Interview: Andy Park, ABC RN




ANDY PARK: Andrew Hastie is the opposition defence spokesperson. I spoke to him a short time ago.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Andy. Good to be with you.

ANDY PARK: This legislation still needs to pass the US House of Representatives but how significant is the passage of legislation through the US Senate? Is this a done deal?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think it's a very positive sign for us. I think it's just one step towards receiving those Virginia class submarines next decade. As I've said multiple times, AUKUS, first and foremost, is a political project and so any indications that we get from the US Congress that they're moving towards giving us those submarines, it must be taken as a good sign and I take this as a good sign.

ANDY PARK: It comes just as a nation, we've stabilised our relationship with Beijing, would you expect a response from China? I mean, could this be seen as a provocation?

ANDREW HASTIE: I don't think it's a provocation at all. We have a very close relationship with the United States, we have done for more than 100 years, we're looking to secure our future and, of course, that relationship is much deeper than just a security relationship. But certainly, AUKUS has been on the agenda now for more than two years now and I think we're entering a period of normalisation. We're going to be talking about AUKUS a lot over the next decade, there's going to be a lot of work done in Australia, particularly as we move towards establishing Submarine Rotational Force-West in Perth. We're going to continue to train our naval officers over in the US through the US system. There's going to be Australians moving to the US and the UK, integrating into their industrial base. We're going to be hosting US and UK personnel here in Australia. There's a lot to come and so I think this is a period of normalisation, not provocation.

ANDY PARK: Andrew Hastie, yesterday we saw the United Nations vote to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Australia voted in support just hours after it issued a joint statement with New Zealand and Canada, calling for the same. You've echoed Israel's concerns about the UN motion, writing that a ceasefire would let Hamas regroup, but given the enormous civilian death toll in Gaza, and the scale of the destruction there, I mean, how much longer can this invasion go on?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Andy, I think we've got to go back to October 7 and remind ourselves that it was Hamas who drew the sword against Israel. Hamas, in its charter, in its very DNA, is committed to the destruction of the State of Israel and the Jewish people and to give them a ceasefire is to let them remain in power, regroup and potentially attack Israel again. My heart breaks for all the innocents who have been lost in this conflict - it's terrible - but that blood is on Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organisation, it’s listed here in Commonwealth law, and I think it was a mistake by the Albanese Government to vote for this resolution which did not condemn Hamas. Hamas can hand back the hostages, they can lay down their arms, they can hand over their leadership and this conflict will be resolved, but they're not going to do that. And so, Israel has a choice - does it basically offer a ceasefire and invite more attacks, or does it finish the job as it were of removing Hamas as a political and military force in Gaza?

ANDY PARK: You rightly say that Israel has a choice. Do you think Israel's assault on Gaza has been proportionate? You’ve got to admit that at some point, there is a time to have a ceasefire and cease hostilities so that humanitarian aid can be delivered?

ANDREW HASTIE: There will be a time for a ceasefire, and I pray that it happens soon, but it has to be done on terms that will enable peace to continue. And whilst Hamas remains as a political and military force, I cannot see peace in the region, particularly when their charter is opposed to Israel's very existence, let alone Jewish people. There have been a lot of casualties and as I said, my heart breaks for the children who've been caught up in this, but this is on Hamas. Hamas drew the sword, Hamas has this blood on their hands, and I must say as well, Israel has paid a high price - a brigade commander was killed very recently, a member of the Israeli cabinet has lost a son in the fighting. You’re right, war is very, very costly, but Hamas was the party who initiated this conflict.

ANDY PARK: But even if, and look it's a big if, Hamas can be destroyed, if the goal or path to peace remains a two-state solution, who will Israel negotiate with? I mean, we know that the PA, the Palestinian Authority, has very little support, dwindling support, in the West Bank as well and that support for Hamas is growing in the West Bank. So how does this end?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's a great question. We need to somehow create a better political reality in the Middle East and that reality is not clear at the moment, but it certainly and it cannot involve Hamas. Hamas cannot be part of the future political reality, given what they have done and so this is a task for Israel, this is a task for the Palestinian people. A two-state solution is what we'd like to see and that is only possible when you have both parties committed to peace, not the destruction of one of the parties involved.

ANDY PARK: It's important to remember that Australia wasn't the only country that supported this ceasefire. 153 countries voted for the resolution, including on the neighbours, New Zealand and Canada. The UK abstained, I think just 10 countries voted against it. Is US President, Joe Biden, right that Israel is losing global support for the war?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think the rise of antisemitism across the world, but particularly in the West, has been very disturbing over the last two months. I think there's been a lot of moral confusion sowed by Hamas apologists, whether in the open or indirectly, and I think that's made Israel's task very difficult. On the vote itself, though, I should note that Germany, Italy, the UK, as you mentioned, all had the decency to abstain. Our near neighbours, like Papua New Guinea, voted against it. Australia is all over the place and I think this reflects the very, very mixed politics inside the Labor caucus, which is playing out not only domestically, but also internationally, and that's a problem. What we need is strong leadership. We need political leadership that is able to distinguish right from wrong. I think its’s very clear what happened on October 7. I watched the video with other Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security members - it was a disturbing 43-minutes of cold-blooded murder. 138 murders I witnessed and I’ve got to tell you, Andy, it was extremely tough viewing, but it was important that we did so because I want to tell the Australian people about the true nature of Hamas. These people are not going to sit at a table and negotiate peace with Israel and that's why any future going forward must not involve Hamas. That’s why the ceasefire, I think, is ultimately unhelpful because they have to be removed from power.

ANDY PARK: Do you support Australia sending a warship to the Red Sea where the Iranian aligned Houthi rebels are sort of targeting tankers and obviously, those tankers are linked to Israel, but we are being asked by the US to take a more direct role in this conflict. So what's your view?

ANDREW HASTIE: My view is that Australia has always played its part in maintaining and upholding regional and global security. The Red Sea and the Middle East is particularly fragile at the moment so in principle, my view is that if we can assist, then we should consider it. It's a decision for the Prime Minister and his National Security Cabinet, they are the informed decision makers. They’re also mindful, of course, of the Royal Australian Navy and its operational readiness for such a task. I've sought a brief from Richard Marles, he's replied and he will give it to me, and I'll await further information before I make any further comment.

ANDY PARK: But in short, you would hypothetically support Australian personnel being committed to a situation that may end up in active battle.

ANDREW HASTIE: It’s always a huge undertaking to commit Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen to harm's way and so I'd want to have all the information beforehand but I am, and I know the Coalition is, committed to upholding regional and global security and, of course, if that was to involve some sort of commitment, it should be closely considered by the government, but that is a decision for the Australian Government with all the facts that they have in hand.

ANDY PARK: Andrew Hastie, the Ukrainian ambassador is on the line, he’ll join me in a second. I just want to ask you, Australia has been a steadfast supporter of Ukraine since Russia invaded last year, billions in defence support for Ukraine really still remains stalled in the US Congress. Are you worried about the US’ support for Kyiv and the fact that could be waning?

ANDREW HASTIE: Yes, I am. The ambassador has done superb work in Australia, I count him as a friend, I support him and his country and the desire to be free of Russian interference. I think it's really important for democracies around the world that we stand with Ukraine. I know there is a growing isolationist sentiment in the United States - I think it's unhelpful and I am concerned about it, but I'm confident that with our powers of political persuasion, our American friends will listen. We saw Tony Abbott make comment to the US Speaker of the House in the last 24 hours, I was over in London recently where I had the opportunity to put my views to a US senator as well. This is where political advocacy is really, really important and the opposition and the government should be doing more of it.

ANDY PARK: Do you think $186 million from the Albanese Government is enough?

ANDREW HASTIE: We can always do more.

ANDY PARK: We'll have to leave it there. Andrew Hastie is the opposition defence spokesperson. Good afternoon to you.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thank you, Andy.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.