Radio Interview, 6PR Perth 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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18 April 2024

SUBJECTS: National Defence Strategy and Defence Acquisition; China Relationship; AUKUS; Iran’s Attack on Israel.

HOST, GARY ADSHEAD: And the two gentlemen join me in the studio. Good morning, Andrew. Good morning, Matt. 

MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE PERSONNEL, MATT KEOGH: Good morning, Gary. Great to be with you. Andrew, it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other. 

SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, ANDREW HASTIE: It has. It’s good to be with you, Gary. And I’m late, of course, because of the Cook Labor Government. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Oh, here we go.

ANDREW HASTIE: They’re in their eighth year and they can’t – it took me 90 minutes to get from Mandurah this morning. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Andrew just needs to understand how long he needs – 

GARY ADSHEAD: You didn’t catch the train, mate. You’ve got to catch METRONET. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, you know, we’ve got to drive as well, mate. I – not everyone lives close to a train station like – 

GARY ADSHEAD: How quick out of the – that was quick. That’s a record time for Andrew to get out of the blocks.

MINISTER KEOGH: What he’s trying to say is he’s blaming his late departure on the State Government. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Not at all. 

MINISTER KEOGH: That’s what it is. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Not at all, mate – 90 minutes from Mandurah. Good on you, Roger Cook. 

GARY ADSHEAD: My mum lives down that way, in case you didn’t know. They catch the train a lot. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Yeah, I delivered Lakelands train station. Do they get on that? 

GARY ADSHEAD: Mmm, yeah, of course. Well, no, they don’t get on there but, anyway. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Great Labor project, the Mandurah highway. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Hey, look, on a really, really serious note yesterday, of course, Richard Marles delivered the Defence – delivered his whole sort of mantra around Defence and what’s required for Australia going forward. Now, you know, there’s been a mixed bag of sort of response to it. I’ve noticed that some people are saying, “Well, if it’s as urgent as he pointed out” – because he was the one that said we’re now inside what they call a 10-year warning where we would know, you know, have a sense of when we might actually face a critical situation in terms of conflict, we’re inside that, but a lot of what we’re doing in terms of the money that’s being committed – the $50 billion of new money – is over sort of a decade and beyond. Is that good enough? Have we – are we doing it quick enough, Matt Keogh? 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, we’re doing it as quickly as possible. And I think as the Defence Minister made very clear in his address to the Press Club yesterday, with matters like this, the best time to take action is yesterday. In fact, in this case and in many cases, it was a decade ago. But we weren’t in government a decade ago. And because action wasn’t taken then, we now need to act very quickly now. And that’s exactly what we are doing. 

And so this – not just a significant increase in Defence expenditure but a very fast ramp up of that expenditure – so $5.7 billion over the forwards; quickest increase in Defence expenditure since the Second World War – is precisely because of this issue that we need to move quickly. 

GARY ADSHEAD: I actually put – let him, the Minister, say it himself before I come to you, Andrew. This is what the Defence Minister said in defence of that suggestion that we’re not moving quick enough. 


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR DEFENCE, RICHARD MARLES: I mean, there’s an old truism which is that the best time to have acted on all of this would have been 10, 20 years ago, but the second-best time to act on it is now. And that’s the reality of what we face. I mean, in many respects the questions that you’re directing to me now, given the lead times in Defence, are properly answered by those who were governing a decade ago, and that wasn’t us. 

[End excerpt] 

GARY ADSHEAD: Why did your Government drop the ball before, Andrew? Before we get to this situation? 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, we actually increased Defence expenditure back up to 2 per cent after Labor drove it into the ground under Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. But I don’t want to talk about the history, because what really matters is what’s happening right now. 

GARY ADSHEAD: But you have to talk about the history. I mean, given that you come from a Defence background yourself – 


GARY ADSHEAD:– you must have a personal disappointment that you couldn’t see what was required back at the time that you were under the Prime Ministers that you had? 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, what do you mean? 

GARY ADSHEAD: Well, I mean – 


GARY ADSHEAD: – you weren’t looking ahead far enough at what needed to be done. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, the world wasn’t looking – 

GARY ADSHEAD: China? China was – 

ANDREW HASTIE: China under Xi Jinping commenced the biggest peacetime military buildup since the end of the Second World War. This is what Richard Marles didn’t talk about yesterday. He mentioned China a few times, but he didn’t make the connecting link between the need for our increased Defence expenditure and the rise of China and the risk of a war between the United States and China. That’s the reality here. And it’s time to talk plainly about these things. Now, Richard – Richard Marles yesterday made commitments out to 10 years – excuse me. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Have a drink. Yeah grab a drink. There you go. Yeah? 

ANDREW HASTIE: Made a commitment out to 10 years, right? But over the forward estimates – over four years – they’re only increasing Defence expenditure by a modest $5.7 billion – 

MINISTER KEOGH: Biggest increase since the Second World War. 

GARY ADSHEAD: It is the biggest, though. 

ANDREW HASTIE: He added $1 billion yesterday; $1.7 billion is toward the surface fleet investment and then there’s an additional $3 billion. But he wouldn’t answer yesterday a question about whether that increase was due to inflation and foreign exchange fluctuation. Now, family budgets across this country are dealing with inflation. So too is Defence. So it’s rather modest when you think about it. And so Marles gets up and says, “Oh, we’re facing the most dangerous strategic circumstances. What are we going to do about it? Oh, we’ll tip $5.7 billion into the Defence budget over the next four years and we’ll promise all these things out to 2033-34” – 10 years away – “but we won’t see a new frigate until 2031. We won’t see the Hunter-class frigate until 2034. We won’t see the first Virginia-class submarine until the early 2030s.” And so I don’t think he’s that serious. I don’t think he’s – 

GARY ADSHEAD: But that’s the lead-in time, isn’t it, that you need? I mean, you can’t just sort of build a ship in 2 minutes. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, can I make a few points about that, Gary? So the new frigates will be the fastest delivery of new frigates – new ships to the Navy at any point since the Second World War. This will be fastest delivery of ships we’ll ever get. In the meantime, in the period that Andrew’s talking about, we’re bringing forward our guided weapons and missiles program to start construction of that next year in country – missiles being made here. We’re bringing forward our autonomous systems – so you’re talking about drones, you’re talking about underwater autonomous systems as well there – 

GARY ADSHEAD: That’s only a billion dollars, though, isn’t it? 

ANDREW HASTIE: That’s the point –

GARY ADSHEAD: That sounded like small bikkies on the drones and the missiles –  

MINISTER KEOGH: They’re cheaper pieces of equipment, but they’re absolutely fundamental – 

ANDREW HASTIE: It’s long on politics, short on strategy. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Couldn’t that be done quicker in terms of the purchasing of a missile system – 

MINISTER KEOGH: We are doing it quicker, that’s what we’re talking about – 

GARY ADSHEAD: Can’t we just buy one? 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, we already have them. We already own them. We’re also – we’re talking about expanding it so that we’re able to make them here so we can stockpile – 

GARY ADSHEAD: So we have surface-to-air missiles up at – in the north of this state? 

MINISTER KEOGH: So we bringing on the HIMARS system in Army. So Andrew complains about changes to the army funding. What we’re doing is making the Army fit for purpose by making sure it's get weapons that instead of have a maximum range of 30 kilometres have a maximum range of 500 kilometres so that for our Army stationed in the north are able to keep an adversary much further at bay. It’s a fundamental change – 


MINISTER KEOGH: – to how we operate our Defence Force. 

ANDREW HASTIE:  – Richard Marles said yesterday he’s not planning on an invasion of Australia. 

MINISTER KEOGH: That’s right. 


MINISTER KEOGH: That’s why you need long-range weapons, Andrew. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Five hundred kilometres is long range? 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, for Army, Andrew. For Army. It’s also about long-range weapons that will be on our Hornets, the long-range weapons –

ANDREW HASTIE: I just think, Matt, there’s a lack of seriousness. 

MINISTER KEOGH:  – on our submarines and on our naval vessels. 

ANDREW HASTIE: The test for Richard Marles was to articulate to the Australian people the threat clearly. He failed on that count. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, that’s not true at all. 

ANDREW HASTIE: The second – 

GARY ADSHEAD: I thought he was pretty clear. I got a bit nervous when he said we were inside the 10-year warning sort of scenario. 

ANDREW HASTIE: The second test was to articulate the strategy, which he failed to do. He talks about impactful projection, but I couldn’t tell your listeners what that actually means. He hasn’t been able to bring together the constituent parts of the Defence Force – Army, Navy and Air Force – with also the space and cyber domains and articulate how we will defeat the most likely and the most dangerous course of action from an adversary over the next five to 10 years. He failed to do that. 

MINISTER KEOGH: Or Andrew failed to understand it, because it was actually pretty clear, both in the room – 

ANDREW HASTIE: Oh, here we go. It’s an intellectual conversation, Gary. 

MINISTER KEOGH: We, it’s not that intellectual. It’s pretty clear in that Richard outlined a very clear program, which is about – as you just reminded listeners, this is not about people putting boots on the ground into Australia and, hence, our – the strategic intent here is about being able to keep an adversary at risk and at bay much further away from Australians and our shores. And so – 

GARY ADSHEAD: I mean, just as a punter, you know, I’m obviously a journo, but I kind of look at the arguments around it now and I still ask myself why on Earth weren’t these discussions being had about 20 years ago so that you have a situation where you watch Israel defend itself in the way that they did – with help from allies – from, you know, missiles and drones raining down on them the other day and they’ve got the capability to shoot 99.9 per cent of them out of the sky. We don’t have anything close to it. 

ANDREW HASTIE: People think – 

GARY ADSHEAD: I mean, we’re just sitting ducks, mate. 

MINISTER KEOGH: This is why we’re making – 

ANDREW HASTIE: Gary, Gary – 

MINISTER KEOGH: – those investments in –

GARY ADSHEAD: But we’re sitting ducks now. 

MINISTER KEOGH: – autonomous systems, in missiles, in HIMARS all of these things are why we need to make these investments. You make the case very well, Gary – as was made well by Richard yesterday and is made very clearly in the documents released by Richard yesterday – this is about acknowledging all of those issues and shifting our funding to go to those sorts of defensive and offensive weaponry and capability to best – 

GARY ADSHEAD: But god help us in the next 10 years, would you say, unless the US – 

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, exactly. The Minister should have asked the question, what can he fix by 2026. 

MINISTER KEOGH: And that’s outlined in the document. 

ANDREW HASTIE: What can be fixed by 2026 – that’s not outlined at all. 



MINISTER KEOGH: It’s the first horizon in the document. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Well, you guys can work that out in the break. It’s 14 minutes to 10. 

If anyone would like to ask Andrew Hastie and Matt Keogh a question, I mean, you may have – you may, like me, sit the and watch these speeches that come through the National Press Club and you might have an issue that you’d like to raise – 133 882 is the number. We’re talking Defence. It’s 14 minutes to 10. 

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GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah, we’ll get straight back into it. Ben’s on the line. G’day, Ben. 

BEN: Yeah, g’day. How’re you going? 

GARY ADSHEAD: Good, mate. 

BEN: I just wanted to ask what – if you’re on the street and you’ve got someone that you know is sort of against you or something, you wouldn’t deal with them or you’d maybe have it out with them, so to speak. But with China we trade every day with China. We sort of on one hand are actively trying to conduct this what they call diplomacy with China purely over money reasons. I mean, all it is about money. But we’re clearly compromising our principles when we're also preparing to possibly prepare for war against them in years to come. It’s sort of like in Israel and Palestine where the Yanks are giving Israel – providing them weapons but on the flipside we’re providing aid to Palestine. None of it makes sense. It’s a basic compromisation [sic] of integrity. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah, it must be at a government level as well and, you know, the opposition, it is a fine line, isn’t it? 

MINISTER KEOGH: I guess it’s about being eyes wide open, and if you think about our trade relationship with China, which we’re continuing to reopen, but from a Western Australian point of view, you know, iron ore, we already saturated the rest of the market. It’s not like we can just sort of sell somewhere else. We already sell somewhere else. So it is a very important trade relationship, and our quality of life, our national income is quite reliant on that. But we’re also very eyes wide open about maintaining stability in our region, and that’s why with China we agree where we can and we disagree where we must. And we always seek to act in our own national interest in all of our dealings. And you’ve seen that not just in the way in which we have postured ourselves from a defence point of view but also the way in which we’ve engaged with them on trade. Because that is in our national interest as well. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Andrew, you’re quite hawkish. You have been on China obviously in some of the comments that you’ve made over the years. I mean, do you ever think about if you come into Government how your language may have to change, or not? 

ANDREW HASTIE: I wouldn’t say I’m hawkish; I would say I stand up for Australian sovereignty. And I think, like in personal relationships, there are always boundaries. So, too, there should be boundaries at the national level. So when our divers, for example, receive a sonar blast from a Chinese destroyer, that needs to be raised. And Anthony Albanese failed to raise that when he had the opportunity with Xi Jinping. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Actually, just before I get to you, Brendan – if you don’t mind – on that note, I mean, you obviously keep referring to the Albanese Government being weak when it comes to matters of national security – 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, he asserts that. 

GARY ADSHEAD: What – he does assert that, but I notice that you said the other day – this makes sense to me, Matt, if you don’t mind me saying so – that it seems extraordinary that the directors-general of ASIO and ASIS do not sit on the National Security Committee of Cabinet. Why aren’t they involved in that process? 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, only Ministers are members of the National Security Committee of cabinet. The national security – 

GARY ADSHEAD: Yeah, but you have advisers. 

MINISTER KEOGH: The heads of national security entities are invited to attend those meetings, and regularly do. 

GARY ADSHEAD: So, what’s that about then, Andrew? You’re saying that they should be – 

ANDREW HASTIE: They should be permanently – they should be in the room for each of those meetings. So not only an invitation basis, but they should be there seated and contributing when asked. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Were they, under the last Liberal Coalition Government? 


MINISTER KEOGH: And they do attend meetings under our Government. 

GARY ADSHEAD: But – what – under – do they do absolutely – 

ANDREW HASTIE: On an ad hoc invitational basis. 

GARY ADSHEAD: Are they a permanent – 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, I can’t speak to the daily actions of the NSC; I’m not a member of the NSC, so – 

GARY ADSHEAD: They should be, shouldn’t they? 

ANDREW HASTIE: They are the eyes and ears – 

MINISTER KEOGH: By point is that they do attend, but the critical thing is that head of the Office of National Assessments, which is responsible for collating and bringing together all intelligence product across the intelligence community in Australia, it does attend all of those meetings. And that’s the important part. 

ANDREW HASTIE: But ASIS and ASIO – ASIS being foreign intelligence collection; ASIO domestic, defeating spies and terrorists and the like – They should be there because they run the operations. The Prime Minister should be leaning on them particularly right now. They should be there – 

GARY ADSHEAD: Given what we’ve just seen in the last – 

MINISTER KEOGH: And the head of ASIO was there but NSC deals with a whole range of different things, and so there’s kind of – 

GARY ADSHEAD: All right. I’ll go to Brendan now, though, if you don’t mind. Brendan, hey, how you going? 

BRENDAN: Good, Gary. Before looking abroad, the Defence and this Government needs to look at issues within Australia and, in particular, what has this Government or Defence done to overcome the movement of troops that were prohibited by this state’s Premier during Covid – a direct request from the Chief of Defence Force to move troops to Western Australia during Covid was denied, and, therefore, limiting this country’s ability to position troops in areas that required them because they had to quarantine on the coast. Now, either side here can deny that this happened, but I hear it straight from the horse’s mouth that people sat off the coast of this state for two weeks while the Premier of this state would not allow the Defence Force the freedom of movement that it should require. 

GARY ADSHEAD: I don’t know anything about that. I don’t – do you guys know anything about it? 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, it was during Andrew’s term, but from a legal point of view there’s no prohibition, and I know Defence Force personnel did move around the country, including in and out of Western Australia as necessarily required. But, of course, I would assume – we weren’t in Government then – that Defence wasn’t going to do things that may have unnecessarily created risk. I mean, we had a British submarine come to the submarine base during Covid so – 

ANDREW HASTIE: But they – 

MINISTER KEOGH: – things were happening. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Time at sea was counted as quarantine, along with the German frigate that came alongside. But I can tell you I went to the launch of a ship down at HMAS Stirling. The Chief of Navy came across, Mark McGowan made him quarantine for 14 days. So, look, there are a lot of things in the pandemic that look crazier the further we get away from them, and I take Brendan’s point on board, and I don’t know the particulars of it. 

GARY ADSHEAD: All right. Last questions to you, Andrew Hastie: $5.7 billion in the forward estimates of this Government in relation to immediate Defence spending. What are you going to do if you were to become Defence Minister in 2025? 

ANDREW HASTIE: We are going to match Labor’s spending and go beyond it. And I have – 

MINISTER KEOGH: Well, you’ll have to get your treasurer to agree to that, because he hasn’t yet. 

ANDREW HASTIE: And I have that direct from Peter Dutton yesterday, who communicated that to me before I stepped up and gave our press conference. 


ANDREW HASTIE: We will spend what we need to spend. And so we’ll do our own strategic analysis. And the point about having a strategy is that you don’t spend too much or too little; you spend exactly what you need. And you prepare for the most likely course of action that you have to come up against and the most dangerous. And I think Richard Marles has his head in the sand and he’s not focused on the most dangerous course of action to Australia. 

MINISTER KEOGH: A welcome backflip with a double pike from Mr Hastie here and the Dutton opposition. 

GARY ADSHEAD: We will watch – we may watch with interest – who knows? – in 2025. 

Four minutes to 10. Thanks very much for coming in. I know you’re busy, guys. Thanks very much for coming in and giving our listeners the opportunity to hear you out and ask some questions. Thanks for that. 

ANDREW HASTIE: Great to be with you, Gary.



Stephanie Mathews (Minister Keogh’s Office): 0407 034 485

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