Interview: Ashleigh Gillon, Sky News Afternoon Agenda


Wednesday 17 April 2024

Topics: National Defence Strategy, defence spending, Brereton Report.


ASHLEIGH GILLON: Joining us from Canberra is the Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. Andrew, our viewers have just heard the Minister, Pat Conroy, talking us through the spending boost, saying it's the biggest we've seen in decades for the Defence Force in this country. Yet, you're claiming the ADF would be worse off under this plan. How so?

ANDREW HASTIE: Good afternoon, Ashleigh, good to be with you. Well, as we saw from Richard Marles today, he failed the test that we set for him. Number one, to articulate the threats to Australia clearly. Number two, to clearly articulate a strategy to defeat those threats. And number three, to secure the funding necessary to build a strong Australian Defence Force. What we've seen today is more cuts. We saw $7.8 billion of cuts last year when the Defence Strategic Review was handed down, and today, Richard Marles announced $72.8 billion worth of cuts. This is a weak showing from a weak Defence Minister and I think it's a great concern. What I can say to your viewers today is that under a Peter Dutton led government, the Coalition's Defence spending will be higher than that of the Albanese Government.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Well, the Albanese Government is now committing to spending 2.4 per cent as a proportion of GDP by 2034. What level are you looking at?

ANDREW HASTIE: We will be higher than the Albanese Government – that's what I confirmed with the Opposition Leader before stepping out this afternoon. This is really important. The Government can't keep saying to the Australian people that we're living in the most challenging times since the end of the Second World War, and then not match spending to the strategy that we need to prevail in the challenges ahead. So, what we're going to do, under the Coalition, is invest in our Defence Force, make it a strong Defence Force, so that we can prevail in any strategic challenges in the next decade and beyond.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Would you be spending significantly more than the Albanese Government? Can you give us any sort of sense of levels here instead of just saying it will be more than the Albanese Government? That's obviously a pretty vague position in terms of the details. When can we learn more from you as to what the Coalition's commitment actually is in that space?

ANDREW HASTIE: Ashleigh, this is something that we're going to work on. Obviously, journalists were better briefed than the Opposition prior to the speech and immediately after the speech given by Richard Marles today, so we're working through those documents. We'll work through our own processes, as you can imagine, but it's really important today that we signal to the Australian people that we are very serious about our national security. We are serious about having a strong Defence Force and in order to meet all the additional commitments, which includes AUKUS of course, we are going to increase our Defence expenditure under a Peter Dutton government – that's a really important point.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Are you on the same page with the Government though when it comes to focusing on that strategy involving spending on the submarines and the missiles as really the bulk of that program?

ANDREW HASTIE: The Coalition established AUKUS – we obviously support it. Richard Marles tried to suggest today that there wasn't bipartisanship on that. Of course we support AUKUS and nuclear submarines – a huge boost to Western Australia, particularly, with US and UK submarines coming alongside on a routine basis from 2027. There are a whole range of other capabilities. Of course, we need to have drones as part of our fighting force. But what's really, really important is that we have a clear strategy and today, Richard Marles did not give a new or clear strategy to the Australian people. He talked about 'impactful projection' – I still don't know what that means. It was his task today to explain that and what we saw instead was warmed over talking points that he's been recycling for the past 12 months or so.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Okay, well, we look forward to seeing more details around the Coalition's new commitment to spend more than the government when it comes to Defence over the coming years. We'll await the details on that. I did want to ask you though, the Defence Minister, Richard Marles was out today and said he's still considering recommendations to strip medals from those found to have committed war crimes in the Brereton Report. What is your position on how that should be handled? Would you like to see a quicker response from the government on that front?

ANDREW HASTIE: It needs to be handled very sensitively. There are a lot of people with their reputations on the line. There's due process, and I want to ensure that process is upheld, and it has integrity, so I'll leave it at that. But certainly, we'll be watching what the Government does very closely.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: So, the Coalition doesn't have a position as to whether those medals should be stripped from those who are found to have committed war crimes in the Brereton Report?

ANDREW HASTIE: Again, there's a process underway, there's a criminal investigation from the Office of Special Investigator and there's administrative action, which has been conducted by the Australian Defence Force, overseen by Richard Marles as the Minister for Defence. I don't know who has received letters, all I know is that there is a process underway, and we want to make sure there is procedural fairness afforded to every single person impacted by this. One thing I will say, Ashleigh, is that this process has dragged on for a long time and there has to be accountability, not just at the lowest levels, but at the highest levels as well. And so, if we're going to talk about medals, that opens a whole can of worms, obviously, because there's a number of people who've been decorated with medals, who held command positions, and of course, during the time that the Special Operations Task Group was conducting operations in Afghanistan, so I'll leave it at that. There is a process, and we need to uphold that process.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Andrew Hastie, appreciate you making the time for us, thanks so much.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Ashleigh.

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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2024-04-18 15:11:12 +0800