OLIVER PETERSON: The Assistant Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie joins me live on 6PR this afternoon. Thanks for your time.
THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good to be with you, Oli. Thanks for having me.
OLIVER PETERSON: I want to get your impression first and foremost on what you're witnessing on our television screens over the last 36 hours. Can you quite believe how quickly Russian troops have been able to enter Ukraine?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I'm not surprised because the forces they had arrayed along the Ukrainian border – in land, air, and sea – were massive. I mean, they weren't messing around. But this is a vile, wicked invasion by Vladimir Putin and his henchmen. Innocent people have already died, innocent people will continue to die, and they have blood on their hands. They have invaded a sovereign country, and they have trampled all over its territorial integrity, and it's a message to democracies around the world, that the only way to stand up to authoritarian powers is to push back. And it’s a reminder to us here in the Indo-Pacific that we can't take our security and our freedoms for granted, and we need to be ready, always, to defend it.
OLIVER PETERSON: Are we doing enough? When you say we push back at the moment, Andrew Hastie, a bunch of more economic sanctions designed to hurt Russia financially. Is that enough when we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies, like the UK and the US?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, this is primarily a problem for Europe and NATO has to respond in the way that they can. Now, they have chosen not to pursue a military course of action and they are pursuing financial and economic sanctions, and we have joined them. In fact, the Prime Minister has been very strong in the last 36 hours on this very subject. We're targeting not only individuals but organisations, banks in Russia, the Prime Minister backed in the UK Prime Minister Johnson's call for SWIFT, the financial transfer mechanism used around the world, to be denied to Russians – that would cut them out of the world economy. And of course, the Prime Minister this morning led as well by calling for the Russian Grand Prix to be axed in September. Back in 2014, we saw images of Vladimir Putin taking the dais with World Champion Lewis Hamilton, we can't have that again. So, we've got to impose financial, cultural, and economic sanctions, and we're doing that. We're also providing logistical support to the Ukraine, non-lethal military and medical supplies, which will be critical for them of course, in the coming weeks.
OLIVER PETERSON: What sort of supplies are those, like hard hats and helmets and medical equipment and the like?
ANDREW HASTIE: I'd imagine helmets, body armour, cutting-edge medical technology that we've developed over the last 20 years through our time in Afghanistan and Iraq. So we unfortunately have a lot of combat lessons and we can we can provide that to the Ukrainians.
OLIVER PETERSON: Are we worried what the perception might be of Russia, to even help the Ukraine with those sorts of supplies?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well we're doing it as part of a broad coalition of liberal democracies through NATO, and that's really important, so we're not doing this alone. We're doing this as part of a broad coalition. Tony Abbott, during the week, called it shrewd, democratic multilateralism, which is why we have AUKUS, which is why we have The Quad. Our government has been doing a lot over the last five years and it's bearing fruit. So when our Prime Minister speaks world leaders listen up, and we're doing everything we can to back in Ukraine, and call out the Russians.
OLIVER PETERSON: We've had feedback saying that this isn’t our fight. Why should Australians care about what's happening in Ukraine?
ANDREW HASTIE: Because the two biggest authoritarian powers are now working together. Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin met in Beijing on February 4, they released a strategic memorandum of about 5,000 words, detailing how their interests are now aligned. Overnight, we had China reduce trade barriers to Russia, so more Russian wheat could come to China, just as everyone else in the world was imposing financial sanctions on Russia. China also gave cover for Russia with their flimsy pretext for the invasion, that it was provoked by NATO. So, it matters for us because we now have two authoritarian powers working together and we have a liberal democracy trampled over in Eastern Europe, and it means that we've got a decision to make: do we want to have a world governed by the rule of law or by the rule of the jungle? And I would much prefer, as you would Oli I imagine, the rule of law, because that's how we've prospered over the last 80 years.
OLIVER PETERSON: Should we be concerned that this could be now a precursor to China going after Taiwan?
ANDREW HASTIE: It's a very, very good question and, again, we're watching all these things very closely. But it's a reminder that authoritarian powers are flexing their muscles and the best way to push back against bullies is to be strong yourself. That's why we're investing more than $270 billion over the next decade in our defence capabilities. That's why we're getting nuclear submarines which will be based right here in Western Australia. We need to be able to make it too costly for a bully to come to Australia and push us around.
OLIVER PETERSON: Dave Kelly, the state's water minister today when responding to the fact that the Registered Organisations Commission will be terminating its investigation into the AWU’s historic donations, we remember back in 2017 the AFP raids. He took to Twitter a bit earlier this afternoon saying “totalitarian governments around the world abuse their power to attack their opponents, the current Liberal National Parties do just that” I might also add to that comment now, that tweet, Andrew Hastie, that Dave Kelly has since decided to remove that from his Twitter account. Are the Liberal National parties like totalitarian governments?
ANDREW HASTIE: I think your listeners are smart enough to see through that sort of poisonous rhetoric, Oli. I think it's little Dave, being a little man, with his little tweets, right when Ukrainians are dying. So, I think that the tweet speaks for itself and I'm glad he's removed it.
OLIVER PETERSON: Andrew Hastie, thanks for your time.