Interview with Chris Smith: Transcript





CHRIS SMITH: The Opposition Defence spokesman, Andrew Hastie, joins me right now. Andrew, great to have you with us. We’ll make a decision on which submarine we adopt in March next year, explain to us why we wouldn’t go for the top of the class US nuclear submarine or is there method in that madness?

THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good afternoon, Chris, great to be with you. I’m open minded about which submarine we get. Ultimately, I want Australia to have the best nuclear submarine, fit for purpose for our particular needs right here in Australia. So, whether that’s the Virginia-class submarine in the United States or the Astute-class submarines in the United Kingdom, I’m pretty open-minded. But I went to the United Kingdom last week and I specifically told members of the government, and members of the opposition, that AUKUS is a tripartite arrangement, and we want to see the United Kingdom put in a really good bid for the submarine. I’m a big believer in the United Kingdom, I welcome Global Britain post-Brexit, I want to see them more engaged in the Indo-Pacific region as we did last year when they sent their UK Carrier Strike Group through the South China Sea. In fact, an Astute-class submarine came alongside here in Perth at HMAS Stirling - I met the captain, I went on board and I had a look around. There’s a lot of symmetry with the United Kingdom that we share and so I just want to UK to have a good bid, and that means a good public discussion in Australia that doesn’t exclude them and we only just talk about the United States.

CHRIS SMITH: OK, I now understand. Now I want to ask you about strategy which you’re very, very good at. The Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a rare trip to meet the Iranian Supreme Leader and the country’s President – US intelligence says Moscow is on the lookout for combat drones to assist in its operations in Ukraine. But what is way more daunting is the fact that Iran is very close to having its own nuclear capability. I do hope this is not, I don’t know, a joint operation between Russia and Iran to get themselves nuclear capable.

ANDREW HASTIE: Chris, as I said last week in a speech at the Henry Jackson Society in London, authoritarian powers are on the move. We saw in February, Russia and China enter into a no-limits partnership just before Russia invaded Ukraine and since that time, Russia has become increasingly isolated through sanctions – diplomatic, financial or otherwise – and so it makes sense that Russia is indeed reaching out to other like powers – like authoritarian powers – such as Iran. The details of their strategic partnership, if they enter into one, we’ll be watching very closely but it is concerning but not surprising given the way that Vladimir Putin has isolated himself in the community of nations.

CHRIS SMITH: Yes, you just wouldn’t trust him given what has unfolded in Ukraine. He’s also met the Turkish President to discuss peace in Syria. It’s his first meeting with a NATO member since the war started in February – what’s he up to Andrew? What is he up to?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think he’s reaching out to as many people as possible. Turkey obviously shares important geography with Russia, so he needs to keep that relationship going-

CHRIS SMITH: So he’s looking for friends, is he?

ANDREW HASTIE:  - He’s looking for friends, definitely looking for friends. I did note though, he was left waiting fifty seconds or so by the Turkish President which was a long fifty seconds if you watch the clip on Twitter.

CHRIS SMITH: The European Union is-

ANDREW HASTIE: -I doubt Vladimir Putin is used to waiting for people.

CHRIS SMITH: No, of course, of course not. He would’ve been furious. The European Union, Andrew, is hoping to work with Australia and other counties to gather evidence of alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The initiative is asking for Australia to gather testimony from the refugees who fled Ukraine and came here. That shouldn’t be a problem and I am so glad that we are turning our attention to what comes after this war.

ANDREW HASTIE: Absolutely, we’ve contributed more than $280 million of direct assistance to Ukraine, whether it be in Bushmaster vehicles, anti-tank weapons and medical support. And so it only makes sense that we should step up and assist with investigations into war crimes led by the European Union. This is something that’s very, very important. There’s been more than 20,000 war crimes reported and our task, if we believe in justice and fairness, is to help Ukraine and their partners build a case of evidence against those who have done such terrible things to the Ukrainian people.

CHRIS SMITH: Just very quickly, you’re all having to go through anti-harassment, anti-discrimination training from now on in the Federal Parliament. Someone said to me today in a corporate sense, “we’ve been doing this for 15 years! So good the Parliament has caught up!”

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, it’s great. I believe that every single person should be treated with dignity and respect. That’s something I was taught by my parents, something I’ve tried to do throughout my life, something that we practice in my office, so we welcome any training that affirms those principles and we’re happy to participate.

CHRIS SMITH: Great to have you participate in the program tonight, thank you for your time.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks Chris, always a pleasure.