Interview: Gary Adshead, 6PR




GARY ADSHEAD: Thanks for your time, Andrew.

ANDREW HASTIE: My pleasure, Gary.

GARY ADSHEAD: There's a lot going on around the world at the moment in terms of conflict and war, should our ADF be so focused on getting rid of anything that's not gender neutral from their language?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think Richard Marles, the Labor Deputy Prime Minister, should be focused on preparing this country for the strategic challenges that we face. Now there's a paradox at the heart of Defence policy, Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles both keep telling the Australian people that we're facing the most dangerous times since the end of the Second World War and yet, it seems that their focus is on getting rid of gendered language within the Defence Force. This is just political correctness run wild. What we should be doing is being guided by common sense, investing in our Defence Force, getting us ready for AUKUS, but also, we have a workforce challenge and that means we need to recruit more young Australians into the Australian Army, Air Force and Navy. We also need to be retaining people because at the moment, we have a separation rate of about 11 per cent, it needs to be down around six or seven per cent. So big challenges ahead, the last thing they should be doing is focusing on making sure that everyone's feelings are okay with gender neutral language.

GARY ADSHEAD: But on that, would it be a factor, and you had obviously a career in the Defence Force, would it be a factor for women who are thinking about joining Defence to look for those sort of signals that are there about keeping things gender neutral and getting rid of terms like 'unmanned drone', for example, would that make any difference to recruitment?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, we're after young Australians who are focused on serving their country, who are operationally focused, and who are filled with common sense, and I just don't think making a fuss over 'unmanned' as a word is really where people are at. We want men, we want women, we want a diverse mix of Australians from different backgrounds, and everyone is welcome in the Defence Force. That's the beauty of the Defence Force, you all become one when you put on the uniform, and you put the Australian flag on your shoulder. So, to focus on these questions around political correctness, I think just divides us, and the last thing we want is to incorporate identity politics into the ADF.

GARY ADSHEAD: There's no longer going to be a thing termed 'man hours', by the way, it's going to be 'staff hours' from now on.

ANDREW HASTIE: Your listeners, Gary, are pretty straight up and down, common sense type people. I don't think people are getting offended by those terms unless they're looking to be offended and those sorts of people are vexatious as it is. I just think it's a big fuss over nothing.

GARY ADSHEAD: The federal government committed $50 billion to spend on Defence in the out years, obviously a massive submarine program all linked through AUKUS. You're currently at an event which, of course, there'll be lots of discussion around AUKUS. Aren't they showing all the right intentions in terms of Defence?

ANDREW HASTIE: Defence spending hasn't really gone up in the last year in real terms, in fact, it's gone backwards. Every Australian family, every Australian senior, every Australian small business owner, everyone is getting taxed by inflation and Defence is too. Our purchasing power has gone backwards and that's because this Labor Government has not been disciplined in its spending, its added an additional $188 billion to the bottom line and of course, that is fuelling inflation, so Defence is struggling. In real terms, Defence hasn't gone forward. What's happening is, because they're not committing to additional Defence spending, because they're not making the argument to resource AUKUS and to invest in this amazing, nation building endeavour, what we're seeing is other capabilities being cannibalised. We're seeing Army, for example, being stripped of capability, Army being repostured up to the north, Army shrunk, and that's having a big impact on morale.

GARY ADSHEAD: I know that you're at the Indo-Pacific conference at the moment, and I take it that there are representatives from the military all over the world, Israeli representatives as well?

ANDREW HASTIE: Israeli representatives, indeed - Rafael, Elbit and other companies too. I've had an opportunity to talk with them and you know, a lot of family and friends are affected. There's Israelis here and we do have a good strong relationship with Israel, we absolutely uphold their right to self-defence, and they have some very interesting technology as well so it's been good chatting with them.

GARY ADSHEAD: Are you going to elaborate on that?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, they're pretty good at taking care of themselves but their mission is to destroy Hamas. Your listeners would know that both Hamas and Hezbollah are listed terrorist organisations in Australia, they're absolutely committed to the destruction, not just of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people and after the attacks on October 7, Israel has no choice but to go after Hamas.

GARY ADSHEAD: I know that you're a big believer in freedom of speech but where do you sit on this Sydney cleric who has been lecturing and doing sermons to people in Sydney about the conflict in the Middle East? He's now been revealed as being Wissam Haddad and amongst his sermons, of late, have included words like 'kill the Jews'. What do you say to that and why should this person be allowed to continue to practice in the way he is?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Gary, I condemn them, and I do believe that Australians should be able to express themselves but there are moral boundaries, and when you're tacitly supporting the work of organisations like Hamas and Islamic State, it absolutely must be condemned. These incendiary comments are toxic to our social fabric, they could constitute crimes of incitement and they need to be urgently investigated, including whether any visa conditions have been violated on character grounds and if so, visa conditions should be cancelled immediately. This is really important because the Jewish people, I've got a number of Jewish friends, they feel very anxious about their personal safety and when you hear these sorts of comments, I really worry about our social cohesion and also the safety of Jewish Australians too.

GARY ADSHEAD: Do you worry that this man's words could spark some sort of lone wolf attacks here in Australia?

ANDREW HASTIE: Yeah, I'm absolutely worried that they could incite violence and that's why they are absolutely condemned by the Coalition, and we are calling for them to be investigated.

GARY ADSHEAD: Thanks very much for joining us, Andrew, I'll let you go.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thank you, Gary. Appreciate it.