Interview: Andrew Clennell, Sky News





ANDREW CLENNELL: Andrew Hastie, thanks for joining us this Sunday morning from Canberra. Richard Marles just said there that Jewish people have never felt less safe in Australia. What, if anything, should the government be doing about that?

ANDREW HASTIE: I take Jewish Australians at their word and what we saw on Friday in Caulfield was antisemitic, thuggish behaviour. It was a power grab, and it was an assertion of one group over another for primacy in the public space, it undermined public safety and public order, and I join Peter Dutton in condemning it. I think the government has to lead and they have to give clarity to the Australian people about what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable behaviour. We can't be mealy mouthed about this; we have to be direct and clear. For protestors to go into a suburb of Melbourne, where we have a lot of Jewish Australians living, and to impose themselves upon that group, and to do it in such an anti-social and thuggish way is just unacceptable.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Are state and federal authorities doing enough about some of these provocative actions?

ANDREW HASTIE: Andrew, I have no doubt that Mike Burgess, Director-General of ASIO, Reece Kershaw, the AFP Commissioner, they'd be working around the clock tracking this, as well as the different police forces in the different states. But this is ultimately a political question, what do we want for the future of Australia? Social cohesion is something that we all want and so this comes down to a political question. And I come back to my comments I made just a few moments ago - in Australia, do we want one group of people asserting primacy over the rest of us through thuggish and anti-social behaviour? The answer must be no, and therefore, the government has to lead, has to be clear about what is acceptable and if necessary, use the law to move these people on, or indeed, prosecute and take care of them.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Peter Dutton's statements, your leader, they've been very much pro-Israel. You used the term mealy mouthed words before. Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong, Tony Burke and co. have been pro-Israel as well, but they've also been taking both sides of the argument. Would you agree, and what do you make of the differences in stance here between government and opposition?

ANDREW HASTIE: I come back to the motion that the Prime Minister moved some weeks ago in Parliament which the House, except for a few Teals and Greens House members voted for, and that was a demonstration of unity from the Australian Parliament. I don't want to undermine that because that's a really important signal, but I think it's worth reminding Australians that it was Hamas who started this on October 7. All the blood is on their hands. They're the ones who attacked Israel, they're the ones who launched an unprovoked attack on men, women, children and the elderly, raped people, and murdered people brutally in their own homes. Israel has every right to defend itself and moreover, Hamas must be destroyed completely. There won't be peace until Hamas is removed from the battlefield as a military force and as a political force - that's just the reality.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Is Israel handling this conflict all together in the right way, though? We've had water cut off to Gaza, we've had the US and Australia push for humanitarian pauses, we've had attacks on hospitals. Are you 100 per cent confident in the way Israel's attacked this conflict after being attacked?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think Israel has shown great restraint, I think they have. They've had world leaders, they've had people from across the globe calling on them for restraint and they've sent millions of warnings to people living in Gaza to evacuate, reminding them that there might be an attack imminent, they've given people the opportunity to get out of the danger zone and they hadn't launched a ground invasion until a few weeks ago. So, for people who say that Israel should show more restraint is really, I think, ignoring the problem, which is that Hamas are using civilians as human shields and they're making it very, very difficult in an already complex environment for Israel to defend themselves. So, I think we've got to remember those important points.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Let me ask you about your reaction to the Prime Minister's trip to China and also to the Tuvalu deal.

ANDREW HASTIE: I think it was good to see Anthony Albanese meeting with President Xi. I think it's good for our country to maintain bilateral relationships with all countries, we welcome that, but the real outcome will be over the next few weeks and that is what China does to demonstrate good faith through the bilateral meeting that was conducted. We're looking for the release of Dr. Yang Hengjun, we'd like to see all sanctions lifted against Australian primary producers who were hurt very badly over the last few years. These are the sorts of things that we want to see China do, so we'll wait and see. But of course, we welcome dialogue with President Xi as we did with President Biden. It's good for our country's leader to be meeting with world leaders across the globe. With regards to the Pacific, we also welcome any sort of deepening of our relationships with Pacific Island countries. I think it's a good thing. Richard Marles, just earlier, hinted that there is a geopolitical contest ongoing in the Indo Pacific region. The great game is on, to say it more directly, and we really need to work harder to build our relationships with those Pacific Island countries.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Has the PM been traveling too much, as many critics here say? Should he go to APEC?

ANDREW HASTIE: I don't want to undermine what is important foreign policy work for our country. We are a country with many international links, we're a trading nation, and so those meetings have to be done. What we would criticise the Prime Minister for is his lack of a vision for this country. Right now, Australians are being hit very badly by inflation, it's a tax on us all, and after promising to take $275 off people's power bills, we've now seen the prices of electricity rise by 18 per cent, food is up eight per cent. Working families, seniors, small business owners are doing it very, very tough and the Prime Minister hasn't demonstrated a vision on how he's going to get this country moving, and how he's going to get inflation down. In fact, he's pretty much delegated that whole responsibility to the Reserve Bank and as we know, the Reserve Bank is limited in what it can do, it can only raise interest rates. That's not good enough. We need an economic vision, and he needs to share the load amongst his Cabinet, which he's not doing.

ANDREW CLENNELL: In fact, I've reported this morning that there's no intention the Prime Minister is resolute not to cut the petrol excise, because the government believes that in itself would be inflationary and make the problem worse, do you have a reaction to that?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, all options should be on the table for getting rid of inflation, but one thing he's got to consider is to spend less. We know that Labor has added $188 billion since being elected and, of course, you spend more as a government, you're going to drive up inflation. So, I think we want to see more disciplined spending from this government, and spending in the right areas. I think there's a huge opportunity within Defence to not just build our security, but also to create an economic dividend for this country. And what we're seeing, again, is a deferral of the tough decisions by this Labor Government, and it's leaving our country weaker as a result.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Well, the government's taking some time to release its cybersecurity strategy, migration strategy, strategy for the Defence frigates, what do you make of those delays?

ANDREW HASTIE: When Richard Marles stood up with the Prime Minister back in April and announced the Defence Strategic Review, that was actually a deferral of all the tough decisions until next year. We won't see a Defence strategy until halfway through next year, we won't see the results of the surface fleet review until next year, we won't see how the government is going to spend the $270 billion-dollar Integrated Investment Program until next year. There are a lot of decisions that have been deferred, so the deferral of a migration policy, of an industry policy, this is all in keeping with a government that is afraid to make the tough decisions and get on with the job of leading this country and building up our economic prosperity and our security for the future.

ANDREW CLENNELL: I also wanted to ask you about the High Court's immigration detention decision of last week that you can't detain people indefinitely. What should the government do about this?

ANDREW HASTIE: The government has been very flat-footed about their response to this. This was always a possibility. They should be demonstrating transparency about what sort of numbers we're looking at, how many potential criminals will be released into the Australian community, and what they're going to do about it. Now, they have a number of mechanisms by which they can keep the Australian community safe, from control orders, to continuing detention orders, to preventative detention orders, among other tools that our law enforcement have. They need to be very clear about the sort of numbers and how they're going to deal with it because we don't want non-Australians entering our community who have a criminal record, particularly the one that was mentioned earlier in the program who has raped a young boy. I mean, this is just unacceptable behaviour. If you want to live in the Australian community, you must abide by our values, and the rule of law - that is non-negotiable.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Now just finally, Mr. Hastie, nine months ago, the Coalition looked dead in the water in terms of the next election. You're in an important, potential swing state in WA, do you feel like the Coalition is in with a sniff now?

ANDREW HASTIE: I've always thought we were in for a sniff. Once the media stopped fawning over Anthony Albanese and the new Labor Government, I knew things would correct, as we all did, after about a year, and we're seeing that correction. The Prime Minister doesn't have an economic plan, inflation is through the roof, real wages are declining, people are feeling like they're going backwards, and now we're seeing our social cohesion undermined by these antisemitic thugs who are walking the streets, whether it's on Sydney Harbour or in Caulfield. We're seeing an absence of leadership. Peter Dutton is a man who has a vision for this country, he's a bloke you can count on under pressure, and I think people, after the Voice particularly, are starting to have a second look at him now.

ANDREW CLENNELL: Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie, thanks so much for your time.


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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2023-11-14 07:52:57 +0800