6PR Mornings with Liam Bartlett and Andrew Hastie - 10 February

10 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Coalition Government performance; WA border; National Security.

LIAM BARTLETT, HOST: Today, the first of what we hope will be many prior to the election – whenever that may be formally called – but the first of many political debates, discussions with representatives from both sides of the curtain. Firstly, from the Liberal Party, the Federal Member for the seat of Canning, elected in the by-election in 2015, following the death of the former member, Don Randall. Re-elected in 2016 and 2019, and sitting in Canning with a margin of 11.6%, Andrew Hastie. Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW HASTIE, MEMBER FOR CANNING: Good morning, Liam, great to be with you.

BARTLETT: Good to see you're here. On the other side of the political divide, Labor's Matt Keogh. Federal Member for the seat of Burt, Shadow Minister for the Defence Industry also Shadow Minister assisting Small Business. First elected in 2016, reelected in 2019, sitting on a margin of 5.5%. Matt, good morning.

MATT KEOGH, MEMBER FOR BURT: Good morning. Liam. Great to be with you.

BARTLETT: Now, your margin’s only half of Andrew’s Matt, I see a bit of envy there. And this is a cross-border skirmish, isn't it? Because Burt does border Canning.

KEOGH: It does, and you know Andrew and I have skirmished before.

HASTIE: He's a warrior who I respect, so it's good to be on the program.

BARTLETT: Good on you both. Well, thanks for coming in and talkback lines are open, 133 882 if you'd like to ask a question of either Matt Keogh or Andrew Hastie. Gentlemen, I'll just ask the obvious to start with just so you know, I'm not accused of bias. You haven't been involved or sent each other any negative texts lately, have you?

KEOGH: No, I've not been sending Andrew any text other than to congratulate him on the birth of his child recently.

HASTIE: That's right, but it's our sons actually, we caught up once at the airport. I think our sons picked up rocks briefly. We had to break them apart. They were about three or four. So yeah, we have a good relationship.

BARTLETT: And you're both blocked Barnaby Joyce on your contact list.

KEOGH: I've never received a text from Barnaby Joyce in my life.

BARTLETT: That’s brilliant, Matt, that's on the record. Andrew, has he got any mates left in Canberra?

HASTIE: Who's that, Barnaby? Look, Barnaby is quite popular within the National Party. He's Deputy Prime Minister. And to get straight to the point, yes, those texts were very unflattering but he made an apology to the Prime Minister. He offered his resignation, which shows how serious and heartfelt that apology was. The Prime Minister accepted that and has moved on. And we've got bigger issues to deal with than text messages.

BARTLETT: Yes. You know, you want to get some clear air, don't you at the moment? How do you think it's going generally? How do you think it's looking? For your party first, Andrew?

HASTIE: Well, we're obviously behind in the polls. If you look at the polls, and–

BARTLETT: Badly behind.

HASTIE: Yeah, and it's been a challenging two years. I think there's a fair bit of turbulence in the electorate at the moment across the country. And each state is different. So, it's very hard to call. We've just got to focus on delivering for the Australian people.

BARTLETT: Is it an incumbency issue, do you think, Matt? Do you think you guys will take a big advantage from that? From the Coalition being in Government all this time?

KEOGH: Well, I think if you look at what's happened at State Government level in the previous elections, in the last few years, incumbency has been a great benefit. So, I don't think it's mere incumbency that's causing the government it’s woes. You've had the text messages that you mentioned; clearly there's disquiet within the government criticism of the Prime Minister and his performance. People have been questioning the integrity of the Prime Minister, not just here in Australia, but world leaders abroad as well. We've had, over the last day or so, the Government losing control of its own legislation in the Parliament, and I think in Western Australia, in particular, people haven't been happy with the approach of the Government to Western Australia. You know, looking at trying to bring down the border that was keeping us safe here, calling Western Australians cave people, not backing in the McGowan Government on its approach of keeping Western Australians safe and strong. I think it's something that people have not liked about the way in which the Government has conducted itself.

BARTLETT: Well, the Prime Minister did a complete turnaround, the other day, didn't he? He's completely backing Mark McGowan. What's he [doing?], reading the tea leaves the other way now, Andrew?

HASTIE: Well, no, Mark McGowan actually said that the reason why we can't open the border is that our hospital system at the moment can't absorb the caseload of Omicron cases that would come. And so, you know, the real question is, and the Prime Minister, as I said last week, put it less delicately than this. But Mark McGowan’s had five years now as Premier of this state, he's had two years at the front row of the National Cabinet, to learn the lessons from the east, and our hospital system is a total mess. We're having surgeries canceled already. We don't even have a high caseload. And so, I think, you know, it's great to hide behind the border, but a lot of people are frustrated with a number of things, including the state of the hospital system, but also business mandates and increasing overreach from this government.

KEOGH: I think it's a bit rich for Scott Morrison to be focusing on the hospitals when every Health Minister in Australia wrote to Scott Morrison and the Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt, and said, ‘we can see what's coming in terms of a wave, we need extra support from the Federal Government for our health systems’, and the federal government's response to every state, whether they're a Liberal state or a Labor state, was no. Meanwhile, the McGowan Government here has invested over $3 billion in improving the state of our hospital system and having learnt what's happened over east-

BARTLETT: Well, late to the party though, Matt, late to the party.

KEOGH: What they've learned from over East is they're giving some people notice that they will need to cancel some elective surgeries for a period of time, and what we saw over the last two years over east was mass cancellations of elective surgeries. So, we're still in a better position than what they've seen over there with no help from the Federal Government. Of course, now we get to the 11th hour before the election, Scott Morrison comes on radio in WA, and says, ‘oh no, I completely support the approach of Mark McGowan’, and then a couple days later, over east, start walking that back.

BARTLETT: 133 882 if you'd like to ask a question of either Labor's Matt Keogh or the Liberal Party's Andrew Hastie. So you two are not in Canberra now?

KEOGH: That's right.

BARTLETT: This week.


BARTLETT: It's only what, ten sitting days left? But how does that work? You get a pair, or you – what happens there, and why aren't you in Canberra at the moment?

HASTIE: That's right. So as an Assistant Minister, the Assistant Ministers get paired out first. So, if I went to Canberra, I may not well be in the chamber voting anyway.

BARTLETT: You're the Assistant Minister for Defence.

HASTIE: I’m the Assistant Minister for Defence, that's right. And as you know, there's a large defence presence here in Western Australia, which the Defence Minister can't get to without quarantine. A week ago, for 14 days, now it's seven days. So I've got a lot of work to do here. And then of course, I would have been, at minimum, a month away from my family. I'm like many Western Australian families. My wife was born in the US, her family's in the US, I have family on the east. We've got a three-month-old baby. I've got a kid, a little girl has just started kindergarten this year, and a little boy in year one, and I'd be away for a full month without any support.


HASTIE: So, it made sense. We're going to pair people out - I was paired out.

BARTLETT: You were paired out, okay, that's good. Matt?

KEOGH: Same boat. So, one thing to realise is with the COVID restrictions in Canberra, not everyone can be in the chamber at one time anyway, so there's going to be people that had to be out. Like Andrew, I've got a young family. I'm the Shadow Minister for Defence Industry, so similar sort of coverage to what Andrew is doing. And I've got a young family myself, like Andrew does, and so in terms of balancing time away in Canberra plus having to do quarantine away from family. For me, the balance is I'll go next week. And then we only have a week of quarantine when we come back. But we've got to make that work as Western Australian MPs and we get to participate remotely.

BARTLETT: It makes it hard, doesn't it? Just it's a good example from both of you on both sides. Because even though you have exemptions naturally as MPs, still makes it difficult now in terms of the run of business.

HASTIE: Oh, it does. And we want to represent Western Australia as well. So, it's very hard to advocate in Canberra for things if every time you go over there, you've got to spend 14 days in the brig - now seven days. That also goes for ministerial duties. Part of our defence strategy is regional engagement, diplomacy, and again, very difficult to conduct from Western Australia. So, there's definitely disadvantages with the current settings.

BARTLETT: You both would have been fascinated by the speech from ASIO, the ASIO boss, talking about how foreign spies – now it comes back to your mobile again – you're very careful with your mobiles, gentlemen – foreign spies using dating apps to recruit Australians.

KEOGH: I've never seen Andrew’s phone, but I'm going to guess that like me he doesn't have a dating app.

HASTIE: Absolutely not. But look, yeah, they use all sorts of means. So, part of my role as Assistant Defence Minister is cyber. And we have the Australian Cybersecurity Centre set up in Canberra. It's a 24/7 unblinking eye of government, looking at cyber threats to our country, to our businesses, to our institutions, our schools, our families and individuals. Last year, there were more than 67,000 cyberattacks on Australia – that's one every eight minutes and they're the ones that we know about. Massive problem–

BARTLETT: Amazing, isn’t it?

HASTIE: They're using all sorts of vectors including dating apps, so people need to be very careful about what they're signing up to online.

BARTLETT: And you're onboard, aren’t you Matt?

KEOGH: Absolutely.

BARTLETT: It’s across party lines.

KEOGH: Oh yep, look, you know, when it comes to the defence of our nation, we're all together in this, and cyber is an increasingly serious aspect of that. And we need to make sure that we're really doing all we can in that aspect. And you know, the capability that Andrew just referred to is really important in that aspect. But we also need to make sure that our government departments are living up to the requirements that are imposed on them. I think the last audit of Federal Government departments showed that 80 per cent of them weren't meeting the standard that ASD set for them. So, there is more work to be done there. But in terms of the work that ASD does itself, it is good work and it's very important work.

BARTLETT: 15 to 10. We'll take a quick break, we've got Matt Keogh and Andrew Hastie in from both sides of the political divide. We'll take some of your questions right after this.

BARTLETT: 12 minutes to 10. Matt Keogh and Andrew Hastie here in the studio. Gentlemen, let's go to the phones. Sue, good morning to you.

SUE, TALKBACK CALLER: Good morning. *INAUDIBLE* If you’d just wait, because I'd like to hear the reply. Yesterday, I am a Labor supporter. Yesterday, I was so disgusted with what happened with Grace Tame. I think she was used by the Labor Party to do what she what she said. If she was threatened nine months ago, she should have gone to the Federal Police. And funny it’s just come out now that an election is on its way. And I'm really sad that politicians want to get so personal and hurt each other’s reputation. Scott Morrison is a man with two daughters. And I think this is just horrific what has happened and I do blame the Labor Party for it.

BARTLETT: Alright, Sue, we'll get Matt Keogh’s response.

KEOGH: I can't speak for Grace. But I think given the nature of the allegation that she's put forward, she's obviously waited until after her term of being Australian of the Year to raise that, and I can understand, given the nature of it, why she's done that, but she hasn't done it in coordination with us in any way. Grace is her own person, and I don't think anyone really would suggest that Grace would do anything other than what she wants to go and do. And, you know, the role of us as politicians is to listen to what they're saying and to take that onboard and then to act. So that's what we did yesterday with the speech that she and Ms Higgins gave, but it wasn't coordinated. And I think that's why she waited till now.

HASTIE: I think Sue is right. The political discourse is very toxic and can be very toxic. A lot of attacks on people's character, which is completely unnecessary. And I think we've seen a fair bit of that over the last week and-

BARTLETT: It's become very personal, hasn’t it.

HASTIE: Exactly.

BARTLETT: Unnecessarily really.

HASTIE: That's right. And I think about younger Australians coming through who might be considering politics long term and I think to myself ‘if it's this bad now, why would they bother spending time away from their families, copping all the criticism in the world to do a job where every couple of years they might get tossed out?’ It's, you know, we want a better politics in this country. And that's why I committed to this program with Matt, because Matt and I, we've been skirmishing for a couple of years, but in the end, I respect Matt a lot and he plays fair.

BARTLETT: Good to hear. James. Good morning.

JAMES, TALKBACK CALLER: Good morning, Liam. Good morning, gentlemen. My question is to both of you. I would like you to explain your parties’ positions on forced income management, e.g. the cashless debit card, and putting every pensioner, including aged pension, which I've seen the legislation and it is listed, onto this card where they quarantine 80 per cent to 100 per cent of your payment. And what your party is going to do about it?

BARTLETT: Alright, I don't think that's on the cards, is it? Is it, Matt? For all pensioners? That's certainly not what -
KEOGH: Yeah, that’s what the Government put into its legislation-

HASTIE: I don't that’s happening-

KEOGH: It would give itself the capacity to do that. And certainly when the Minister, Anne Ruston spoke about their expansion of the use of the Indue card, she talked about expanding it into other welfare benefits, which include the pension. She said subsequently, they wouldn't do that. But they put it in writing in the legislation that they wanted to do it.

BARTLETT: Any government who does that will be out.

KEOGH: Well, it would be crazy. Absolutely would be crazy.

HASTIE: We’d be out at breakneck speed. So, I don’t think that’s happening.

KEOGH: We just sort of say, ‘well, why'd you put it in the legislation?’

BARTLETT: Right, well, maybe, okay, we'll take it as a typo. A rather large one.

KEOGH: A pretty big one.

BARTLETT: Do you support the cashless debit card?

KEOGH: No, I don't. And the reason is that we’ve yet to see any evidence from the Government’s trial sites that it's actually providing great benefit. Now, I do know, and I have spoken to people in some communities where they say that they have seen some benefits. I'm not saying there's no benefit at all, but certainly in terms of widespread usage, it becomes quite a problem. And the trials so far have generally been in quite isolated communities, but it still leads to a sort of a black market that can generate to try and avoid it. You put that into a highly urbanized area, you create some significant problems.

BARTLETT: I know Twiggy Forrest likes it. Do you like it, Andrew?

HASTIE: Yeah, look, I think it has some merit. I know Matt O’Sullivan has done a lot of work. Senator Matt O’Sullivan, Senator for WA, has done a lot of work in this space. A couple of years ago, we put to the Parliament to have a trial in Mandurah for drug testing, cashless welfare card. People who test positive would have 80 per cent of their income quarantined, so they couldn't spend it on drugs or alcohol. That was not supported by Labor, but there was a lot of support in the community down in Mandurah for that. And that's to help people get off addiction, whether it be alcohol or drugs. And I think in that case, there was a lot of merit to it, because the biggest boundary for people getting into a job is addiction to drug and alcohol, and if we can help people off that, that's a good thing.

BARTLETT: Graham. Good morning.

GRAHAM, TALKBACK CALLER: Good morning, guys. I have a crazy brave idea about game changing West Australian tourism. And it involves the Defence Department. My question is, could the Garden Island naval base be moved to be moved to Albany to assist it as a city and could Garden Island become an international-standard resort tourism island?

HASTIE: The short answer is ‘no’ for Garden Island. It's a critical piece of infrastructure, we’re investing billions of dollars in it. We're going to see more ships from our allies, including the US, the UK, India, and others coming alongside us in Garden Island. And moreover, it's the home to Fleet Base West where we have our submarine capability. It's where the nuclear submarines will be based. And we’re going to see a massive investment in that area. As for Albany, Albany was a historic port. We’ve had American submarines down there. It’s an amazing port. I do believe that Defence should always consider Albany as a crucial port.

BARTLETT: Alright, stick it on Rottnest then.

KEOGH: Rottnest is a great facility available to Western Australians.

BARTLETT: Fair enough. On text today, Chris says ‘Liam, please remind Mr Hastie that it was Liberal PM Howard who got us involved in Afghanistan?’ You were there, Andrew.

HASTIE: Yeah, that's true and Chris, that is true. After 9/11, we went after al-Qaeda and we disrupted al-Qaeda. And then under Mr Rudd, and then Ms Gillard, and then Mr Rudd saw out the war – that’s where we sustained all our casualties. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2009, the US surged, we surged too, and that's where all, most, of our casualties happened. So, I had friends die under a Labor Government. So, getting partisan about this is not the way forward.

BARTLETT: Or not helpful. Alright. Vicki says ‘I'd like to thank Andrew for all his hard work in Canning. Good luck in the coming election.’ Vicki.

HASTIE: Thank you, Vicki.

BARTLETT: It's not Vicki Hastie, is it?


BARTLETT: Only joking, only joking. Nathan says, just finally, ‘I have a question for Matt: what policies are the Labor Government actually putting forward?’ That's a big question, Matt. ‘All they've done is just pick on what the Morrison Government has done with a big advantage of hindsight, not much of a campaign’.

KEOGH: Well, we've actually put forward a whole range of policies now. It’s not, you know, the suite of 200-odd that we took to the last election. But you know, we've been very clear about cost-of-living pressure policies, around reducing the cost of childcare for 92 per cent of Australian families; free TAFE training courses, so that people can get into good secure work; fixing up labour hire so that people get paid the same as the people they're working next to who are employed by the business, to make sure that we've got a fairer system. And we've got our National Reconstruction Fund, which is about a future made in Australia, making sure that we bring back manufacturing to Australia, more self-reliance. Now, there's a whole range of other policies, I can go on, but it would take a long time. So, I encourage people to go to the Labor website, there are a raft of policies there.

BARTLETT: Alright, fair enough. And we'll talk about, touch on, a whole stack of those policies, Matt, in weeks to come. One way or the other, whether you're here in the studio or on the line. So, thank you for that. And both of you, thanks very much for coming in and in chatting in such a respectful way. It's good, good debate.

HASTIE: My pleasure, Liam, good to be with you. And Matt.

KEOGH: Great to be with you, Liam, as well, and Andrew.

BARTLETT: Andrew Hastie and Matt Keogh on the program. It's three minutes to 10.