GARETH PARKER: On the line is the Assistant Minister for Defence – and a man who has served his country as well. Andrew Hastie, good morning.
THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning to you, Gareth, and to your listeners.
GARETH PARKER: Thanks for your time. What does Remembrance Day mean to you personally?
ANDREW HASTIE: I think sacrifice is part of the Australian story and Remembrance Day is a special part of our calendar, where we remember those Australians who gave their lives and those who have given their health – whether it be physical, mental, or emotional – in the service of our country. Today, we reflect on the peace and prosperity we enjoy. And we give thanks for those who secured it in years past.
GARETH PARKER: It's interesting to me that it's over a century since the Armistice was signed, yet Remembrance Day continues to have resonance?
ANDREW HASTIE: I think so. If you drive through a lot of regional Australia, you'll see lots of cenotaphs in many of our small towns, and in World War One we gave 60,000 lives in defence of France and Belgium – the little guys who were pushed around by Germany – and we really felt the impact of that: 60,000 people dead at the end of the First World War in a small country back then, it had a massive impact. We lost a lot of great leaders, future Prime Ministers, future union leaders, future lawyers, broadcasters, you name it, it impacted society. So, a massive impact, and 103 years later, we remember – because of the cost to Australia.
GARETH PARKER: As I said in my introductory remarks, it was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, sadly, that proved not to be true – and no one knows that better than you?
ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. People had such high hopes at the end of the First World War. And of course, within 20 years or so, we entered the Second World War. And I think it's a reminder that we've got to be vigilant. If we want to secure peace in the future, we've got to be strong. I believe that weakness is provocative, which is why having a strong Defence Force is so important, not just for Australia's security, but also for the security and stability of the larger Indo-Pacific region.
GARETH PARKER: It's an interesting time, isn't it? Because it does feel like global tensions are rising again. I don't want to get too political about it because in a sense I want to separate the politics from the remembrance which has to be beyond party politics. But it is a fact that yesterday, Paul Keating chose to share his thoughts on the strategic and security context we find ourselves in particularly as it pertains to China, at the National Press Club. Here’s is part of what he had to say:
PAUL KEATING: We have no alliance with Taipei, we do not recognize it as a sovereign state, ANZUS commits us to consult in the event of an attack on US forces, but not an attack by US forces, which means Australia should not be drawn, in my view, into military engagement over Taiwan. […] I've taken the view always that engagement with China, and its absorption in the region will establish a better framework for both China and the United States to work in, including Australia.
GARETH PARKER: And he also went on to say that our acquisition of nuclear powered subs, eight of them in 20 years, was akin to throwing I think ‘toothpicks at a mountain’. What did you make of the former Prime Minister's comments, Andrew Hastie?
ANDREW HASTIE: I thought it was a very bombastic presentation from Paul Keating. He's a man who's lost his way since he lost office. I think much of what he said was counter to our national interests. I think he not only took aim at some of our key alliance partners like the UK, and the US, especially after we've just inked the biggest defence and foreign policy achievement in the last seventy years – AUKUS. He also took aim at other key diplomatic relationships with Japan and India, through the Quad. And then, of course, he minimized much of the uncertainty that China is creating in our region. And so he's badly out of touch with mainstream Australia and he's badly out of touch with what we would consider the establishment view coming out of Canberra. The Defence Strategic Update of 2020 was given last year by the Prime Minister at the Australian Defence Force Academy. In it he said, the world post pandemic is going to be more dangerous and more disorderly. That's true. And that's partly why we've entered into a new arrangement with the UK and the US to secure nuclear submarines. Weakness is provocative. We want to be strong. We want to project power into the region and that's what we will achieve with these nuclear submarines which by the way, Gareth, will be based at HMAS Stirling right here in Perth. So, a massive kick to the local economy in Western Australia, as well as building our defence capability.
GARETH PARKER: He does have a point, though, doesn't he, about how long this is going to take? But even for supporters of the submarine project, and I'd consider myself one, it's not like they're going to appear anytime soon?
ANDREW HASTIE: No, that's right – but it's a massive undertaking. It's very ambitious, and Australians should be proud that we are undertaking something of this scale. It is truly a nation-building project. But in the meantime, we have very superior submarines with the Collins class submarines, again, based here at HMAS Stirling. We've got the Joint Strike Fighter, we're acquiring ballistic missiles, and we also have what we call the enhanced force posture initiatives where we're going to invest in our facilities here, so that we can host the UK, we can host the US, we can host countries like India and Japan in Australia. Only two weeks ago, Peter Dutton, the Defence Minister announced $1 billion into HMAS Stirling for new wharfs, new berths, new facilities. There's a lot happening in WA. We've commissioned 50 ships, Gareth, and I've been down to the Civmec shed at Henderson where Leurssen are building the Offshore Patrol Vessels – it’s amazing. I got really excited to see Australian industry at work. I mean, it's the stuff we really should be proud of and we need to talk more about it because it is having a big impact on our local economy here in WA.
GARETH PARKER: On this Remembrance Day, Andrew Hastie, thank you for your time. I appreciate it.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thank you, Gareth