INTERVIEW WITH PETER STEFANOVIC, SKY NEWS
WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH 2023
PETER STEFANOVIC: Andrew, good to see you again. Thanks for your time. So China - it's very cross with us this morning saying AUKUS partners are embarking on a path of danger and error, touch hypocritical do you think?
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, THE HON. ANDREW HASTIE MP: Yes, I do think it is hypocritical. They're undergoing the biggest peacetime military expansion since the Second World War. So I don't think we'll be taking lectures from the People's Republic of China on what is a modest increase in our military capability by comparison to the buildup they're undertaking themselves.
PETER STEFANOVIC: You've had another night asleep on the AUKUS detail now, what's the key take out for you? What troubles you the most?
ANDREW HASTIE: Look at I said yesterday that we will be an opposition and we have questions about the timing, the sequencing and the budget. We do have great concerns about the budget, how this will be paid for. It's a massive undertaking between $268 and $368 billion over the life of the project but we want to see more detail about how we don't go beyond 2.2 per cent of GDP. It is a big spend, and we need transparency on that. We're also concerned about the sequencing, we want to know what is going to happen with the lifetime extension for the Collins class forward to $6 billion worth of work and we need clarity about whether that's going to take place.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So you say you don't want military spending to go above 2.2 per cent of GDP, is that right?
ANDREW HASTIE: No, that's not what I said. We actually want spending to be enough to have this capability. But the figures at the moment seem very modest when you consider the scope and size of this project,
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just on that, where do you think our spending needs to go in terms of a percentage of GDP?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Rishi Sunak, yesterday in San Diego committed the UK to 2.5-per-cent of GDP. We've had Labor figures like Kim Beazley suggest three-per-cent or beyond. So let's wait and see. But certainly, I expect that spending will peak at some point down the track when we start seeing these capabilities come on board.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, well, we had Richard Marles on the program this morning. He did say that something will have to give in the DSR, maths dictates that it just has to. So, what in your view would be a reasonable or even an outdated program that we could part with?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that's for the government to decide Pete, and they have the information. Richard has the DSR before him on his desk but we know there's going to be $3 billion worth of cuts. So we want to know which service is affected, which platform or program will be cut, which Australian businesses will be impacted by that decision and when they'll be told because there's been great uncertainty over the last six months. I was at the Avalon Airshow two weeks ago, I was at Land Forces a big conference in Brisbane, and there's a lot of uncertainty in defence industry and they want clarity from this government.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Well I mean you've been on the front line, I mean, is there anything we can part with?
ANDREW HASTIE: Look, in the end, we've got to have a strategy and the strategy is becoming clearer. We want to be able to project force offshore, we want to be able to hold an adversary at risk at distance. So we need strike capabilities, whether they're subsurface with submarines or land base through missiles, or indeed through the air with our Joint Strike Fighter and drones. The strategy is starting to emerge and we're going to see how the government resources it.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Does AUKUS now make us a target for China?
ANDREW HASTIE: I don't think so. I think what we want to do is always resolve things diplomatically. But to be a good diplomat, you also need to back up what you say and this investment in Australian hard power gives us more weight at the negotiating table if we ever have to negotiate our way out of a crisis, or indeed punch our way out of a crisis. So these submarines are a prudent investment in Australian capability, hard power, and it makes us a neighbour who can assist our partners in the region as well.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just because you're in Shadow Defence, Russia colliding with an American drone overnight, your thoughts on that?
ANDREW HASTIE: Look, it's sort of priced in, isn't it? The Russians are hardly good neighbours, they've started an unprovoked, illegal war in Ukraine. Flying fighter jets into US drones is, I suppose, part of the package deal. But it is disturbing and it's a reminder indeed that we're going to see more strategic disorder over the next decade than the order we've enjoyed over the last 80-years, particularly in the Indo Pacific region.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie, appreciate your time. Thank you. We'll talk to you again soon.
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