Interview: Erin Molan, Sky News




Sunday 27 November 2022


ERIN MOLAN: Andrew, thank you so much for your time. A big week ahead in politics, a big week ahead in Parliament it would seem. I want to ask you a lot about my earlier guest but first of all, Labor’s Industrial Relations Bill. They struck a deal with ACT Senator David Pocock, some amendments made. The Prime Minister says this is a great day for workers, business groups say it will take Australia back to the 1970s. Where does the Coalition stand now, given some amendments have been made?

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP: Look, Senator Pocock might have struck a deal, but this is still in substance a very bad Bill. It's the transfer of power from the little guy, small businesses, to corporates and unions, and it's going to make our small business community less productive, less competitive, because of the cost that this will impose upon them, let alone the increased strikes that we can expect with the introduction of multi-employer bargaining. So, this is a bad Bill and we oppose it.

ERIN MOLAN: Yeah, I'm trying to find someone apart from the obvious who think it's a good idea and it's really tough to do, I promise you. The PM also said today that his predecessor should apologise off the back of the Bell report into the secret ministries. Scott Morrison, does he owe the Australian people an apology?

ANDREW HASTIE: Erin, Mr Morrison made a mistake, we don't need to relive it. Now we're open to working with the government to legislating some of the recommendations that Justice Bell made in her report, which builds on the Solicitor General's advice. But Anthony Albanese, our Prime Minister, needs to make a decision - does he want to keep fighting Tories and litigate this through the next week in the parliament? Or does you want to govern for Australia and get on with the business which we've he's been elected for? So, there's been a line drawn under the Morison government, that came in May when we lost the election, and now Mr Albanese needs to get on with leading this country.

ERIN MOLAN: I think that line needed to be drawn in much thicker permanent marker, particularly for the Labor government, because it’s constantly referred to isn't it? Let's talk about Defence now and the story that I spoke about off the top and spoke to Wes Hennessey about as well. Do you think that these officers who served in Afghanistan should be handing back medals and honours?

ANDREW HASTIE: The first point I want to make, Erin, is that this is ultimately about political leadership. In this country, we have civilian control of the military. So, Richard Marles on October 10, stood up in a press conference and said that he takes full responsibility for the Defence portfolio. So, the question the Coalition has for the Defence Minister Richard Marles is, why are you starting this process again? What do you hope to achieve by it? And what outcomes can we expect? Now the Special Operations community has been through a very tough time over the last six and seven years. The community's had a tough time, morale is low, and Peter Dutton as the Defence Minister over the last 18 months before the election, said about restoring our morale, and we made good headway of that. So, Minister Marles needs to step up and own this and come clean this week. The second point is military leadership. We need one standard for all. And so, if we're going to review medals at the tactical level, then I think we also need to review medals that were awarded at the operational and strategic level. The Brereton Report was very interesting and there was one paragraph that stood out to me, where it talked about JTF 633, the commander that was based in the UAE, which had authority and control of the operations in Afghanistan. Now they were awarded Distinguished Service Crosses, the CDF has one himself, and during the time that some of these events occurred. So, I think we should not just review those medals, we should review medals going all the way to the top, because in the military, it's one standard for all. That is just a baseline principle of discipline in the military.

ERIN MOLAN: Yeah, well said. It is, as I said, it's a really fascinating debate about leadership and not just leadership in general, but in an organisation like the military. I want to ask you about something that it appears China and France are on the same page about one thing at the moment, and that's their dislike of AUKUS. The Chinese government labelling it a threat to peace. Does the government need to come out and really strongly back this? I know that Albanese has said that AUKUS is here to stay but what should the rhetoric be around AUKUS?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, AUKUS is here to stay. It's probably the most significant trilateral agreement that has been in since ANZUS, so AUKUS is very significant. And it's going to deliver nuclear submarines, and a host of other emerging capabilities, which is critical to defending this country. So, China can say what they like, AUKUS is here to stay. And it brings together the US, the UK and Australia in a very important three-way military agreement to share top technology and also people frankly, because we're going to have to work together to develop our submarines and also share new and emerging technologies.

ERIN MOLAN: You've got one more sitting week of Parliament left, what are the priorities for the Liberal Party or what do you hope to achieve before the break at Christmas?

ANDREW HASTIE: Our job is to hold this government to account. So every single day when we step into the Parliament, our job is to make sure the government is doing its job, that it’s governing well. Probing and challenging questions for the Prime Minister and his team. And of course, we're in a rebuilding phase as well. So, we want to signal to the Australian people that will be fit and ready to government in two and a half years and building on Peter Dutton’s Budget in Reply speech that he gave several weeks ago. So, we've got a lot of work to do. And we're mission focused, which is delivering for the Australian people.

ERIN MOLAN: You still speak like a military man. Shadow Minister for Defence, Andrew Hastie, many thanks for your time tonight.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Erin. Good to be with you.