INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS O’KEEFE, 2GB
MONDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2023
CHRIS O'KEEFE: Andrew Hastie, Shadow Defence Minister is on the line for us. Andrew, what do you make of it?
ANDREW HASTIE: G’day, Chris. Well, I think the Prime Minister has some questions to answer and that is, why didn't he raise this with President Xi? This is a moment where we must disagree, as he likes to say, and I think a sonar attack on Royal Australian Navy divers, which injured one and potentially could have done a lot worse, is an issue that you raise peer-to-peer, man-to-man, particularly when you have an opportunity at APEC.
CHRIS O'KEEFE: Well you're standing there with him, right?
ANDREW HASTIE: That’s right, and we've seen President Xi do exactly the same thing when he pulled Justin Trudeau aside at the G-20 in Indonesia in November last year and raised an issue of concern. So, look, I think it's well within the rights of the Prime Minister do it and the question is, why didn't he do it?
CHRIS O'KEEFE: He’s sort of, would I say, mincing his words, or it was a bit of doublespeak with the Prime Minister's interview with Kieran Gilbert on Sky News, where he was saying the Chinese government knows exactly how we feel about this and we have expressed our dismay in the most forceful and clear of terms. Yet it was ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’, ‘we’, not ‘I’.
ANDREW HASTIE: Exactly right. He's the leader of the country. He's the Prime Minister. It's a job that's pretty demanding. He wanted it. And now he's got to step up to the plate and act in our interests. And I think that's why the Australian people have a right to ask why didn't he raise it?
CHRIS O'KEEFE: Given that the Prime Minister and the Labor Government has rehabilitated Australia's relationship with China, do you buy a potential argument where they'd say, it's not a big enough deal to rock the boat?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, look, I think what's happened with the relationship is, there has been a reset of sorts, but there is still the geopolitical competition between the US and China that is ongoing in the Indo Pacific region. And, we had sanctions against our primary producers, we had Australian citizens put in jail unlawfully by the Chinese government, and so because we've had some thawing of relationships, to assume that's now a return to normality is to miss the point. I think we are still very much in a situation where there's a trust deficit with China. China has to show good faith. We shouldn't be congratulating them for lifting sanctions against our primary producers or releasing Australian citizens. If this was a friendship, this sort of stuff wouldn't be happening and by the way, Chris, this is a pattern of behaviour over the last two years. I remind your listeners in February of last year, a RAAF P‑8, conducting maritime surveillance in the Arafura Sea, was lased by a Chinese warship. In June of last year, a P-8 conducting maritime surveillance in the Indo Pacific had a Chinese fighter harass it and then discharge chaff or countermeasures which could have damaged the engines of the P-8. So this is behaviour that is forming a pattern and it's not the behaviour of a friend.
CHRIS O'KEEFE: Andrew Hastie, appreciate your time.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks very much, Chris.
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