Interview with Liam Bartlett, 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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24 February 2022

LIAM BARTLETT: Yes, they’re back. Andrew Hastie, good morning.

THE HON ANDREW HASTIE MP, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Good morning, Liam, good to be with you.

LIAM BARTLETT: And good morning, Matt Keogh.

MATT KEOGH, MEMBER FOR BURT: Good morning, Liam, good morning, Andrew, and good morning, listeners.

LIAM BARTLETT: At home in quarantine this morning, Matt?

MATT KEOGH: I am indeed.

LIAM BARTLETT:  He’s had a bad run, Andrew.

MATT KEOGH: It’s nice to be back here in WA. It's a lot warmer here than in Canberra.

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, at least it's not self-imposed, Liam.

LIAM BARTLETT: There's no division bells this morning, that's one good thing, Matt?

MATT KEOGH: No interruption at all, that's right.

LIAM BARTLETT: I could ring them for you just to make you feel at home? But nevertheless, alright, well, you just missed out on that border opening, didn't you? Wasn't far away?

MATT KEOGH: Ah yeah, it wasn't far away. But I was very happy to, you know, I'll get out of quarantine at the end of this week. And I'm looking forward to being out and about and again.

LIAM BARTLETT: Excellent work. Well, look, there are few issues going around at the moment. They are in order: Ukraine; Ukraine; and Ukraine. So, let's start there. There is, and has been, especially in the last 24 - 36 hours I’m pleased to say there has been great unity on this from the Government and from the Opposition benches. How are you seeing it at the moment, Andrew?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, the Russians are poised on the border of Eastern Ukraine. You can't get any more ready than they are. Battle groups up and down the border, air and sea assets, and cyber capabilities are being deployed against the Ukrainian people. So, they're ready to go and that's why the Prime Minister has unequivocally condemned President Putin and the Russians for what they're doing as unlawful, unnecessary, unwarranted. And we have affirmed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and that's very, very important. And we've also sanctioned Russian individuals and organisations, including the eight members of the Security Council who advised Vladimir Putin, as well as a number of Russian banks too.

LIAM BARTLETT: And Matt, your side – Labor - is in lockstep with the Government on this, isn't it?

MATT KEOGH: We absolutely are, we joined with the Government, because this isn't about partisan domestic politics here this is about international law and defending the sovereign integrity of a democratic state and democratic values are very important to all Australians and many countries around the world. And so we stand with the Government in condemning the actions of Russia, what they may do, and of course supporting the sanctions that have been put in place against them.

LIAM BARTLETT: 133 882, if you'd like to join the conversation today with Andrew Hastie or Matt Keogh. 133 882. Look, I mean, if it was just us it would sort of be the mouse that roared, wouldn't it? But the actions that have been taken by the government are really more about showing all the other allies – Ukraine, Ukraine's allies – that everyone is sort of behind them, isn't it? But is it enough, Andrew?

ANDREW HASTIE: It's really important that we join together with other democratic countries and condemn Russia. I learned this as a kid in Year 7, I was bullied, and I teamed up with a mate and we had the bully taken care of by one of the biggest blokes on the footy team. And I wasn't bullied again, because it was too costly for that bully to come at me. And the point is, if we group together with other democratic nations, as we are doing through AUKUS and the Quad, and now this condemnation of Russia and sanctions, cyber support to the Ukrainian government, we send a message that it's going to be very costly. And we can't do this alone. We're a regional power, but we work in concert with our neighbours – not just in the Indo-Pacific – but also in Europe. And this is a global problem, which is why we're acting as one.

LIAM BARTLETT: Because we're only, what, we've got less than a billion dollars in trade between Russia and Australia, Matt, so it's not it's never going to really hurt, is it? It’s certainly not going to hurt Vladimir Putin - he doesn't look as though he's hurting at all?

MATT KEOGH: Well, what's really important when it comes to sanctions – I actually used to do some sanctions work as a lawyer, Liam – is that you don't want to allow backdoors. And so, what the government here, and what countries around the world are doing, is working in lockstep together, imposing sanctions of the same type, and you're closing the doors around the Russian regime. Because what you don't want to do is say, ‘oh, well, Russia trades predominantly with Europe’, for example, and then they'll just find a backdoor out through another country, like Australia, to funnel funds or to funnel goods. And so, it's really important that we all work together with our friends and partners in Europe and the United States, and democratic-believing countries around the world, that we close those doors, we close those gates around Russia and don't allow money to squeeze out in other ways. And so, it's important we do all work in lockstep as the government is doing.

LIAM BARTLETT: Do either of you think that the rest of the world should be doing more? I ask that question because there was a very interesting comment piece in The Australian today written by Greg Sheridan, and he is completely on the other side. He thinks that the sanctions response from us and the rest of the world is like hitting Putin with a wet lettuce. He just says, you know that – in fact, when the sanctions were announced, the price of oil fell a little bit because global markets were relieved that the sanctions would have no effect on oil prices, but they are still very, very, very healthy – or in fact, inflated – when they're around about US$100 a barrel. It adds more than $60 billion US dollars – $60 billion – to Russia's budget. So, it's actually in Russia's best interest for the oil price to be high and for this, this in instability to continue. So, we've actually, we're actually making things better for Putin. No wonder he is sort of laughing?

ANDREW HASTIE: Look, there’s a strong point by Greg Sheridan. And of course, the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity is at stake. But fundamentally, this is a challenge for Europe, and NATO need to work out how they deal with Russia and Vladimir Putin and his thuggery. We stand ready to support them. Now, the Prime Minister said this morning that we are not contemplating any military commitment. We have enough going on in the Indo-Pacific region, as we saw on the 17th of February, with the Chinese Navy lasering a P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft doing routine maritime patrol through the Arafura Sea, right on our back doorstep. We've got a lot going on here. But we are providing cyber assistance to the Ukrainian Government so that they can better protect themselves against Russian aggression online. And here's a message for Australians out there: the Prime Minister also foreshadowed potential retaliation from Russia today in the cyber realm. It's really important that Australians think about themselves as part of our digital sovereignty; our larger standing online as a country. People can do basic things like uploading and patching their software updates, backing up their data, using complex passphrases, using multi-factor authentication - if they do all those things individually, then as a country, we're much stronger and more resilient if we are to experience cyber activity – which we already are, by the way.

LIAM BARTLETT: Well, that's a, that’s a very good point. Matt, what do you think?

MATT KEOGH: Well, I think Andrew is right to make sure that people are vigilant about cyber activity, because it is that whole domain of dispute and warfare now, and grey zone combat that is new and that we need to be aware of. But back to your primary point, this is going to be a dispute that's primarily about Europe. It's on Europe's doorstep. And we need to work in lockstep and, from a sanctions point of view, with those other countries for the reasons that I explained before. And it is important that we also maintain that focus on, in terms of what we are doing as Australia, on our own region, because it's not like we're without our own issues going on right on our doorstep as well. And of course, we stand with the Government on those matters as well, because when it comes to national security, it's not about domestic partisan politics or false division; it's about standing up for what's in our national interest.

LIAM BARTLETT: Alright, Labor's Matt Keogh with us and Liberal’s Andrew Hastie. Let's go to the phones. Clayton's on the line, hello, Clayton. Morning.

CALLER CLAYTON: Hello, Liam. Thank you for taking the call. Two quick points. Firstly, a deviation from what you're – about Ukraine. What a - I just want to say how lucky we are to have two bright, competent young men in Parliament, in the Federal Parliament, on either side, who can actually sit down and discuss a policy and a situation maturely and with confidence. The second thing I want to say: obviously, yeah, I'll make the obvious statement, that history repeats itself. Are we not seeing the 1930s again? Are we're not seeing Russia and China taking the position that Germany and Japan took?

LIAM BARTLETT: Good question.

CALLER CLAYTON: And it's just, it's horrendous. We lost a lot of people in in Europe, and I hope we don't have to go there again, and I'm glad that the two gentlemen with you are focusing on our region. That's all I have, Liam, thank you.

LIAM BARTLETT: Thanks Clayton. Well, they you go, you both got a tick. That's pretty, that's pretty big, that's a pretty big vote of approval. Are you both hoping that Clayton can vote twice? That's not possible. Or maybe it is, maybe it is. But look on that point, you know, and people are drawing those parallels – it's not hard to see why. But again, it's not just a European thing. This is basic freedom, isn't it? Because Putin has already taken sovereign land, and he's just sitting there. He's already invaded?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. In 2008, he took part of Georgia. 2014, the Crimean Peninsula, and we've seen conflict there ever since. So, this is not exactly something that's new. This has been happening for almost, you know, 12 or so years, 14 years, in fact. Clayton makes a very good point - history does chime, and the Prime Minister said exactly this in his 2020 Defence Strategic Update in July at the Australian Defence Force Academy. We are seeing echoes of the 1930s: the economic challenges, the strategic challenges, but most importantly, the rise of authoritarian powers in China and Russia, who are seeking to upset the global rules-based order. And that is a massive challenge to us and our sovereignty, because we've benefited so much from that order over the last 80 years, since the end of the Second World War.

LIAM BARTLETT: I think the Prime Minister made that point yesterday, Matt, about you know, about autocracies really, really pushing their muscle.

MATT KEOGH: Well, can I say thanks for your endorsement, Clayton. But I think, you know, it's important that we recognise parallels with history, and it's important that we study and understand history as well, so that we are not in a position where we're doomed to repeat it. And I think that's probably, I hope, where we have an advantage, is that we can learn from what has happened in the past – not just in the 1930s where there are certainly parallels – but what has happened in other conflicts past, and also appreciate the new global dynamics in terms of – as I mentioned before, and as Andrew mentioned – you know, we're not just talking about the ability to bring forces to bear on air, land, and sea, but also in cyber, and space, making sure that we're across all of those things, and that's where working together with our with our friends and allies is so important to be, in that coordinated approach to what is going on.

LIAM BARTLETT: Gentlemen, we'll take a quick break. 133 882, if you'd like to ask Andrew and Matt a question. We'll come back in a moment.


LIAM BARTLETT: 8 minutes to 10am. We've got Matt Keogh, the Federal Labor Member for Burt on the line, in quarantine at home having come back from Canberra. But in the studio, Andrew Hastie, the Liberal Member for Canning. And just quickly, breaking news: there are 617 new total cases of COVID-19, 610 new local cases that's the most important number, I think, if you're looking at numbers. 610 new local cases of COVID, so around about the same as yesterday, roughly. But there you are, it’s well and truly in the community. That’s out of 11,000 tests. Let's go to the phones and Tony, good morning.

CALLER TONY: Good morning, Matt and Liam, and I think it must be Andrew. You're missing the elephant in the room, right? Putin is worth $200 billion approximately, and that's according to various agencies. Secondly, he is supported by 1,500 oligarchs, who earn between $50 million and a billion a year. That is his power base, right, that keeps him in power, right. In a previous life, I was an intelligence officer [inaudible] in another country. And I can tell you, the problem is, we're looking at a conventional battle against Putin, with conventional sanctions, conventional means. You need to seize yachts; seize property; freeze bank accounts of every single oligarch. Because oligarchs make their money by government grants and businesses given to them by Putin. Once you take out the wealth for those 1,500, take out their football clubs, take out their basketball clubs, Putin has no power. They will overthrow him within weeks.

LIAM BARTLETT: Look I agree, Tony. What do you think?

ANDREW HASTIE: It's a great point, Tony, I don't have any argument with you. And we're only just getting started with the sanctions. So, you need to watch that space. And I saw chatter yesterday online, I'm a big fan of Formula One, and people were calling for Sochi, or the Russian Grand Prix, to be pulled later in this year which would send a strong message. When it first returned to Russia back in 2014, Putin made a big deal of being on the dais with Lewis Hamilton, with the drivers. These are the sorts of opportunities we shouldn't be giving a thug like Putin.

LIAM BARTLETT: Take away the world stage, yeah. Matt, I'll come to you in a second. Pat's on the line, hello, Pat?

CALLER PAT: Oh, good morning, Andrew – Liam, Andrew and Matt – so I've got the lot of you I think now.

LIAM BARTLETT: Thank you, Pat.

CALLER PAT: One big thing that Putin is frightened of, and that is NATO. Is there some way that we can get the poor old – what’s his name – into NATO?


CALLER PAT: If he attacks them.

LIAM BARTLETT: Yeah. What do you think of that, Matt? That's been one of the stumbling blocks obviously.

MATT KEOGH: Well, look, it's certainly been one of the things that Putin has raised about his concerns with Ukraine. And Ukraine is not actually eligible for membership of NATO because it doesn't have stable borders, precisely because of what Putin has been doing on the Eastern borders of Ukraine and in Chechnya. But we shouldn't be taking the approach that we just give in to what bullies demand, it doesn't, that's not the principal issue. The principal issue here is the sovereign integrity of a democratic country, a country about the size of Australia, that we, you know, that is entitled to be an independent nation, and has democratic rights, and shouldn't be threatened, or coerced, or invaded by another country.

LIAM BARTLETT: Yeah, fair enough. I noticed NATO has moved extra troops – extra lethal aid, as they call it, Andrew, into surrounding borders?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's right.

LIAM BARTLETT: But it is, it's a game in play at the moment. Gentlemen, I'm sorry, we’ve run out of time. We're always running out of time for you two. We'll have to leave it there. Look forward to seeing you both, hopefully, in the same spot next week.

ANDREW HASTIE: Liam, always a pleasure.

MATT KEOGH: Look forward to it.

LIAM BARTLETT: Good on you.


LIAM BARTLETT: Good on you Matt, thanks, Andrew. Matt Keogh and Andrew Hastie there. Behind Party Lines.


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