Interview: Kieran Gilbert, Sky News





KIERAN GILBERT: Now to Perth, I’m joined by Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie off the back of the surface fleet review announced today. You called for more money. There is more money to the tune of $1.7 billion across the forward estimates and more than $11 billion over the next decade in addition to what was already committed. Do you welcome that? Is that sufficient?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think the main concern I have Kieran is that we won't see a new ship in the water until 2031. The Defence Minister today announced that the Anzac frigate, HMAS Anzac, will be retired and we won't see replacement until 2031. So, whilst he could announce today $11 billion dollars over the next decade, there's only $1.7 billion dollars over the forward estimates. And so, what I think is clear here is that Richard Marles went to cabinet and he lost. He went to cabinet and he lost against Penny Wong, Katy Gallagher and Jim Chalmers. And I think the real question he should be asking is, what can he fix by 2026?

KIERAN GILBERT: Is there any chance though, of getting a frigate sooner? He's talking about later this decade for the arrival of those frigates to be procured overseas off the shelf. Is it Is there any viable alternative to getting something sooner?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, that's for the government to work out and I asked for a briefing, and I haven't been able to get a briefing. In fact, the press gallery had a better briefing before today's announcement than I did. But certainly, with the Anzac-class aging and being retired, we know HMAS Anzac will be retired soon, we need more ships in the water and under Labor's surface fleet plan, we won't see another frigate in the water - the general purpose frigates, which won’t go to tender until 2026 - the first ship won't be in the water until 2031. This is despite the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister both banging the same drum, which is that Australia is facing the most dangerous strategic circumstances since the end of the Second World War. If that is the case, what are they doing to fix by 2026 in the Australian Defence Force?

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you like the shift in approach though, with 26 surface fleet- ships in the surface fleet that that's going to have a bigger missile capacity, a bigger drone capacity, at least in the direction is at the right trajectory for the Navy?

ANDREW HASTIE: The Coalition is ambitious for Australia. We are ambitious for the Australian Defence Force. So, we welcome the ambition of this plan. The problem is that it's all out in the next decade. And we want to see real action this decade. And I think that's the problem with this Labor government. They're not serious about national security. Ever since the Defence Strategic Review was handed down last year—Kieran, you and I did an interview the same day—we've seen no new money, we've seen cuts to capability, and we've seen inflation eating into the defence budget. So, this $1.7 billion dollars over the forward estimates is a drop in the ocean really. And we're not seeing the sort of commitment from this government to remedying the challenges that we're facing in the defence force that we really need if we want to see action now. This is the thing, Richard Marles loves talking about the next decade. He loves comparing projected defence expenditure between the Coalition and the Albanese Government in the 2030s. And he misses the immediate challenge right before his eyes which is the present. He needs to act now.

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you look at this situation with the border security question being debated now, the fact that that boat was able to reach the mainland, are you worried about that? Does that reflect a vulnerability in terms of our national defence? Does it reflect a government in their country that can’t control its borders?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, history is stalking the Albanese Government. Under the last government, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments, when it came to border protection, they had 50,000 illegal arrivals, 800 boats, 1,200 deaths at sea. And on the defence side, they took defence spending to the lowest levels since 1938. And so, what we're seeing now is people smugglers testing the mettle of this government. They are testing whether it's a weak government or a strong government. And I think the fact that we've seen 13 boats arrive here since May 2022, with more than 300 illegal arrivals, demonstrates that we have a problem when it comes to surveilling our coastline. The fact that we had 40 males reach Beagle Bay and Pender Bay last week reveals a gap in our surveillance. And we know through Estimates that this government has ripped $600 million dollars out of the Australian Border Force budget. And even the Australian Border Force Commissioner said himself that his force is stretched thin. So, this is a problem. I think this is a weak government and they're not serious about national security.

KIERAN GILBERT: The Border Force Commissioner then issued a statement saying that funding is going to hit the highest levels they've had in history. What do you put this down to then if those dollars are flowing in? Where is that surveillance blackhole then that's allowed this to happen?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, that's good question. The Shadow Home Affairs Minister James Paterson has done some excellent work on this. And there's a number of reasons why they’re sort of massaging the numbers, but certainly, we know. We've done the work. $600 million dollars has been taken out of the budget. And that has a cost. And if you're unable to surveil the vast north-west coast of Australia, you're going to see all sorts of challenges. You're going to see drug boats coming through, you're going to see people smuggling operations, you're going to see illegal fishing. Which is why this government needs to invest in cutting-edge, low cost, unmanned platforms that can provide unblinking eyes that work over our coastline. Otherwise, we're going to see the boats starting up again, particularly when this government is signalling to the world that it's weak on border security.

KIERAN GILBERT: Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie, thanks for your immediate reaction to the surface fleet review, we’ll talk to you soon.



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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2024-02-21 08:37:37 +0800