THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning and thanks very much Premier and Minister Saffioti, and my state parliamentary colleagues. The Morrison government is committed to making the lives of people living in the outer metro of Perth better. And our investment of $3.3 billion into Perth Metronet is exactly what we're doing. We are removing level crossings, we are elevating train stations, we are building new train stations and we're extending the rail line all the way to Byford, 15 new projects. And this is all part of our $110 billion national investment in infrastructure, improving the lives of Australians, increasing social mobility, economic opportunity, and making sure that kids growing up in the outer suburbs of Perth have the same opportunities as people close to the city. So they can go to university, so they can go to TAFE, so they can get a job. And instead of driving in heavy traffic every day, can catch a train to work and get home sooner to their families. So I'm here this morning to affirm our partnership - I'm here this morning to affirm our partnership with the West Australian state government. We're looking forward to rolling out these projects, as I mentioned, and I know particularly down in the Peel region, in Canning, in my seat I’m very excited along with Hugh Jones, the State Member for Darling Range to see the Byford train station built, the rail line extended, but also Lakelands station, which I announced with the Premier and Rita Saffioti last year.
If I may, I just want to reiterate our condemnation of the 17th of February incident between the Chinese navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. Many of you are aware that the Chinese Navy warships inside our exclusive economic zone lasered a Royal Australian Air Force P8 Poseidon aircraft, conducting routine surveillance through the Arafura Sea. This was an aggressive act of Chinese gunboat diplomacy, and we condemn it. Our diggers in the ADF know that you only laser a target if you have hostile intent, so either those aboard the ship were being reckless and ill disciplined, or it was a deliberate hostile message to the Australian Government, and the Chinese government must explain themselves. That's why we need strong leadership in times like this. We're seeing Russia and China rumble Western strategic strength every other day. And Scott Morrison and the Liberal Nationals are the best team to lead this country through these times. Thank you.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what do you make of the calls by security chiefs and you were on the committee for security and intelligence in parliament for the government for Mr Morrison, and Mr. Dutton, to tone down the rhetoric, on, on, on security, particularly aimed at the opposition?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, there's been a number of voices in the media, there's been the present director general, Mike Burgess, who I've worked very closely with, in my capacity is the former chair of the PJCIS and what his message was, was let the politicians do what they do. He didn't take a position on that. He just said, please be mindful that ASIO is apolitical and doesn't want to get caught up in a political debate -
JOURNALIST: I think he, I think he said it wasn't very helpful. [Inaudible] taking a position.
ANDREW HASTIE: Now, Dennis Richardson, who used to be the Director General, very distinguished group across government, he took a more overt position. And look, Dennis is entitled to his views on that. But he worked for Bob Hawke as his chief of staff back in the day and he's been quite intimately involved with the Labor caucus before so the question here though, is, you know, should we be talking about national security at this time in our history? And the answer is absolutely, yes. As I made the point before, this world is getting increasingly dangerous, the Prime Minister in 2020 said that the world is getting more and more dangerous and disorderly post pandemic, and so we need to be prepared for some of the challenges ahead. And when people go to the election in May, it's not an election between Scott Morrison and the Premier. It's an election between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese and people are right to ask, who's going to be better leading our country through these challenges?
JOURNALIST: Didn't the head of ASIO though say this was unhelpful [inaudible]?
ANDREW HASTIE: [Inaudible] on 730.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] publicly said that this is not helpful?
ANDREW HASTIE: Well, you can interpret his comments, but I don't want to get into -
JOURNALIST: Well you've interpreted -
ANDREW HASTIE: I interpreted his comments in the context of all of his comments, and all of his comments included, I'm going to let politicians do their thing. But in the end, ASIO is apolitical and he's fiercely guarding their position as an apolitical security agency serving the Australian people.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair, though for the Prime Minister to [inaudible]?
ANDREW HASTIE: I don't think he said they were stooges for China, he said they're weak on national security and he's pointed to their record under the Rudd Gillard Rudd years where they drove defence spending to the lowest GDP spend since 1938. We've got a proven track record. I sat on the PJCIS as the chair for four years, I passed the espionage and foreign interference laws - historic and world leading, we've hardened our critical infrastructure. We've passed laws that make it easier for our agencies to protect our communities from cyber attacks. So we have a strong record and we're emphasising that because this is a national security moment, and these are big issues and people need to know who they're going to choose come May. Thanks very much.