Interview: Andrew Clennell, Sunday Agenda, Sky News


ANDREW CLENNELL: Joining me south of Perth is the Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. Andrew Hastie, good to see you so early in the morning there. Thanks for joining us.

ANDREW HASTIE: Morning, Andrew. Good to be with you as always.

ANDREW CLENNELL: I think you're hoping for a dramatic vista over the Mandurah Golf Club but it looks a bit dark there, Mr Hastie.

ANDREW HASTIE: The retic is still on and we didn't want to get wet so we'll have to wait for another time. Although, I'm guaranteeing you the Deputy Prime Minister will be hitting it out this morning, no question.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Ok. Will you be having a game with him? I don't think so after this week. Let's start with this story on a more serious note, we had at the top of the show and broke yesterday and that's concerning Perin Davey appearing to be drunk in a Parliamentary Committee. Do the Nationals have a problem here? This comes after the Barnaby Joyce incident.

ANDREW HASTIE: Andrew, there are high expectations of Parliamentarians. The community expects that we have high standards and I think Perin Davey has answered the questions that you put to her in a formal statement. And I think I'll leave it at that.

ANDREW CLENNELL: I'll just ask this though. Would you have two glasses of wine before you appeared at a Parliamentary Committee?

ANDREW HASTIE: No, I wouldn't. But, Andrew, I'm not a member of the wowser left or the wowser right. I stand with many Australians in that I enjoy a drink in moderation as part of a normal work life balance. And you know, this story is unfortunate, but I owe my colleague, Perin Davey a conversation before I make comment about her in public like this.

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right. Well, let's talk more generally just briefly about it before I move on to other things. Zali Steggall—you saw her question to Anthony Albanese during the week. She wants RBT [Random Breath Testing] in the Parliament. What do you make of that?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's a bit much, I think. If we're having to do random breath tests of Parliamentarians, you've got to ask yourself, who is in the Parliament? Are they capable of making decisions of state? I think one of the things that we can work on in Parliament, and which I was hoping this Labor Government would work on, is getting more of a balance, allowing people a bit more time to get out, get some exercise and get some perspective because these are very long days – sometimes 16 to 18 hour days. You've seen it yourself there and if we're trying to encourage people, young Australians, to enter the Parliament and serve their country in this way, particularly those with families, there's got to be a decent balance to things and I think that's something that we can always work on as a Parliament.

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right, let's go to the issue of asylum seekers now. Peter Dutton, he’s put a full court press on the PM—he's calling him weak and says this is why we've had these asylum seekers turn up in your state. But Mr Hastie, it's one boat—surely there was the odd incident when you were in power and don’t they end up in Nauru anyway?


ANDREW HASTIE: Well, weak is the theme of this government. They are weak on national security and they are weak on border security. There are two groups of men that have been discovered north of Broome – the first at Beagle Bay, the second about 50 kilometres to the north at Pender Bay. We don't know if there are two boats but we do know there are two groups. If we go back to May 2022, we've had more than 303 Illegal arrivals and 12 separate boats since that time. So I think what people smugglers are working out is that this Government is a weak government on national security. It's weak on border security, and they're now testing the Prime Minister. It's clear on Friday, the Prime Minister wasn’t even across his brief. He says he was in his car but we all know he doesn't drive his own up-armoured vehicle and he would have access to his phone. I'm pretty confident that his Ministers, if they're on top of their brief – we know Andrew Giles is not, as the Minister for Immigration – would have briefed him. So I think this goes to the very heart of the Albanese government being soft and weak on national and border security.

ANDREW CLENNELL: This seems a deliberate strategy from you and Mr Dutton to label these guys weak and get that image up with the public.

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I think the narrative writes itself. Since last year, for example, with Defence, Richard Marles has not been able to secure any new money for the Defence Force. We have a deferral of tough decisions. There's still no defence strategy for this country, which is the most important thing and anchors all your decisions, your budgetary expenditure, the capabilities that you acquire, the amount of people that you put against different capabilities, we still don't have a Defence Strategy, and we still don't have a decision—after five months from the Deputy Prime Minister receiving the brief, we still don’t have a decision on the Surface Fleet Review, and we now have a recruitment and retention crisis in the [Australian Defence Force]. And that's weakness. That is the consequence of weakness. Just back on border security, Andrew, this government has ripped $600 million out of the Australian Border Force. $600 million. And so the question is, can we even surveil the northwest coast of Australia? I think it's an important question to ask because how is it the two groups of men arrived at Beagle Bay and Pender Bay and we completely miss them—both the ADF and the ABF?

ANDREW CLENNELL: I should point out that apparently they were on the same boat according to the Government at least, but look, I wanted to play to you what you said during the week about Richard Marles. You said that he should go as Defence Minister if he can't get extra funding for Defence in the May budget. Have a listen to this:

[RECORDING—PRESS CONFERENCE] ANDREW HASTIE: In real terms the Defence Budget is going backwards. Richard Marles lost to Penny Wong at the Expenditure Review Committee and if he can't get new money for this May Budget he should resign as Minister for Defence.

ANDREW CLENNELL: That feels like an early-resign call. Do you really believe this?

ANDREW HASTIE: We stand by it. The Prime Minister and the Defence Minister have both said multiple times that Australia is facing the most dangerous strategic circumstances since the end of the Second World War. And we believe that to be true as well. And if it is true, then we've got to act. And what we've seen in the Defence Budget is that it's going backwards. It's going backwards because of inflation. And Richard Marles has not been able to secure any new funding. So we've had AUKUS, we've had a number of new capabilities and the Budget hasn't grown so there's going to be cuts—there have been cuts in fact, if you look at Army. Army is getting shredded, in fact, we just need to look at the land 400 Phase 3 armored fighting vehicle, infantry fighting vehicle, order which has gone from [450] to 129. So this Government is weak, and my call remains the same: if Richard Marles can't secure more money for the Defense Force, in May, he should resign. Particularly when this Government has already added $209 billion of additional spending and this is why we oppose the fire sale of critical infrastructure for Defence across the country.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Yes, well that has been speculated on, that there will be these land sales. What did you make of that report?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think this is a way of Labor ripping out as much money out of Defence and sending it elsewhere. Some of the locations and some of the buildings and estate are really, really important to the ADF. They go to the heart and soul of the ADF. The Victoria barracks in Queensland, in New South Wales, in Victoria, very, very important pieces of architecture and estate. And I should make this point as well, Andrew, not only are there historical concerns around this, but in the end we recruit the vast majority of people from the southeast corner of this country from our major population centres. And whilst the Government of the day is reorientating Defence to the north, there will come a time again where we need to have people in the southeast corner of this country. And if we sell off all the real estate, where are we going to put them? It's really important as well. And this is a political point, that we have a close relationship between the Defence Force and the people they serve and protect. And by selling off in urban areas, selling off in our capital cities and sending them to regional areas. You're just going to create a gulf between the Australian people and our Defence Force. And that’s a problem long term as well.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Where's the Victoria Barracks, sorry?

ANDREW HASTIE: Victoria Barracks in Sydney, and in Melbourne.

ANDREW CLENNELL: I just heard you saying Queensland. Ok, no problem. What are you expecting out of the Surface [Fleet Review]—go on?

ANDREW HASTIE: Up in Brisbane as well, there are three major historical barracks in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Just to be clear.

ANDREW CLENNELL: What are you expecting out of this Surface Fleet Review this week? Do you expect the Government to dump some of the Hunter Class frigates; are there any grounds to, and do you expect perhaps they'll be replaced with other frigates?

ANDREW HASTIE: What we know this Government has caused is major uncertainty for defence industry and South Australia particularly, so what we're after is a decision, a decision that's based in a maritime strategy, which we're yet to see, that secures our Defence Force and builds a stronger Navy. So we'll have a look at the Surface Fleet Review when it's handed down. But certainly, what we know from this Government thus far is that there's no new money and they're making cuts. And so our concern is that we lose thousands of jobs, our industry shrinks, which you can't surge—you've got to build over time. And the Coalition Government built up defence industry. This Government is creating uncertainty, and [defence industry] is withering on the vine. And we need to have a strong Navy so that we can recruit people and send a signal to the Australian people that the Navy is a good career. So we need we need good frigates that can prevail in combat and that can secure our shipping lanes and do the sort of sorts of things that we need them to do like deploy to the Red Sea to help our allies in times of need.

ANDREW CLENNELL: And we're getting closer to an election. I guess it doesn't take long does it? Are you going to commit or do you envisage committing to greater Defence spending without these lands sell offs if elected?

ANDREW HASITE: Peter Dutton yesterday ruled out the land sell offs and we have a consistent record when it comes to Defence expenditure. That's something that we'll be talking about in Shadow Cabinet but I think you can tell from Peter Dutton’s posture, my posture, and others in the Shadow Cabinet that we're looking to make sure that we invest in Defence properly, that our men and women who are called upon to fight for us and defend our country if necessary, have what they need to get the job done, because on current settings, we're going backwards and we cannot afford to go backwards as a country in these challenging circumstances.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Can I get a reaction from you to the death of Alexei Navalny?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, I found it very troubling. I acknowledge all the work that he has done as opposition leader in Russia and I think it goes to the character of the Russian regime. I think a lot of people out there are demonstrating sympathy for Vladimir Putin. But this is a man who, who started a war in Ukraine, an immoral and illegal war. It's caused the deaths of thousands of people and we've seen the sorts of assassinations that he conducts and so there's a lot of murkiness around the death of the Russian opposition leader and I think it's very troubling indeed.

ANDREW CLENNELL: And finally, I wanted to ask you about Ian Goodenough losing his preselection. Do you have fears he could go to the crossbench?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think Ian is a sensible, loyal servant of the Liberal Party, he's obviously going to be very disappointed today with the result from yesterday, but this is grassroots democracy in action. And this is the way that we preselect our candidates. It went to a fair vote and the other candidate won. So look, I'm confident Ian will to do the right thing. But we've got to allow space for the guy to be disappointed. He's served in the Parliament for 10 years now and it's not easy when you lose an election and he lost this election yesterday.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie, good to see a beautiful West Australian sunrise behind you now. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Andrew. Always a pleasure.


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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2024-02-19 10:32:30 +0800