INTERVIEW WITH GARY ADSHEAD, 6PR
TUESDAY 14 MARCH 2023
GARY ADSHEAD: The Shadow Defence Minister is Andrew Hastie, he joins me on the line. Thanks very much for your time, Andrew. I’ve got to start somewhere. From your point of view, does this make us more secure, or more of a risk in terms of our security here in WA?
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, THE HON. ANDREW HASTIE MP: I think it actually makes us more secure. And I also think it helps to secure our neighbours in the region as well, because there is a growing challenge, particularly from China. It's really important that we secure peace through strength and so what these eight nuclear submarines represent is an investment in hard power for this country so that we can negotiate our way through turbulent times ahead and if necessary, punch our way out as well.
GARY ADSHEAD: Okay, you're obviously a West Australian politician, South Australia will be the place where these are manufactured. Is that an issue for WA? Should the WA state government be annoyed about that or was that the only way forward?
ANDREW HASTIE: No, I actually think WA has done incredibly well and I think people are missing that so far. We've only known for a few hours, but WA has done incredibly well. Now if you know that the first Virginia class submarine won't be delivered until 2033 and to offset that, or hedge that, we are going to have the presence of five submarines, nuclear submarines, here at HMAS Stirling from 2027. So, there's going to be billions of dollars of investment into HMAS Stirling to make sure that that we have the right facilities to host those submarines, to have the right processes in place. I think it's going to be a huge lift to Rockingham, Mandurah, the Peel Region, and a lot of opportunities for young Australians. If you're someone who's after an apprenticeship, if you want to join the Navy, if you're interested in nuclear science, if you're interested in advanced technology, and you live in the outer Metro down south, well, this announcement means a lot for you. And there's a lot of opportunity coming down range.
GARY ADSHEAD: Can I ask you obviously I stood not far from you at Henderson when a $4.3 billion submarine dry dock facility was announced. Can you see it as part of this plan still? Is it there?
ANDREW HASTIE: This is a question that the government needs to answer. So, I want to say from the outset, Gary, that the Coalition obviously supports what's been announced today. We set this in train back in 2021, when we cancelled the French attack class submarine program, and struck AUKUS with the UK and US governments. And now that baton has been passed the Albanese government and they've announced what they did today. But they need to be transparent about how they're going to pay for all of this. And they also need to be transparent about what's going to be cut from defence with the $3 billion worth of offsets. Now, $3 billion is a lot of money and we want to know which services are affected - Army or Air Force - we want to know what programs or capabilities are going to be cut and we also want to know which Australian businesses are going to be affected by the decision. I was at the Avalon Airshow only two weeks ago meeting with a lot of Australian businesses, including some great businesses from Western Australia and there is a lot of uncertainty because they're yet to get any indication from the Australian Government about some of the programs that they're invested in.
GARY ADSHEAD: Okay, have you heard anything? I mean, I know this is a moving feast at the moment to Andrew, but have you heard anything about the dry dock?
ANDREW HASTIE: No, I have not.
GARY ADSHEAD: But it hasn't been announced as part of this, as far as you can tell? I was trying to keep an ear on, I know that the press conference was going on down there with Jim Chalmers, the Federal Treasurer, but I haven't seen anything that suggests that that dry dock is included as part of these plans.
ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. And I think we'll have some clarity about the dry dock next month as part of the Defence Strategic Review when it's announced by the government.
GARY ADSHEAD: Just the significance of that, I mean, you're across all the detail on it - what was the significance of that? And given that we're going to have more submarine activity here, I would assume that it's even more important?
ANDREW HASTIE: Yeah, I'm anticipating massive investment into Stirling, into Henderson, so that we can help maintain these US, UK nuclear subs and in the future, our own Virginia class submarines. The dry dock is really, really important and the former Coalition government announced it because we only have one dry dock in this country and that's over in Sydney. We also need one on the West Coast because as you know, Gary, with this announcement, we're going to see a lot more of the US and UK naval fleets. We're hoping to see more of our allies like India and Japan and others, we saw the Germans come down to Perth during COVID which was great, and so Perth is rapidly becoming a port of call for our friends and partners in other navies. And we need the dry docks to assist with repairs and maintenance, but also for the commercial dividends that will also follow.
GARY ADSHEAD: I mean, no one wants to talk about the prospect of a war that Australia gets drawn into with China, we'll put China out there straightaway.
ANDREW HASTIE: Sure.
GARY ADSHEAD: You know, you come from a defence background, I'll ask you again though. There might be people listening to this thinking holy crap, you know, we're now going to be at the centre of the universe if anything should unfold in WA. Is it worth it?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, by nature of our geography, we're not at the centre of the universe, we're one of the most isolated capital cities in the world and that's why we were able to get through the pandemic relatively successful - that's in Western Australia that is. You know, there's a lot of geography between us and China, as you will know, if you look at the map, but this is about securing our supply lines, our sea lanes. We're a trading nation and so it's very easy to coerce Australia and hurt Australia before you even come to our shores. And I think having submarines will help protect our interests in the oceans that carry our livelihood and also protect the interests of our neighbours. Importantly, particularly if the situation becomes more uncertain, having the vertical launch capability is an absolute game changer.
GARY ADSHEAD: I know we've had this dance before, Andrew, but you know, you just talked about protecting our trade lines, etc, from who? China, our greatest trading partner?
ANDREW HASTIE: We do export around the world, including China and no one's making an argument against that, in fact, our prosperity is built on that and it's a good thing. But there is a sense of irony, Gary, and we've talked about this, we've even watched that clip together last year from I think it was Utopia.
GARY ADSHEAD: It is irony isn't it, that here we are about to commit nearly $400 billion to shoring up our defences against our number one trading partner?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Gary, it's an investment that needs to be made and there'll be critics no doubt. But on this, the Coalition stands with the government in the acquisition of eight nuclear submarines and we're not going to move away from that. We're making a generational commitment to that, that's what Peter Dutton said today when I stood up with him in Canberra for our press conference.
GARY ADSHEAD: It's pretty obvious now though, isn't it, Andrew, why the federal government were keen to move on the richest people's superannuation funds? They need to save money somewhere.
ANDREW HASTIE: They do, and you've hit the nail on the head. The principle of scarcity, which is the foundational principle of economics, there's going to be unlimited wants, but only limited resources to service those wants. Governments have always had to make tough decisions about the way they spend money, what programs they invest in and so the government in the May budget, two months away, have some hard decisions to make because they need to demonstrate how they're going to pay for the submarines and how they're going to pay for other programs as well and that's on them to demonstrate. So, we're going to have a conversation. I don't think, you know, super changes are going to pay for the submarines. It's going to be a mix of reforms if they're going to make them and we'll have that debate and discussion as it comes to us.
GARY ADSHEAD: Okay, when the decisions were being made around AUKUS, and obviously annoying the French by ripping up that agreement, did your government back then already have in mind the sort of savings that would be required to see this through, and you must have had a sense of what the costs were going to be?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that's why we said in train the 18-month process that was led by Admiral Jonathan Mead who heads up the Submarine Task Force. So, the first part was actually getting the US to agree to releasing their crown jewels, their nuclear technology, so that we could have submarines. Yes, we knew it was going to be expensive but you know what, there's going to be massive opportunities for young Australians as well - 20,000 jobs over the life of the program. Gary, this is truly a multi-generational nation building project that engages not just Defence, but also the private sector, our education sector and industry. So, for young Australians who are keen on cutting steel in submarines, there's going to be work for you. If you want to get involved in nuclear science, there's jobs for you, if you want to stay in at the very cutting edge of advanced technology, there are going to be plenty of jobs for you. And if you like traveling, I guarantee you, we're going to be investing in the UK, in the US - in Barrow-in-Furness in the UK and Connecticut and Rhode Island in the US. Again, there's going to be opportunities for you. So, this is quite exciting. Sure, there's a security component and this is about meeting the growing challenge, but there's also a nation building component, and this is why I'm excited for young Australians.
GARY ADSHEAD: Okay and just on all of that, I mean, this may sound like a stupid question, but I would assume that all the steel fabrication for projects like this will remain here in Australia, they would have to, I would assume that's the case?
ANDREW HASTIE: And again, that's for the government to be clear about.
GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah I'm just trying to picture us buying steel back from China that we've sent over and iron ore components, but there you go.
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, for those who love advanced manufacturing in this country, for those who love seeing the sparks of steel being cut, this AUKUS announcement is for you and I'm super excited about that. I love industry and I think you know regrettably, we've seen a lot of our industry offshored as we've become less competitive as a country, but this is going to revive a lot of that. And I know down in my neck of the woods in the Peel Region, we've got a lot of workers. A lot of them are FIFO workers and my message today to them would be - you don't have to spend a period of time away from your family, there will be jobs and opportunities in the Peel Region in and around Rockingham as this investment goes in.
GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah, okay. This is Joe Hockey, I just wouldn't mind playing - obviously, former ambassador, of course, to the US, etc. and former treasurer. This is kind of his immediate reaction to what this all means this morning, have a listen:
*EXCERPT OF JOE HOCKEY*
Well, it means that anyone that wants to mess with Australia is going to get a bloody nose. And the message out of this is we will spend whatever it takes, and do whatever it takes, and have access to the best technology in order to defend our families, our community and our nation.
GARY ADSHEAD: All right, a bloody nose. Is that the right sort of language?
ANDREW HASTIE: I'm down with that. You know, I've used right cross, punch, but basically, I come back to the schoolyard. If you might have been bullied once, I was bullied in the schoolyard a couple of times, you know, what gets rid of bullies is being able to hit back or having a mate that can help you out. And that's what we're doing here. We're making sure that Australia won't be bullied into the future and that's really, really important. So Joe was on the money there.
GARY ADSHEAD: Okay, now into the future, just finally, because this isn't going to start to roll off until 2033. When we have, as you said, the first submarine down here, there's a fair bit of time between, you know, we're talking 10 years between now and then, what happens in the meantime?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, we're going to have US, UK nuclear subs from 2027 and the government next month as part of the Defence Strategic Review is going to announce other capabilities, which will form part of our strike capabilities going forward. So, think missiles, think drones, think other sorts of capabilities that can project offshore and hold someone at risk. Hold them at risk of a bloody nose if you like to use Joe's language.
GARY ADSHEAD: A bloody nose it is, we'll settle on that one. Thanks very much for joining us today.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks very much, Gary.
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