Interview: Kieran Gilbert, Sky News



KIERAN GILBERT: Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie, thanks for your time. Let me start first of all by asking, were you surprised by the remarks made by the Premier?

ANDREW HASTIE: First of all, Kieran, good to be with you. I was actually flattered that I was living rent free inside Premier Mark McGowan's head. I wasn't surprised that he was running down Australian MPs in China but I was surprised that he'd do that, given that he was a former legal officer in the Royal Australian Navy. And I think when you're overseas and you're representing our country, you keep those sorts of comments to yourself and you back in your colleagues across the Parliaments regardless of what party they're in. So I think it's pretty damaging and frankly, it shows that he's out of his intellectual depth. Had he read Penny Wong's speech from earlier in the week, which was a good, strong speech, he'd be asking her if she was taking 'Cold War pills', too. He hasn't read it, obviously and that's why I encouraged him to do so today.

KIERAN GILBERT: Mr McGowan's office sent out the footage, do you believe it's an intentional slice against you?

ANDREW HASTIE: I don't think so. I always think incompetence in these situations is the best explanation and they just didn't check the footage and so we got the hot mic. But as I said, this is a Premier who's a prison guard out of work post pandemic. He's looking for work and there's a lot of work right here in Western Australia. We have a hospital crisis, we have record ramping hours, we have a housing shortage - I've got kids in my electorate living in caravan parks - and there's a lot of work to be done in the regions as well, a lot of infrastructure that needs to be fixed. So, Mark McGowan should read Penny Wong's speech and he should hurry home and get on with fixing up this state.

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you think it's a political risk for you to take him on? Clearly, you've absolutely responded with both barrels today. Is it a political risk, given how popular he is in your home state?

ANDREW HASTIE: I don't think so. I think people are looking for leadership, we're looking for change. As I said, he was one of the most heavy handed premiers during the pandemic. We've moved out of the pandemic and there's a lot going on in WA. We've got AUKUS, we've got the forward rotation West which is going to start in the next four years - he's not talking about it at all. We need fresh eyes and fresh leadership to build up our state. There's a lot happening in the world and like I said, this is a guy who doesn't have a lot of intellectual range and I'm going to take him on. The Liberals have had a tough time in this state over the last few years but we're having a fight back and I'm proud to lead that as part of the WA team along with Michaelia Cash and my state parliamentary colleagues.

KIERAN GILBERT: Do you believe it's a positive that Premier McGowan has gone to China to try and build on the trade relations between your state and that major trading partner?

ANDREW HASTIE: Of course. We're a trading nation, we want to do business with everyone and this is what Penny Wong made clear in her speech. We are a trading nation and our prosperity is tied to our neighbourhood. But there are also national security concerns. She said we are facing unprecedented strategic circumstances which requires unprecedented coordination and ambition in Australian statecraft. Who is driving that change? Well, it's China. And it's clear in her remarks that that's where the change is coming from. She mentioned militarisation of disputed features, you know, bad behaviour in the air over the South China Sea. She mentioned missiles being fired over Taiwan, and of course, into Japan's economic waters. She mentioned the recent training exercises practicing for a blockade of Taiwan. I mean, it's clear as day. And so Mark McGowan needs to engage with reality. Good on him for seeking to build our trade relationship, he should be doing that with all the countries in our region, but he needs to be careful about what he says because I think he's undermined the national interest by running his mouth off at this lunch in Beijing.

KIERAN GILBERT: Penny Wong did deliver that important speech this week. You've mentioned it a couple of times. Is it fair to say you think she's getting the balance right between holding firm in our national interest but trying to rebuild and foster what appears thaw with Beijing?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think we all want the Australian Government to succeed on the international stage, that's why we supported the AUKUS decision last month so wholeheartedly. Of course, there are questions that we have about that. But it is in the national interest and her speech engaged on AUKUS, it defended AUKUS. There were lots of points in her speech where we see eye to eye as the Opposition. Of course, there are always nuances and points of difference, but when it comes to foreign policy and defence policy, we are in a tough decade, and the Opposition will always work with the government to deliver the best outcomes for our country and for the Australian people.

KIERAN GILBERT: Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie, I very much appreciate your time and taking up the opportunity for a right of reply in the face of those comments from the Premier. Thanks for your time.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks very much, Kieran. A pleasure.