Interview with Jane Marwick, Radio 6PR

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The Hon Andrew Hastie MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

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Ella Kenny 0437 702 111

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17 September 2021

JANE MARWICK: Federal Member for Canning and the Assistant Minister for Defence, Andrew Hastie. Good afternoon and welcome.

THE HON. ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good afternoon, Jane. Good to be with you and your listeners.

JANE MARWICK: Terrific to have you on the programme. Would you like to respond to Premier McGowan's criticisms that the federal government has let our great state down?

ANDREW HASTIE: Jane, there's politics and there's reality, and the Premier has his political interest to manage but the reality is we have a good working relationship with the Premier and that will continue into the future. The reality also is that yesterday was a massive day for our country, and also for our state. Anyone who says otherwise misses the big picture, and lacks imagination. As we know, the Indo-Pacific region to our north is deteriorating, it's getting more dangerous and more disorderly and WA is a trading state, our mineral and agricultural exports go out by sea, and they're reliant upon the rules-based global order to get to their export markets – that situation is deteriorating. And so we've had to respond and by entering into an historic, once-in-a-generation trilateral agreement with the US and UK, to acquire nuclear powered submarines, and much more, is so significant, because it's an investment in stability: it builds on our deterrence by denial strategy, and it deals with the reality that weakness is provocative. We can't be weak as a country, we've got to be strong – and the best way to maintain peace is by being strong.

JANE MARWICK: Actually, I was listening to an interview with the Defence Minister today, Peter Dutton, and he, I think he said something along the lines of you don't maintain peace from a position of weakness. He also today in this interview, has spoken about this alliance and the subs deal. Let's have a listen:

[Begin excerpt]

THE HON. PETER DUTTON MP, MINISTER FOR DEFENCE:  This has been a project that's been worked on for a long period of time. And it is about dealing with the threat and the threat is real. And it's increasing. We need to be very frank about that.

[end excerpt]

JANE MARWICK: Okay, the threat is real and it's increasing. What's he talking about there, Andrew Hastie?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, he's talking about the increased geopolitical competition which we're seeing in the Indo-Pacific region: it's referenced openly in the Defence Strategic Update of last year. The Prime Minister launched it at the Australian Defence Force Academy. We've seen increased geopolitical competition between China and the United States and that poses big questions for the whole region and so the way we can maintain peace is by being strong. And that's why we're investing in cutting-edge nuclear powered submarines. We're also merging our military industrial scientific capabilities with the United Kingdom and the US, which means we'll get the latest cyber, artificial intelligence, quantum computing IP, and we'll work together on these problems. I mentioned before that people who suggest yesterday wasn't big for WA lacked imagination. We stand to benefit. I mean, WA is home to our submarine fleet as it stands. We're talking about eight nuclear class submarines in WA – that means we have to invest in the base at Stirling; we have to invest in education to sustain those submarines; we need to invest in crews – they're much bigger submarines. A huge amount of money will be poured into WA to maintain that sub force. The prime minister also mentioned a dry dock. I mean, this is huge. The dry dock is massive.

JANE MARWICK: Can you explain it for us? Can you explain what a dry dock is for the uninitiated?

ANDREW HASTIE: Sure. So, during World War II, at Garden Island in Sydney, we built a dry dock, which means that ships can come into port and be maintained or repaired, and then get back out to sea. And the one in Sydney took World War II US aircraft carriers, and it takes our LHD, which are the biggest ships in the Royal Australian Navy. But the one in Sydney doesn't take UK or US aircraft carriers. It also maintains commercial ships. Now, if we build one in WA, which we will, which can maintain the biggest ships in the world. That means we will create thousands of jobs and will become a place, a port city where ships from our allied countries and around the world can come for maintenance and repairs. And that's very significant. They say in the army: “one is none, two is one” and to have two dry docks in this country, the largest in the southern hemisphere, is very significant – which is why the announcement for WA yesterday was so important.

JANE MARWICK: Do we know where that dry dock will be?

ANDREW HASTIE: Likely Henderson, but these are the details that will be worked out with the WA government which is why I said at the start, we have a good working relationship with the Premier, and we look forward to working on this problem itself.

JANE MARWICK: Look I don’t want to alarm people, but just listening to all of this talk and a dry dock and some of the, you know, the ‘maintain peace from a position of weakness’ sort of rhetoric. Could we see a war with China?

ANDREW HASTIE: Back in 2017, the late Senator for Arizona, John McCain came to Canada. I had the privilege of hosting him, and I presented him a scarf, a Fremantle Dockers scarf. And I did so because his father, during World War II was a US submarine commander out of Fremantle. And so this investment, this trilateral agreement, is not a break with the past – it's continuity. And every generation, every Australian generation, has to look at our alliances and we have to refresh them and rethink them and so this is why it's so historic. The Prime Minister and his team negotiated a historic new agreement with President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and that will ensure our security and stability into the future. So it's not designed to be provocative. As I said, peace comes through stability and strength. That's what this investment is all about.

JANE MARWICK: Okay, so mums with kids in the car listening to us talking about this, I guess, should Australians be worried?

ANDREW HASTIE: No, they shouldn't be. This is an investment in our children's security and their future. In fact, it shows that our government is absolutely serious about protecting our sovereignty, and our security, and that's a really important thing. That's the core business of government.

JANE MARWICK: Alright, so the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece, the Global Times has been sort of issuing warnings about this new alliance between Australia, the UK and the USA. And, you know, they've - it's been, some of it's been fairly shrill. Labor’s Kim Carr, he is to the left of the Labor Party. He's decrying this decision. Is it too provocative?

ANDREW HASTIE: I don't think so. I think people have their own reasons for opposing this. Kim Carr has always been weak on national security. And I know there's a lot of chatter in the Labor caucus. So, you know, whilst the Shadow Cabinet has come out and supported it in principle, I reckon we'll see a few people break ranks along with Adam Bandt and the Greens who very stupidly said that these submarines would be, you know, Chernobyls on the water or something to that effect – I mean, really immature. This is great technology, which will secure our nation. So it's not provocative – and we're a peace-loving people. Thousands of Australians have given their lives over the years, 60,000 in the First World War, and if you go into any regional town around this country, you'll see a Cenotaph commemorating our war dead. We are a peace-loving nation. We want to continue in peace. But like the RSL motto says: the price of liberty is eternal vigilance. And this investment in submarine technology is about being vigilant and securing ourselves for the future.

JANE MARWICK: Speaking about investment in the submarine technology, do we know how much these subs are going to cost?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's what the next 18 months will be about. We've got to get cracking at breakneck speed to assess how we're going to do this, how much it will cost, and get on with the job. So you know, the time for talk is passed. We've made a decision, and we're going to crack on. And this will be an ongoing conversation with the Australian people. We need everyone on board because we need a strong economy, we need to grow our economy to support the expenditure required to build this submarine fleet. So stay tuned.

JANE MARWICK: And when will we have them?

ANDREW HASTIE: We will have them in the next decade and beyond. Let's be realistic about this: building submarines is probably the one of the most ambitious things a modern democratic country can do and Australians should be proud that we have a Prime Minister who's taking on this massive nation-building project. We all need to get behind it. And again, as I said, it has implications not just for business, but also education. The kids of our future will be involved in this and they need to start thinking about how we prepare people for it.

JANE MARWICK: The Defence Minister was asked about a retaliatory cyber attack from China today. Is that a possibility? A cyber attack from China?

ANDREW HASTIE: We saw the Cyber Threat Update this week that I laid down the report from the Australian Cyber Security Centre. In my remarks I said since 2017 we've made attributions to North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China. It's possible that we could experience a cyber attack from state-based actors, sophisticated cyber criminals, or lone actors – nothing is impossible. So we've just got to stay vigilant, and that's why we need every Australian uplifting their cybersecurity, at this time and into the future.

JANE MARWICK: Okay. Look, one of the other things I just wanted to talk to you about that it's not to do with the sub deal is the importance of the SAS. They’re based here, that regiment is based here in Western Australia. They've been under a lot of pressure. We've had the Brereton Report, but particularly in this environment, I'm interested – the Defence Minister’s overruled a Defence plan to strip the regiment of the ability to select its own recruits, it is known as selection, we know it’s onerous. Why do Peter Dutton do that?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, Western Australians can be very proud that they have two important strategic capabilities here in Western Australia: the submarine fleet, and the Special Air Service Regiment. The Special Air Service Regiment has a very rigorous 21 day selection process, and that has always been the case since the regiment was raised in 1964. I attended this year's SAS selection at Bindoon – I had my own flashbacks watching the guys go through so much pain. It's an important part of identity. It's an important part of the unit's capability. And that's why Peter Dutton has made a ruling that the SAS will retain its individual selection process and the 2nd Commando Regiment, a very important Special Operations unit on the east coast, will also retain their selection process, too.

JANE MARWICK: I know it's very, very popular within the regiment, I know that. I know that the regiment is really, really thrilled that that's been retained. Finally, Andrew Hastie it was just last Saturday that we commemorated 20 years since September 11, those terror attacks, how it has changed our world. Tell us about your recollections of September 11.

ANDREW HASTIE: September 11 – I was an 18 year old university student. I was a bit of a tourist – I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was considering journalism at the time, I sat down with my dad in our family living room, watching Sandra Sully on Channel 10. She cut across to the first tower which was burning from the first plane. And then we stayed up till about 5am Sydney time the next morning, watching the second flight hit the second tower, and then of course the two towers came down. As it turned out over the next couple of days, my second and third year primary school teacher, a lady by the name of Guilia Ferraina – she's now passed away – her daughter Elisa was killed in one of the towers. So for me, the tragedy came all the way home back to suburban Sydney and of course it changed the trajectory of my life. So, it was a sombre day last Saturday.

JANE MARWICK: And now you’re the Assistant Minister for Defence. Thanks for joining us today.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks, Jane. My pleasure.


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