INTERVIEW WITH PETER STEFANOVIC, SKY NEWS
WEDNESDAY 26 APRIL 2023
PETER STEFANOVIC: Joining us is Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. Andrew, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So, you might have just heard, and I'm sure you know anyway, figures out this morning show the government committing $4 billion to acquire more long range strike systems and manufacture longer range munitions here in Australia. We'll start off with your response to that announcement today.
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, good morning to you, Pete. The government has promised a lot with this DSR but what we're seeing is no new money, we're seeing cost shifting and we're seeing cannibalisation of Army capability. We're also seeing a review that will add an additional 12 months to this whole process to the Guided Weapons Explosive Ordnance review won't report until Q2 of next year. And if our strategic circumstances are as challenging as the government says they are, and we think they are, well then we haven't a day to lose and so we need speed, we need urgency, and we need delivery.
PETER STEFANOVIC: I was trying to seek some more precise timeframes from the Minister this morning, I didn't get it though. So just to break up that first question into two parts - so Richard Marles, expecting the first locally manufactured weapon to be out in the field within a couple of years, when you're starting from scratch, is that fast enough?
ANDREW HASTIE: I would have thought if this is a whole of government and whole of nation challenge, as Sir Angus Houston and Steven Smith said, then there's not a moment to lose and we need to move faster. Adding another 12 months to this whole process before we even work out what sort of missile we're going to go with just delays things and it's not good enough. So we're calling, as the Opposition, for greater urgency from this government and more funding. Because at the moment, what they're doing is they're cost shifting within the existing Defence budget and they're cannibalising capability by taking important capability in the form of Infantry Fighting Vehicles from the Army and they're shifting it into programs like this, which is important, but if the situation is what it is, well, we need to uplift across the board and increase Defence spending.
PETER STEFANOVIC: If we know what sort of missile we need, why not just go with it? Would that be your view?
ANDREW HASTIE: Yes, I think that's also true. We also want sovereign missiles and again, the Defence Strategic Review is cut from the same quarry as the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan of 2020. There's a lot of symmetry between them and even back then, we were talking about sovereign missile capabilities. So it's good the government's continuing on with this, and we need to be able to manufacture things in this country but also we need to deliver capability, particularly if the if the circumstances are what they say they are.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, if we've known what we've needed since, as you point out there, 2020, should your former government have moved faster and pulled the trigger, so to speak on them?
ANDREW HASTIE: We did move. We did introduce the Defence Strategic Update and update the Australian people on the challenges that we're facing, the Force Structure Plan was put in place, we struck AUKUS. The reality is the reason why there's symmetry here is because the CDF and the Secretary of Defence served the former Coalition government and Richard Marles as Minister for Defence appointed them for another term. So you'd expect there to be symmetry. That's not a political point, that's just a reality. So in many respects, there's continuity in the Defence Strategic Review. What we're not seeing is increased funding, which I think is really, really important. Instead, we're seeing cannibalisation and cuts to capability.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just on that second point that I referred to earlier, there's been no timeframe as well, or a little vague on it Richard Marles was this morning on exactly when Long Range Strike weapons including HIMARS will be here, though. Would you expect there to be even more delays on that, given how slowly things tend to work in Defence?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that's a great question, Pete. There's a lot of things in this report that we agree with. Capability acquisition needs to move faster, we have workforce challenges and both those things are going to feed into more delays if they're not fixed. And so we'll be holding the Minister to account and we'll be pushing him hard to make sure that he drives the Department and Defence to deliver these capabilities as quickly as possible. The whole system needs a shake up. This is not business as usual which again comes back to my point - if it's not business as usual, we expected to see increased funding to Defence. It's only at 2.2 per cent now. You've had Labor luminaries like Kim Beazley say it needs to go higher. I think Kim is right, we've got to work out a way to do that and that's on the government to sort out.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Just an observation, Andrew. You've got a lot of books behind you, have you read all of those?
ANDREW HASTIE: I have not read all those books. I'm trying to impress you this morning, Pete.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Is that your own library in your own home?
ANDREW HASTIE: It is my own library. I much prefer paper and Google will get you so far, but it's always handy to have books behind you to reach for, for speeches or preparation like this.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Whenever you need it, alright.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks Pete.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Thank you mate. Andrew Hastie, Shadow Defence Minister, appreciate your time, talk to you soon.