Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Afternoon Agenda, Sky News

Kieran Gilbert
Electric vehicle battery manufacturing in Indonesia; Australia-Indonesia relationship; Israel-Gaza conflict

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: The Industry Minister, Ed Husic, is in Jakarta working on bilateral cooperation on electric vehicles and battery technologies. He joined me a short time ago.

ED HUSIC, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY AND SCIENCE: If you look at it, we've got the lithium, they've got the nickel, and together we can really take a big step forward towards net zero. It's about, this visit, putting pen to paper to something that both President Widodo and Prime Minister Albanese spoke about back in July during their annual leaders’ meeting, which is to build the cooperation around batteries and EV. And so later today, I'll be signing a memorandum of understanding with my Indonesian counterpart that will do a number of things, obviously map the supply chains around battery processing and manufacture, be able to advance the R and D jointly, and also get businesses working together on processing and manufacturing. Indonesia has some really ambitious plans around scaling up EV production, but they also recognise energy storage, like for us in Australia, is a big priority on grid stabilisation. And so, this MOU helps get us working closer together.

KIERAN GILBERT: There's been a view from this government, I think for years, actually, from many in this space, that the relationship with Indonesia is underdone in a trade and economic sense. Is this a part of that rejuvenation that you're trying to achieve? And are you confident this can be a strong pillar of a better relationship between the two nations, which seem to be really should be a no-brainer for Australia.

ED HUSIC: Yeah, 100 per cent. I mean, Indonesia is a huge market. It is going to be a significant economy. It is already a large player in our region and we need to advance the relationship significantly, move beyond the talk. And if you look in the time that the Albanese Government, since it's been elected, there have been over 30 Ministerial visits by my colleagues to this country working with their counterparts to advance their economic relationship. Working together can strengthen and deepen the relationship and that's exactly what we're trying to do. This MOU that I'm signing around battery manufacture today is a really important step in that direction and there is a seriousness from the Prime Minister down that we take those concrete steps. As I said, don't just talk the talk, walk the walk. When it comes to building a stronger relationship and apply it in particular ways, be it with respect to net zero, be it in my space around R and D, between our nations. Being able to diversify our supply chains as well is really important. And so, all those different components, Kieran, really are crucial in deepening the relationship.

KIERAN GILBERT: You, on another matter, made some very forceful comments and an important intervention in terms of the way the governments responded to the Middle East conflicts. Given this pause or looming pause in hostilities to allow the return of more than 50 hostages, you would be welcoming those developments, no doubt.

ED HUSIC: Well, the announcement about the four-day pause is an important first step. It is something that we have as a government been calling for for quite some time. We need to see work being done to build on that as well. It's only four days, so I think we need to put that into context. And as I've said, I think a lot of people have felt the impact that has been borne by Palestinians through the course of the last few weeks in particular. I think they have paid a high and disproportionate price through the actions in Gaza. So, being able to have the humanitarian pause, being able to allow for the provision of aid, assistance, medicine, be able to help people that are in dire need, is really an important first step. I think the longer-term thing that everyone needs to work towards is a durable peace and ultimately a two-state solution. And we also, I think, longer term will need to focus on the rebuild in Gaza because so much of it has been levelled and Palestinians deserve to be able to live in their homes in peace. And seeing that rebuild process will be important too. But we can't get there without the type of things that we've seen announced. Again, important first step, a lot more work to do.

KIERAN GILBERT: And while you say and argue that it is a high price and a disproportionate price, there are many that agree with you. But do you think that the Palestinian cause is undercut by the fact that those few hundred hostages remain? So, while you rightly describe this as a first step, that while those hostages remain, that argument in favour of ending hostilities on a permanent basis is really undermined by the fact that those hostages remain in captivity by the terrorist group Hamas.

ED HUSIC: No, excellent point. I mean, I think Hamas can accelerate the timeline to a durable peace by releasing all those hostages as quickly as they can. There are Israelis that are understandably deeply worried about family and loved ones who are being held hostage and that needs to happen. And we have been calling for that. And that will be a crucial piece in any enduring ceasefire, is the release of those hostages 100 per cent. And to the earlier part of your question, to me, I mean, Hamas set back the cause for an enduring two-state solution with their abhorrent attacks on October 7. In terms of what they did, the pain that they inflicted on Israelis, that had a big part to play in setting back that cause for peace. Now, they will be held to account, but that does not stop us from the broader requirement and I think the objective of seeing a two-state solution in that area. But that happens and Hamas can play a role in releasing hostages and they can do it as soon as possible. Frankly, they could do it from today.

KIERAN GILBERT: And just finally, there's been a discussion about the visas granted to Palestinians in recent weeks. Concerns by the opposition and others about whether appropriate security checks have been made or rushed. Penny Wong says appropriate screening has happened. What's your view on that?

ED HUSIC: Well, the Coalition, having served in office, knows the type of processes that are used to vet and clear the way in which people apply for visas. So, they know it. So, what's their issue? Are they really saying that they don't want Australian Palestinians who are deeply concerned about the fate of their families for those people that are in Gaza to be put out of harm's way? Is that what they're effectively saying? Because that's how they should be questioned. What we are doing is for Israelis and Palestinians who are in harm's way, we are trying to provide them safe passage and to do so in a way that Australians expect will be applied, that is the vetting, the security processes that have been in place for quite some time, that they be observed, that is absolutely happening. And we are trying to help people that are in a dire space. And I don't understand why the Coalition would have a problem with us. Like the rest, the international community chipping in to get people out of harm's way, because if that's what they're saying, then they should explain why they have a problem with helping people out in dire need.

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me from Jakarta, the Industry and Science Minister, Ed Husic. Appreciate your time. We'll talk to you soon.

ED HUSIC: Always great talking with you. Thanks, Kieran