Interview: Sharri Markson, Sky News




SHARRI MARKSON: Shadow Defence Minister, Andrew Hastie joins me now. Andrew, what do you make of Penny Wong's approach to her trip to the Middle East where she seems to be lecturing Israel, when she's in Israel, but then doesn't raise the hostages when she speaks to members who are on the other side?

ANDREW HASTIE: Good evening, Sharri. Well, this fits with the pattern of leadership, or lack thereof, that we've seen from the Albanese Government since October 7. As your viewers would know, the Parliament came together in October and passed a joint motion through the House and the Senate condemning the attacks, but what we've seen from this Government has been a slow response around the moral issues with October 7. We've seen them slow to get to Israel itself – Penny Wong took a couple of months to get there, and now she seems to be equivocating when she's on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River, and that's a problem. This is really a precise time, and we need clarity here. October 7 was an attack by Hamas that was unprovoked, and it was cold blooded murder. This situation could be resolved fairly quickly if Hamas released those hostages, and so it was really important that Penny Wong made that clear last night.

SHARRI MARKSON: But instead, there seems to be more priority to giving millions and millions and millions of aid that we don't even know whether it's reaching innocent Palestinian civilians, or if it's being redirected by the governing body in Gaza, which we know is Hamas. Now this morning, the Prime Minister said he wouldn't speculate on the South African genocide case against Israel. He said he wouldn't speculate because it's an ongoing legal case that doesn't concern Australia. Have a look at his comments.


SHARRI MARKSON: Andrew Hastie, why can't he just say very clearly that there is no genocide from Israel? Why does he have to have such complicated words like that? Just come out clearly and say there is no genocide from Israel, South Africa is out of line.

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that's precisely the point – there's a lack of leadership and a lack of clarity here. The Prime Minister is our national leader, we are a regional power, we do have a voice on the international stage, and it's important that countries like Australia are very clear on this. Israel is not committing genocide against Palestinian people, in fact, they're responding to October 7, which was an unprovoked attack by Hamas, which saw the slaughter of innocent men, women and children, and we uphold the right of Israel to defend itself. Now, the Middle East is a very complex place but if one thing is clear, it's that October 7 was an unprovoked terrorist attack – that's very clear – and Israel has the right to respond.

SHARRI MARKSON: Absolutely and thank you for your strong comments on this topic. Now, we know that Albanese has been cozying up to China. Well, China's Ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, made a rare public appearance at a press conference today and he made demands of Australia that we stop interfering in maritime disputes involving the South China Sea, and stop commenting on Taiwan's elections. Here he was.


SHARRI MARKSON: Well, another misunderstanding he spoke about was he denied there was any sonar attack on Australian Navy personnel. I mean, Andrew, how can he make such a blatantly false claim?

ANDREW HASTIE: This was a good case study in gaslighting, Sharri, because it's not a matter of supposition that the sonar attack on our sailors occurred – it's a matter of fact. I've had the briefing, it's very clear. So that's false. The sonar attack on our Royal Australian Navy sailors did occur. It's China who has blocked our exports, it's China who has detained Australian citizens without proper process, so for us to get a lecture is pretty rich, I must say. It's also China who's pre-emptively warned us about Taiwan. I think we just continue doing what we do. We're a friendly country, we want relationships with everyone, including China, but always from a position of strength and always from a position of principle, which is very, very clear.

SHARRI MARKSON: Just quickly before you go, you're obviously Shadow Defence Minister, how concerned are you about the Australian Government's response to helping our US allies with this conflict in the Red Sea and the Houthi rebels?

ANDREW HASTIE: Sharri, I think we've shown a lack of leadership here. For the last 30-years we've always sent a naval vessel in support of counter-piracy or counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East. The Albanese Government has broken with that tradition of 30-years and so for us not to be doing the heavy lifting is, I think, pretty woeful. I just reflect on the US Navy SEALs, two of them who were lost last week, and they're still missing, in the Gulf of Aden whilst doing an interdiction of missile componentry that was headed for Yemen, from Iran, to assist the Houthi rebels attacking our shipping and our shipping lines. We're not doing enough, and this happened whilst we still don't have those promised ADF personnel in Bahrain yet. This government is weak, and they need to step up – they're not doing their job in securing our interests.

SHARRI MARKSON: Yeah, denying in December to send a warship over there, now, just yesterday, we find out that instead of tripling the number of Navy personnel, it's just one or two office workers who are over there in non-operational roles as well.

ANDREW HASTIE: That's right, Sharri, and that's as the Navy is considering taking more of our frigates out of the water and putting them on the hardstand, reducing our overall capability and again, making us a weaker country. Hard power does matter and that's why this Government should be investing more in it, not cutting Defence as they are, or have been, since they've come to power.

SHARRI MARKSON: I've got to say, Andrew, it looks beautiful, the backdrop where you are now so have a wonderful rest of your evening and thanks for your time.


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