Interview: Chris Kenny, Sky News




Tuesday 8 November 2022


CHRIS KENNY: Let’s cross now to the nation's capital and catch up with the Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. Good to talk to you again, Andrew. I want to get into our defence preparedness in just a moment but first, I know that you think of our defence as a nation in much broader terms than just military hardware - there's a lot more to it including our foreign policy posture and our economic strength, of course. Tell me about energy security, how big a role does energy security play in our overall national security, and therefore are you very worried about that?

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP: It's a great point, Chris. Defence is more than just hardware, it's also about people, but it's also about energy security, as well, which includes fuel security and baseload power that we need to build the defence industry, and to keep many of the capabilities that we have working. So, it's an absolutely critical part of our capacity as a nation to defend ourselves. And that's why it's really, really important going forward that we have strong baseload and affordable power, particularly as we try to grow our defence industry and our Defence Force, with local manufacturing.

CHRIS KENNY: Now, there's a lot of talk about our military hardware at the moment and how we really need to catch up. You say we need to spend even more than two per cent of our national GDP on Defence. You've talked a lot about bombers, we've got bipartisan support for nuclear submarines, but they're decades away. The Defence Minister, Richard Marles, has today talked about impactful projection. This seems to be talking about submarines, missiles, all sorts of hardware, where we can defend Australia beyond our shores, I suppose. Tell us about how urgent this challenge is right now and how much bipartisanship there is, how much you agree with the Richard Marles approach.

ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. We've been talking for some time now about the Davidson window. Admiral Davidson, the former commander of Indo Pacific Command in the US, in his valedictory appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March of last year, said that he anticipates China may well try to take Taiwan by force within the next five to seven years. So, looking out towards 2027. And the problem for Australia is that we're not going to have nuclear submarines by 2027. So, the question is, what's our hedge if China does take action against Taiwan? How are we going to defend ourselves and the region? And so, we need to think about strike capabilities that will help us reach out past the archipelago to our north and hold an adversary at risk, which is why we've been talking about a sovereign missile capability, strike bombers, submarines, of course, and other capabilities that would allow us to really pose a risk to an adversary from a standoff range.

CHRIS KENNY: So, Richard Marles is right then to talk about this impactful projection, and you'll obviously continue to feel the debate in in that area. Tell us then about American missiles being sited on our continent, is that to be contemplated?

ANDREW HASTIE: No, we want to build our own missile capability, sovereign missiles for ourselves. And that's why the former Coalition government formed the Australian Missile Corporation, that's why we need funding for that, that's why we need to develop this. The Davidson window is closing - it's now 18 months since he gave evidence before the Senate Armed Services Committee, it's four and a half years, according to his timeline, and very recently, we've had US Secretary of State Blinken also say that, you know, China may well try to take Taiwan sooner rather than later. So, we need to be prepared and we need to demonstrate that there is a cost for unilateral adventurism, military adventurism, in our region, which is why we need to get on with the job.

CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, we seem to have dropped the ball for the last couple of decades. Can we catch up in time? Just how vulnerable are we right now?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think the region is very vulnerable. And we wouldn't be having this conversation if this wasn't a consensus view, a bipartisan view. And we've got to take these voices coming out of the United States seriously. These are well considered public officials making fairly, you know, alarming comments in the public square, and we have a choice, we need to act. And that's why I said last week in a speech that I gave in Perth, that will work constructively with the government to deliver bipartisan defence solutions and we’ll oppose anyone who gets in the way of making sure that we have a strong ADF, strong supply chains and, you know, the energy requirements that we need to build our defensive capability.

CHRIS KENNY: That's so good to hear because it is such an important mission for whoever is on the Treasury benches in this country. Let me just take you briefly though, there down in the grubby world of politics, something that transpired in a parliamentary committee today. It's a Western Australian MP, a Labor West Australian MP. I want to show you what he said to the Liberal Deputy Senate Leader in this exchange, have a look.


CHRIS KENNY: That's Labor Senator Glenn Sterle calling Senator Bridget McKenzie, a naughty little girl. Now the question I have for you is Andrew Hastie is, he's a Labor MP, could you imagine if a Coalition MP said that? He’d be hounded out of Parliament, wouldn't he?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's right, there's a double standard at work. That was clearly a sexist comment. And it just goes to basic respect, you know, you should treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. And to call Senator Bridget McKenzie a naughty little girl is just - it's ridiculous. In fact, she's a tough woman and she's also a crack shot. I've gone head-to-head with her on the clay target range and she's pretty good. So, I wouldn't be going around calling her a naughty little girl if I was a senator.

CHRIS KENNY: Indeed, her and clay target shooting, there's a long story there, but thanks for sharing that with us. Andrew Hastie, I appreciate your time.

ANDREW HASTIE: Pleasure, Chris. Thank you.