Andrew Hastie using military as political football, Shorten says

18 Sep 2015

The Australian – 18 September 2015 – Jared Owens Reporter Canberra

Bill Shorten

Bill Shorten has accused Liberal candidate Andrew Hastie of unwisely turning the military into a political “football” by claiming his soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan were endangered by Labor MPs more interested in being photographed with the troops than helping them win the war.

In an extraordinary attack on the defence policies of the Gillard and Rudd governments, Mr Hastie said he wanted to give a voice to serving officers and veterans of the Afghanistan conflict who felt abandoned by Labor.

“A lot of guys felt Labor didn’t take the defence of our country seriously,” Mr Hastie, a retired Special Air Service captain, said yesterday while campaigning for tomorrow’s West Australian by-election.

“The biggest thing that was missing for six years under Labor was serious intellectual engagement with soldiers on the ground about how to best prosecute the war in Afghanistan.”

Mr Shorten, campaigning alongside Labor candidate Matt Keogh in the seat of Canning, said Mr Hastie’s comments were “not true” and he was “offended”.

“I’m offended not because a Liberal politician makes a criticism of the Labor Party – I guess that’s to be expected – but there’s been a great tradition in this country that Liberal and Labor together support our defence forces,” the Opposition Leader said.

“You can have the political arguments back here in Australia, but when it comes to backing up our men and women in uniform, both parties have always maintained bipartisanship.

“I think what we need to do is stop having this argument about who loves this country more. As far as I’m concerned, Australians of all political shades have had family members serve this country – I have, probably you have and many others have – but the political debate shouldn’t be used as some sort of football where we see the ADF dragged into it.

“I really think they were very unwise comments.”