Related ministers and contacts
The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Defence
Defence Media: email@example.com
3 June 2021
Every Thursday I speak with the Minister for Defence, Member for Dickson, Peter Dutton. He’s on line this time from Canberra. Minister, good morning.
Good morning Ray.
Well, we got back into the fourth outbreak in Melbourne. They’re struggling to get on top of it. Back in lockdown for another seven days. There are people screaming, “no more lockdowns,” but I don’t know what else they can do given the way it’s been able to transmit itself in the space of the last week or so.
Well Ray it’s good news that regional areas will be removed from lockdown. I think that’s really important. It’s very difficult to justify when you’ve got areas that haven’t had a case, that pose no threat, and yet they’re locked down, their businesses are disrupted, kids can’t go to school etc. So that’s a step in the right direction and hopefully the rest of Victoria, the rest of Melbourne, will be out of it as soon as possible.
Now, you had the Prime Minister yesterday pleading with Australians – and I had my first AstraZeneca last week and I’ve got to wait three months to get my second one – pleading with Australians to get vaccinated, which was a sensible plea because the only way out of this is herd immunity. I pick up the papers today; key members of your Government and members of the Opposition, they’re all saying, “Yeah, we’ll get it done. Just haven’t had time.” I mean, the Aged Care Minister of all people; surely to goodness everyone should be leading by example in Government and in Opposition to get ourselves out of this mess.
Everyone should be taking the advice of their doctor and, as we said before, there’s not a credible doctor in the country that says you shouldn’t have the either AstraZeneca or the Pfizer jab. So people, you know, do need to get it done.
I had mine done a little while ago and. I had positive antibodies still – I had that tested a few months ago because I had COVID last year – so nonetheless, I think it’s important. I mean sometimes, you know, people are conscious because they think you’re queue jumping or they want to see, you know, more vulnerable people get the jab first. So I mean there might be an argument in their own mind, but I think it’s important for all of us in leadership roles to demonstrate that it is important to get the jab, and hopefully the vaccination rates pick up off the back of what’s happened in Victoria.
I was speaking to my counterpart in Canada yesterday and I think they’ve had 23,000 deaths in a society very comparable to ours. So it can race very quickly and it can be spread, you know, right around the country in very quick fashion. So it is important that people get that vaccination and all of us need to lead by example.
You almost forget that you had it; and I thought, “yeah, you did have it.” I didn’t speak to you for ages last year. Now just go back on that antibody thing. Some people will be, you know wondering; if you’ve had it, can you get it again? Is that one of the things the medical experts are examining at the moment, or do you know the answer?
I don’t think there’s anything more than a handful of cases as I understand it around the world where people claim that they’ve caught it twice. Potentially with a variant, if it’s dramatically different – you know I’m not the doctor – but from what I’ve read and speaking to the doctors at the time, near impossible to catch it again and the question they’ve got though, is how long your antibodies remain positive for. So our doctors say, well, even if your antibodies are positive you still need to get the vaccination, which I was happy to comply with and I just think you take that medical advice.
A hundred per cent. I get emails every day from people, you know, my age or older, anyone over 50 who’s now eligible for AstraZeneca saying, “You know, yeah, I had a sore arm. Yeah, I didn’t feel too well for about 12 hours,” no worse than when you normally get the flu vaccine and I’ve had the flu vaccine for a decade now every year, and sometimes I get a sore arm, other times I get a little bit sniffily, but you know, usually it’s okay. With AstraZeneca I had no impact. Other people, mates of mine have said, “Oh, yeah, a bit of a headache, took a Panadol, it was fine”. So it’s not mandatory, but I would say to people the only way we battle and beat this in the long run is to have herd immunity, which means more than 90 per cent of people, you know, are immune to it. You can still get it. It’s if you like the flu, you can still get the flu, but the dose you get won’t kill you. That’s the most important thing.
Now, I went a few years ago – I’m trying to remember when – the Queensland Police asked me to come up to this expo in Brisbane and they wanted to talk about PTSD impacting on Defence Force and also on Police. I went – I didn’t go to the expo; I didn’t really know what the expo was all about – but I went up there because I thought there were a lot of like-minded people who were, you know, really battling to try and come up with some answers for both the Defence Force and coppers in relation to PTSD. I notice now that there are anti-war protestors causing all sorts of issues for the same expo that I went to, to speak to in Brisbane. These protestors were calling Defence Force personnel in uniforms war criminals and Nazi scum. I mean these are deranged people. Surely to goodness.
They’re certainly deranged and they’re leaches as well Ray – let’s be very honest about it. I mean these are people that live in a society, probably in the best country in the world; we live with democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, these are all things that people wearing that uniform have defended and fought for in our name, and these people live in a country like ours – not in some tin pot dictatorship somewhere in the world where they wouldn’t be able to protest – so there’s a fair amount of irony in the fact that they’re able to go out and protest. It’s off the back of the actions of men and women who have served our country and, in many cases, have given their lives and/or, as you say, their lives have been changed forever or the lives of their families have been changed forever because they’ve come back with the mental scars or the physical scars of war.
So I just hope that the magistrates impose some significant penalty and deterrent because, I mean, these people are sick. The defecating, as they did yesterday, on a piece of equipment, you know, shouting at young men and women wearing the uniform, I mean, they are, as you rightly point out, completely deranged and hopefully after they’ve been arrested they’re served with a proper penalty.
Now, I notice the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has softened her stance in relation to us and toughened her stance in relation to China. Now, that’s in light of the fact the Prime Minister has been there to spend some time with her talking about this. But surely to goodness, I mean they’re our closest ally on many fronts, surely to goodness we’ve got to be on the same page as nations in relation to China and the way they conduct themselves.
Well and I think we are Ray. I think the Five Eyes partnership between Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand is very strong – and it must be. It’s important for our own region because, as we’ve said on a number of occasions, the level of foreign interference into Fiji or Samoa or PNG is at a record level; as it is here.
They’re fond of saying in the United States that the only thing that unites the Democrats and the Republicans – all those on the Hill – is the China issue and people look at the reality of the situation; they look at the intelligence, and it is important for all of us to be united. When you get countries like France and Germany and others in Europe who are critical of some of the actions of China and militarisation of ports in the South China Sea etc, then you know this is an issue.
No sense sticking your head in the sand about it. We need to deal with it and we’ve got values that we won’t compromise on. We want to be good partners, good trading partners with China and we want to make sure that we have a good relationship.
I mean Anthony Albanese out yesterday saying to the Minerals Council that, you know, he’s got a different policy on China or a weak policy on China to try and somehow in his own mind believe that the miners would give him a big round of applause for that, just shows how bad his judgement is.
We need a united front here in Australia as well. We need the Labor Party to be standing up for our national interest and if Mr Albanese is, you know, placing an each-way bet because he wants to make up for his decision to shut coal mines and not have any support otherwise for mining workers, I think really sounds alarm bells and I think there’d be people in the Labor Party who are shaking their heads at that speech; the fact that he’s telling one thing to one audience and something to another – I mean that’s how Shorten got in trouble.
Now, you weren’t in the chair when this happened; the sociologist paid six and a half million to bring cultural change to the Defence Force now releasing her own book. It’s a woman named Samantha Crompvoets, and the story goes that she’s paid six and a half million to bring about cultural change. She’s now publishing a book: blood lust in the military. She’s findings of illegal violence helped spark the Brereton inquiry into the alleged misconduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan. But now the book, Blood Lust, Trust & Blame, has brought a storm of criticism, including from one of your colleagues from the Upper House, Jacqui Lambie, the Independent, a former Defence Force member herself. She says, “If the woman wants to explore the policies of accountability and the cost of action she might like to start by exploring her accountability in taking millions of dollars from the taxpayers and now to publish the results of a taxpayer-funded research and potentially benefit financially demands greater scrutiny.” I think Jacqui Lambie’s right. Do you think she’s right?
Well Ray, I’m concerned about the issue and I’ve sought some legal advice, so I’ll wait until I get that legal advice before I comment further, but I do have real concerns about the whole situation and there are a number of issues that I’ve dealt with in Defence already, and I just want to make sure that I get to the bottom of this, get all of the facts, get the legal advice and see what my options are and then I’ll make a decision from there.
I’ve been very clear about the fact that we want to support, particularly, the officers within the SAS, within the commandos, within the Army and we’ve had an issue that we’ve had to deal with and our priority now is to make sure that the men and women of the Australian Defence Force units – whether they’re here or overseas – need to hear the message very clearly that we want to get them back to business, concentrate on keeping our country safe and secure, not to be distracted by things that have happened in the past, to learn the lessons, but I’ve got real issues in relation to this matter and I’m just exploring that at the moment.
Okay. Well let me go at it at another angle; it’s reported that the doctor and her company, Rapid Context, have been awarded a number of contracts by Defence worth up to six and a half million to undertake social research, organisational psychology and cultural studies in relation to the military. Would you be having a word with those who are awarding those contracts, why there’s a need to award such contracts, why we need to get people? Because you’ve got the support, by the look of it, of your counterparty in Labor Brendan O’Connor. He doesn’t seem too happy with it as well, so it could be a bipartisan support of curtailing these sorts of activities. Are you concerned about that generally without specifically mentioning this one?
Well I mean I’ve made my view very clear to Defence and I don’t think you’ll see any more contracts awarded in this regard.
Okay. I think you’ve answered my question. Thanks very much for your time. Talk next week.
Thanks, Ray. See you mate.
Other related releases
Joint press conference with Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko, RAAF Base Amberley
Interview with Allison Langdon and Richard Marles, Today Show, Channel 9