Tue, 09 Apr 2024 - 17:40



Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy

Manager of Opposition Business in the House




9 APRIL 2024

CHRIS KENNY: I want to move on now and catch up with Paul Fletcher, the manager of opposition business for the Coalition in Canberra. He joins me, uh, from Sydney. Thanks for joining us, Paul. A couple of things I'm really keen to get your thoughts on. I don't know whether you're able to hear the start of my show, but I talked about Angus Campbell. We've got a new CDF starting on July the 1st, but Angus Campbell is a man who, through the ADF under the bus, in my view, with those reports about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan apologised to Afghanistan effectively a Taliban leadership there. Now, we've not had one conviction. He wants to wanted to strip medals of 3000 soldiers because of the alleged misdeeds of this these few soldiers, again, none of that proven. He's talked endlessly about all sorts of inclusion and diversity and all the woke words. I mean, he's really taken the warrior culture out of our defence forces, hasn't he? And thank God there's a change.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, I'll leave it to others to buy into that particular issue. I'll just acknowledge the service of General Angus Campbell. It's a very challenging job, an enormously important job. Now, Vice Admiral David Johnston will take on this role. I think it is important that we're having leaders with experience in the different services. I think it's over 20 years since we've had a naval officer as chief of the Defence Force. So that is important expertise to bring to bear, particularly, of course, at a time when AUKUS is a major focus and should be a major focus for the government, for the nation working with our allies and partners in the US and Britain. And of course, that's all about submarine capability. So perhaps it is particularly timely to have a very senior officer from a naval background coming in as chief of the Defence Force.

CHRIS KENNY: But isn't the point that something needs to change? I mean, I focused on the woke attitudes of Angus Campbell and his leadership, but also in this period there's been monumental stuff ups and delays in defence procurement, not least in the submarine area. So the whole outfit needs to sharpen up, doesn't it? 

PAUL FLETCHER: There is no more important and demanding job than the job carried out by the Australian Defence Force, its personnel and of course, the civilian staff of the Department of Defence. As you rightly say, procurement decisions have an impact for 10, 20, 30, 50 years. They're enormously important. These are huge amounts of money that are being spent. But of course, also issues like maintaining the target strength of the ADF. That is a considerable challenge that we're seeing at the moment. And what the ADF does is enormously important. And, of course, uh, they're preparing for tasks that we hope they never have to discharge. But when we need them to carry out those tasks, there will be nothing more important for the safety of Australians. 

CHRIS KENNY: Yeah, they'd better be ready. Now, as a former communications minister, I want to show talk to you, get your reaction to what I think is an incredible transgression by the ABC I caught up this afternoon with an interview that the 730 report host Sarah Ferguson conducted last night with Lieutenant General Peter Lerner, an IDF an Israeli Defence Force spokesperson. She had a long interview with him about the details of how seven aid workers, including the Australian woman, were killed in Gaza, and the Israeli spokesperson came forward with all sorts of detail about how this tragic mistake occurred. But listen to what Sarah Ferguson says at the end. 

“Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, I'm not accepting your view that it's a mistake. There's a lot, further to go on this story. But thank you very much indeed for joining us.” 

She's not accepting his view that it was a mistake. You've got the Australian Broadcasting Corporation accusing Israel of deliberately slaughtering seven aid workers. Is that sustainable? 

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, um, she is the host of a current affairs programme You know, she's not a judge. It's not a tribunal of truth. Uh, of course it is a tragedy that seven aid workers were killed - 

CHRIS KENNY: Of course.

PAUL FLETCHER: Including an Australian. And our hearts go out to the families of all who were lost. Uh, but at the same time, as shadow foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham has said today they are these awful tragedies occur in war. Um, let's remember that there are still some 100 Israelis, many of them civilians, being held hostage by Hamas. 


PAUL FLETCHER: And for all this talk about ceasefire, um, Hamas could take a huge step towards that by releasing those hostages immediately. 

CHRIS KENNY: All right. Paul Fletcher, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it.