AM Agenda with Tom Connell

26 October 2023


Tom Connell (Host): Joining me now is Assistant Trade Minister Tim Ayres. For more on this and the rest of the day's news, thank you for your time. What did you make of this? The ambassador seemed a bit perhaps put off by what he saw. I don't know. Is it wavering support? Is there a caveat on Australia's support now for Israel?


Tim Ayres : Well, the Foreign Minister's had an entirely consistent position all the way through this, that is that this unspeakable atrocity by Hamas into Israel is utterly condemned, and the Australian government has condemned it, along with governments around the world. But I think there has been revulsion around the world for this extraordinary attack on civilian life by Hamas. And the government has asserted, along with governments around the world, that Israel has a right to defend itself. But Minister Wong has made the point as well, from the day of this atrocity by Hamas all the way through, that it is very important, fundamental to protect civilian life. And I listen to some of, not all of the Israeli ambassadors contribution, but I don't think there's much disagreement between people here in Australia that civilian life is very important. Whether they are Israeli citizens or Palestinian citizens in Gaza, it is very important to protect civilian life.


Tom Connell. So, I think just about everyone would agree with that. Where is the bar set, though, for Israel? Because it appears as though what has happened in the past is happening again, that Hamas makes a lot of their targets, that they're around civilians, whether that's deliberate, whether they make them stay there or whatever it might be. Meaning if Israel want to strike at Hamas military targets where rockets are being fired, there inevitably will be civilian casualties. So, is the bar for Israel set too high of people say no civilian can be hurt? Given Hamas tactics and given you're saying Israel should be able to defend itself.


Tim Ayres: Well, these are very challenging circumstances. And what the Australian government is saying and President Biden has said and senior officials in the United States have made clear and countries around the world have been made clear, is that it is very important that civilian life is protected. Now, these are very challenging and very grim circumstances, and I'm not going to sit here in a television studio and pretend to make predictions about what is going to happen in the future, but just say, as a matter of principle, that's what should apply. And the Australian Government's got some - we've got some issues here that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have been very focused on making it really clear we condemn this revolting assault on civilians in Israel, making it obviously clear that Israel has a right to defend itself. Working with the rest of the international community to make sure not just protecting civilian life Tom which is very important. But know there is, of course, a concern about how this proceeds. But also, Tom, we have to make sure we support Australians who are in the region and finally, of course, making sure that we maintain social cohesion in Australia and words matter. And the way that all of us conduct ourselves in this discussion really does matter. And I think the Government has been doing a very careful job of making sure that all of those issues are attended to.


Tom Connell: Only a minute left in the programme, so you'll need to be direct here. But I know that's right in your wheelhouse, Senator. What about a fuel excise cut? Right now, given inflation and given fuel is a big driver of it, and we've got another war, probably spiking prices, is it a good time to at least consider that?


Tim Ayres: Well, we don't make tax policy on the run, Tom. Not here on Sky, not as a Government. Our ten point plan to attack the cost of living has been effective. In the Treasurer's announcement yesterday, electricity prices have gone up by around 6%. That's putting pressure on families, but they would have gone up 18.6% without the Albanese Government's cap on measures on electricity and gas. Childcare prices have reduced very significantly for Australian households. The cost of medicine has gone down. I'm not pretending, okay? I'm not pretending that there is what about petrol -


Tom Connell: There is not pressure on as a consideration.


Tim Ayres: Well, we are not making policy on the run. We have got a serious suite of measures out there that are having a real impact for Australian families. And our budget settings are all about keeping downward pressure on inflation and on interest rates.


Tom Connell: All right, which maybe that could do. Anyway, I'll try again next time, Senator. See you later. Bye.