The Liberal Party’s candidate in Canning, former SAS captain Andrew Hastie, has launched an extraordinary attack on the defence policies of the Gillard and Rudd governments, 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.
Abandoning the usual bipartisan political approach to defence, 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,” he said yesterday while campaigning for tomorrow’s West Australian by-election.
His comments drew an angry response from federal Labor MP Alannah MacTiernan, who was also campaigning in Canning, in Perth’s south, yesterday.
“Every Labor defence minister has been 100 per cent committed to the protection of our personnel,” she said. “We have always had a bipartisan attitude toward the protection of troops that are serving overseas. This is just completely and utterly untrue and outrageous, and it is politicising the armed forces in a way that we have never seen in this country before.”
But Mr Hastie, who served in Afghanistan and the Middle East, said he felt compelled to comment because he had been criticised by some Labor MPs for earlier comments he made in the campaign about Labor “not having our backs”.
“That’s an attempt to try to gag me,” he said. “I’ve lived it, I’ve served on the ground, I’ve seen it first hand and I’m entitled to my point of view. I won’t be gagged.”