SIMON BEAUMONT: Yesterday, the Federal Government, via Penny Wong, announced that there would be a $110 million assistance package for Ukraine which would include some kit, some vehicles, some ammunition, but also $10 million in humanitarian aid. Joining me on the program now is the Federal Member for Canning and the Opposition spokesperson on matters of Defence, Andrew Hastie. Andrew, thank you for your time.
ANDREW HASTIE: G'day Simon, good to be with you.
SIMON BEAUMONT: What do you make of the assistance package, in particular, the kit, the vehicles and the ammo?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, from the top, we welcome any assistance from the government to Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for its political and territorial sovereignty. It's a principle we uphold, it's a principle our Allies uphold, and pretty much all the Western democratic countries that are stacked up behind Ukraine at this time. So, it's important that we do our bit and we support them. So, from a bipartisan perspective, any aid is welcome. However, this aid was not budgeted back in May. It's a collection of what I would call legacy vehicles - vehicles that would be used only for training and not to deploy our own troops in - and it's too little, too late. We've been calling for military aid for some months now and this package is pretty weak. And for a modern battlefield like Ukraine, where it's very dangerous, there's a lot of artillery, there's a lot of missiles, these vehicles are very old. Take, for example, the APC, the Armoured Personnel Carrier, the M 113 - which the Australian government's sending 28 of those - I've got Vietnam veterans down in the Peel Region who went to war in those in Vietnam. Now, they've been upgraded, but they're still old vehicles and I got to tell you, I wouldn't be getting in one of those vehicles on a modern battlefield.
SIMON BEAUMONT: I understand what you're saying is that some of this is symbolic support for the nation of Ukraine in all of that, but I mean, is there any function for these old vehicles, this old ammo, the old anything? It's been described by some generals today as a garage sale.
ANDREW HASTIE: Look, the Special Operations vehicle, which we used to use at SASR, they were never actually deployed. They've got the V-shaped hull, which protects you from mines and improvised explosive devices, but it's got no armour and it's got no protection from artillery shrapnel or RPGs, or whatever else the Russians might fire at it. But the M113s, yes they have armour, so you could use them to move people around the rear in dangerous environments, but there's no way you'd put them up in a frontline advancing against defensive positions from the Russians or against their armoured personnel carrier, infantry fighting vehicles or tanks, because they just get lit up really easily.
SIMON BEAUMONT: Andrew, when you have a crisis like COVID, or this Ukraine crisis, it's not always budgeted for, it's not a glaring error to not have this in the budget previously, is it?
ANDREW HASTIE: The thing is, Simon, the Defence Strategic Review was meant to be this landmark plan from the Labor government. It was announced the day before Anzac Day, the 24th, and it was a bit of a magician's trick because people didn't want too much media attention on the actual Defence Strategic Review. But what we've actually seen is that there's no new money. We were expecting this upward trend of defence spending to deliver AUKUS and to deliver all these other capabilities that we need, especially if our region and our strategic circumstances are deteriorating. We believe they are, Labor says they are, so let's see the money. There is no new money and there's actually a $1.5 billion cut in the Defence budget because, as a lot of your listeners would know through conversations around their kitchen table, inflation is on the rise. It's high now, and people's purchasing power is on the downward trend, they can buy less with every dollar. The same is true of Defence and the Labor government hasn't accounted for that. So, they've got a $1.5 billion cut and now when it comes to giving aid to Ukraine, they haven't budgeted for it. So, what do they do? They scrape around for some legacy vehicles, they go to the Defence boneyard and they get what's left and hand that to the Ukrainians and that's what we have issue with.
SIMON BEAUMONT: I heard the Liberal Leader, your boss, Peter Dutton, talking to Oliver Peterson yesterday and a lot of the talkback callers at 6PR went a little bit further on the inflationary and cost of living issues that a lot of us are facing saying, look, can't we spend the money at home? How do you feel about that? Can we not walk and chew gum at the same time?
ANDREW HASTIE: Of course, I want to see an economic plan from this government, I want to see productivity go up, I want to see people earning more and I want to see the cost of living come down - all those things. And this is the problem with the Albanese government and the Cook government for that reason too, Simon, that there isn't an economic plan and we're about to get 1.5 million people over the next five years into Australia without a plan for growth. Peter Dutton came down to Canning yesterday and I had a cost of living forum with about 30 locals. We had a lovely mother of four who had to live in a car last year, for a full year, because she couldn't find a property. She's a qualified teacher. We heard from all sorts of people who are doing a tough. We've got a housing shortage, we've got a cost of living crisis, we've got a health crisis here in WA with ramping hours through the roof and underinvestment. We need action from the Albanese government and the Cook government. We've got to support our Allies as well - we've got to do both. And that's the challenge for every government and we're going to call them out when they stumble and on this question around Ukraine, they have stumbled.
SIMON BEAUMONT: Andrew, thanks for your time today and talking to the listeners at 6PR. Just before you go, and I know you're busy flying backwards and forwards to Canberra, have you had a chance to see the new Giant in Mandurah yet - the new one?
ANDREW HASTIE: No, but my kids have. The kids have seen more of the Giants than I have. Very popular and look, they're amazing artwork. I live in Mandurah and my favourite one is at Halls Head overlooking the Indian Ocean. So yeah, if you're a Perth resident and you're looking for a nice weekend over the school holidays come on down. There are some good breweries, good wineries, and some good Giants down in Mandurah. Please come on down and support Mandurah.
SIMON BEAUMONT: Right, well, you need to get out and see those by the sounds of things when the weather gets better. Andrew, thanks for your time today.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks a lot, Simon, pleasure.
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