Interview: Patricia Karvelas, ABC RN Breakfast



Topics: National Defence Strategy, Iran attack on Israel, terror incident at West Sydney church.


PATRICIA KARVELAS: Andrew Hastie is the Shadow Minister for Defence, and he joins us this morning. Welcome.

ANDREW HASTIE: Good morning, Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: What do you think this Defence strategy should look like?

ANDREW HASTIE: Patricia, today is a national security leadership test for Richard Marles. It's a test to see whether he can articulate the threats that Australia is facing, it's a test to see whether he can articulate a strategy to defeat them, and it's a test to see whether he can actually resource them with the funding that Defence needs to keep us safe.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay. You made that all about him, but I asked the question about what you would like to see...

ANDREW HASTIE: It is about him.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well, he's in charge, but you are the Opposition, and you know, we could have an election within a year. What would you like to see?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, the first thing we need to see is a clear strategy. We've been waiting two years. On the eve of Anzac Day last year, he handed down the Defence Strategic Review which was a document that was about the deferral of decision making. There was no strategy in it and there were also cuts and cannibalisation to capability. So today, in clear, plain English – which is not Richard's strength. When it comes to strategy – he needs to articulate the threats we're facing, he needs to articulate how we're going to defeat them, and how we're going to build a Defence Force that will keep Australia safe over the next decade and beyond. Last week, he gave a speech at the Sydney Institute where he used words like 'impactful projection', to describe capability. And for your listeners, I can't even describe what he means by that. So, the challenge for him today is to be clear with his language so that all Australians can understand, because it's really important. As Jim Chalmers, the Treasurer, just made clear, it's really important with these big investments that we have social licence for Defence expenditure. It's Richard's task today to make the case.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: You've previously called the Government weak and said it needs to secure more money for Defence in the coming Budget, how much more would you commit to if you were in government?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, this is the weakness of the Labor Government – they have not yet fully articulated the threats we face and the strategy to defeat them. Strategy drives everything. If you don't have a strategy, you can spend too much and if you don't have a strategy, you can spend too little. So, it really comes down to Richard's message today about how we're going to defeat the threats going forward, and then he's got to make decisions about capability. Now, I'm concerned that this is setting the stage for Defence cuts. That is also a test – we can't go backwards. As we know, inflation is eating into families’ budgets around the kitchen table. It's also eating into Defence's budget, too. What we've seen over the last two years is AUKUS, which is supported on a bipartisan basis, and so we're seeing increased Defence expenditure required, and this Government has yet to commit to it.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: In the middle of a cost of living crisis, how much more do you think Australians would support spending on Defence? That's the key question too, isn't it?

ANDREW HASTIE: It is. It's a good question, Patricia, and that's why this Government is also failing. It's been weak in its advocacy. I think AUKUS is a huge opportunity for all Australians. It's a project of serious endeavour – I think the biggest one in the last 80 years. There's going to be jobs for young Australians across all areas of Pillar I and Pillar II [of AUKUS] – which is advanced technology, particularly – there's going to be the need for supply chains to support our nuclear submarines and of course, there's a huge education dividend with the investment going into universities so that we can sustain AUKUS. Then of course, we need to grow the Defence Force, because at the moment, under this Government, there is a recruiting and retention crisis. So, for all Australians out there who are aspirational, AUKUS is a great opportunity, and Richard Marles has failed to make the case thus far.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Okay, I want to move to you know, sort of theatres of war that we're currently seeing across the world. Overseas, the US and allies are urging Israel to act with restraint since Iran launched a drone attack last weekend. Do you agree with the US?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think we want to see peace in the Middle East – absolutely. Far too many people have died. But Israel has to show strength – I think that is very, very clear. Iran, and its three proxies in Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis, are all committed to the destruction of the Jewish people and the Israeli state. And so, over the weekend, where Iran launched more than 300 missiles at Israel in a lethal attack, Israel has to respond otherwise weakness is provocative. I'm not going to be specific about how they respond, but certainly, a line has to be drawn in the sand and deterrence has to be re-established. We can't have rogue authoritarian powers, like Iran, launching attacks at our allies, and Israel is an ally of this country,

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But don't we need to de-escalate the risk of a wider regional war? The risk to humanity is huge.

ANDREW HASTIE: It's massive. It's scary. That's why, absolutely, we want peace, but we need peace through strength. And the more you let bullies get away with pushing people around, the more they feel empowered to do so.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: But won't that lead to a tit for tat? And that's how this happens, I mean, you know this better than anyone – this is the way these things escalate and then of course, you know, it's too late to regret it.

ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. That's why the US has such an important role here because at the moment, the world order that we've benefited from over the last 80 years has been underwritten by US military and naval power, particularly. And so, it's really important that the US is able to stabilise the region, and also show deterrence – deter Iran from doing these sorts of attacks in the future. Again, I'm not being prescriptive how that happens, but we can't let Iran get away with these things. It's as simple as that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I just want to move to another issue, which of course is the most dominant issue in Australia, as it should be. Over the last few days, Sydney has witnessed two harrowing stabbing attacks – one has been labelled a terrorist attack. Is Australia's social cohesion at risk?

ANDREW HASTIE: We're a young country, Patricia, in terms of being a democratic nation – 1901. 123 years later, I think this is our most severe test for social cohesion, which is why Anthony Albanese's leadership is so important. We are under immense pressure. People are scared. Particularly in Sydney, where I grew up – I grew up not far from Fairfield, in Ashfield – we have many different people from all parts of the world. It's very diverse too – there’re Christians, Muslims, Jews and other religions in between – and we need to be able to live together. This is why Anthony Albanese's leadership is so important. I think he can be stronger in articulating the values that we all share and insisting that we all adhere to them, and that there is no place for religious extremism in this country.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: How much stronger could he be? Didn't he just say that yesterday?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I think Anthony Albanese needs to send a few signals that he's serious about national security. He can start by restoring the directors general of ASIS and ASIO to his National Security Committee of Cabinet. I think that's a huge oversight. Both of those directors-general are absolutely critical for decision making, and they are his eyes and ears. I think with the current threat levels that they are, with the strategic disorder that we're seeing in the Middle East and also in this region, it's really, really important that those two individuals have a seat at the table and are advising the National Security Committee of Cabinet regularly.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I spoke to a member of the Lebanese Islamic community a little earlier. He says they want safe hubs to be funded to try and help young people who are maybe, you know, disenfranchised to take them on a different path. Should all of those measures be looked at?

ANDREW HASTIE: Absolutely. The most influential people are the local community leaders. It's really important to empower them to make sure that young Australians who are being radicalised online or by other means, don't go down the path of the two young men – the first one in 2015 who murdered Curtis Cheng, and then the individual involved in the stabbing attack of Bishop Emmanuel just the other night. We need young Australians to be part of our community and that involves empowering local leadership to make sure they don't go down the path of radicalisation.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Thank you so much for joining us. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Patricia.

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  • Andrew Hastie
    published this page in Latest News 2024-04-18 16:02:07 +0800