6PR Mornings with Liam Bartlett and Andrew Hastie - 17 February

17 February 2022


SUBJECTS: Culture of Parliament; national security; China; defence spending. 

ANNOUNCER: Behind Party Lines.

LIAM BARTLETT, HOST: Yes, and from federal politics, the Member for Canning, Andrew Hastie, joins us – also Assistant Minister for Defence. And from the Labor side of politics, the Member for Burt, Matt Keogh, the Shadow Minister for Defence Industry and Small Business. Andrew, good morning to you.
ANDREW HASTIE, MEMBER FOR CANNING: Good to be with you, Liam.

BARTLETT: Nice to see you back again this week, thanks for coming in. And Matt Keogh, unfortunately – or fortunately for you, Matt – in Canberra this morning.

*audible silence*

BARTLETT: Hello, Matt?

HASTIE: It looks like a division has just been called. 

BARTLETT: Oh, has it?

HASTIE: So, he's off voting.

BARTLETT: Ah ha ha.

HASTIE: Saved by the bell, as they say.

BARTLETT: You wouldn't believe it, would you?

HASTIE: I just got the WhatsApp.

BARTLETT: He was just sitting in our Canberra studio. Oh, you just got – okay, you got the message on there.

HASTIE: From, from, yeah.

BARTLETT: The bells, the bells.

HASTIE: The bells.

BARTLETT: As they say in the classics. Oh, that's, that's live radio for it. Well, as soon as Matt pops back in as soon as – I mean, they can be over in a couple of minutes, can't they?

HASTIE: That's right. Yeah, they can – four minutes, generally. So, I'd expect him back in about 10 minutes.

BARTLETT: Alright. In that case, over to you. He'll be smarting, poor old Matt Keogh.


BARTLETT: Look, just quickly. What did you think of, what did you think of Nicole Flint’s speech yesterday in Federal Parliament? I thought it was – you know – very powerful. And obviously we've just been talking to her this morning. What did you make of it?

HASTIE: Nic is a great friend. She has been for six years. She’s been a great colleague. She's been our Deputy Whip. She's got a razor-sharp mind. She's got a great pen. And as you were saying earlier, Liam, she's a great debater in the House. So, she's a, she's a loss, and it's very sad that she's leaving for these reasons. I think a lot of us in politics find it tough – the travel, the time away from family – all those things. But for a woman to leave because it's become so toxic – that really says something about where we're at in our culture, and it's not good.

BARTLETT: No, it's not, is it? And it behoves all sides of Parliament to speak up, doesn't it? I mean, this, this is really her main point; that there has been – and this is not meant to be a free kick for you either, so don't get me wrong, Andrew – but this is her whole point. That the people on the left, which she says she's actually derived most of the abuse, need to speak up as well. It's got to be across party lines.

HASTIE: That's right. We've got to move past tribalism. And if something's wrong, it needs to be called out, regardless of politics. And I think she has a fair point there.

BARTLETT: A very good point.

HASTIE: A very good point.

BARTLETT: And I mean, politics is a hard game anyway, right?

HASTIE: It is.

BARTLETT: Sledging is all part of the game – and that's fair enough – if it's based on, on the policies.

HASTIE: I remember what Josh Frydenberg said to me when I first started in politics. He said, ‘Andrew, you need to put your body armour on every single day, but especially your backplate’. That's, I've never forgotten that advice. It's true. 

BARTLETT: Yeah, there's a few - there's a few more than a few knives out at the moment. Look, I'm happy to let you take calls, 133 882. If you'd like to have a chat to Andrew Hastie, 133 882. Our talkback lines are open. You knew I was going to get to this, because this is the big talking point around this morning; has been for a couple of days. We spoke to Bruce Haig yesterday, former Australian diplomat.


BARTLETT: Who wrote an opinion piece published in The Global Times, which really is the Chinese Communist Party's publication.

HASTIE: Yes, it is.

BARTLETT: That's their mouthpiece, and he said in that ‘Albanese would make a better Prime Minister than Scott Morrison for the sake of the ongoing relationship with China’. Now, today, a former ASIO Director General and DFAT secretary Dennis Richardson has come out and said he's pretty concerned with any attempt to create artificial differences between the Coalition and Labor on China policy. And, and, he also rejected suggestions from the Prime Minister that the Opposition had somehow appeased China or was making soft noises toward China. But there's a former ASIO boss saying, ‘look, it's dangerous territory’, Andrew.

HASTIE: Well, let's not forget as well, Mr Richardson was also Bob Hawke’s chief of staff. So, he goes out to bat for, for the other team, alright? Let's make that very clear. My point would be, ‘why can't we talk about China?’ Authoritarianism is on the rise around the world. We have Russia and China now working together. We all saw that February 4 summit between President Xi Jinping and President Putin. They are rumbling the West. They are destabilising our alliances, both here in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe. And the central question going forward for Australians is, ‘who do you want leading the country during the next decade?’ Because it's not going to get any easier for us. It's actually going to get tougher. We've seen the economic coercion that China has used against us over the last few years. We've seen it, you know, hit our barley growers, our beef producers, our vineyards. You name it, people have been hurt by this. And Scott Morrison has consistently stood up for our sovereignty. And so going into the election in May, people have a choice to make. Mark McGowan isn't on the ballot. It's Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese. And I've got to say, Anthony Albanese has never held a serious national – he's never held a national security portfolio, or finance portfolio, in his whole 25 years in political life.

BARTLETT: Do you think Beijing is backing a Labor victory?

HASTIE: I don't know what Beijing is backing, but I do know that they're very very active in the region. destabilising the rules-based global order. They've built artificial islands and militarised them in the South China Sea. And just this year, Australia joined 30 other nations in calling out China for cyber-attacks and exploiting the Microsoft Exchange vulnerability – one of the biggest vulnerabilities we've seen in many years. So, our Government has had to respond over the last five years. That's why we introduced the espionage and foreign interference laws. It's why we introduced the Foreign Relations Act. You saw the Government countermand the Victorian Government's Belt and Road Initiative that they signed with the Chinese Government. We've created a critical infrastructure register to protect our critical assets. One in four cyber-attacks are against our critical infrastructure. That's, that's a serious problem. And I've said it before– 

BARTLETT: I'm not going to disagree with you on the actions.


BARTLETT: I think, okay, the list you've just gone through is fact.


BARTLETT: And is fact checkable. That's happened and you know, China has been responsible for that. But is it helpful for the country? Is it helpful for our national interest going forward that we have an issue, like China, almost on the ballot paper? You know, that it becomes an election issue? Is that helpful for all of us?

HASTIE: Well, my view is ‘weakness is provocative’, and so we need strong leadership. This goes down to what sort of a leader do we want running our country. Scott Morrison has a very strong record on China. And for Labor to say, ‘oh, we've got to be bipartisan’, and shut down that whole area of debate? That's basically muzzling us, but they want to politicise every other area of public policy: whether it be aged care; health; education – you name it – everything's on the table, except national security. I spent four years as the chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee for Intelligence and Security. I've negotiated countless hours with Mark Dreyfus, and other members of the Labor frontbench. I know what it's like to do deals with Labor on bills, and it's hard work. And we have different instincts on this question.

BARTLETT: But that's, that's – and that's the point, isn't it? I mean, but shouldn't there be bipartisanship? Shouldn't it be the extra effort from both parties to have bipartisanship on something? I mean, you say health, education – we can control that here in Australia, but we can't control what China does. But we can add to their fury, can’t we? And I’m not talk– I'm not talking about sort of baseless appeasement.

HASTIE: No no, of course not.

BARTLETT: I'm just talking about sort of sensible actions that, you know, you don't have to poke the bear, if you know, if you don't want to– 


BARTLETT: –if you don't need to.

HASTIE: That's right. And our bottom line always has to be Australian sovereignty. Not just of our territory, but also of our political institutions, which is why we've banned foreign donations. Also, of our economic security, which is why we need to protect our growers, our producers, our businesses, our intellectual property. Sovereignty is also digital; we need to protect our digital economy.

BARTLETT: Bruce Haig made the point yesterday. In his opinion – now he's a former Australian diplomat. What was it? 1972, he worked for DFAT at the highest level ‘til about ‘95. So long, long time, former ambassador, etc, etc. Now, he made the point. He has a lot of contacts in the diplomatic field. He made the point that China, that Xi Jinping, was embarrassed, has been embarrassed personally by some of the actions of Scott Morrison, and that basically he can't deal with him. That's essentially what he said. He just can't deal with him. So, in other words, he needs a circuit breaker, in order to, in order to move, in order to move forward and have that relationship reset. What do you make of that?

HASTIE: Well, I think he's saying we sort of somehow need to bend the knee. Trade something away. And a list was provided by the Chinese Embassy of, you know, I think, 14 points that we needed to fix before the relationship could be restored.

BARTLETT: That was after the call for an inquiry into COVID-19. 

HASTIE: Correct. And every single one of those points, somehow, struck at our sovereignty as a country. We're just not prepared to go there. We're not prepared to give up things as critically important as digital sovereignty, for example, Huawei. There's a reason why we excluded Huawei and ZTE from our future 5G networks. Because we believe that Australia's privacy, our information, whether it be businesses and governments, need to be protected. So, we do those for good reasons. Not because we want to pick a fight with our trading partner, but because we are a sovereign country, and we need to take necessary measures.

BARTLETT: Is Huawei being allowed to operate in Western Australia? Do you know anything about the state-by-state?

HASTIE: There was a deal to provide–

BARTLETT: There was some METRONET–

HASTIE: –METRONET deal which was knocked on the head by the McGowan Government – I think, you know, eighteen months ago on a Friday afternoon at 4:59pm. 

BARTLETT: Right, so that's gone?

HASTIE: That's gone, which is good. I applauded that decision. That was smart.

BARTLETT: We're talking with Andrew Hastie, the Federal Member for Canning. And we were supposed to be talking also with the Federal Member for Burt, from Labor, Matt Keogh, but unfortunately Matt’s in our Canberra studio and he's been called away on division. We'll take a quick break, we'll come back and take some calls, 133 882, if you'd like to ask Andrew a question. 15 minutes to 10.


ANNOUNCER: This is the morning program with Liam Bartlett.

BARTLETT: 12 minutes to 10 on this Thursday morning, Behind Party Lines. And it's supposed to be – the idea is – is supposed to be – best laid plans, Andrew? 

HASTIE: Yes, indeed, indeed. 

BARTLETT: That’s what happens. The idea is that we have a member from the right and a member from the left, and unfortunately, only the member from the right could be here in the studio today. Andrew Hastie from Canning; Matt Keogh from Burt has been called away in Canberra. And those division bills, what's that for Andrew?

HASTIE: I believe Labor are seeking to suspend standing orders to bring on debate. And, of course, that prompts a vote. The bells ring. They take four minutes, and they can be rolling bells for up to an hour perhaps.

BARTLETT: Right, so Labor's instigated that?

HASTIE: I understand that's the case, yes.

BARTLETT: Great great. So, it's not our fault.

HASTIE: No, no.

BARTLETT: That's good. So, when Matt, when Matt rings me, gives me a whack later on.

HASTIE: Exactly right. That's their plan for the day.

BARTLETT: Yes. Or in fact, while we speak, I'm just getting a message. Matt may have been able to re-enter our Canberra studio. Are you there, Matt Keogh?



KEOGH: I note your use of the word ‘our’, Liam.

BARTLETT: *laughs*

KEOGH: Actually, the Government actually resulted in that division because Labor, trying to support the government in some legislation, tried to have that legislation debated. And then the Government voted against that, resulting in a division. Which was very odd, because when the Senior Minister arrived, they decided they didn't actually want to divide on that topic at all. So highly unusual, the Government sort of losing control of its control of the House, which really is a further demonstration of what we've been seeing over recent weeks with this government's trajectory.

BARTLETT: Okay, well, I'm sorry it happened at that, at that time, Matt.

KEOGH: Very unfortunate.

BARTLETT: As you know, timing is everything. But I'm very pleased that you can be here for a few minutes. I've been having an extended chat to Andrew in your absence, about the Chinese position. And is it helpful for Australia to have the issue of China on the ballot paper as it were? You know, to be a topic, such a high-profile topic, potentially during this election campaign, in the lead up to it. What do you make of it? And is your party soft on China?

KEOGH: Well, absolutely, there's no problem with China being a hot topic of discussion coming into an election, because it's a very topical issue in the geostrategic position that we find ourselves in as a nation. But there is no difference between us and the Government when it comes to the approach to China. And quite frankly, it's damaging for our national interest to have the government doing that. You know, we've had the director of ASIO all week making comments about that. We've had the former director of ASIO come out this morning, making the point that to create division or the appearance of division, where there's absolutely none when it comes to national security, only benefits one country. And the country that benefits is China. It undermines our national interest and it's really unhelpful for the Government to go and try and create the appearance of that division. You know, when it comes to our national security, the initiatives like AUKUS and nuclear-propelled submarines, the Prime Minister wrote to Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, in October thanking him for his support and the support of the Labor frontbench in supporting that initiative and getting with the Government on that. And that's really important with an initiative like that, because it's not going to be some one, two, five-year proposition; it's a multi-decade proposition. No matter what happens at the next election, at some point, and at some point further again, there will be a change in government and a change in government. And it's important, not just for China, but for all of our allied and friendly nations, and nations in our region to know, that it doesn't matter which party you have in government, that we are together in supporting the approach that is in advancing our national interest.

BARTLETT: So, the assertion that Beijing is backing a Labor victory, Matt, do you agree?

KEOGH: Well, I know there was some propaganda piece that came out from the Chinese Communist Party this week, but you know, why would you put any store in a propaganda piece anyway? It goes back to the point that the Government's just trying to create division, because it's getting within weeks now of an election, but that doesn't help our national interest for them to be doing that.

BARTLETT: Alright.

HASTIE: Well, my view would be let's go by the previous record of Labor under Rudd, Gillard, and then Rudd. Defence spending went to the lowest level since 1938.

KEOGH: But that’s just not true, Andrew. 

HASTIE: –not a single, not a single ship was committed by you guys.

KEOGH: But you guys keep saying this. Under the Rudd Government, annual defence spending went up, year-on-year, by 10.9 per cent. Under Abbott, it went down by 1.4 per cent year-on-year, and it did start to go up again under Turnbull, but only by 3.9 per cent. And then under Morrison, it's only gone up by 1.4 per cent. Now we support these spending initiatives. So, to go and try and cast aspersions about how you want to cut some funding statistic from back in the day doesn't help us move the story forward for our nation – not about politics – but for our nation.

HASTIE: Look, Matt, you and I both agree that we need to work together on this, particularly for AUKUS.

KEOGH: Absolutely.

HASTIE: There's a massive benefit for Western Australia. And I'm sad that the AUKUS delegation, high level officials from the UK, the US, and Australia, haven't been able to come to WA–

KEOGH: But do you know why, Andrew? They didn’t ask–

HASTIE: –because of the, because of the, because of the border restriction–

KEOGH: No no, they didn’t. They literally–

HASTIE: They’ve been everywhere else around the country except WA.

KEOGH: They didn’t ask. And we know, you and I both know, exemptions have been provided for defence visits to come to Australia. And there's been bubble arrangements or changes to quarantine. But this delegation didn't even apply for a G2G, let alone have a conversation with the WA Government or WA Police about what alternative arrangements could be put in place. But what happened was the Government went and leaked it to the media to try and create a story which is all about undermining the McGowan Government and its border policy. It wasn't about national security. That's the thing. I agree with you. We need to be together on that. And we want to be together with you on that. 

HASTIE: Yeah, but I'm not sure that we are in the end, and I think Anthony Albanese when he was, you know, what, Deputy Prime Minister in the dying days of the last Labor government? You know, he was, he oversaw, he was, he was at the head of government when you guys drove defence spending for lowest level since 1938.

KEOGH: And I don't think you can blame the 12 weeks on where defence spending where – as I pointed out– 

BARTLETT: Can I just–

KEOGH: Abbott cut spending–

HASTIE: And my point is–

KEOGH: Abbott cut spending.

HASTIE: You know, Liam in this world, where authoritarian powers are rumbling the West every other day – this is going to be a generational challenge – Anthony Albanese just doesn't cut the mustard.

BARTLETT: We will have to leave it there. Matt, I'm so sorry that this has to be truncated because of the division, not your fault and nobody's fault in that sense. But it’s a real shame, there are so many good issues to talk about. 

KEOGH: And these are important issues and I really look forward to talking with Andrew on the show and elsewhere about these issues. We are with the Government on this because this is important to the future of our nation.

BARTLETT: Absolutely, and we’re more than happy to give you the chance to do that. Very good to see you gentlemen, one way or the other. Back next Thursday, thank you very much, Matt Keogh.

KEOGH: It’s been wonderful to be with you.

BARTLETT: Andrew Hastie.