Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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1 June 2023

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's go to Canberra now. Joining us is the Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes and the Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite. Hollie, I'll start with you first and we'll just keep that conversation going because we just ended Ben Roberts-Smith and we're not going to know what happens at all till later on today. So, I won't get you to comment on the case, but I would like to ask you if you have any concerns about the reputation of the SAS as a whole because of this. Do you have any worries about that?

HOLLIE HUGHES, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR NSW: Look, I think it is worrying that there has been such a focus on the SAS and claims that have been made. Yet, from what I saw yesterday in estimates, I understand there's been absolutely no criminal convictions against anyone within the SAS. So, it looks like there's a lot of accusations, but there doesn't seem to have been a lot of follow up or substance potentially, to them to have allowed them to have been prosecuted. It does seem that there was a culture that the SAS was very separate to the rest of the Army, and that was again apparent when they proposed a booze ban this week for all Army and exercises. And I'm not speaking for Matt, but I've certainly participated in the ADF program where we go and spend time on bases, and I've been over to the Middle East base. There is no alcohol available on them, so I'm not 100 per cent sure where they were even managing to get it from, because it's not legal in a lot of the countries they were working in.

STEFANOVIC: That's a good point. I felt like that was an overreach straight away. Matt, what are your thoughts on that booze ban?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, obviously, we want to make sure that the Australian Defence Force are the best trained and the most capable. And the Defence Force Chief made a determination that he believes is in the best interests of the Australian Defence Force...

STEFANOVIC: [interjecting] Do you agree with that?


STEFANOVIC: It makes it sound as though like our soldiers are on the front line just throwing back tinnies.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Like Hollie, I've been on an Australian Defence Force program and there's certainly no alcohol on bases that I'm aware of. And I think that the CDF is acting in the best interests of the Australian Defence Force to ensure that we have the most capable, best trained and best prepared Defence Force that operates in the interests of the Australian people. And I think that that's what all Australians would like from our Defence Force.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, we'll stay with you on this one, Matt, because now there's concerns when it comes to Brereton and there was this interesting exchange that took place yesterday. Hollie just referred to this about whether Americans may well be rethinking cooperation with us because of war crimes, because of Brereton. I just want to bring up this exchange. Matt, as Assistant Defence Minister, again, have you got any worries of any truth to the Americans maybe not wanting to cooperate with our Australian elite forces?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: I have confidence in the alliance with the United States and I think that the proof is in the pudding, Pete. These allegations that relate to the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan have been around a long time, but we know that the US military and the United States government entered into the AUKUS partnership with Australia earlier this year. I think that is a pretty good sign that they have every confidence in the Australian Defence Force and a partnership with the Australian Defence Force moving forward. Of course, they have to apply the rule of law, as does Australia, and that is occurring in this case. And there's been a person charged that's before the courts. It's not appropriate to comment on that any further, but the rule of law will be upheld here in Australia and the United States onto other matters.

STEFANOVIC: On to other matters. Hollie, is the answer to the housing crisis to stay at home with mum and dad for longer?

HUGHES: Please, no, no, I have teenagers, no, no, no.

STEFANOVIC: When Governor Lowe said this yesterday, did you throw your head back?

HUGHES: Look, I just don't think that's the answer that you can assume the bank of mum and dad's going to be there for everyone. Not everyone's in a position where they're able to then say to their kids, here you go, here's the deposit for a house, or whatever it is. My partner’s son, he's in his early 20s, trying to find a rental property is nigh on impossible. And so there does need to be something done that. How do we increase supply? It was interesting you said earlier that Allegra Spender had bang on. Well, some of the areas that probably need to look at some higher density are some of the areas that Allegra represents. But of course, we have the old NIMBYism coming through in so many areas and that's why local councils block these development proposals. I think everyone needs to accept that every level of government needs to ensure that there is an increase in supply. And there is an increase in supply not only of what is technically defined as affordable housing, but housing that's affordable, if you like, for non-welfare recipients. But that there has to be close to transport and it needs to be accessible because a lot of these places don't have parking provided. So, there's lots of options and these are state and council issues, but there's lots of space and availability around train stations and there's some in Sydney that have been developed really well that have high rises now over the train stations. But there's plenty of areas where those sort of facilities aren't there that could be further developed…

STEFANOVIC: [interjecting] So, Matt, yeah, sorry, Hollie, I thought you're wrapping up then. But Matt, the red tape from various governments, local governments, state governments as well, that certainly needs to be clear. Matt, you're electorate not too far away from Allegra is further to the south, but do you support Chris Minns' pitch to build up, not out?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I think you need appropriate development, Pete, and that's what local communities want. And they want to know that if there is going to be an increase in density, that you got the infrastructure that's necessary to cater for that increased population. And quite often, unfortunately, you see these big developments go up before the infrastructure is put in place, particularly public transport infrastructure. So, I think governments need to do a better job at planning and forecasting where the numbers are going to be, but providing the infrastructure, particularly public transport, schools, hospitals, and that before you put the increased density in.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Hollie, Matt. Appreciate it. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon.


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