Interview: Andrew Clennell, Sky News

WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER 2023

ANDREW CLENNELL: Mr. Andrew Hastie, thanks so much for your time. Let me ask for a reaction first to this outburst by Mark Dreyfus, asked to apologise to, for example, the woman who was indecently assaulted in South Australia at a hotel allegedly by this detainee. And he blows up and says, "that's an absurd question", "don't interrupt me" to Olivia Caisley, and "I will not apologise for upholding the law in releasing these detainees". What's your reaction to that?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Andrew it's the symptom of a government under pressure. So Anthony Albanese last year said that he was going to have a kinder and gentler parliament. What we saw from Mark Dreyfus today was neither kind or gentle, but it's symptomatic of a government under pressure. What we've seen over the last few weeks is 140 plus criminals released into the community, two of which have been charged with offences. And that's happened on this watch. So let's not—whilst Mark Dreyfus should apologise—let's not forget the deeper issue here is that of incompetence by this government. We've called on the Minister for Home Affairs and the Minister for Immigration to resign, and the Prime Minister sack them if they don't, but this goes right to the heart of government, it goes to Anthony Albanese's lack of leadership. He's not across the detail. He's not anticipating events, and he's actually weak on national security and borders.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Right. You guys do keep saying Clare O'Neil and Andrew Giles should resign, what's the basis for that call?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, the public safety and order was undermined with the release of these criminals. The government knew as early as May of this year, that it was likely the High Court would make a ruling not in favour of the government. And they should have anticipated that, they should have had foresight, and they should have had legislation ready to go. Now Peter Dutton and the Coalition have called for a preventative detention regime since early November. In fact, I came on your show Sunday morning on the 12th of November and I said that's what they should be considering. It's taken them to this week to bring legislation in. And in that time, we've seen 140 people released, we've seen some be charged with offences, and that's on this government's watch. They are accountable. And under the Westminster system, ministers are accountable. Which is why we call on the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister of Immigration to resign.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right, Clare O'Neil. She had some comments earlier about what the opposition has been saying, you only had to release one detainee initially because of the High Court decision. Let's have a listen to that.

 

[RECORDING] CLARE O'NEIL: What the Coalition is saying it's absolute garbage. And they know that. They know that they are out there telling lies. Let's call it for what it is, garbage and lies.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right. She's quick with the attack on Peter Dutton and the opposition. She says garbage and lies that the opposition is saying, that you always had to release these 140. What do you say to that?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: I think what we need to see from the government is calm and considered leadership. Our borders are in chaos. We have 140 people released into our community. And as of today, we still don't have a regime in place. So instead of attacking Peter Dutton, who's been acting as a de facto Prime Minister, for several weeks now driving this legislation, bringing the government to the table, sharing his knowledge and experience as a very successful Home Affairs Minister, to make sure that they have something ready to go. So finally today, we're at that point, it's taking them much, much too long. So to attack Peter Dutton is a red herring. It's a complete red herring.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right. Well, if your amendments aren't accepted, I presume you'll still pass the laws through the parliament. Is that a fair summation?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, it's come through the Senate now, or at least the Citizenship Repudiation Bill. And so we're anticipating that coming to the house very soon.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right, what amendments on both bills are the opposition seeking? I've heard suggestions you want a bigger rollout of ankle bracelets; you want removing citizenship for anyone who served in a foreign military. And Olivia mentioned something there, which sounded pretty practical in terms of disclosing breaches, or disclosing arrests of the detainees who have been released. Does that sum up your amendments? Or are there more that you can make us aware of?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well for the Citizenship Repudiation Bill, which has just passed the Senate unamended, we put an amendment whereby we would broaden the scope of the offenses which citizenship can be lost for. So at the moment, it's terrorism, espionage, foreign interference, advocating mutiny, and so on. We wanted to include inciting violence, genocide, slavery, child sex offenders, carriage of a service provider, that would have child sex material on it. We wanted to make it very clear that—

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: You want to deport more people.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: To be an Australian, we have a distinct set of values. And if you're a dual citizen, and you're in breach of those values, then we will seek to have your citizenship repudiated.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: In that instance you'd have to have citizenship of another country I assume.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: That's always the case.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: But it feels like we have a hard enough time getting rid of these other detainees. Let alone setting up a regime where you have to get rid of so many more. It's a difficulty, isn't it? The actual removal process.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: It is a difficult process. And that's why we're working with the government as best as we can. We want to see the Australian community safe. We want to see public order upheld. And under this government over the last four weeks, we've seen the complete opposite. We've seen chaos. We've seen chaos with detainees with criminal records, who still pose a threat to the community, released at large.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Because Peter Dutton has also raised this may only take into account two or three or four of the immigration detainees. How many of the 140 plus do you think the government should be looking to put away with these laws?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: That'd be case by case, individual by individual, and I just don't have any information.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right. Mark Dreyfus also turned it back on Peter Dutton today and said that some of the amendments that you were suggesting, and I assume this was the citizenship bill, were unconstitutional, and would render it unconstitutional. And as Peter Dutton's law has been found unconstitutional, did the former government fall short? And what's your reaction to that?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: This is a new regime. So the power is vested in the Court, rather than Minister. The reason why it was ruled unconstitutional with the former Act was because the Minister was making a judgment of guilt. Now, the Minister will apply to a court, and the court using its power will make a decision based on whether or not that person should lose their citizenship. So it's a new regime.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: The question remains were your laws adequate? And by the way, the former Government appointed a lot of these judges who've made this decision.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Mark Dreyfus himself was a member of the PJCIS. I spent a lot of time talking to Mark long hours negotiating, I know Mark, very well. And as I recall, that report passed on a bipartisan basis out of the committee.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Because he said today something like, I warned them it was unconstitutional that committee, is that not true?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: We can go back to the report, but in the end Labor supported it, that's the bottom line.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Okay. I wanted to ask you about your portfolio of defence. It was a few weeks ago now, but what's your view on the way the government handled the China sonar attack issue?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: I think it was weak, I think this should have been raised at the highest levels.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: What if he did raise it with President Xi? That's what I've been led to understand.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, we don't have any confidence that he did. He's very clear on—

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Do you think he did or not?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: I don't think he did.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Really?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: No.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Based on his public utterances.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Correct. Because they've given us a readout of previous meetings.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: And including those sort of sideline meetings or?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: I'm pretty confident, I mean, let's check the record. But if they're generally speaking, I think something of this significance should have been raised. We had Australian divers at risk underwater, suffering a sonar attack from a Chinese destroyer. It doesn't get more significant than that. And I think that's the point where you escalate it. As Anthony Albanese says himself, we disagree where we must. This was a point of disagreement that he should have raised peer to peer, man to man.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Do you think you're making much ground with this, Albanese as a weak man and a beta male or whatever? Maybe beta male is the focus group's language, not Liberal Party, but you seem happy to go along with it. But you keep calling him weak. Is that working? Is that resonating out there?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, I think people are working him out. I think he's a Prime Minister who's not driving his cabinet. He's not across the detail. His instincts are weak. You know, he enjoys doing concerts and DJ stuff and, you know, appealing to the youth of Australia. But fundamentally, as the Prime Minister, we need someone who's strong, particularly with the backdrop that we're seeing now in Israel, in the Indo Pacific. This is a time for strength. And so in a sense, you know, Peter Dutton's strengths are magnified by the Prime Minister's weaknesses.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: All right, well, let's talk about AUKUS. Are you happy with the way the government's handling the deal so far? And how important is a domestic nuclear industry to AUKUS? You've been a fan of nuclear for a while I haven't yet.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: I have, I think it'd be an excellent part of our energy mix. We should be agnostic about our sources of energy. And there are many countries across the world who use nuclear power. So I think we should incorporate it or should consider it.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: But certainly, I'm concerned about AUKUS. I'm concerned about the drive that we're seeing from this government. I'm concerned about the lack of activity, particularly in Perth at HMAS Stirling, which will become Submarine Rotational Force-West in 2027. We know through estimates now that works at that base will not commence till 2025 and I have it from leaders in industry, people who are very, very equipped to comment on this saying that it needs to get going in 2024.

 

ANDREW HASTIE: The longer you leave it, the less space you have for you know, delays and all the rest of it. So we need to get we need to get cracking.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: And what would a nuclear industry mean for AUKUS? Will that be beneficial?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: I think it'd be mutually supporting. I think the point is, it's very difficult to build a, a nuclear-powered submarine capability without an industry to support it and to have that crossover in personnel. The biggest challenge we have is building the workforce. The intellectual capital required is significant. This is a nation building task. It's multigenerational. It's a huge endeavour. And it's very, very difficult just to silo this capability into the military. We actually need it to be broader than that. And you talk to the Americans, if you talk to British, talk to the French, I've had some good conversations with the French.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: That all was forgiven on the Coalition side from the French?

 

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, I've always had a good relationship with our French friends. I like our French friends. But certainly they've all made the point that it's really important that you have a depth, you have depth, and having a civil industry brings that depth.

 

ANDREW CLENNELL: Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie, thanks so much for your time.

 

[ENDS]

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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2023-12-06 15:26:04 +0800