FRIDAY 19 JANUARY 2024
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Andrew Hastie is the Shadow Defence Minister and with me now. Good morning, Andrew Hastie, thanks for your time.
ANDREW HASTIE: Good morning, Nadia. How are you?
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: I'm well, thank you. Do you think we should have given these helicopters to Ukraine?
ANDREW HASTIE: I think the Government has to answer why they've chosen not to. I had a brief yesterday along with another colleague, Senator David Fawcett, who is a former Army test pilot, and we're not satisfied with the answers. So, we're calling on the Government to explain their decision because, for your listeners, the strategic frame is this – authoritarian powers, like Russia, are really starting to challenge the global order, and their unjustified, unprovoked, immoral invasion of Ukraine poses a big question for the free world – are we going to stand up against bullies? The Ukrainians are asking for our support. We have 45 Taipan helicopters that we're decommissioning – we have peacetime risk, the Ukrainians have wartime risk, and that's a totally different level of risk – and they could use those for medivacs, getting their troops back from the combat zones to places where they can receive medical aid. We should consider it and the Government has to explain why they're not.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Are you able to tell us what answers you were given in your briefing yesterday as to why they weren't given to Ukraine?
ANDREW HASTIE: I don't want to go into great detail but the Defence Industry Minister, Pat Conroy, has already talked about the cost of doing a decommission where the helicopters go to Ukraine. I'm not satisfied with the cost argument. We don't have to send all 45, we could send a number, and so again, the Government is just hoping that we'll walk away and take their answer at face value. But I do think there is a good case for these to be sent and I think it actually makes us look weak. The Coalition has been calling on the Government to do more to help Ukraine. They denied the request for Hawkei vehicles – they're the light armoured vehicles which are used right here in Perth with the 10th Light Horse Regiment – they've denied these helicopters, instead they sent museum pieces, the M113 armoured personnel carrier that many of our Vietnam veterans in Perth used back in the Vietnam War. So, I think the Government needs to answer the questions that we're asking.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: The Defence Minister also said that they weren't in flying condition because they've been dismantled. Is that the issue with the cost that you'd have to put them all back together again?
ANDREW HASTIE: Perhaps so, but this goes to a deeper question – is the Defence Department running our defence and foreign policy? They should have provided options to the Government and if they've jumped the gun here and dismantled these aircraft so that the Government does not have the option of sending, that's also a problem. This is about leadership, and I think at the moment there's an absence of leadership from the Government. We need to support our Ukrainian friends. They're a democracy and they're getting pushed around by a bully in Vladimir Putin. We need to stand up to bullies and that's why I'm calling on the Government to explain why they're not sending these Taipans.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie, is my guest this morning at 9:28 on ABC Radio Perth and WA. Could it be the case that Ukraine simply asked for these helicopters too late, the process to dismantle them was already too far along and do we also risk then giving them dud helicopters?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that's a good question and if I was Richard Marles, the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, I'd stand up today and explain to the Australian people why we're not doing this. We all have legitimate questions, and we need the answers from the Government. I'll come back to an earlier comment I made about risk –
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: – Because is there a risk involved in giving these choppers to Ukraine given they were too risky for us to use anymore?
ANDREW HASTIE: This comes down to peacetime risk and wartime risk. Peacetime risk is different. We know the Taipan has a mixed record, we had two crashes last year – one in Jervis Bay and one in North Queensland, sadly, where we lost four aircrew – but the Ukrainians are losing people every day. They've lost thousands of soldiers already and if these helicopters, used in a medivac role, could make a difference and if it could save lives, it's worth taking the risk. If they get shot out of the sky by Russian missiles, that's a risk for the Ukrainian Government to work through. But they're also fighting for their survival as a country and so all options should be on the table. That's why we're calling on the Government to explain why they haven't sent these Taipans over to Ukraine.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Okay, I'll leave it there. Good to talk to you, Andrew Hastie, appreciate your time this morning.
ANDREW HASTIE: My pleasure, Nadia. Thank you.
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