Radio interview, 6pr Mornings

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The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

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Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

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24 August 2023

SUBJECTS: Invictus Games, Pollie Pedal, Voice to Parliament referendum, Defence and sailor’s dispute.

GARY ADSHEAD, HOST: Yes, and welcome to both of those gentlemen in the studio. Andrew, good morning. 

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, ANDREW HASTIE: Good morning to you, Gary and Matthew.

GARY ADSHEAD: And Matthew, how are you?


GARY ADSHEAD: Actually, how are you, Matt, because I saw some vision of you on a rowing machine the other day up against someone that probably would go pretty well, I thought. 

MINISTER KEOGH: As it turns out it's Andrew's former platoon commander. 

ANDREW HASTIE: One of my patrol commanders. Sergeant, we'll call him Sergeant Adam. 

GARY ADSHEAD: This is for Invictus Games. 

MINISTER KEOGH: For Invictus Australia. So two elements of yesterday, first, was seeing off our competitors who are competing in Dusseldorf in September as part of the Invictus World Games and Adam was one of those competitors, and he certainly schooled me in using the rowing machine, that's for sure. I've recovered now though, everybody, it's okay.

ANDERW HASTIE: I've got to say, he looks like a grey beard, though, these days. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Hang on, explain.

MINISTER KEOGH: That was just for his benefit, wasn't it? But also, and very importantly, so the Federal Government, you know, we've committed $9 million towards Invictus Australia to support with these games and other competitions, but also for Community Engagement Managers, and the WA one's just started and we were launching that yesterday, which is about connecting veterans that, you know, people leaving Defence with community sport because often when you leave, you know, Andrew's a good example of this, you know? Grew up somewhere else, joined Defence, moved to WA, you come into a community when you leave, and you might not have connections there. And so community sport is a great way of building those connections in the community, building a network around you, supporting veterans in that way, we're very happy to support Invictus Australia and the work they do, and that's unique across the world. The other Invictus organisations don't have that as part of what they do and so we were launching the new WA community engagement management yesterday. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Excuse my ignorance, but have we had Invictus Games here, down under? 

MINISTER KEOGH: In Australia? Yes.

GARY ADSHEAD: We have had them?


GARY ADSHEAD: 2018, was it, right, okay?


GARY ADSHEAD: Are we sort of likely to get them back again at some point? And is it still all about Prince Harry?

MINISTER KEOGH: Oh, look, the Invictus Games is all about the veterans. That's really what it is all about. And, you know, credit to Harry where it's due, getting that kicked off and getting it the attention that it had, and still has, is really important work. But it's about the veterans. It's about giving that pathway to elite competition for people that have suffered injury as a result of their service for their various defence forces.

But these competitors are also a role model for people with disability, no matter how they've ended up with that disability, across Australia, about the opportunity to get engaged in adaptive sports no matter what their background is and, you know, we were just discussing outside before we came on air, there are local clubs in each of our communities that are all-abilities teams in AFL, for example, giving people the opportunity to participate in a sport they never dreamed of when they actually be able to participate in and Invictus Australia, the work it's doing, connecting veterans, injured or not, to community sport to give them that network in their community as they transition from a Defence life to a civilian life.

GARY ADSHEAD: How important is it for those veterans, Andrew, having gone, you know, the sort of training and the drilling they've gone through and then suddenly they are injured and their whole life's turned upside-down, they need that sort of mission, don't they? They need that sort of resolve to go on and prove they're still capable of things?

ANDREW HASTIE: That's right. That mission, that sense of purpose, the reason to get up in the morning and challenge themselves again is really, really important. So Invictus Games is a great outlet for that, and it would be remiss of me now, Gary, to not plug the Pollie Pedal again, which is raising money for Wandering Warriors. And Matt's counterpart from the UK, veterans Minister, Johnny Mercer, who lost one of his soldiers right in front of him in Afghanistan, he was in a lot of gun fighting over there, he's coming out for the first two days. So Matt's managed to secure that for us, which is great. And 1,000 kilometres, we've got a lot of vets coming and if you're a vet and you want to get fit and you want to see the south-west, please, please sign up for Pollie Pedal.

MINISTER KEOGH: And importantly, as well, raising funds for a veteran charity supporting special forces, families, and veterans across Australia, you know, really worthwhile charity doing good work and this is - whilst I prefer, you know, bicycles that have a motor within them, myself, you know, this is a great endeavour to raise money for this important charity. 

ANDREW HASTIE: And for businesses out there, Qantas are sponsoring flights for people from the east coast out to Perth. So if you're looking at getting involved, I can say that Qantas has stepped up to the plate and we're looking for other sponsors well.

GARY ADSHEAD: They give a discount? Do they do a discount, is that what you're saying when you're saying sponsoring?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, sponsoring for jersey rights because we're getting a kit made up and it's a way for them, big corporate Australia to contribute to our veteran community.

GARY ADSHEAD: I might come back to corporate Australia in a minute because we're seeing a bit of a pattern in profits and so on while we've got the highest cost of living issues that we've ever seen. Okay, we'll come back to that. Now the bon ami and that harmony in that discussion I now want to see how you go with this. Tony Abbott's raised the question that during The Voice referendum voting, you will be able to put a tick. Now, they don't want you to put a tick, the Australian Electoral Commission, but they have explained that a tick is most likely to be voted a as a “Yes”, accepted as a “Yes”. A cross will be an informal vote. It will not count. Tony Abbott says that is not an even playing field in this instance because some people are very comfortable putting a cross when they mean “No”. Matt Keogh, what do you think?

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, Tony, has been involved in Australian politics now for, you know, nearly as many decades as I've been alive, and the rules around validity of votes have actually been very clear that entire time about the use of an X because it can be unclear as to whether you're selecting an option or whether you're opposed to the option. So the use of a tick is very clear, it's indicating, you know, an agreement or a first preference and that's the way it's been - if you look at the scrutineer's handbook for our elections and the scrutineer's handbooks for previous referendum, it's always been this way. There's nothing new about this, no-one's trying to be tricky about anything. Tony knows that and he's just trying to stir up another hornet's nest.


ANDREW HASTIE: As it turns out, Gary, I listened to Tony on Ben Fordham on the way up and then I thought, you know what? I'll give Tony a call. So I spoke to Tony on the freeway on the way up here and he is concerned it is not a level playing field and I share his concern. This is the most fundamental change to our constitution in 122 years and at the moment it looks like, you know, the playing field is more beneficial to the “Yes” side than the “No” side. People are already confused by the lack of detail around The Voice. Not everyone is going to write “Yes” or “No”, and it looks like if you tick you get the “Yes” and if you write an X it doesn't count. So I think any fair-minded Australian can agree with us that that doesn't sound very fair at all.

GARY ADSHEAD: Does that mean, and I know that it's been around for a long time, and it refers back to the act of 1918, all the rest of it, but does that mean in this instance that the AEC may need to look at only accepting the word “Yes” or the word “No”?

ANDREW HASTIE: That would be a great start, in my view. That would be a very good reform.

MINISTER KEOGH: I don't see why. We try to keep every vote - every expression of preference or vote, whether it's an election or a referendum, give everyone that voice as much as we can. The difficulty that is presented here, and I as I said, this is a very consistent position over many elections and referendum, is that a cross can indicate both and people use it as both on forms and therefore it's not a clear expression of intention and, yes, we need to make sure that everyone's very clear on that before they go into vote and there is information from the AEC out there already and there will be on polling day, on referendum day, and there will be, you know, when people go to voting centres. I think, again, another storm in a teacup trying to be created by politicians involved in the No campaign to sort of set up as if this is somehow some massively complicated thing when it is very simple.

And to be very clear, Andrew makes this point about he oh, this is the biggest change to our constitution in over 100 years. No, it's not. We have made changes - not many- but we have made changes over that period of time that have given the Federal Parliament, and Federal Governments along with it, significant powers that they didn't have at the beginning of Federation. We have made - that has been changes about the powers of the Parliament. This has nothing to do with that. 

ANDREW HASTIE: This is about power, though.

MINISTER KEOGH: The only power -

ANDREW HASTIE: It's restructuring the way power is distributed in this country and will fundamentally change our system of -

MINISTER KEOGH: The only power it gives, is it gives the Parliament the power to create this organisation, a Voice to Parliament, so that there can be consultation and that is the form of recognition we'll see in our constitution because that's what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have asked for, to create a consultative body. It won't be a body that has any powers, it won't be deciding any funding.

ANDREW HASTIE: It sure will.

MINISTER KEOGH: It's consultation. 

ANDREW HASTIE: We've got a taste of it with the Aboriginal cultural heritage laws.

GARY ADSHEAD: But that wasn't because of a Voice to Parliament, though. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Stop conflating.

ANDREW HASTIE: Even though -

MINISTER KEOGH: No, no, stop conflating. 

ANDREW HASTIE: The principle is the same. It's giving one group of people, based on their ancestry, more rights than the rest of Australians. That's fundamentally what happened with the ACH.

MINISTER KEOGH: More rights? No, it's not. No, it's not the same.

GARY ADSHEAD: Or rights over many, many years they've been devoid of and that the gaps that we see in the way that we live compared to Indigenous Australia lives is the proof of it. Like, is it more right or is it just trying to create a level playing field a little bit more in a country that hasn't recognised Indigenous people in the constitution for too long? 

ANDREW HASTIE: We have equality before the law. Everyone agrees that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should be recognised in our constitution and if Anthony Albanese was to put that to a referendum, it would sail through. But this is not about recognition. This is about redistributing power and governance and that's why I'm encouraging people to vote “No”.

MINISTER KEOGH: And that is just - like, I don't want to do this - but that is a lie. 

ANDREW HASTIE: It is not a lie.

MINISTER KEOGH: It is a lie. 

ANDREW HASTIE: It's not a lie.

MINISTER KEOGH: Because it's not about power. This is about consultation. 

ANDREW HASTIE: It is about power.

MINISTER KEOGH: All it provides is consultation. That is all. That's important but it's important -

ANDREW HASTIE: But can't prove that though because there's no details about how The Voice will operate. So he said it's a lie, but he can't actually demonstrate why because there are no details to prove it.

MINISTER KEOGH: Again, another lie. 


MINISTER KEOGH: There is very clear parameters that have been set out publicly on websites. Hey, we’re happy warriors, I don't mind having a good debate. 

GARY ADSHEAD: I get it, I get it. Seb's adjudicating, though, because he's telling me I need to take a break because there's another issue around The Voice I wouldn't mind asking about. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Let's get some revenue through. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Thank you, it's thirteen minutes to ten. We'll be back with Andrew Hastie and Matt Keogh after this.

[Advertisement break]

Welcome back. Okay, it's alright guys, it's okay, calm down. I do want to ask you, Matt, why is South Australia the place where the PM will announce the date for this referendum? Why is that?

MINISTER KEOGH: Look, I mean, obviously we're good West Australians here, but South Australia's a nice place, too. Share the love around.

GARY ADSHEAD: Is it because it's actually dead and buried here, do you think and so there's no point in making a song and dance here and maybe South Australia is still gettable?

MINISTER KEOGH: No, no. We want to spread the love across the nation. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Okay. Do you agree with that?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think at the moment the “Yes” campaign would be looking at winnable States and they're probably writing off Queensland and WA, although it ain't over until it's over. And so South Australia will be a key swing State and if they can hold South Australia, well, then perhaps they can win, which is why I'm encouraging everyone to vote no and don't take it for granted. You've got to do the work and you've got to turn out on the day and vote.

GARY ADSHEAD: While I've got you here, you two, what about a coalition between the Liberals and the Nats in WA to take it to Labor at the next election in 2025? Is that something that you've talked about behind the scenes, Andrew Hastie, with some of your colleagues, whether you actually need to formally get into bed with the Nats?

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, we won't be sharing a bed with the Nats, but certainly the discussion's afoot, I'm not privy to it so I haven't spoken to Libby Mettam, the Opposition Leader, or at least the Liberal Party Leader, I should say, and that's something that they will discuss at the State parliamentary level. 

GARY ADSHEAD: But it's logical, isn't it? I mean you would think that the only way that the Libs and Nats form Government again is if the Libs win enough seats. So you want the head of the Liberal Party to be the Opposition leader, don't you?

ANDREW HASTIE: Sure, sure, and that might happen in due course and there's a lot of talent lining up. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Is there? Can you give us some names?

ANDREW HASTIE: The Rockingham -

GARY ADSHEAD: Is one of them a tall, Greek one?

ANDREW HASTIE: We did that before.

GARY ADSHEAD: An oldie but a goodie. 

ANDREW HASTIE: It is an oldie but a goodie and he loves it. He loves any mention. We won't say the name, though. 

GARY ADSHEAD: No, we'll never mention his name. 

ANDREW HASTIE: No, but certainly there's a lot of people who are thinking about running now after seeing the huge swing against the Labor Party in the Rockingham by-election. 

MINISTER KEOGH: That was the election where the Libs came third. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, you went from what was it, 87 to, you know, what was it in the end? 

GARY ADSHEAD: 49 - 51. Was it 51, Matt?

ANDREW HASTIE: It was a 30-odd percent, two party preferred swing, right? A massive hit to your primary.

MINISTER KEOGH: Against the most popular Premier in the history of the world. 

ANDREW HASTIE: And the last time the seat was at that level was in 2013 when Colin Barnett won government. So I think people are sensing the time is coming for change and we’re getting people who are interested in running and if you are interested in running for the Libs, please join the party because we want as much talent across the society as possible running for seats in the next State election.

MINISTER KEOGH: Andrew, just remember, though, what they say, beware of Greeks bearing gifts. But also, if there is an agreement it should be public. The Western Australian public deserve to be able to see -

GARY ADSHEAD: I've got a copy of it.

MINSTER KEOGH: - what's in the agreement.

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, I've only seen what they think they're going to agree to. 

GARY ADSHEAD: All they've got to do is sign on the dotted line there, but I don't think at this stage they're prepared to. 

MINISTER KEOGH: But it is important, if there is an agreement reached, whatever the form is, whether it's in the leaked version or something else, that the Western Australian public get to see what's in that agreement, what's being horse traded to get that agreement. 

ANDREW HASTIE: I heard with the new annex that they built at the State Parliament, the Opposition Leader will be housed in the annex, not even inside the building. There's no tunnel or anything. They're just in this annex away from the State Parliament. 

GARY ADSHEAD: That's the one down where the waterfall used to be? Is that where you mean? That part?

MINISTER KEOGH: Probably for the last 30-odd years, the Opposition Leader's, at least the extended staff, have been separate to the building. 

ANDREW HASTIE: And now I think they're bumping the Opposition Leader out altogether. I don't know.

GARY ADSHEAD: Alright, now, just on Defence, if I can, because I did promise - I was talking to a lawyer in relation to the sailors who are being represented in terms of this dispute about their training and so on and promises of careers and so on. Now there was a judgment, which was won by the legal team on behalf of these Royal Australian Navy sailors, they're petitioning the Government now, to pay up. What do you say to that? I mean it seems extraordinary that if you get a win in the court that the Government wouldn't just fulfil it?

MINISTER KEOGH: I can't get into, and I'm not across all of the legal detail of the particular case. What I'm aware of what has happened is there is some consideration being given by the insurer, who is acting on behalf of Defence, about whether there's a further appeal to have here or not. But the issue that we've seen in Defence, when these guys were in service and before, where people were not able to get a full training qualification, has been one that has caused a lot of aggravation for people and whilst some might have thought it was a way of keeping people in service longer, we know that it actually led to people leaving service quicker so they could go get that full qualification.

So we've made changes around that and we're making more changes around that to make sure that people can actually get the proper qualification whilst they're serving. It actually keeps them in service longer and we're looking at expanding that as well so that when people leave, whatever their training has been, that they can get recognition for that at a TAFE level, so they don't have to, say, finish the whole course. They get recognition for the bits they've already done in Defence but also at university level as well. So if they've done training, but also taking into account their great experience that they've had in Defence, that there's recognition of that by the university sector for, of that,  prior learning and experience so that they can get their degree qualification quicker as well.

So certainly there have been problems historically, I can't get into the legals of that case, but we have made changes to make it better and we're going to continue to improve it because it is a problem. 

GARY ADSHEAD: You just don't want these guys caught in the crossfire of all that. But Darren, Darren wants to know, this is the last thing we've got to do otherwise Seb is going to kill me in the studio here, but are any of you two going to Twiggy's big party for FMG this weekend?

ANDREW HASTIE: I'm not on Twiggy's Christmas card list so I wouldn't be going to this party, no.

MINISTER KEOGH: No offence, I didn't even know had he was having a party this weekend.

GARY ADSHEAD: Don't feel bad about it. Thank you very much for coming in, chaps. Appreciate it.

MINISTER KEOGH: Great to be with you.

GARY ADSHEAD: I'll speak to you soon. 9:50.



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