Interview, 6PR Mornings, Liam Bartlett

Thursday, 21 July 2022

The Hon Matt Keogh MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel

E&OE transcript
Radio Interview
6PR Mornings

SPEAKER: Behind Party Lines. In the left corner, Federal Labor member for Burt, Matt Keogh, and in the right corner, Federal Liberal member for Canning, Andrew Hastie.

LIAM BARTLETT: Yes, Behind Party Lines reconvenes for the first time since the Federal election and, of course, our introduction doesn’t give our two proponents justice, really, because they’ve effectively trading – they have traded places. It’s Trading Places.

MATT KEOGH: We have. We have.

LIAM BARTLETT: Without Eddie Murphy. Swapping positions of power, that’s what it’s been after the federal election, obviously. Matt Keogh, good morning, Matt.

MATT KEOGH: Good morning, Liam; and hi, Andrew.

LIAM BARTLETT: Now a minister – Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel.

MATT KEOGH: That’s right.

LIAM BARTLETT: And Andrew Hastie, now in opposition. Andrew, good morning.

ANDREW HASTIE: Good morning to you, Liam; Matthew.

LIAM BARTLETT: But part of the shadow cabinet has shadow Defence Minister.

ANDREW HASTIE: Yes, that’s right.

LIAM BARTLETT: So very, very different climate. It feels the same in here. You both look the same. Do we – Andrew do we have to sort of pay homage to Matt in any special way now that he’s minister?

ANDREW HASTIE: I’ll call him honourable from here on in.

LIAM BARTLETT: Nice, nice.

MATT KEOGH: Which is very nice of him, but, of course, I now, as the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Andrew is now one of my key stakeholders as a veteran himself of course.

ANDREW HASTIE: Exactly.

LIAM BARTLETT: That’s brilliant. You have to look after him under the ministerial code of conduct.

MATT KEOGH: It is literally my job to look after Andrew and the 581,000 other veterans and serving personnel.

ANDREW HASTIE: It’s a big job.

LIAM BARTLETT: Why are you smiling so broadly, Andrew?

MATT KEOGH: He looks forward to hitting me up for all sorts of things later, I’m sure.

ANDREW HASTIE: He’s so close. He’s up in Armadale, so –

LIAM BARTLETT: Well.

ANDREW HASTIE: You know.

LIAM BARTLETT: You know.

ANDREW HASTIE: Fifty metres up the road.

LIAM BARTLETT: Where you get your own back Matt is, of course, as a minister, the size of your office is appreciably bigger than Andrew’s.

MATT KEOGH: It is a little bigger, but as is fitting for a minister doing a whole heap of very important work, especially in this space, but that doesn’t diminish the work that Andrew has to do in keeping us to account as well, as I’m sure he will do. We’ve already had some conversations about the portfolio because of course he was assistant minister of defence in the last government so.

LIAM BARTLETT: So you can trade a few ideas.

ANDREW HASTIE: Exactly right, and look, I want Matt to succeed because if he does, then veterans have a better future in this country, so, my job as opposition Defence Minister or Shadow Defence Minister is to hold the government to account, and that’s what I’ll be doing.

LIAM BARTLETT: Well our talk back lines are open. 13 38 82, if you’d like to talk to Matt Keogh or Andrew Hastie, pose any questions. I mean, good to have you back on this segment. We obviously gave it that time from the Federal election and you’ve both agreed to come back every fortnight which is great, because we can discuss matters political across both sides of the chamber. You’re both on separate sides of the chamber next week as federal Parliament convenes for the first time, doesn’t it?

MATT KEOGH: That’s right, so we’ll be back at it, as it were, in Parliament. I mean we’ve been at it for the past two months of being a new government, but Parliament will come back next week, which is a great opportunity, obviously. There’s all the new MPs that will be joining us in Parliament. Western Australia, a large number of new members of Parliament. Fantastic representation of the diversity of our community, are joining us from Tracey Roberts and Tania Lawrence and Zaneta Mascarenhas, and of course, everyone’s favourite dolphin trainer, Sam Lim, in Tangney. So that’s a great opportunity for them to really start their role in the parliamentary sense, but of course they’ve been out hitting the ground running in their communities since the election as well.

LIAM BARTLETT: Yeah, it’ll be a big week. Have you done your bullying, harassment and anti-sexual assault training yet under the new Code of Conduct yet, Matt, before you get to Canberra?

MATT KEOGH: So I did that training before the last election, yes.

LIAM BARTLETT: Before the last election?

MATT KEOGH: Yep.

LIAM BARTLETT: That’s all done.

MATT KEOGH: And most MPs did it, and most Senators did it, which is really good. And obviously, we want to see all the new MPs and Senators do that training. It’s really important. It’s something that was a recommendation that came out of the Jenkins Review. It’s something that as we saw things unfold over the course of the last Parliament, I was –

LIAM BARTLETT: Did you really – did you really need the training? I mean, do we employ adults in Canberra or do we recruit from the local creches?

MATT KEOGH: The observation – and I made this observation in Parliament; it’s not the first time I’ve made it – which is we come from a really diverse background, members of Parliament. That’s a good thing, but I had experience in the corporate sector and I had experience in the public service so I had received that sort of training frequently, but many people don’t and you’d like to think that some things are really obvious to people; sometimes they’re not. It’s not just the background of experience they bring into – haven’t employed people before, don’t know how to deal with. It might not be about that they’re the problem but how they deal with complaints around how other staff are behaving, making sure that they are setting good workplace practices in their own offices. Really important.

ANDREW HASTIE: And look, Liam, this is stuff that my parents taught me – treat others with dignity and respect. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. That’s the culture that I practice in my office.

LIAM BARTLETT: Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?

ANDREW HASTIE: Any Code of Conduct that affirms that, I’m happy to embrace.

LIAM BARTLETT: I just – that’s the point, Andrew. I just worry by the time you get there, by the time we’ve voted for somebody like you or like Matt, you would hope that the people already knew what to do. I mean if they need training, I worry for the future of the Australian Parliament.

ANDREW HASTIE: Well, that’s right and our electorate process is rigorous. There is a free press that puts the microscope over candidates so you’re right.

LIAM BARTLETT: Any way. I understand that you interested, Andrew, in adopting an old Tory idea, call the A list system, brought in by David Cameron originally that aimed at targeting women and diversity candidates at preselection for the Liberal Party. Speaking of diversity, Matt; is that true?

ANDREW HASTIE: I was asked this in London and I said, yes, I was surprised by the diverse mix of candidates vying for the Tory leadership. It’s quite incredible. And the last candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, decided last night. Liz obviously, a woman, and Rishi of Indian descent. It’s great to see. And I think one of the things that we can do better as a Liberal Party is do talent identification. So, I’m not advocating for quotas. I’m advocating for what corporates do, what businesses do, what the military does, what sporting teams do, and that is identifying candidates, talent, fostering that, mentoring those people and then helping them make their way into the Parliament.

LIAM BARTLETT: So, just targeting different candidates from different backgrounds but still on the basis of meritocracy?

ANDREW HASTIE: Correct. I think if you impose quotas, then you disenfranchise the grassroots membership who have a vote and have a role in selecting candidates. But we can do a much better job of identifying talent, recruiting that talent and mentoring that talent.

LIAM BARTLETT: Do you think that will do enough to modernise the party and let you have a crack at the Teal candidates who are now members of Parliament?

ANDREW HASTIE: I think so. I think it’s something that we’ve got to do. And if you look at the census data from last year, Australia has changed a lot. And one in two Australians are born overseas and we need that reflected in our Parliament. We’re already there but I think the Liberal Party needs to do more, and in less than three years we’re going to have two elections in WA. We’re going to have a Federal election and a State election. We have to preselect about 65 candidates across both Parliaments for the Liberal Party. That’s a lot of people, and that’s why it’s important that we have a discussion about talent identification now.

LIAM BARTLETT: Are you two on a bipartisan basis, if there’s bipartisanship on this subject, are you two doing enough to keep foot and mouth out of the country?

MATT KEOGH: Well, I think we are doing all the things that need to be happening, and can I just say it’s a very important issue because we have a, not unique, but there are only a few countries in the world that are free of this, and it gives us our agriculture industry access to markets that many other countries can’t access. It’s very important and that’s why, Murray, our Minister for Agriculture and Emergency Management is putting such an effort into making sure that we apply additional quarantine requirements at the border. We’ve invested all right about $14 million in additional measures and checks. That’s why we detected for example the samples that have come in those meat products that have come into the country. Also making sure that we’re managing the border in terms of people coming in. And this week we’re rolling out additional measures to make sure people coming in from Indonesia, that shoes are cleaned, that we’re not seeing any of that inadvertent bringing in of any contaminants, especially around foot and mouth, which is – we need to keep that out of the country. We’re taking a layered approach, implementing – there’s no silver bullet. You’ve got to do all the steps and that’s what we’re doing.

LIAM BARTLETT: Are you worried by that, Andrew?

ANDREW HASTIE: I am worried about it. Our farmers are worried about it. It’s a massive biosecurity risk. It represents potentially an $80 billion hit to our economy, and I don’t have confidence that Murray Watt is across his brief. He’s from the Gold Coast. He’s not from the land and I want to see and hear from the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Now he was on Melbourne FM this morning talking about Uber Eats and whether he’s got a new mattress in the lodge. I’d rather him be talking about what the government is doing around foot and mouth disease. So, to echo Peter Dutton’s comments this morning: the Prime Minister needs to stand up on this issue.

LIAM BARTLETT: All right, I know that farmers in WA are on high alert to this. I’ll play some of Murray Watt’s stuff after the news at 10 o’clock. Matt, next week there are high level talks between the Australian military and the head of the UK military, discussions the possibility, perhaps, of British nuclear subs being based here in Perth. Is that right, is that on the table?

MATT KEOGH: So, the Chief of the UK Armed Forces Staff will be over here having high level meetings over in Canberra with our Defence Forces as part of our AUKUS arrangement. With them, obviously, the submarine arrangements are going to be part of that. We are looking at all of the options that will need to be addressed when it comes to understanding what the nature of the capability gap that may arise with this new submarine program and also how we move forward on making sure we have a properly trained force and obviously working with our US and UK counterparts.

LIAM BARTLETT: So is that a chance, is that a chance?

MATT KEOGH: It’s certainly something that will be looked at and I know from my discussions with UK submariners when they were here recently at the end of last year, they’re very keen on coming to Perth on a more regular basis and so that’s always a positive thing as well. But we will obviously need to be using those opportunities to train our submariners, get them experienced in nuclear submarines, but also to give that opportunity around understanding what it means to have a nuclear submarine in port for extended stays or on regular visits as well.

LIAM BARTLETT: Sure. Sure. We’ll take a quick break and come back in a moment and take some calls. 13 38 82, the number.

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LIAM BARTLETT: Nine minutes to 10. Matt, Trish is on the line. Hello, Trish. Good morning.

TRISH: Good morning, chaps. Matt, I wanted to speak to you because you’re representing the new Government and I wondered if you considered the priority to look after the mental health of the armed forces?

MATT KEOGH: Thank, Trish, for that question and absolutely we do consider this a priority. It is a huge issue. It’s why we called for a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide which is now on task, and they’ll be handing down an interim report next month and really look forward to seeing the recommendations that come out of that. Supporting Defence servicing personnel and veterans in terms of mental health support as well as a whole range of other supports is a key priority, getting it right, making sure it’s available to them and that people know about it. So to that point, I do want to make the point that anyone who has served one day in our Defence Force has access to mental health support and that is available to them and I encourage people to reach out and get that support and assistance. Don’t hide.

LIAM BARTLETT: And that report is coming out when, next month?

MATT KEOGH: August, yes.

LIAM BARTLETT: Great.

ANDREW HASTIE: And that mental health support was something that we brought in over the last eight years so.

LIAM BARTLETT: When we talked about this before, not just mental health, Andrew, we talked about the backlog didn’t we in applications, veterans affairs applications and we said at the time that there were more people being deployed, more people being employed.

MATT KEOGH: Yes, that’s exactly right.

LIAM BARTLETT: How have you been going with that, Matt?

MATT KEOGH: So, we’ve done a number of things. The first thing is actually removed the artificial staffing cap within the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, so about a third of people employed there are labour hire. Nothing against those people individually and I’ve gone and met with lots of DVA staff; they are really committed to helping our veterans. But, obviously, if they can get a more secure job elsewhere, they would. And it means you’re training people, you lose that skill, you’ve got to retrain new people. So being able to have more of a permanent workforce within the department. We’ve also committed to an additional 500 staff for the department so that we can work through that backlog and get it down as soon as possible. There’s also been a backlog of payments. The veterans that receive services. The veteran may pay and then need reimbursement or the supply needs payment.

LIAM BARTLETT: Is it starting to come down?

MATT KEOGH: We’ve got that right down. In the last two months we’ve dropped that considerably.

ANDREW HASTIE: I think there’s a deeper question, though, and that is how do we make young Australians more resilient. Because the military is a reflection of society and resilience is something I think we need to work on as a culture and if –

LIAM BARTLETT: Not just in the Armed Forces?

ANDREW HASTIE: Not just in the Armed Forces, but it’s even more so the case in Armed Forces. So, if we can create more resilience in our people serving in uniform, we’ll have less mental health issues.

LIAM BARTLETT: That’s a big question, Andrew. I agree with you entirely.

ANDREW HASTIE: And this is something we need to work on a bipartisan –

MATT KEOGH: Collectively.

ANDREW HASTIE: Collectively, absolutely.

MATT KEOGH: As Andrew said, there’s no politics in getting this wrong. We all want to see this gotten right. And I think also we collectively as a nation are also more prepared to talk about these issues so we’re seeing more of that, but that’s a good thing if we can connect people to the support they need as well.

LIAM BARTLETT: Totally. Bernie’s on the line, hello Bernie.

BERNIE: Hi, Liam. I just wanted to make a comment about the foot and mouth. I’m beginning to feel as though perhaps some of our trade partners, is it really worth the risk with some of these trade partners considering where the traces of this foot and mouth is coming from. When you watch shows like Border Force (sic) and so on, many of our overseas coming in just don’t seem to care. And I would agree, I think that Murray Watt is out of his depth. I mean, initially what was he – he was going to put $1.5 million into the border control of foot and mouth. I mean, um, I think – I think unfortunately, in a way, perhaps the wrong government’s in power to take control of the Ag side of things.

LIAM BARTLETT: What do you think, Matt?

MATT KEOGH: Thanks for those comments but I think Murray was an experienced public servant and is an effective operator. I know he’s doing a good job in that portfolio now in government. We’re making that investment and getting those multi-level factors introduced to control that biosecurity risk. The detection that we’ve seen, which is because we’ve enhanced that detection, though, has been in meat product. It’s not a risk to our broader, you know, cattle community. But we need to, and we are doing, all of those steps and it’s really important that we are able to implement all of those steps and we’re bringing on more now. I mentioned them before. We’re also providing vaccines to Indonesia because we need to make sure that they are vaccinated so that we are protected as well.

LIAM BARTLETT: Help them that end.

MATT KEOGH: Yes.

LIAM BARTLETT: It’s a great idea. Okay, next week, gentleman, in the chamber, be feisty.

ANDREW HASTIE: It’ll be feisty.

LIAM BARTLETT: I don’t want to hear reports that either of you have been spoken to by the Speaker.

ANDREW HASTIE: One moment I’m looking forward to is when I take on your role, Liam, and I get to ask Matt a question in the Parliament.

LIAM BARTLETT: Oh yeah.

ANDREW HASTIE: And it’ll be a zinger, don’t you worry about that!

MATT KEOGH: I look forward to it.

LIAM BARTLETT: It will be a zinger. All eyes and ears on that.

MATT KEOGH: Look, the Parliament coming back is an important part of the process and we’ve got a legislative agenda to move forward on. Jim Chalmers will be giving an economic update because obviously a lot of things have developed over the course since the election and wage growth is a key issue that we’ve been working on and addressing and we are seeing inflation moving for various reasons as well. We will be introducing this year our legislation for a federal integrity commission. We’ll be moving forward with our position on carbon emissions reductions as well as a range of different things and we’ll start to see that legislation come into the Parliament in the next week and we can see that priority agenda roll forward as well and we’re looking forward as a new government to be able to start that work too.

LIAM BARTLETT: Lots of big ones coming up and I look forward to catching up with both of you in a fortnight’s time.

MATT KEOGH: Look forward to it.

ANDREW HASTIE: Thanks Liam.

LIAM BARTLETT: Matt Keogh, Andrew Hastie on the Morning Program.

END

 

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