INTERVIEW WITH ANDREW BOLT, SKY NEWS
THURSDAY 19 OCTOBER 2023
Topics: Defence Annual Report 2022-23, Israel
ANDREW BOLT: Joining me is the Opposition's Defence spokesman, Andrew Hastie. Andrew Hastie, thank you for joining me. We are getting fewer soldiers, not more, how big a problem is that?
ANDREW HASTIE: It's a big problem, Andrew, the ADF is shrinking. Under the Morrison Government, we committed to grow the ADF by 18,500 by 2040 so we'd have a complete Defence organisation of around 100,000 people - 80,000 uniformed, 20,000 public servants - and we're currently 3400 people behind. In fact, we're not hitting our recruiting targets at all, we're less than 75 per cent of our recruiting targets in the last financial year and we're also shedding people at a rate of 11.1 per cent per year. So, we have a recruiting crisis, we have a retention crisis, and it's only getting worse under the Albanese Labor Government.
ANDREW BOLT: What are the problems here? What's happening?
ANDREW HASTIE: I think there are a number of things. I think there's a there's a lack of strong messaging from recruiting. I think young Australians want to be inspired and want to be motivated. Joining the Defence Force is not about self-realisation. Sure, you grow as an individual, you learn skills, you're part of a team, you grow as a leader, but fundamentally, service in the ADF is unique and unlike any other service to your country because ultimately, you'll be called upon to bear arms and defend your land and people, and that's a very special thing. And so, I think the recruiting message has to emphasise that and challenge people to step up to the plate as previous generations of Australians have. I think there's other challenges, there's a tight labour market, of course, but also, remuneration is an issue for many people. I think, as well, being dislocated from where you've grown up. So, if you're recruited out of Melbourne, Sydney, or Perth, and then being posted to Darwin and Townsville and other places that are quite remote, I think that can put people off as well. There are a number of things that the government certainly has to look at, but I would start with simple messaging about why it's important that young Australians serve their country in uniform.
ANDREW BOLT: Yes, so fewer ads about how nice things are, how you go and cuddle babies and build huts and stuff, and more about it really is often about warfare, putting your life on the line. Can I just ask you about Gaza? Now you have been a soldier in war, you've got no glowy eyed feelings about what war means - you know what it means - how hard would it be for Israel to go into Gaza, rescue the 199 hostages Hamas has taken there, take down the Hamas terrorists and do all of that without killing civilians or being killed themselves for that matter? Because I'm seeing so many unrealistic demands being put on Israel, almost if it was fighting Nazi Germany, don't fight the Nazis because innocent Germans will be killed, and yet I think that sort of analogy is correct in this case.
ANDREW HASTIE: This is very, very challenging for Israel. The complexity is almost infinite. Going after Hamas in Gaza will be a huge challenge but what's really important, Andrew, is clarity. Moral clarity about what happened on October 7, that it was brutal murder carried out by Hamas jihadis. Strategic clarity about who Israel is up against - Hamas, as part of its charter, mandates the obliteration of the Jewish people. These people will not compromise and so Israel has to be very clear about who they're up against. We need to have clarity about what's at stake. Israel is a free people, it's a democratic country in the Middle East and it's really, really important that that beacon of light remains so. That's why it's important that friends like the US and Australia stand with Israel and its right to self-defence. I think we also, finally, need to be clear about the complexity that Israel is facing. It's not just Hamas, there's Hezbollah, there's Iran behind this, then there's the US, there's the Gulf states, Saudi, particularly, with the Abraham Accords, you've got Egypt as well, throw in China, Russia. This is a very, very complex problem set for Benjamin Netanyahu, President Biden and everyone with an interest in seeing this resolved. But my heart breaks for the innocents who have died and who will die but the blood that is shed will be on Hamas and Hamas entirely.
ANDREW BOLT: Yes, if they had spent the last several years building things for their people - water supplies, proper electricity, supplies, jobs, all that kind of stuff - Israel would be much closer to peace with them, but instead they planned these atrocities in these rockets. Should the Prime Minister today have said clearly that the evidence suggests that hospital in Gaza that went up in flames was not hit by Israel, it was a Palestinian rocket? Because he was ambiguous yesterday and I think the danger of not tackling that lie, that it was Israel that did it, is highly inflammatory.
ANDREW HASTIE: I think clarity, again, is critical here and Democratic leaders have an obligation to make sure that misinformation and disinformation is dealt with. Now it's becoming very clear that the alleged attack on the hospital was a Hamas rocket misfire, not an IDF attack, and so making that very clear is important and so the Prime Minister should make that clear. I also join Peter Dutton in calling on the Prime Minister to visit Israel on the way to the US for his visit with President Biden. I think that would send a very important signal to the Israelis that we support them in their moment of crisis and particularly, we uphold their right to self-defence.
ANDREW BOLT: Andrew Hastie, last night I said there was a new Axis of Evil. The first axis of course, was in World War Two, Germany, Italy, Japan, eventually joined by Russia. This one is Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, and they're involved in wars or would be wars everywhere - invasion of Ukraine, planned invasion of Taiwan, now Iran meddling in Gaza, financing the terrorists there. Are you worried that from all this we could get a new world war?
ANDREW HASTIE: I am worried. I think the Middle East is a tinderbox and the relationships in the Middle East through the different parties - Iran, as you mentioned, Russia, China, North Korea, the US, Israel - this could end up being a dragnet that brings people into war, which is why I think it was such a positive signal that President Biden flew to Israel, and is working hard to ensure that it doesn't grow beyond Israel and Gaza, because the last thing we want is a regional war. Look, it's going to be a very challenging couple of weeks and months ahead. This really is a moment for the free world. Authoritarian powers are on the move, they are active, actively undermining the rules based order, which we have prospered through, which has guaranteed us security for the last 80 years, so it's really, really important that we get through this and that's why I support and stand with Israel and their right to self-defence, particularly against barbarism that we saw from Hamas where babies were beheaded, innocents were slaughtered, and it was all unprovoked. That's got to be very clear, and we've got to keep that at the front of our minds going forward.
ANDREW BOLT: Well said. Andrew Hastie, thank you so much for your time.
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