NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Australia has joined with other Western nations in hitting back at Russia with sanctions targeting banks and individuals and now members of parliament. But so far sending in troops is off the table. Andrew Hastie is the Assistant Minister for Defence and the Federal Member for Canning and he joins me. Hello, Andrew – nice to talk to you.
THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning to you, Nadia, and your listeners.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Is there any evidence these sanctions will actually have any effect on Russia's behaviour?
ANDREW HASTIE: The whole point of sanctions, Nadia, is to impose cost on Vladimir Putin, his henchmen, and Russia for their actions – their unilateral actions – in invading Ukraine. So, we've initiated financial sanctions against key leaders in the Russian regime, the 8 members of the national security council, key organisations such as banks, we’re looking now at or at least the Prime Minister this morning talked about cutting out Russia from the use of SWIFT payments, international transfers. And then of course, there are cultural sanctions as well, and the Prime Minister came out this morning and backed in Danielle Scott, who's withdrawn from a World Cup skiing event in Russia. And he's also called for the Russian F1 in September to be cancelled, and he's on a unity ticket with World Champion Red Bull driver, Max Verstappen in doing so. These are the sorts of costs that we need to impose on Russia. And of course, we are working through the Australian Signals Directorate to provide defensive support in the cyber space to Ukraine, but also we have a world-leading offensive cyber capability and we'll deploy that as needed.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Okay, this kind of reaction, though, would have surely been expected by Vladimir Putin. He was very willing to take an economic risk, wasn't he?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, he was, that's right, and hence why he's invaded. But this is fundamentally a problem for Europe and for NATO. We're not a part of NATO, we play a very, very important role in the Indo-Pacific region and this is a challenge for NATO, first and foremost, but it's also a challenge worldwide for democracies – as you said at the top of the interview – and how we respond is very, very important. We need to uphold the sovereign rights of Ukraine and its territorial integrity, which is what we're doing by imposing sanctions on Russia, but we’re also providing non-lethal military equipment and medical supplies to the Ukraine and again, the Minister for Immigration has made it very clear that if you're a Ukrainian passport holder, and you're in Australia, we're going to extend your visa for another 6 months, we're going to fast track people applying for visas. And we should also anticipate a refugee crisis, you might recall what happened with Syria when Islamic State took over, the mass movement of peoples from the Middle East into Europe, we should anticipate the same from Ukraine as well and we stand ready to assist as the situation unfolds.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Andrew Hastie is my guest this morning, the Assistant Minister for Defence, at 23 minutes past 9am. On the issue of NATO and that non-lethal military equipment, what is that exactly?
ANDREW HASTIE: That's medical equipment, particularly combat medical supplies, which are unique to the battlefield, which have been developed through the last couple of wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. So really important that the Ukrainian military is supported in that but also non-lethal military equipment like helmets and body armour and there's also I understand that they’re providing sort of anti-tank weapons as well, so there's a lot of material support going and we're providing where we can.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Is there any chance Andrew Hastie that troops could be at some point sent into Ukraine, Australian troops sent in at any point?
ANDREW HASTIE: No, the Prime Minister ruled that out this morning. It has not been contemplated. There has been no request from NATO, or the US, or the UK and again, as I said, the Indo-Pacific region is really important and we have a big role to play here. Whilst this is an Eastern European issue, and it's going to bleed over into Western Europe, that's what Putin is doing, it has consequences for us down here and the global rules-based order. I've been warning about the rise of authoritarian powers for some time. The Prime Minister made a landmark speech in July of 2020, the Defence Strategic Update, where he warned that the present is starting to look a lot like the 1930s with the rise of authoritarian powers and I think those things have been realised in this unilateral hostile invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin and his Russian henchmen.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Well, the Prime Minister this morning took a swipe at China's response to Russia's invasion, he's demanded that it pressure Moscow to back down. What specifically should China be doing?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping met in Beijing on the 4th of February, they released a 5,000 word memorandum, and their strategic interests are more and more aligned. And overnight, just as the world was imposing sanctions on Russia, China was removing trade barriers for Russian wheat. And so they are integrating themselves more closely economically, while the rest of the world is severing ties with Russia, and I think that says all you need to know about where China stands on this issue. Moreover, China also recognized the security pretext which Vladimir Putin has given to the world for invading Ukraine in the first place, saying it was a NATO provocation. We know that is demonstrably untrue and false, yet China has provided a cover for Vladimir Putin to say those things by recognising it.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Okay, so specifically, then, what are you calling on China to do? Do they need to make a public statement criticising Russia? What do you want to see from China?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, China is now a great power. It's massive, and it's striving to be a leader in the Indo-Pacific region and what they're doing is effectively tacitly endorsing the move of Russia, in invading Ukraine. So, yes, we seek support in condemning Russia for its actions in the Ukraine. This is a very clear moment, you either uphold the rules-based global order – you uphold the sovereignty of countries and their territorial integrity – or you don't. And when you start removing trade barriers, while the rest of the world is imposing financial sanctions on Russia, it suggests you're not on the team.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Andrew, our relationship with China is pretty damaged at the moment. What are the implications of these sort of public comments that the Prime Minister is making against China and urging it to do more to stand up to Russia? What are the implications with our relationship with China?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, we've always been open-handed towards China. What we've been closed handed about, though, is about protecting our sovereignty, we're not willing to give up our sovereignty, our telecommunications networks, a whole range of different things that China has demanded us to bow the knee on, and the Prime Minister has been very firm. So we're always open for dialogue, we're always open to talk, as the Prime Minister said this morning, but what we won't sacrifice is our sovereignty. And we've borne the cost – our barley growers, our wheat growers, our vineyards – we've all taken a hit over the last couple of years with the economic coercion that's been applied by China. But the PM is standing firm, and that's what we need right now: when democracies across the world are under increasing pressure from all authoritarian powers, Australia has led and we will continue to lead by standing firm for what we believe in.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Are you expecting there to be some state-sanctioned cyber attacks on Australia from Russia?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I can tell you now, Nadia, we've made public attribution of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea over the last three or four years. So we've already experienced cyber attacks from those countries and we should absolutely anticipate that and so what we all need to do is to protect ourselves because by protecting ourselves, we protect our country. There is such a thing as digital sovereignty, and that is our collective cybersecurity. So, if you're someone listening at home, running a business, running a charity - make sure you've patched your software, your latest security updates, use complex passphrases, use multi-factor authentication, make sure you back up your data. All these tips and more are at cyber.gov.au and these are basic steps Australians can take to protect themselves and Australia's digital sovereignty.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: People might be listening to you Andrew going, oh, well, I live in Perth, I'm miles away from this. Why would the Russians come for me?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, first of all, we've always thought about war in terms of sea, air and land, now, cyber is very much part of the battlefield. In fact, if you own a device, whether it be a phone, a laptop, or a tablet, you're on the battlefield. And if you're connected, you could be a target, whether it's from cyber criminals, whether it's sophisticated syndicates working on behalf of state actors, like Russia or China, or actually state organisations like the Chinese Ministry of State Security. They will conduct cyber attacks and they'll steal your information, they'll shut down your business, they'll do all sorts of things if you're not careful. So for the last couple of years now, we've been calling on the Australian people to uplift their cybersecurity for moments like this so that we're not vulnerable and weak and we're actually a hard target.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: I'll leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.
ANDREW HASTIE: Thank you, Nadia.
NADIA MITSOPOULOS: Andrew Hastie, the Assistant Minister for Defence and the Federal Member for Canning.