THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
INTERVIEW WITH RAY HADLEY, 2GB
WEDNESDAY 3 AUGUST 2022
RAY HADLEY: The Shadow Minister for Defence is Andrew Hastie, he’s on the line. Andrew, good morning to you.
THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning to you, Ray, and to your listeners.
RAY HADLEY: Well, I didn’t have to go back too far to find that report from the Sydney Morning Herald – May 4, 2012 – to be incredulous at the appointment of Stephen Smith to oversee a comprehensive reassessment of the ADF. I think he surrendered all right to do that when he did what he did in 2012.
ANDREW HASTIE: That’s right, Ray. The Prime Minister stood up about 15 minutes ago and he said that Australia is facing the most complex strategic environment in seventy years. And who does he send in to conduct the review? The bloke who did the biggest Defence cuts in the last seventy years – Stephen Smith, the one-man razor gang.
RAY HADLEY: So, there’s not much you can do about it I guess as Shadow, but what should we be worried about as a population?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I always judge people by past performance. And so, if we judge Stephen Smith by his performance as Defence Minister from 2010 until 2013, he oversaw the biggest Defence cuts in seventy years. He took spending as part of GDP down to 1.56 per-cent. Now, under the Coalition Government of the last nine years, we took it back over two-per-cent and we undertook the biggest investment of the ADF since the Second World War. We were investing $270 billion into the next decade on critical strike capabilities, we delivered AUKUS – we struck AUKUS and set the course for the delivery of nuclear submarines. So, the real issue here, Ray, is that authoritarian powers are on the rise, they’re on the move, we’ve seen that in Ukraine with Russia’s illegal, unjustified and unprovoked invasion, and we see China flexing its muscles throughout the region, undertaking the biggest peacetime military build-up since the Second World War. So, we have some big issues and the Australian Defence Force, in the end, its sole purpose is to win our wars and they need to be equipped with the right capabilities to do that. And so, as Opposition Defence Minister, I’ll be keeping them to account and I’ll be watching this review very, very closely because I’m worried they’re going to gut Defence.
RAY HADLEY: Ok well, on another issue – and I appreciate your wise words on that given your history. I’ve been struggling for the last few days having read again the report that came from – and I must admit I only got involved in this when I was reading another review by Justice Brereton in relation to the death of small children in Sydney at the hands of a bloke called Samuel William Davidson and I couldn’t quite believe what Justice Brereton had said in regards to that appeal and the sentence that was handed down to this creature. So, then I thought well I need to know more about him and I realised he’s the one that did the Brereton report. But I get things from returned service men and women all the time and in light of what happened recently in Afghanistan with the CIA nipping the head of one of the head of these organisation’s off through a drone –
ANDREW HASTIE: - Yes.
RAY HADLEY: - I start to think about the difficulty - and I could never imagine it as you would know as someone that did serve – I could never imagine the difficulty for these men, particularly from the SAS in what they confront where, as was said to me, one day they’re farmhand, the next day they’re murderers with I guess their pack with explosives to their body, or they’re boys carrying machine guns, or they’re boys carrying bombs, they’re boys detonating. I mean, the reality is, and I know that you have been involved in these matters in the past that we won’t get into at the moment, but I just wonder – is it any wonder we have so many men returning from this theatre of war so flawed that they can’t really sustain a normal life? I just don’t understand it and I have much sympathy for them in light of what they did. They went there to serve and do a job that nobody else would want to do. I just don’t understand the vilification of these people now.
ANDREW HASTIE: Well Ray, you know, the vast majority of personnel – ADF personnel who served in Afghanistan did so honourably and in accordance with the rule of law and our values as the Australian people. They did a wonderful job fighting the Taliban, building Uruzgan province, we invested a lot of money into schools, and hospitals, and local infrastructure like roads and bridges. But the SAS and the 2nd Commando Regiment were there to take it to the bomb-makers and the Taliban leaders who were conducting murderous activity against locals and against our troops, and we conducted a lot of capture and kill missions. And the reality of war is that you’ve got to take it to the enemy and you’ve got to prevail. Now we need to do that honourably, of course, as you know, we can’t just say there’s no rules on the battlefield –
RAY HADLEY: - Yeah, I understand that.
ANDREW HASTIE: - because how then can we condemn, for example, Russia’s strike on Mariupol where they blew up a maternity ward in Ukraine? So-
RAY HADLEY: - But we didn’t blow up any maternity wards, did we?
ANDREW HASTIE: - No, we didn’t. But I’m simply saying that if we want to have a position on other people’s activities, we’ve got to have a strong position of our own. But you’re absolutely right, the strike by the CIA of Al-Qaeda’s top man who was involved in the 9/11 attacks, who took the life of the daughter of my Year 2 and 3 teacher at Ashbury Public School in the Prime Minister’s electorate – Elisa Ferraina perished on one of the towers. This guy deserved to die and it took us a long time to get him, but like Bin Laden, you can’t hide in the shadows, and he was taken out - surgically. And so, I celebrated that news, that was good, and it’s a reminder that words aren’t enough. We come to Parliament and we use our words to make arguments but in the end, you need hard power, you need a strong ADF, and to tie it all back together for you, Ray, that’s why I’m concerned about this review and I’m concerned that Stephen Smith has been appointed to lead it because I’m not sure he understands that himself.
RAY HADLEY: Well I think where I’m arguing from is there’s a lot of people who have been, had a spell cast over them by the report of the Brereton Report and when I read through it in detail and go back to it in chapter and verse, I see that not even the author talks about an onus of proof being of a level where supposition can be turned into a prosecution. Anyway, I leave it there. I have great respect for anyone, including yourself, who serve and I thank you for your service, and I thank you for your time today, and I wish you the best of luck in Federal Parliament with your battles.
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, thank you, Ray. I’ve just left a meeting with Peter Dutton and Phil Thompson, with the parents of a soldier who took his life only a few months ago up in Darwin and so, you know, you raise these issues of people struggling with their service and just struggling generally – we’re very attuned to it and we will always stand up for our veterans and those who serve our country in uniform.
RAY HADLEY: Ok, thanks for your time.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Ray.
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