Interview: Sharri Markson, Sky News



SHARRI MARKSON: Let's bring in Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie. Andrew, great to see you. Thank you for joining me tonight. What's your view on the change of Labor's policy here?


ANDREW HASTIE: This is really disappointing from Labor. Israel is a good friend, and this is not how you treat friends. Labor, over the last five years or so, has criticised the former Coalition government for making decisions around Israel's capital, the recognition of West Jerusalem, claiming that was unilateral, and then they've gone out and done this - basically changing a position that's been held for some time and changing the language, which is very emotive. I think it's very clear, they are just managing factional differences ahead of the national conference next week. So, this is about politics, it's not about our national interest, nor is it about doing the right thing by a friend in Israel.


SHARRI MARKSON: Could appeasing the far-left fringes of the Labor Party, ahead of the national conference next week, jeopardise our national interest?


ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. I think they're worried about an uprising on AUKUS and I think they'd rather talk about Israel than they would about AUKUS. So, it just demonstrates to the Australian public that Labor might claim to be centrist and mainstream but in fact, their rank and file is quite left and they have positions quite contrary to what a lot of mainstream Australians would have, whether it's on AUKUS, or on Israel. Sharri, I was thinking about what an Israeli General said to me in 2019. He said, 'Israel always takes more seriously the threats of our enemies than the promises of our friends', and as I said, we've been a good friend to Israel. This is not how you treat friends, and they have good reason now to trust whether we'll do the right thing by them in the future.


SHARRI MARKSON: Is this also embarrassing for Australia in the eyes of our other closest ally, the United States?


ANDREW HASTIE: Well, we have a close relationship with the United States and we're about to host two congressional delegations here in Canberra over the next few days. Certainly, it's a close relationship, we have many shared positions, but we always act in our interests. As I said, this isn't the right thing to do to Israel, nor is it in our national interest. We have a very close relationship with Israel across a number of areas but particularly with our people-to-people links. I had a great discussion with Jewish students here in Canberra only a few days ago, some were from Israel, those people-to-people links are really important and to build them, you've actually got to do the right thing by your friends, and that's not blindside them with petty political changes regarding some really critical areas of Israeli life.


SHARRI MARKSON: And blindside is the right word because I've just revealed on air tonight that while the Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, had a meeting with senior Jewish community leadership last week, she made no mention of this upcoming foreign policy change -


ANDREW HASTIE: - Just like when they reversed the decision to no longer recognise West Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. They did it on a Jewish holiday, in fact, which was really insensitive to a lot of Jewish people in Australia but also our Israeli friends.


SHARRI MARKSON: Now on another topic, you were calling for a bipartisan Defence committee to handle the AUKUS relationship with the United States and Britain moving forward. What's the development on that?


ANDREW HASTIE: So yesterday, Richard Marles, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced that Labor would be moving to establish a Statutory Joint Defence Committee, very much like the Intelligence Committee. I've got to acknowledge the work of Julian Hill, the Victorian MP for Labor, he did a lot of work on that and I think this is very good for our country because will now have a Parliamentary mechanism, a committee, to hold Defence to account across a range of areas, not just AUKUS, but a whole range of areas which I think has been the missing piece of the puzzle.


SHARRI MARKSON: Now, your party is also pushing this as news today, front page of The Australian, pushing for a nuclear option, a nuclear solution to our energy problem. Do you think this is going to be popular with voters?



Look, I think we've got to have the conversation. Power bills are through the roof, people want reliable power, businesses need reliable power, industry needs reliable power, and a really reliable form of renewables is actually nuclear. It's low emissions and a lot of other countries around the world use it. So, I think we should have that conversation as well, which is what we're doing. I think the Australian people are fair minded, I think they see the need for nuclear power submarines, and I think we should have this conversation about establishing a civil industry to make sure that we are a country that can keep the lights on in the future.


SHARRI MARKSON: Andrew Hastie, thank you very much for your time tonight, really appreciate it.