Interview: Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition





PETER STEFANOVIC: It’s quite timely that we’re bringing the Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie—Andrew good to see you, thanks for your time this morning. First of all, let’s talk about these new unmanned aircraft just announced by the Government, your thoughts on that acquisition, [of the MQ28 Ghost Bat] I know your former government was working on it.

ANDREW HASTIE: Yes, the former Coalition Government was definitely deeply involved with bringing this on. And so we welcome this additional development, particularly because it's a homegrown development, and we want to build our defence industry. We also know that drones are a critical part of warfare going forward, and we need to have them as part of our own arsenal. But we need to go beyond just the Air Force. We need to have drones in Navy and Army. And we need low cost drones as well, which are the sort of drones that are being used in Ukraine and elsewhere at the moment.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Let's get to this stoush involving the Defence Minister [Richard Marles], Andrew, basically at war with his own Department, certainly not good for national security.

ANDREW HASTIE: What we've seen since April last year when Richard Marles handed down the Defence Strategic Review is no new money. We've seen cuts to capability and we've seen the deferral of tough decisions like the Surface Fleet Review, and also a Defence Strategy. And now we're seeing dysfunction within his within his own Department, where he has officials briefing against him and yesterday, in Question Time, he admitted to giving senior officials like the CDF [Chief of the Defence Force] and the Secretary of Defence, a dressing down. So he's got a problem. And it seems like he's also exercising his right to disconnect because he's got a massive pile of paperwork on his desk that needs actioning and one of the issues within Defence is that he's not moving fast enough. So he's got to up his game. He's got to lead particularly because we're facing the most dangerous strategic circumstances since the end of the Second World War.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Andrew, is this on Richard Marles or is this on the seniors at the Defence Department because there's for a long time there seems to have been a disconnect between the two; the Defence Department and the senior Minister.

ANDREW HASTIE: Richard Marles himself in October of 2022, said that the buck stopped with him as the Minister for Defence. And it's my belief as well that the speed of the boss is the speed of the team. And Richard Marles is low speed and high drag, and that's why we're hearing whispers out of the Defence Department. Now they've got a job to do as well. And they need to rise to the occasion and deliver for the Australian people. So what we need from Richard Marles is to lead and he's currently a part time Defence Minister. He's the Deputy Prime Minister but he's not fully involved in his portfolio and as a result we're seeing delays, we're seeing paperwork piling up, and we're not getting what we need out of out of our Defence Minister.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Well, how tenable is this? I mean, moving forward, Andrew, because you know, as we were told by ASPI this morning, Malcolm Davis was on the program. You know, we've potentially got war in the north in the next couple of years. Talking China and Taiwan here. We've got two wars that are taking place at the moment. Meanwhile, here, we've got a Defence Minister, who is certainly not on the same team, as senior officials at the Defence Department at the moment.

ANDREW HASTIE: We're in a very dangerous period for our history and where we're currently not able to step up to the plate and operate with our coalition partners. This is a weak government. It's especially weak on national security. The Red Sea is posing all sorts of problems for global trade. We've always sent ships over the last 30 years we've sent 57 vessels and we couldn't even stump up a single frigate as part of the [combined naval] coalition so I'm deeply concerned and Richard Marles needs to lift his game — or he should move on, and Anthony Albanese should appoint someone who can get the job done.

PETER STEFANOVIC: Andrew Hastie, thanks for getting up so early for us in the West we appreciate it.


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