Don’t be surprised if you get a knock on the door from one of Australia’s most powerful women Foreign Minister Julie Bishop soon. The seasoned campaigner is helping Liberal recruit Andrew Hastie in his mission to take over from where Don Randall left off as Member for Canning. Robyn Molloy caught up with them at Dome, Kelmscott to talk about the area.
Andrew Hastie has packed a lot into a week – resigned as captain in the Special Air Services, nominated as Liberal candidate for Canning, made headlines nationwide over his time in Afghanistan, moved to Mandurah with his wife and son and met people across Canning.
It is all part of his new life and quest to represent the people of Canning in Federal parliament after the sudden death of Don Randall last month.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop spoke with disgust about the weekend’s media coverage of the investigation into hands being removed from Taliban by soldiers under Mr Hastie’s command in 2013.
All were cleared with one soldier still under investigation, who Mr Hastie stands by as having done nothing wrong. He was not part of the incident or anywhere near it when it occurred.
He is no stranger to ambiguity and feels well prepared for what the duties of a politician might throw at him.
“That’s been my goal for the last six years, to work in ambiguity and uncertainty and get a job done regardless,” he said.
“I knew I might get a curve ball early and hopefully I’ve stepped through it and it is a new day.”
Ms Bishop said the coverage had struck a chord with people across the country and the message was clear: “You don’t mess with our defence force.”
Mr Hastie described the matter as a distraction and wanted to get on with the task of learning about Canning.
He moved to the electorate this week with son Jonathon, who was born on July 3, wife Ruth and dogs Watson the Labrador and Kiah the jack Russell, who ‘runs the place’.
Up at night with a new baby in the house was not a problem.
“We are managing, I love it, we waited seven years for a little boy so I don’t mind,” he said.
“We’re good for it. It is better than sitting out in the jungle somewhere in the middle of the night on sentry, it is easy to get up and change a nappy, it’s all relative.
“My wife’s a trooper, she did a removal yesterday as we’ve moved again. She is unpacking boxes.
“The journey has taken me from Canberra to Darwin to Perth, multiple tours of Afghanistan, my last tour over to the Middle East was at Christmas time where I looked at ISIS in detail and understand the threat they pose to our civilisation and so I am adequately prepared for this next job.”
Making the shift to politics was an easy decision.
“Ideas matter. During my time in Afghanistan I know what it is like to operate under a strategic vacuum like the Labor government,” he said.
“I felt first hand the absence of policy on the ground so reached a point in my life where I can make a contribution on the political sphere so it wasn’t a hard decision to go into politics.
“In every organisation you work in it is political so you need political skills whether in the army or in politics or not.”
Mr Hastie could recall clearly his first encounter with federal politicians.
“I must say my first interaction with federal politicians was with Julie in Afghanistan. We met in 2009, July, I found file footage of it the other day,” he said.
Julie remembered too: “I was there in opposition. I went with Malcolm Turnbull and David Johnson.”
“We sat opposite each other at the table eating terrible Dutch food,” Mr Hastie said.
Julie: “Yes the Netherlands was doing the catering in Oruzgan province at the time.”
“But it is fair to say the first meal I shared with a federal politician was Julie,” Mr Hastie said.
“I grew up during the Howard years and that left a strong impression on me on what a stable, considered, disciplined government looks like for the Australian people.”
Ms Bishop said memories of Mr Randall had come flooding back whilst in his electorate this week and she would do what he had wanted – work hard to keep the seat for the Liberals.
“He was a great mate of mine and all these memories come back. I know Don, he would want somebody like Andrew and he would want us to get on and win the seat,” she said.
“It is about introducing Andrew to the people of Canning so they can make a judgment about who they want to represent them.
“I am taking a very professional approach to it but of course I am sad, we all are.
“It was interesting this morning, a lot of people said yeah I knew Don, but we have to move on and they were very interested in the person the Liberal party had selected to take his place.”
Ms Bishop could not speak more highly of Mr Hastie.
“His commitment to service, his leadership skills, his time in the defence force demonstrates that he is someone who knows what sacrifices are required to serve your country,” she said.
“He has got the courage to stand up for his values, his beliefs, he’s prepared to die for them, now that’s a very special thing to do and that’s what I saw in him.”
Keep your eye out, you will see them pounding the pavement as Don once did.
“We are doing all the things we would have done with Don on the campaign trail and it is going to be fun,” Ms Bishop said.