Subjects: Australian Open, Queensland senate contest, Women’s safety
CHRIS KENNY: Now you’ll remember that last night I had a go at Tennis Australia for banning protests about missing Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. It's a problem for this country, isn't it? We can't complain about Chinese censorship and human rights abuses and then crush and silence the protests in this country directed at China. Well, good sense has finally triumphed, and Tennis Australia has changed its ruling today, allowing the wearing of protest T-shirts at the Australian Open. People won't be evicted and have their T-shirts confiscated any more. Their hand was forced largely because activists were planning to hand out dozens of T-shirts, which would have created quite a scene there tonight. So well done to those activists. Let's hope the stands tonight, though, are full of Peng Shuai T-shirts. In fact, to make amends Tennis Australia really ought to print some T shirts itself and handed out for free.
Let me bring in the LNP Senator and Assistant Attorney-General Amanda Stoker. Thanks for joining us, Amanda. You must have been pleased about this change of heart from Tennis Australia. We can't kowtow to China on issues like this.
AMANDA STOKER: Hi Chris, thanks for having me on the show. I am happy to see the change, although I do have some reservations about the sincerity of the concern that Tennis Australia now expresses for Peng Shuai. I mean, if they were truly concerned about her well-being and welfare, they wouldn't have been getting in the way of those people who want to express the fact that she should be free, because she should be free. It's very troubling when we see people in this country prepared to censor what should be up for discussion in our community because it may offend a government or companies closely linked to the government of another country.
CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, I've got to, say I agree with you. And I went a bit further last night; my argument is that for Australia to carry weight on these arguments, we have to live those values our self. And I know your government cancelled you Novak Djokovic’s visa, because of his anti-vax views – not because he broke any immigration rules, that was contested in the first case, after that, the minister deported him because his of his views. Now, I put it to you that we would have been
disgusted and expressed our dismay if China did that. So it weakens our argument, doesn't it, when we're prepared to deport someone based on their views?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, you know, Chris, that I've got a strong view that this country, as a whole, needs to be able to be grown up and robust enough to cope with debates of all kinds, on all issues, however sensitive they may be. And that's important because it goes to our ability, not just to get along civilly with people with whom we don't agree, it also goes to our ability to think critically, to
solve problems, and those skill sets are the key to us being able to grow and succeed as a nation. So I take a very broad view of what should come within the remit of free speech. Now I take your point, and I think it is very important that free speech be something that we are all prepared to fight for, even on unpopular subjects.
CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, well said, because it's a difficult one now, in hindsight. We want to keep it in touch with you throughout the year, because you've got that really difficult Senate contest in Queensland. So many strong conservative figures contesting so few Senate spots. I'm wondering whether you're thinking already about a switch to the lower house. A lot of people would like to see that regardless because they see you as leadership material.
AMANDA STOKER: Oh, that's a very common compliment to receive. I'm really proud to represent my party and Queenslanders. And I'm optimistic that as Queenslanders go to the ballot box, they will realise that whenever they votes of the centre right fragment into minor parties who can tell you whatever you want to hear but never have to deliver, the only thing they ever get – it's a statistical certainty – is a Green. And that should really focus the mind as each of us goes to cast a vote.
CHRIS KENNY: Alright, now I want to get your thoughts on what happened to the Lodge this morning, when Grace Tame turned up, as the outgoing Australian of the year, and could not have made it plainer in her demeanour about her disdain for the prime minister. Your thoughts?
AMANDA STOKER: Well look, she's entitled to a view, and we're not always going to agree on these things. But despite that behaviour, the fact remains: this is a government that has done more investment into women's safety than any government previous. More than $2 billion invested into women's safety since 2013, more than $1.7 billion into women's economic security, more into women's leadership than any other government previous. So I prefer to focus on the facts rather than the photo ops.
CHRIS KENNY: What about that attitude, as the Australian of the year. Isn't it divisive when you try to embarrass the prime minister like that?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think so. And that's why I want Australians not to be focussed on that behaviour, but to be focussed on the facts. And the facts are that we have delivered more to protect the safety of women, the cause that she professes to fight for, than any other government previous. If I were her, I'd be going to give the prime minister a hug.
CHRIS KENNY: Thanks for joining us, Senator. I appreciate it.
AMANDA STOKER: Thanks.
CHRIS KENNY: Amanda Stoker, the assistant attorney general.