Interview: Gary Adshead, 6PR



GARY ADSHEAD: Andrew Hastie is the Opposition Defence Spokesperson and joins me right now. G'day, Andrew.

ANDREW HASTIE: Good morning, Gary.

GARY ADSHEAD: I'm going to ask you this straight up, mate. You were in the Defence Force for a long period of time, is Richard Marles right that they've got a long way to go in excellence and culture, and is he right in saying that, but you're criticising him for saying it publicly?

ANDREW HASTIE: My belief is that the speed of the boss is the speed of the team. We believe in civilian leadership of the military in this country – that's what the Defence Minister's job is – and in October of 2022, Richard Marles said that he accepts responsibility for the Defence Force, the buck stops with him. So, it's right for him to insist on a culture of excellence, but it does raise the question, why are they falling short? In our view, it's because of his lack of leadership. Since April last year, where we saw the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) handed down, we've seen cuts to capability, we've seen no new money, we've seen the delay and deferral of important decisions, including the Surface Fleet Review and a Defence strategy, and now, we're hearing of dysfunction. He's got his own officials briefing against him in the Australian Financial Review and it sounds like their complaint is that he's already exercising his right to disconnect, because he's got a lot of paperwork and submissions piling up on his desk that remain unactioned. He needs to lead, take decisions, and get things moving,

GARY ADSHEAD: Andrew, the Brereton Report, and all that's flowed from that, suggests that we do have a long way to go in terms of an excellent culture within Defence. What do you say to that?

ANDREW HASTIE: The Brereton Report focused on events that happened 10-years ago. I think we've come a long way since then, and I think the allegations in the report were not representative of the larger Defence Force. There are thousands of men and women who serve our country honourably every day, who strive to do their best, who are mission focused. What we're talking about with Richard Marles is a lack of leadership, weak leadership, and recognising that he has to make hard decisions because we are facing the most challenging strategic circumstances since the end of the Second World War.

Let me give you your listeners a data point, Gary. For the last 30-years, we've sent 57 Royal Australian Naval vessels to the Middle East, or the waters off Africa, to fight piracy and terrorism. Now we have Houthi rebels firing rockets at shipping containers, or ships carrying shipping containers, through the Red Sea and that's been happening since November – about 13 or 14 ships have been hit with these missiles. We were asked for a ship and this government chose not to step up to the plate and protect global trade, and I think that's indicative of weak leadership that we're seeing from the Albanese government.

GARY ADSHEAD: Does it also go to the fact that perhaps we don't have the resources and equipment that we need, whether it be personnel or hardware, right now to be safe in the Red Sea?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that's a problem for the Minister for Defence and this is my central point. Last year, they made a lot of noise about the Defence Strategic Review and what did we get from it? No new money. In fact, Defence spending went backwards in real terms because of inflation, so there's less purchasing power for Defence and Army suffered some big cuts. We've got two frigates down on the hardstands at Henderson, and we're rightly asking the government, why are they failing to step up with just a basic deployment of a frigate to the Middle East?

GARY ADSHEAD: Can I ask you, from your point of view as being a former captain in the SASR, if you heard the Defence Minister questioning where the Defence Department was, where its personnel were, and where its leaders were right now in terms of culture and so on, what would you say? What would you feel at the time if you will still wearing a uniform?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I think it's right for the Minister for Defence to ask the hard questions – that's their job. If you look at the Second World War, Winston Churchill sacked a lot of generals. If you go back to the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln sacked a lot of northern generals until he found Ulysses Grant. This is something that political leaders do – they find winners and they back them. So, Richard Marles is right to ask hard questions of his department, but our central point is that this government has taken weak positions, they've cut funding from Defence, and moreover, they're not driving the decisions which need to happen so that we can get ready for what's ahead. We don't know what's ahead, but the world as it looks is pretty grim.

GARY ADSHEAD: So, are you questioning the fact that he would say it publicly?

ANDREW HASTIE: He can say it publicly, but my point is that he's not accepting responsibility. He's the one who said the buck stops with him, he's the one who's responsible for driving this country and I think fundamentally, he's a weak leader, along with Anthony Albanese on national security matters.

GARY ADSHEAD: All right, well, I'm interested to see what flows from here. I do appreciate you joining us, Andrew. Thanks for your time.

ANDREW HASTIE: No worries, Gary. Thank you.


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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2024-02-14 06:03:43 +0800