Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 15 December


SUBJECTS: Request for Australian warship in the Red Sea; Hamas-Israel conflict; AUKUS; Aviation; Christmas.

NATALIE BARR: The Defence Minister is considering sending an Australian warship to the Red Sea as Uranian-backed Houthi rebels target international vessels with missiles. The United States has requested support from 39 countries, including us to help guard the region.

Acting Prime Minister, Richard Marles says a decision will be made in due course, but the focus of the Navy is on our immediate region. For more let’s bring in Education Minister, Jason Clare, and the Acting Opposition Leader, Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you. Jason, what do you think? Should we commit a warship to the Middle East?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: You hit it on the head there, the Acting Prime Minister said we’ll consider it, but the focus of our Navy is as you’d expect in our part of the world.

It’s almost Christmas, Nat, and I think most Australians would be hoping to see peace on the other side of the world.

The conflict’s now been going for almost 70 days. More than 7,000 kids have been killed in those 70 days, and more under rubble. That’s more than 100 kids a day. Think about that in the context of all the kids in two childcare centres or three childcare centres, being lost each and every day. And I think all Australians would want to see that end as soon as it possibly can.

BARR: Yeah, and peace, I’m afraid, seems a long way off from this distance around the world, doesn’t it. Sussan, this would be a major escalation of our involvement. Should we go?

SUSSAN LEY: Nat, this is a serious request from our closest ally. Obviously, the Red Sea is a critical part of the world when it comes to international shipping and international trade. I don’t know why Jason has immediately pivoted to a separate but related issue. I genuinely want to know if the government is not going to accept this request, then why not?

We’ve just seen the US Congress pass critical components of AUKUS, and that underscores the really important geostrategic relationship between ourselves and the US at this critical time.

So we should support our closest ally, we should genuinely consider their request. If we’re not going to do that, then I want to know why. I want the Prime Minister and his ministers to explain to the Australian people why we are not.

BARR: Yeah. Well, I guess we’re considering it. We’ve just had the Defence Minister saying we’re considering it, and, you know, I guess we have to wait till they consider it.

Moving on, Qantas is sounding the alarm on a potential new mandatory compensation scheme if there’s ‑ air fares will go up if the Government introduces this kind of European‑style system where passengers are paid when flights are delayed for more than three hours.

Jason, Jason, Jason, what do you say to this one?

CLARE: I’m thinking of all of those Aussies that have been sitting at the airport for hours waiting for flights thinking, hey, what did I pay for here? We’re considering this, because there’s a lot of Aussies that have been pretty dirty with Qantas, and other airlines as well, in terms of the last couple of years.

You buy a service, you order a service, you expect to get it. I know that’s what happens when you order a pizza. I think it’s pretty legitimate to be thinking about this and thinking, if you don’t get what you paid for, you deserve a bit of compensation.

BARR: So, Sussan, it can’t be the weather, it has to be the airline’s fault, this is what happens in Europe. We have all sat there when some kind of airline has some kind of delay. Do you think this is fair for the airlines to have to pay you?

LEY: Nat, I’m sure the corporate people at Qantas will look at this carefully and hear the feedback from the Australian people. But this Christmas I want to give a shout‑out to all the hard‑working staff in Qantas who are working so incredibly hard to get us where we need to be for Christmas around the clock. They might be the check‑in staff, they might be those wonderful flight attendants, they might be those who handle your baggage.

And look, it’s a busy, tough time for them, so if you’re travelling, please be patient. I know what it feels like, as someone who lives in rural and regional Australia. Our Qantas staff do an amazing job, and yes, the corporate people at Qantas do need to hear the feedback when the travelling public is unhappy.

BARR: I’m not sure whether you answered, but you have a good sentiment there, Sussan, so we will take that, and we all back what you said.

CLARE: Nat, I don’t want to be corny, but it is Christmas. Remember those scenes at the start and the end of Love Actually where you see people getting off the aeroplanes or getting on the planes, and it’s real footage, and they’re those moments at airports that happen each and every Christmas. Sussan’s absolutely right, these are special times of the year. People are doing a lot of work to get loved ones connected, and I just want to wish you and all the viewers a very, very special Christmas. Merry Christmas to you too, Sussan.

BARR: Oh, look at you two.

LEY: Thank you, Jason.

BARR: It took till December.

CLARE: There’s love in the air.

BARR: So sweet.

LEY: Oh, look, it’s the Christmas spirit.

BARR: He’s an old softy at heart.

LEY: But one more thing, Nat, ’cause I’m here ‑ I’m here in Griffith, please, everybody, drive safely on the roads.

CLARE: Yeah.

LEY: Those in Regional Australia who drive long distances ‑‑

CLARE: Absolutely.

LEY: ‑‑ we just want you to get there. It doesn’t matter to your family and friends if you’re a bit late.

BARR: Yeah, exactly.

LEY: Please be careful and be safe.

BARR: It’s so Christmasy, the sun is shining, it’s shining a little too hard on your face, because I’m really sorry we couldn’t get the lighting right, Sussan. But thank you very much to both of you. It’s been a great year, even in some of the more heated moments in the middle. Thank you very much. Merry Christmas to both of you.

LEY: Hasn’t it.

CLARE: Merry Christmas.

BARR: Thank you.

LEY: Merry Christmas.…