Interview: Chris Smith, Sky News





CHRIS SMITH: Joining me to discuss this is Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. Andrew, good to have you on the programme. Should we be concerned that the Russians are after our private data as much as they have been chasing it in recent times?

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP: Good evening to you, Chris. Yes, I do think this is concerning because as we know, the Russian government uses criminal syndicates to conduct hacking on behalf of the state. I'm not saying there's a connection here at all but I think when there are hacks coming out of Russia, that is great cause for concern, given the geopolitical position that Russia is in, in relation to Ukraine, having invaded it, and also with the rest of the world, frankly. And we've also supported Ukraine against the Russian military efforts as well. So, it is concerning but I'm glad that the AFP has managed to reveal the location of the hack and I hope they're working very closely with the government to work out next steps.

CHRIS SMITH: Now the government says we're five years behind when it comes to cyber intelligence and being prepared for cyber hacking. We've got to try and stop this happening again, don't we? And it's about time that the government stops throwing flames at the previous government, your government, and start to do something - have a plan work out a way in which we can change the cyber culture in the country.

ANDREW HASTIE: We've known about cyber for some time. In fact, as the Assistant Minister for Defence in the previous government, my role was to work very closely with the Australian Signals Directorate and the Australian Cyber Security Centre to help Australian businesses and families harden themselves against a growing cyber threat. Chris, if you own a phone, you're on the new battlefield which is cyber. You may not know you're a target, but you're a target. And so, with a lot of our lives migrating online during the pandemic, we have a massive threat surface that can be attacked by lone hackers, by criminal syndicates, and by state sponsored operations. So, one of the things we need to do as a country is uplift our cybersecurity. We invested a lot of money in doing that over the last few years. I was out on radio and TV every week for the last 18 months, arguing the case for businesses to increase their protection. So, one of the things that the private sector can really do is invest in this. If CEOs haven't cottoned on yet - if you don't invest in cyber, you leave your customers very, very vulnerable, as we've learned with Optus and Medibank recently, so it's really up to the private sector to lead on this, to work with government, and I think the government should be leading on this. And I think the Minister for Home Affairs has been absent in this space. I don't think she's done a great job and we want to see more leadership.

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah, what we've seen so far has just been enormous reputational damage, and no doubt there's more to come. Now, the Prime Minister is in Cambodia at the moment, he's just landed. Next week, he goes to Indonesia and Thailand to take part in the G20 and APEC Summits. He's expected to meet with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, we find out today. I'll wait until it actually happens because he's saying, ‘well hold on a second, before we meet, should you not have an intention to lift those tariffs and those embargoes and those bans on some of our produce?’ It'd be the first meeting, if it happens, between Xi and a Prime Minister in this country. That was, I think 2016, the last time Xi met with Malcolm Turnbull. Tensions have been running high. We've got to consider this as a positive step, though, don't we?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, I think it's a good thing that the Chinese are reaching out. Remember, they were the ones who froze us off, they were the ones who cut us out of any dialogue. So, we're always ready to talk, but always from a position of strength. And it was only 18 months or so ago that the Chinese Embassy gave 14 demands to an Australian journalist. And we've not capitulated on any of those demands and nor do I expect the government to do so. So, Prime Minister Albanese will go to potentially meet with President Xi, he'll do so from a position of strength. And we also want to see the trade sanctions lifted so that we can get our exports moving to China again, that's good for China, that's good for us. But we won't be sacrificing sovereignty, we won't be sacrificing a free press, we won't be sacrificing a secure telecommunications network, a 5g network, these are all the things that they asked us to capitulate on, and we won't be doing that.

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah, very true. Now to listen to the words of the Prime Minister though, is very important. This was before he left for Cambodia on this issue on ABC radio this morning.


CHRIS SMITH: So, what will we have to do if China decides okay, we'll lift most of those tariffs, and we'll lift most of those bans, will they ask us to do anything?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's a good question, Chris. And I think we should always dialogue, but we have to have a positive outcome for Australia. Remember, we're not sanctioning China - we're not freezing them out, they're freezing us out. So, the test for this meeting will be whether we have our producers back into Chinese markets, I think and that's what the Prime Minister has made very clear. So, look, I'm very bipartisan on this. I want to see Prime Minister Albanese succeed, I want to see Australia in a stronger position, I want to see more dialogue with China. Let's hope it happens. We always must do these things from a position of strength, not weakness.

CHRIS SMITH: Finally, Andrew Hastie, it's Remembrance Day and as a veteran yourself, what does the day mean to you?

ANDREW HASTIE: The day is a reminder that the good things that we enjoy in Australia - we only have them because people have been prepared to lay down their lives to defend them in the past. And so, for me, it's a day of reflection and a day of gratitude, where I thank the many men and women who've - more than 100,000 over the last 100 years - given their life in the service of our country, defending our values, defending our interests, and defending our country. So, it's a day we remember our veterans and it's also personally a day that I think of the many people who died in Afghanistan serving the ADF and quite a few of them were known to me personally. So, it's a special day.

CHRIS SMITH: Very poignant, and we must continue the commemoration. Andrew Hastie, thank you very much for your time. Enjoy your weekend.

ANDREW HASTIE: You too, Chris. Thank you.