CHRIS SMITH: The 10th Light Horse Regiment was cut back in 1976, but today it will be re-raised. Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie will be at the ceremony in Perth later today. But right now, he's on our line right here. Andrew Hastie, welcome to the programme.
THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning to you, Chris, and to your listeners.
CHRIS SMITH: What was the reasoning behind cutting it back more than 40 years ago?
ANDREW HASTIE: The Army went through a big restructure after Vietnam and unfortunately, the 10th Light Horse was one of the casualties of that restructure back when we weren't deploying our troops overseas, we weren't as operationally busy. And oftentimes when Defence has done cutbacks in the past, it's been Reserve units that have suffered. And unfortunately, back then, in 1976, the 10th Light Horse, one of our most famous, distinguished, storied regiments, was cut back to a squadron size, and today on their 107th anniversary, we're re-raising them – and this is hugely significant.
CHRIS SMITH: What does it mean to re-raise it? Explain that to our listeners.
ANDREW HASTIE: So a squadron is a sub-unit of a Regiment, so generally speaking, you have three to four squadrons in a regiment, and since 1976, the 10th Light Horse has been operating at about 25 per cent strength of a Regiment. We’re going to grow it back up to full regimental size, which means by the end of next year, it'll be around 170 serving personnel and with new equipment, of course, the seven tonne, Aussie-made, cutting-edge Hawkei protected mobility vehicle. So, it's very exciting for people who are members of the unit, and it's exciting for young Australians in WA, who want to join the Defence Force because they now have an opportunity to connect with one of our most loved, historic regiments in the ADF.
CHRIS SMITH: At the beginning, and I'm talking World War One, where did most of the men come from that joined the 10th Light Horse Regiment?
ANDREW HASTIE: Many of them came from regional WA, they brought their own horses and signed up. And if I may, Chris, there is a brief quote from Charles Bean which describes how many of them went to their death at the Nek in August of 1915 at Gallipoli. Now you’ve all seen – most of your listeners would have seen – the Peter Weir movie Gallipoli where in the final scene they all charge off to their deaths, and this – in answer to your question – this gives you a sense of where a lot of these people were from. It says, “the 10th went forward to meet death instantly, the men running as swiftly and as straight as they could at the Turkish rifles, with that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia who had flocked to Perth with their own horses and saddlery in order to secure enlistment in a mounted regiment of the AIF, men known and popular, the best loved leaders in sport and work in the West, then rushed straight to their death.” It gives you a taste of the sort of people who started the 10th Light Horse Regiment, and the lineage that continues today.
CHRIS SMITH: What a committed soldier you would be to join with your mates, and a lot of them would have been mates, to do such a thing.
ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. It's hard to put yourself in their shoes. That's why that final scene in Gallipoli makes us question our own mortality. How would you respond if you knew you had to get up and fight and most likely die? It's a real example of sacrifice, and many would say it was wasteful. But nonetheless, there's a lot of nobility in what those men did.
CHRIS SMITH: And what does today's ceremony involve?
ANDREW HASTIE: Today’s ceremony involves a parade, I'll be joined by the Governor of Western Australia Kim Beazley, a former Defence Minister, and there'll be a lot of military procedure and ceremony. But essentially it's a celebration of the Regiment’s history, and how we're going to go forward into the future. There'll be vehicles there, there'll be the Hawkei and Bushmaster vehicles, all Australian-made vehicles that we're very proud of. And then there'll be a ceremony later that day at ANZAC House where they’ll cut a birthday cake for the Regiment.
CHRIS SMITH: Fantastic. Can I just ask you one quick question additionally, to what we've just discussed, Tony Abbott's speech in Taipei, I thought it was very measured. I thought it was factual. I thought it wasn't aggressive. But what are your thoughts about the criticism he's copped for the timing of the speech?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Tony’s a very good friend of mine. He was traveling there in a private capacity, not in an official capacity. I thought it was an honest, frank, realistic assessment of the situation. Tony's a man who has spent his whole life protecting Australian democratic institutions. He cares about democracy around the world and I thought it was an important signal from a former Prime Minister just how important democracy is to us, and to our regional allies and friends. Look, the condemnation that you mentioned of the Chinese Embassy here of Tony, look, I've had the same treatment from the embassy, Peter Dutton’s had the same treatment, Senator James Paterson, the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee has had the same treatment. We want a constructive relationship with everyone, and you just crack on. And we're focussed on building better relationships in the region. We always have an open door.
CHRIS SMITH: And he made that point and that's the important thing. It was an invitation as well as a truthful lesson in diplomatic relations at the moment, we can't be intimidated no matter what China does. Andrew Hastie, fantastic to have you on the program. All the very best for today's re-raising.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thank you very much, Chris, good to talk to you.
CHRIS SMITH: Good on you. Assistant Defence Minister Andrew Hastie, what a tremendous fellow he is.