Television Interview, Sky News

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

Media contact

Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

Release content

17 June 2024

SUBJECTS: Australia-China relationship; Premier Li visit.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live now are Monday morning panel, Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes. Good morning. The Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite. Good morning, Matt, to you first on these discussions, how hard do you push back against recent defence incidents?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, we'll try and cooperate with China where we can, but disagree where we must. And one of those areas is in defence. We don't want any destabilisation within our region and we'll make that very clear to the Chinese government today. But we'll also attempt to continue to stabilise that relationship because it means jobs for Australians. We've seen the lifting of some of the controls on Australian exports, beef and wine and other products, and that means jobs for Australians and investment for Australians. So, we'll disagree where we must, but cooperate where we can.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, I mean, you say it, though, and you have said it in the past, but they keep doing it, showing that, you know, you can only say so much, right? China will just keep doing what it wants to do.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: And we've made it clear that we believe that stability and the status quo within the region is very, very important. And Australia's not alone there. We're working with international allies such as the United States, New Zealand, the UK, other countries within that region, South Korea and Japan, to make sure that we stabilise the region and that we have the status quo, that there's freedom of navigation, which is important to Australia's maritime interests and those points and those issues will continue to be raised by the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers today.

STEFANOVIC: Ok. Any issue with any of that, Hollie?

HOLLIE HUGHES, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR NSW: Well, continue to be raised. We know that the Prime Minister didn't call out China on an attack on our naval forces. I mean, it was just absurd. Seen the delay in which Mr Albanese has been taking when it comes to anything that might upset their view of their handsome boy. I mean, he's all talk, no action. And again, we saw yesterday the focus was on pandas rather than the detained Australian writer Yang Hengjun. I mean, you know, what priorities does this Prime Minister have? They don't seem to be focused on the real interests of Australians. It's on his own interest and kowtowing to China.

STEFANOVIC: Would you hope that Yang Hengjun is brought up today, Matt?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, the issue of Yang Hengjun will certainly be brought up today. We believe that we want to see him considered on health grounds for a release and we'll raise that issue. The point that Hollie raised is superfluous in that, you know, the focus has been on jobs for Australians and that's why there was a security of our defences yesterday, because, because the Trade Minister is working with the Chinese government to try and have some of those restrictions that were placed on Australian products under the previous government lifted so that you've got investment for Australian businesses, you've got jobs for Australians. But we'll continue to raise those important points like Yang Hengjun and the ongoing stability of our region and defence issues. So, we believe that you can, you can do both.

STEFANOVIC: Ok. The fact that those, those trade restrictions have been lifted, Hollie, do you give the government a pass mark on that?

HUGHES: Look, it's great to say that, you know, trading partners are always having their relationships strengthened and it is good for our exporters, not so good for our live sheep exporters at the moment under this government, but in what they decide is important for China. They're certainly being supported of those markets and trying to get that trade up and running. But I do think it's too important, these attacks on our defence force and cyber security attacks and the detaining of Australian citizens. Yet they seem to be just such lower order issues for this government. They like to talk about the easy things. Let's give you lobster and wine, but how about you don't put sonic booms out near our naval forces or the strobe lights and the helicopters? It’s just obscene that our defence force is such a low ranking order for this government.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, Hollie, Matt, we're out of time. Appreciate it, though. We'll talk to you again soon.

Other related releases