MS CELIA HAMMOND MP, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CURTIN: My name is Celia Hammond and I am the Federal Member for Curtin. Here we are in the SASR barracks, Campbell Barracks, and I'm delighted to welcome back an “alum” of this place, Assistant Minister Andrew Hastie. Welcome back to your old stomping ground.
THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Celia, it's great to be back in Curtin – a place I spent about six years of my life serving here with the Special Air Service Regiment at Campbell Barracks. I know how hard you work for Defence in Curtin, whether it be 13 Brigade or members of the Special Air Service Regiment, your advocacy has been outstanding over the last three years and it's great to be here to support you.
Today we made an announcement: we opened this new Joint Health Command Facility, which will service the Perth metropolitan area, people from 13 Brigade, people from SASR and everyone in between. $17 million, which is part of a nationwide $250 million health spend in Defence. People who serve in uniform, the ADF personnel, they are the leading edge of our capability and so it's right and proper that we invest into their health care with new facilities like this, which will integrate their care, from dental to rehabilitation to physio to clinical care. It will all happen right here at Campbell Barracks. They need to be fit to fight, fit to work, and fit for life. And it's really important that those who serve us in the profession of arms are cared for in this way.
We are living in a dangerous world at this time. The war in Ukraine is proof of that, the Russian- Chinese ‘no-limits partnership’ has proven that. That's why the Morrison Government is taking steps to secure our sovereignty and our security into the future. It's been a big week in Defence. Overnight, US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and our Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a joint statement updating us all on the progress of AUKUS. In that statement, they said they are pleased with progress of the trilateral agreement. There was a mention of hypersonics, counter-hypersonic weapons, electronic warfare collaboration and a whole range of emerging technologies, subsurface, surface and the like. So, AUKUS is moving ahead. It's the biggest foreign and defence policy achievement in the last 70 years by any Australian Government, and it's going to have a huge impact right here in Western Australia. That's why we're investing in the Stirling base down south, the home of Fleet Base West where our submarines will be based. That's why we've put $4.3 billion into the Henderson shipyard for a new large vessel dry dock facility, which will be a place where we'll be able to do maintenance on Australian vessels and Allied vessels as they come alongside.
And of course, right here at the SAS, with the redevelopment over the last five years it is really important in sending a signal that WA is a critical part of our Defence planning for the years ahead and I've been working closely with also the Commander of 13 Brigade, Brigadier Chaloner. It was great to see last year the 10th Light Horse, one of Australia's most storied and historic regiments, raised to full strength. We are moving ahead with Defence in WA and Celia that's why it's been so good to be with you today for this announcement and to work with you in to the future.
We’ll go to any questions.
JOURNALIST: How soon do you think we’ll see nuclear submarines at Fleet Base West?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that's a decision - the timing of that will become clearer once the submarine taskforce makes a decision on which submarine we're going to go with, the UK or the US variant, and then once we've decided which submarine we go with, it'll be then our responsibility to build it. And so the timing will become clear. But we need these things soon and that's why we're working to deliver them in the next decade.
JOURNALIST: The AUKUS deal raised the prospect of the US or the UK loaning that kind of military equipment to us. Do you think that that is likely?
ANDREW HASTIE: These are all decisions and options being considered by the Nuclear Submarine Task Force, which is working in earnest, they’ve been travelling, they've had visitors from the UK and the US, and these decisions will be made and made public in coming months.
JOURNALIST: And how soon would you like to see the Henderson dry dock works start there?
ANDREW HASTIE: We're keen to see that get under way and we're going to be working closely with the McGowan Government to deliver that capability. It really is a game-changer for us here in WA.
JOURNALIST: Is the government confident that the Chinese military will not establish a military presence in Solomon Islands?
ANDREW HASTIE: Look, that's again, something that we're working with right now. We respect the sovereignty of the Solomon Islands government and their right to enter into relationships with whomever they choose. But we do have a very historic relationship dating all the way back to World War Two and we've given a lot of assistance whether it be through aid, medical support through COVID, AFP support during times of civil unrest, and indeed ships from right down here in Henderson - patrol boats that we've built and delivered to our Pacific Island friends and family. So, it's a very important relationship. We obviously guard it closely, and we want to maintain that closeness in the years to come.
JOURNALIST: With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, are you worried that China might do similar with Taiwan?
ANDREW HASTIE: What we saw with China and Russia in February, just before the invasion of Ukraine, was President Xi and President Putin enter into a “no-limits partnership” and China has been running cover for Russia while they've been invading Ukraine and committing all sorts of atrocities. And that's why we’ve called on China – they are the ones who can call Russia off. And so that relationship is concerning and that's why we're taking action to protect ourselves.
And the Australian people have a choice in probably five or six weeks: do they want a stronger economy, a stronger Defence Force and a stronger Australia under Scott Morrison and the Liberal National Government? Or do they want a weaker economy, a weaker Defence Force and a weaker Australia under Anthony Albanese and a Labor-Greens coalition? That's the choice. That's the choice, and in a very uncertain period of history it's a pretty stark one. We have the runs on the board, we have delivered over the last 8 or 9 years, and we have a lot of work still to do. I mentioned AUKUS and what we're doing there, and if we look at Labor's record, by 2013 they drove Defence spending to the lowest proportion of GDP since 1938. There's a massive risk going with Anthony Albanese, he’s just not tough enough for the times that we find ourselves in.
JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns about the Boxer vehicle that’s been constructed for the Army, including that it's, you know, it's not protected against Javelins?
ANDREW HASTIE: Look, I was once a cavalryman. I served in the Australian Light Armoured Vehicles overseas - 13 tonne, 8 wheels, a great vehicle, 25 millimetre Bushmaster chain gun. Whenever you step onto a battlefield in an armoured vehicle, there is risk that you could receive incoming fire from a superior weapon and a Javelin has been a game changer in Ukraine, but armoured vehicles, we mitigate that with armour, with weapons of our own, and also the combined arms effect that we generate by, you know, sending our armour out to fight with infantry and also air cover. So there's always risks on a battlefield and we mitigate them with superior tactics and operational command.
JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns about the alleged crimes committed by an SAS member in East Timor? And should this case be re-examined in the light of recent reporting?
ANDREW HASTIE: I saw the written report. I haven't caught up with Four Corners yet, and I just don't know enough about that incident to make comment.
JOURNALIST: You've never heard anything about anything like that in the Regiment?
ANDREW HASTIE: I did SASR selection I think it was 10 years after that incident occurred so I just, I'm not familiar with it and it would be improper for me to comment.
JOURNALIST: Can I just ask one more? The Coalition has been in government for 9, 10 years, did you leave it too late to start upgrading the military as quickly as we've seen in the last couple of years?
ANDREW HASTIE: If we had stayed on Labor's defence spending trajectory from 2013, we would have forgone $55 billion of investment in our Defence Force. We have taken the hard decisions. And like I said, the AUKUS agreement is the single biggest foreign or defence policy achievement since ANZUS and it's going to mean that we have nuclear submarines, a significant strike capability that will protect our sovereignty in the future. But it's also going to deliver a lot of jobs to WA and the East Coast. We're building another submarine based on the east coast and there's going to be a transfer of intellectual property, people, flow of money, there are all these sorts of things that are going to happen with AUKUS and that's going to increase our prosperity and our security and that's why it's good.
And that's why incidentally, to finish, the people of Curtin need to back Celia Hammond. A vote for the independent is a vote for someone who is really in bed with Labor, and it's a huge risk, and we can't afford those sorts of risks at this time in our history. So back Celia Hammond because she's a hard working member of parliament...
CELIA HAMMOND: Thanks, Hastie!
ANDREW HASTIE: …and a great advocate for Defence right here in Curtin.
Thank you very much.