been having conversations
with Erdogan for months now about Turkey’s desire to go
into that area. They’ve been playing chicken
with each other. It was President Trump’s
decision alone and this is in relation to people
who have sacrificed a huge amount as the shock troops to take on
and defeat ISIS, albeit with allied support. But they’re the ones
who are on the ground. And they had reasons to believe, they should have been able
to believe that they could trust in some
of their allies, particularly
the most important of all, to stay true to the sacrifice
that they’d made. They were given some guarantees. Yeah, whether the guarantees
were written in blood or ink, it doesn’t matter,
they were given. That’s a betrayal. And I fear that
that part of that world… Now, what’s the consequences? You’ve got people escap…escaping
from the camps, going back into ISIS strongholds. You had the Kurdish community driven back into the arms of Assad
and the Russians. I mean, how you can justify this
on strategic grounds or any others baffles me. But the human cost
for those communities of people who are now under threat
is terrible. And I think betrayal is the only
word that fairly describes it. Well, yeah, I think it
does describe it. It’s not the first time, of course,
that this has happened. And no-one is going to say that
dealing with Middle East politics, um, is a…is anything other than
horrendous most of the time, with all sorts of, um, human…
grave human consequences and destruction
much of the time. There was, of course, an issue,
with the US saying, “Look, we just…we just keep…
We don’t want to keep going on “over here all the time,
we don’t want to be here.” But I think, in this case,
it’s very obvious, including from the incredible
criticism of Trump’s decision by many of his own party
and many of his strong supporters that this is, in fact,
a grave strategic error, quite apart from the human
catastrophe it involves. And that is, I think, one of
the problems that you see with this president, that he has been
willing to pull out from allies, pull the rug out from allies
so frequently. And certainly, the Kurds are not
alone in that even though… Is it possible in that
context to separate Trump from the United States, as has been
done multiple times this evening? Yes, I think…
He’s the leader of the United States. Well, yes, of course he is,
but, I mean, you know, the US is made up of…of
many people of different opinions. And you’d find no…
no more fierce critics of him than other Americans,
including, of course, the Democrats. But if the alliance
is between peoples, I mean, that didn’t stand for much
for the Kurds, did it? Well, no, but I mean,
as…as Tim also said, I mean, these things do
go…extend past presidents. But in this particular case, in terms of the relationship with a
country like Australia, for example. But I think,
in this particular case, of course
the Kurds would feel betrayed, and I do think it’s actually
against US interests which many of his strongest…
one of… ..many of Trump’s strongest
supporters have made clear. Our next question is a video
from Giselle Hall, an Australian filmmaker
and former aid worker who’s just crossed out of Syria
into Iraqi Kurdistan. Hi, my question is about
the Australian women and children stranded in camps in northern Syria. Our government was warned again
and again about the human rights and security risks
of leaving people in these camps and they failed to act. Now it seems like a worst-case
scenario is unfolding where adults who could’ve faced
the justice system are escaping, and children who could have been
safely brought home are in grave danger. Given these latest developments,
how is the Australian government planning to fulfil its obligations
to these Australian children who are in this situation
through no fault of their own? We will come to Tim Wilson
in a moment, but Simon Longstaff, this is an
incredibly difficult moral question for Australia, isn’t it? In some ways,
it’s a very easy question, I think. You’ve got Australian citizens – I’m thinking here particularly
of the children that Giselle’s just spoken of – who, through no fault of themselves, find themselves exposed
before this event, and particularly now,
after the event, to what I think for us, for most
of us, would be unimaginable danger. And I understand why the government
was trying to be cautious in its…in its treatment
of these people, but there was always
a reasonable prospect of harm befalling these people. And I think, on balance,
most Australians would say the adult should be held to account
for the decisions that they’ve made. We should take responsibility
for them – our fellow citizens – and hold them for account
here within our justice system. It’s been set up to do that and particularly do that
so that those children are not exposed to danger. The… That’s why I think it’s a… ..it’s a fairly straight answer
to such a question, that that’s what we ought
to have done. And people might say,
“Oh, well, it’s hard to tell,” and that, you know, it’s all
very well now me saying this with the benefit of hindsight, but I think those principles
could’ve been applied prospectively. Tim Wilson, is it that simple? Well, it’s never that simple,
but the spirit of the comment around children
not being held accountable for the conduct of their parents,
I agree with. The challenge – and the technical
challenge we’ve always faced – is making sure we protect
the security of every Australian
in managing the situation. And so what the government has said
and will continue to do is to work through the issue
and to make sure that Australia’s security
isn’t compromised in the process of confronting it. There’s been no hard decisions
that have been made. It’s working
through each individual case to do what we can do
to protect Australia and protect Australian citizens.
Do… Do… Don’t we have to have to…
take some risks for the sake of those children? I mean…
And that’s… I don’t think be foolish about it, but we could have brought them
back under secure conditions. They could have been… And these… These are exactly
the sort of considerations that are being weighed up
to make sure that we protect the interests of Australians
who are here, while also making sure we deal with and confront
those challenges. Now, the individual ca…
So, why… There appeared to be a window of
opportunity to do that. Why wasn’t it done? Well, respectfully, you’d have to
ask that question to the Minister, because obviously I’m not involved
in the decision-making. But what we’re… The clear focus is to try and do what we can do
for Australian citizens in the circumstances
that present themselves. Of course, we didn’t send those… But then that opportunity
may have gone. Well, we didn’t send those people
there, as you know. And the situation that particularly
the children have put them… ..are in is not the consequence
of the Australian government. We have choices we have to make about how we manage this situation
and it has to be done on the basis of protecting
every Australian as well as considering the interests
of those people. Do you accept that it may,
in fact, be much harder and more dangerous to do now
than it was a week ago? Yes, I do accept that. Jennifer Hewett,
what’s your view on this? Well, I think it’s, as usual,
one of the… ..whenever you talk
about the Middle East, one of those incredibly complicated
situations where there’s no… I don’t think it is quite as easy
as Simon said, and… The ethical question is. Maybe the practicalities…
Well, the practical question is what governments tend
to deal with, I think. Why is it practically so difficult? I think it was quite difficult to go in and rescue the children,
and risk… ..and then figure out what to do
with their…their parents, their mothers, usually. And I think
the moment’s been lost anyway. But it was not…it was not
a simple, “Oh, we’ll just go in “and get them
and then come out again “and everything will be alright.” And then you do have the idea of, what would happen
to the parents in Australia? I think they would go through
the…the justice system, they would certainly be separated
from their…from their mother. If that’s what you would actually
think is important. There are former jihadists
back in Australia now that have been put
through the court system. Is it a problem necessarily to have
them here and treat them in that way? To…to treat the adult jihadists?
Yeah. Treat them… Well, I think it’s…
it’s just another thing that they will be…which will
end up in jail, most of them, I would imagine. So, if you’re saying
that should the mothers have been brought out
to face the justice system, along with…because of their
children, or along with their children?
Well… Yes. Yes, I think they probably
should have been, but again, it was not…it had to
be dealt with, I think, on a… ..in a way that was quite
practically difficult, and took time. I do think many of the countries
whose citizens were there acting as jihadists
do have responsibility to take them back
and deal with them that way. But I just think this idea that…
that it’s, you know… ..that it was somehow the fault
of the Australian government, that they were there and that these
children are put in this situation is also not reasonable. Vicky Xu, how do you view this?
Do you think Australia has some responsibility
for these children, particularly to bring them back here? Absolutely. Australia… I don’t think Australia should leave
its citizens stateless. And, as a matter of fact, there is a very high possibility
that these camps will be captured
by the Assad government, which not only regularly,
but also systematically, tortures people and this is not something
we want to see that happen to Australian citizens, no matter what
their belief systems are. What would happen, Tim Wilson,
if these people fell into the hands of the Syrian government
and were kept in a prison there? What would our responsibility
be then? Well, our responsibility
would be what it is now, which we have to confront the
practical reality of the situation
we haven’t created. And, you know, my hope, obviously, is that every Australian citizen
is safe, but going back to the point,
we have to do it in a way that works through
the challenge here. Because the big concern
that the government has, and it’s not just one that’s
randomly political or partisan, it’s the challenge we have
where people have gone off into conflicted areas
where there are failed states, where there may not be the evidence
to deal with issues around cr… ..uh, crimes and where they’ve
been committed in making sure they go through proper processes
when they return home. Now, sometimes we can do that, but sometimes
we don’t have that information. That’s why we have a…a rich
complex area of laws that deal with the issues around foreign fighters
and everything else. And what we don’t want is people
to come through because, of course, not unreasonably, should
that situation arise and emerge, people will say,
“What did you do about it? “Why did you allow this situation
to create itself?” So, these are…
Jen’s right, it’s… The practicalities
are extremely complicated. And we’ve got to make
practical decisions about what’s in the best interests
of keeping every Australian safe. Tim Watts, it is obviously easier,
I suppose, to solve things from opposition,
but do you see a solution here? Well, Hamish, I think the
important point that Giselle made was that this is something we’ve
seen coming for quite some time. Aid groups on the ground there
like Save The Children have been talking to
parliamentarians and warning us that the window to safely extract
these people would close. It seems like the present situation, the complexity of the status
of these people, is dramatically worse now. And do you think that window
has closed? It’s impossible for me to say
from opposition, Hamish. I have even less information than…
than Tim on this. I should say, though, I don’t
think anyone is trying to say that this is the government’s fault that these people
are in this situation. I think the argument here is that we do have an obligation to
Australian citizens, children, who, by no fault of their own,
find themselves in this situation. I mean, you know, we’d want
an Australian government to look after our own children
if they were in this situation. But what can the government do now? Well, it…it seems that the options are becoming
fewer and fewer, Hamish. But that’s why I say
that the point Giselle made is that there may well
have been a time in the past where there are
more options available. Tim and I both voted for
a number of pieces of legislation designed to facilitate the return
of people from these areas, to put criminals on trial,
put them in jail, which I don’t know
how you could be any more safe and any more secure
than jailing jihadists. Seems like a good response to me. There are a also range of provisions for, you know, control orders
and surveillance and, you know,
keeping an eye on people that we’re not too sure about. So, the infrastructure was there. It just hasn’t happened
before that window closed, it seems. Alright, our next question
tonight is from Mark Nalder. So, Donald Trump just recently
asked Scott Morrison to assist the White House
in discrediting the Mueller probe and, by all reports,
he’s agreed to do so. What are the ethical problems
with this and are there any legal problems
with this decision? Simon Longstaff, ethical problems.
Mm. Well, I think there’s already been
some distinction made earlier on between
the United States and its president. And I think the Prime Minister
has been walking a very difficult tightrope between being a friend and ally
of the United States, and perhaps inadvertently
being seen as a personal friend, a mate, if you like,
of President Trump. And what the Prime Minister
and the government was asked to do, effectively,
by the United States was to investigate
our own government, our former foreign minister. There’s been various, I think,
quite strongly misleading claims made about what Alexander
was doing or not doing. And I think this is where the issue
which is frequently mentioned about our expectation
that an Australian prime minister will act exclusively in Australian
interests has to be placed. We…we want him to get on.
So I don’t want to… I don’t want to take away the
difficulty of how he has to do this, particularly for a personality
like President Trump. Yeah, I mean, shouldn’t or couldn’t
Scott Morrison be, in fact, praised for making friends
with someone like Donald Trump who is incredibly mercurial
and difficult to… I think he…I think
he could be praised for finding a way to relate
to Mr Trump, who I’ve never met, so… He just looks, from afar, as a…a
really challenging personality. (LAUGHTER)
A euphemism if ever there was one. But…but also, I mean,
he has to think too that there’s…you know,
I don’t know what will happen in the next election
in the United States, but he has to think
about the possibility, whether it’s through
impeachment succeeding, or through the electoral process of not being seen
to have been too partisan to that individual,
as opposed to being, as I say, a good friend
of the United States. And I think there are ethical issues
about what he’s agreed to do, how readily he’s done it,
in terms of looking into Downer, which seems to be what it was. But I think there are also political
considerations as well. Jennifer Hewett, do you see
any ethical problems there? I mean, he was asked by the US
President to assist with something, he very publicly said yes. Yes, I don’t see
any ethical problems at all, basically because Alexander Downer
did nothing wrong. And you can say, “Well, yes,
we’ve looked at this “and this is what happened,”
and that’s… But most of it’s
on the public record anyway. So I do not see
any ethical considerations. What I do see is a lot
of political considerations and to Simon’s point, you know, this
is a very difficult relationship with the US at the moment. But I think Morrison
has handled it pretty well. And I do not think
that there’s any danger, really, of him seeing somehow as
some acolyte or mate of Trump’s, but I think he’s behaved and
has kept stressing, which I think
is politically important for him, that everything he does is
in Australia’s national interest. Now, you may disagree, or… And certainly,
I’m sure the Labor Party often does disagree with that, but I think he’s talking
to…to voters in Australia and he’s…I think he’s done
a reasonable job of convincing them that he has not gone too far or would not compromise
Australia’s interests. I want to put this back to Mark. You’ve heard two very different views
on the ethical question here, did either of them convince you? If you’re going to shake someone
with muddy hands, that mud’s going to stick to yours
as well, so… So, that’s just the price you pay
for dealing with Donald Trump? Is that essentially
what you’re saying? Yeah.
Do you accept that, Tim Wilson? Well, I don’t quite because the basis of
the relationship we have with the United States
transcends, firstly, a president. The Prime Minister has to engage
with the President. We don’t elect who that person is. And so he has to shake hands
and engage with those… ..with that president regardless
of whether he likes him or not. And so long as proper process around
investigations is being followed, it’s not uncommon for Australia to cooperate
with foreign governments when investigations are appropriate. But we need to make sure
we have confidence in the robustness of their legal
system and their…their system to make sure that
it’s being done appropriately. And that’s the basis
in which the government has sought to work through. And exactly,
as Jennifer Hewett just outlined, there’s…it’s been
pretty straightforward so far. Mark, you’ve got your hand up again.
What? Would you agree to assist him? Would you agree to assist
an inquiry? Well, I… It would be
completely inappropriate to me because I have no party
or no involvement with, and nor…nor am I part
of a court system, so… But if I was working in a capacity
around making sure that something is done
as part of a fair process, as part of a justice system, I don’t believe that
it’s responsible to turn around and say, “I don’t think the law
should apply in this case or not,” or I should be able to turn a blind
eye to certain activities. I think the point, though,
he’s got to be careful on is, is this a process, a legal process
in search of justice? Or has the inquiry been initiated
for political purposes, in order to discredit Mueller as
part of a larger political agenda? And I think, you know…
We’re… I think… As I say, I’ve got a lot of sympathy
for the Prime Minister in this. It’s a very delicate position
he’s in, because he cannot afford… I don’t think we can afford,
as a nation, to be seen as having become partisan
in a political process. That’s the difficult…
Now, how…how he manages that, he’s far better-equipped to make
that decision than I. JENNIFER: Heaven forbid
that any inquiry should be done for political purposes.
(LAUGHTER) Yeah, but…but…but heaven forbid
if you become enmeshed in it. That’s the problem. I think that’s a good point to turn
to our last question tonight. It’s from Ken Lough. Yeah, my question
is about ethics and it is directed
to Simon Longstaff. It appears that politics,
politicians, ethics and honesty
are strange bedfellows when you consider the ABC’s recent
Australia Talks survey, which suggests
that 90% of Australians do not trust politicians, that 70% of Australians think that political correctness
has gone too far. Do you believe that this is correct and is there a comment
you’d like to make or a solution you could suggest? Well, thanks very much, Ken. A couple of things about that. Has political correctness
gone too far? Yes. As has what might be called
conservative correctness. Any kind of correctness
amongst those who peddle righteous
indig…indignation, that tries to shut down
conversations, I think, is injurious to the kind of life
that we want to live. So, I’m opposed to them, wherever they’re part
of the political spectrum. But the core of your question,
I think, about trust in institutions goes to something we were discussing
earlier on about identity, which became a discussion about,
you know, the mix of people and inclusion and things like that. I think it’s a much bigger question. I mentioned it in an earlier answer
about this concept of the ethical infrastructure
of a society. We need technical infrastructure,
we need physical infrastructure and we also need to have
healthy ethical infrastructure – the way that
the professions operate, the role of political parties, the way in which
parliaments operate. A proper recognition
amongst politicians and we, the citizens, that
our relationship can’t be reduced to ones of transactions. We are not their customers
in government. We are, as citizens, the source
of all authority which is exercised by the political class. And I know lots of politicians – I mean, there’s two of them here –
who will have been motivated, I think, by high ideals
that have gone in. But something happens inside
that system, at the moment, which, although it delivers us… ..delivers a peaceful transfer
of power, which is a remarkable thing
in itself, has become divorced, I think,
from what we expect. We expect something higher
and better, I think, from those
who go into political life. And whether it’s politicians
or the public service or a whole range of institutions, I think we need
to look seriously at them. Because when you lose trust to
the degree to which the public has – and it’s clear
it’s not about parties, it’s right across the board – I think we damage
our ability as a society both to realise the good
that’s before us, but particularly, I think, we are going to need
to fix this infrastructure because of the challenges we face.
Ken… AI, geo-politics and all the rest, they’re massive challenges
we face. Ken, are you among the 90%
of Australians that don’t trust politicians? Uh, yes, I’d say I am.
(LAUGHTER) Vicky, I’d like your perspective
on this, then. You’ve talked a lot about China
and your distrust for leaders there. Are you surprised
that 90% of Australians don’t trust our politicians, or do you think
they’re right to have that mistrust? I’m not super surprised and I think it’s probably
somewhat healthy. It is somewhat healthy when you can
distrust your politicians, you can doubt them,
you can challenge them. It’s not necessarily
a bad thing. Whereas in authoritarian countries,
you have controlled media, you have politicians…
you have journalists delivering talking points
from politicians. And you have this trust that exists
where people follow the party, where people follow
the government’s policies, where people repeat talking lies. Um…one example would be
Hong Kong as an economic issue. I’m sorry, but Hong Kong
is not an economic issue. You know, this is what
the Chinese government would try to make people believe. This is what’s been repeated
in the Chinese media. But… And, unfortunately,
you have a general public that actually believes that. I want to give our politicians
a chance to respond to this. (APPLAUSE) I mean, let’s do it
in about the length of a tweet. (LAUGHTER) What would you say to Ken about
the reason to trust our politicians? Well, I’d say in the first instance
that I feel it really acutely, it really does cause me a lot of
despair, those statistics. And I feel them in my community
as well, talking to people one-on-one. The thing I’d say is
that this is a catholic trend. It’s happening around the world,
not just in Australia, which suggests to me,
that it’s something systemic… JENNIFER: Not just in politicians,
too. And not just in politicians.
In institutions, in general. My theory is that
there’s something in the way that we interact with each other
in the technological space that’s broken that trust. And we haven’t built
the new institutions that we need yet to build trust. Tim, how…what would your pitch be
to trust politicians? Well, firstly, I’d say whatever… And I take the comments
that Simon made, but whatever my disagreements
with Tim, I actually do believe he was motivated to get into
politics by high ideals and I believe, even
when I disagree with him, he’s still pursuing that, while
dealing with the practical realities and I would very much apply
that to myself. Because one of the core reasons
I got involved in politics, the philosophy that motivated me to try and do the best
for the nation. Everyone will have their own
interpretations, but I’ve got to say,
I also agree with Vicky. I mean, I’m a Liberal, I’m naturally
sceptical of centralised power and I don’t actually think it’s
always bad that people distrust. One of the reasons why we have… If you go to a lot of authoritarian
countries – you’re exactly right – there’s a very high degree,
because people have no alternative. Whereas one of the consequences
of a high degree of transparency – and that is occurring across…
lots of institutions – is it means that people question,
they challenge, they contrast, and they raise
questions about the trust that they have in people
and institutions for that reason. And they see the difference,
I think, also and that’s part of the transparency,
between what people say and what they do.
That’s also true. Well… KEN: It’s also being held
responsible. That’s right. We hold them responsible
on this program every week. That’s all we’ve got time
for tonight. Would you please thank our panel –
Simon Longstaff, Tim Wilson, Vicky Xu, Jennifer Hewett
and Tim Watts. And you can continue the discussion
on Facebook and on Twitter right now. Next week on Q&A,
Annabel Crabb will be in the chair to host a special look at the big
challenges facing our governments. Do we have the political tools
to deal with potential disasters? On the panel next week,
leading epidemiologist and former Australian of the Year
Fiona Stanley, science communicator and author
of Surviving The 21st Century, Julian Cribb, and political leader
turned thought leader, John Hewson. Until next Monday,
have a great night. Captions by Red Bee Media Copyright Australian
Broadcasting Corporation

Maurice Vega

28 Responses

  1. We live in a vassal state of the US where the Washington puppets in Canberra push through US Imperial policy in our name; and where the US owned and controlled media pump Washington imperial propaganda down our throats. And while these fifth column traitors in Canberra and the media promote the interests of these imperial plutocrats by spewing this garbage we see tonight, more innocents will die in countries unmentioned to increase the wealth and power of the global Plutocrats. What you are watching is a panel of spin merchants creating a narrative to support Anglo-American Imperialism.

  2. If multiculturalism works well here on a community level, but not on a political level, I suggest that would have something to do with dual citizens having to give up their extra Australian citizenship claims. I also suggest that is entirely as it should be. Politics in Australia should be confined to single citizenship to this country.

  3. If we want to point at china looking past Nauru and what we do in the middle East we will get laughed at by Asia and left in the cold.

  4. How's the Chinese chick saying the last 100 years of the west destroying Asia making china fight for payment of anything other than opium is partially true…….

    Gtfo. You traitor.

  5. The left only care about the children when they are foreign children whose parents hate Australia, they are happy to promote the infanticide of the children of our own nationality.

  6. What is the definition of freedom here?free to throw petrol bombs?free to attack civilians randomly who do not agree with you? Free to rob shops? Free to destroy metro System?YOU ARE ASKING A WESTERN COUNTRRY TO SUPPORT TERRORISM!

  7. A democracy that does not limit the majority or the government is a tyranny.

    "A democracy, if you attach meaning to terms, is a system of unlimited majority rule; the classic example is ancient Athens. And the symbol of it is the fate of Socrates, who was put to death legally, because the majority didn’t like what he was saying, although he had initiated no force and had violated no one’s rights.
    Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom . . . .
    The American system is a constitutionally limited republic, restricted to the protection of individual rights. In such a system, majority rule is applicable only to lesser details, such as the selection of certain personnel. But the majority has no say over the basic principles governing the government. It has no power to ask for or gain the infringement of individual rights."

    Leonard Peikoff,
    The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series, Lecture 9

  8. note the two faced attitude from the "ethicist". He says we need to understand china but has doesnt have a problem calling Trump all sorts of names. Where is the "understanding" there?

  9. 19:20 "Multicultural society with mono-cultural institutions??" multiculturalism shouldn't be the goal, what should be the goal is unity of vision for the future where we don't encourage diversity of thought for its own sake usually borne of culture, but instead foster 'thinking correctly' i.e. thinking that is in line with the most historically successful methodology for arriving at solutions to problems, science.

  10. 24:10 "We should admire any person who is willing to take action in defense of their beliefs" not if those beliefs are the impetus to cause others(human & non-human) to suffer unnecessarily, e.g. I would not admire a Head Hunter of the Amazon for standing up for their beliefs, I remind you that these people's religious/spiritual belief deems that killing someone not a member of their tribe will endow them with the strength of that diseased person.

  11. pro Beijing cheerleaders (like the apologist at 12:23) get to use their freedom of speech, thought, etc in Australia to bat for Red China with zero consequences. Meanwhile a person in Red China who puts out even a tweet supporting democracy is sent to the gulags and fed to the dogs. Funny double standards. When are we going to wake up, pull our heads from the backside because we are too busy trying to make money and start fighting back?

  12. 27:20 the comparison of HOng Kong with the extinction rebellion is ludicrous. These extinction rebels can get rid of their leaders anytime they wish, the people of Hong Kong cant because the leaders are all lapdogs of Beijing

  13. 1:00:50 the lady has it righ. These polls about people distrusting politicians are as informative as polls from North Korea which show 99% of north koreans supporting the Rocket Man Kim Jong Un. They need to be viewed with a massive grain of salt.

  14. The US were in a lose lose situation here. For so long people have known of America with the Kurds and yet did nothing to take up the responsibility. America have always been criticized for world policing and now withdrawing from an area gets them criticized as well. Maybe the world will start to notice how lucky we are that America has been running around the world being the toothed tiger, (not the UN) helping countries instate democracy. And if you don't want the world policed well then expect the worst from every country which is still fighting for land which they claimed hundreds of years ago.

  15. I quite enjoy Hamish McDonald hosting the show. All round quite a good week with everyone (even the politicians) engaging in the topics on hand.

  16. Great, can you now do an episode on the aparthied-like regime of Israel And all the human rights violations and opression on daily basis against the native people of the Holy Land (the poor Palestinian ppl)

  17. We are selling out Australia for the Chinese Yuan Its just a matter of time when Australia will be taking instructions from Beijing

  18. So Xi Jinping's lackeys in Hong Kong are dealing with a cultural revolution. Recept Erdogan has launched an illegal war in Syria. But some how the audience got so hot and bothered about Donald Trump that they spent MORE time talking about him than those two other actual fascists.

    Simply amazing

  19. About that ccp (chinese communist party) plant in the audience.this must be our way of outsourcing our "Western guilt".

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