Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Annelise Nielsen – Sky News – Tuesday 27 August 2019

SUBJECTS: Dr Yang Hengjun; ICAC; US-China Trade War
KIERAN GILBERT: Lets go live to Labor frontbencher Jason Clare I want to ask you about Yang Hengjun the Australian citizen detained since January. According to what we’ve had reports out of the Nine papers, now confirmed by my colleague Eliza Edwards that he’s been charged with spying. What’s your reaction to that?

JASON CLARE: Well Kieran, it’s obviously very concerning that news has broken that he’s been arrested and charged in China. I understand that my colleague Penny Wong has asked the Foreign Minister’s office for a briefing on that. The Government has made some initial remarks. We will seek some more detail on what’s actually happened and the reason for his arrest from the Department of Foreign Affairs and from the Foreign Minister’s office.
ANNELISE NIELSEN: While we are waiting for those details we do at least know that he has been detained without charge since January. That’s quite a serious predicament for an Australian citizen. Do you think the Government’s been doing enough in that time to advocate for him?

CLARE: Well it’s a difficult question to answer Annelise because a lot of the good work that’s done here is not in front of a camera. It’s done quietly between officials of the two countries and so I’m not criticizing the government for that. Obviously as an Australian citizen here who’s been arrested we want to get as much information as we possibly can about why he’s been arrested and that’s why we have sought a briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The sooner we get that information the better.

GILBERT: The developments out of ICAC must be concerning in relation to the New South Wales Labor Party. As someone who has been a senior figure in the party in that state for some time. That was quite an explosive start to that ICAC hearing yesterday. You must be concerned about what you saw.

CLARE: Very concerned. Very serious evidence that was presented before ICAC yesterday. My response to that Kieran, is the same response I’ve given you when we’ve done interviews in the past, whether it’s been the Labor Party or the Liberal Party that has been before ICAC. If there’s evidence that’s brought to bear that people have broken the law then the full weight of the law should fall down upon them. No one is above the law and there’s an important message that comes out of the evidence that we’ve seen yesterday and that we will see over the course of the next few weeks and that is if you break the law you will get caught. That’s the purpose of the Independent Commission Against Corruption here in New South Wales. That’s why I’ve argued that we should have one a national level as well.

NIELSEN: In particular this allegation that there was an Aldi bag with $100,000 in cash handed over is just really quite extraordinary. Is there any scenario in which that would be okay in federal politics?

CLARE: No. It’s just an extraordinary piece of evidence that came before the ICAC yesterday. The only way that I can respond to it is to say that this is just an extremely serious piece of evidence that’s come before ICAC which indicates that the law has been broken and no one is above the law. And if more evidence comes before the ICAC that proves that case and we have recommendations by the ICAC that this will be referred to the DPP and that charges should be laid then so be it. No one’s above the law. And if the criminal justice system finds that people have committed a crime then the book should be thrown at them.

GILBERT: Obviously it’s an ongoing hearing so not a lot further we can drill into that at this point. But let’s talk about this other development out of the G7. It’s very hard to keep track on where the Trump China Trade War is at. But the latest move appears to look like some thawing in that. That would be good news if there were to be some resolution to it. Do the political benefits to Trump in terms of taking on China outweigh the negatives?

CLARE: It’s a hard question to answer Kieran. There’s reason for optimism. We’re hearing good noises from the US President and from the Chinese that they’re keen to do a deal. What’s true is that both sides are hurting. The whole world is hurting. We’ve seen negative quarter of economic growth in Germany and in the UK. You’ve seen what’s happened to the stock market here in Australia and in the US, as well as in Hong Kong and in China. The people of the United States are hurting. One of the reasons that the President postponed the tariffs that were set to be implemented recently until after Christmas is because he’s concerned about the impact on retail sales over the Christmas period. So if you’re in an environment where both sides are hurting and in particular where the United States is hurting, then there’s good reason to think that a deal could be done. But I wouldn’t overstate that. We’ve been here before and any deal that is done, I don’t think will resolve the entire issue. What I think is most likely to happen here is that we should expect that confrontation, economic confrontation, between these two heavyweights is going to continue in the years and in the decades ahead. That this is the new normal, that two large countries, two economic super powers, like China and the United States, are going to rub up against each other on lots of different issues, across the board, over the course of the next few years over the next few decades. And it’s up to countries like ourselves and other countries that are around that table at the G7 to encourage both countries to sort these problems out and to work together in their interests but also in the interest of all of the countries in the world.

NIELSEN: Now Jason Clare we’ve just had a statement coming into the newsroom from the Foreign Minister Marise Payne. The statement is on Yang Hengjun and says ‘the Government is very concerned and disappointed to learn that Australian citizen and academic Dr Yang Hengjun was formally arrested in China on suspicion of espionage on the 23rd of August and will continue to be criminally detained. Our thoughts are with Dr Yang and his family at this very difficult time. We have serious concerns for Dr Yang’s welfare and about the conditions under which he’s being held. We have expressed these in clear terms to the Chinese authorities’. What are your thoughts about that statement that’s just come from Foreign Minister Marise Payne?
CLARE: I welcome that statement. I share her concerns as expressed in that statement and I’m glad that they’ve expressed those concerns to the Chinese Government. The next step as I said is to get more details from Chinese authorities about what are the reasons that this Australian citizen has been detained.
GILBERT: Jason Clare we appreciate your time today and thoughts on that developing news. We’ll talk to you soon.