Interview with Pete Stefanovic, Sky

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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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11 November 2021

PETE STEFANOVIC: Let's bring in the Assistant Minister for Defence and a former Afghanistan veteran, too. Andrew Hastie joins us live from Mandurah in WA. Nice and early for you, Andrew – appreciate you getting up for us. Let's start with Remembrance Day. How do you reflect on a day like today?

THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning, Pete. Great to be with you. Remembrance Day is a really important day in the calendar, obviously and especially so, since we've missed Anzac Day over the last two years and Remembrance Day today where we give thanks for the peace and stability we enjoy here in this country and in the region. We remember those who have given their lives that we might enjoy it. And a country that doesn't acknowledge those who've sacrificed really doesn't have a sense of self – that's why Remembrance Day and Anzac Day are so important on our national calendar.

PETE STEFANOVIC: Given the end of Afghanistan – the war there I mean – this year, and the war footing if I can put it that way that we're currently on with China, what kind of lessons does Remembrance Day serve up?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think it's a reminder that peace requires sacrifice – but it also requires strength. Weakness is provocative in my view, and so that's why we've always got to be prepared to defend our country, our values, and our interests. And that's what this government has been doing. That's why we are responding to the changing circumstances in the region and we're investing heavily in defence, particularly through the new trilateral arrangement that we've struck with AUKUS.

PETE STEFANOVIC: Let's keep on the theme of China, it has called climate an existential crisis this morning, as it signs a significant pact with the US to share technologies and pledges. There's no shift on specific targets. But the agreement is and could be significant. What's your thoughts on that agreement? And those comments from China overnight? I mean they’re talking the talk, do they walk the walk?

ANDREW HASTIE: We’ll wait and see, but I certainly welcome those sentiments and it's great to hear that the US and China are talking about how they can both reduce their emissions. The fact of the matter is Australia consumes about 1% of the world's energy, and we emit about 1.2% of the world's carbon. The US and China consume more than 40% of the world's energy and emit more than 40% of the world's carbon. So they are big emitters. And if we're going to see any change on climate change, we need China and the US to work together. So I welcome any further bilateral cooperation between those two countries.

PETE STEFANOVIC: Does this put more pressure on Australia to make new commitments for 2030, which is a request that's come from the COP26 overnight?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, I think we're well on track to hit our 2030 targets – indeed, go well beyond the 26 per cent to 28 per cent reduction on our 2005 levels. We're trending towards 35 per cent reduction on our emissions, and we’ve hit our 2020 targets. And we've always got to do things in our national interest as well. We are a productive economy. We produce the highest amount of LNG and coal exports which underpin our prosperity, we've had a massive uptake of solar. And we are leading other nations like the USA, Japan, even New Zealand in cutting our emissions. So we're doing very well as it stands.

PETE STEFANOVIC: So you don't believe that there needs to be an even more ambitious commitment for 2030?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think we're doing a great job as it is. And in the end – just to bring you back to where I live right here in the seat of Canning. We produce 8% of the world's alumina, the single largest source of aluminium in the world. And we have a lot of industry here, we’ve got lot of jobs here. It's an emissions-intensive industry. We're already committing new technology, new grants to Alcoa to help reduce our emissions, and they're the sorts of things we want to be doing: investing heavily in technology to make sure that we are a clean producer of some of these resources that the rest of the world absolutely needs.

PETE STEFANOVIC: Okay. Andrew, Paul Keating had the loudspeaker on yesterday at the National Press Club, he claims that Australia has lost its way on China. He also said that Taiwan is not a vital interest for us. Just your general reaction to some of his comments yesterday?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think – since Paul Keating lost office to John Howard – that he's lost his way. And I think he's stumbling in the dark. It was a fairly bombastic speech, which did two things – number one, it ignored the realities of the Indo-Pacific region. The Prime Minister last year gave a speech at the Australian Defence Force Academy – the Defence Strategic Update – which outlines some of the challenges ahead: great power competition, and of course, the world post-pandemic will be more dangerous, more disorderly and poorer. And the second thing he did was undermined some of our key relationships – first through AUKUS, having a crack at the UK and the US – and then, of course, the Quad, turning his guns on Japan and India. So, it was contrary to the national interest. It was at odds with what we've acknowledged across the parliament is our situation both with Labor and the Coalition, and he just enjoys a headline I think – that's the reality.

PETE STEFANOVIC: So when it comes to Taiwan, for our viewers this morning, why do you believe it is of vital interest to us?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, if people don't care about a country of 25 million people, which is democratic, why would they care about our country, which is a little more – 26 million people – and democratic in the Indo-Pacific region? We work together, we're a neighbour, and we care about other countries – particularly liberal democracies that we have close relationships with. Taiwan is such a country, and we'd love to see the them upheld.

PETE STEFANOVIC: Yeah. And then not to mention the $16 billion trading relationship we have with Taiwan at the moment, but just a closing thought, too, on this: if the US does go in – your thoughts on this, Andrew, do we then go in, too?

ANDREW HASTIE: It's a hypothetical, Pete, and all those sorts of decisions are best left to the NSC.

PETE STEFANOVIC: Okay, Andrew Hastie, good to have you with us this morning. Appreciate it, I'll talk to you again soon.


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