MUNGO MacCALLUM. For Hastie to drop the bomb without warning his leader was unpardonable.

Andrew Hastie’s use of parliamentary privilege to out the billionaire political donor Chau Chak Wing for being an unindicted (and thus uncharged) “co-conspirator” in the United States was always going to be controversial.  

There is a claim that Hastie was entitled to present his intelligent briefings to reveal the Chinese-Australian’s background, and another view that it was a gratuitous political slur that should have been dealt with, if at all, by the relevant authorities. There are good arguments on both sides, and they have been widely canvassed.

But there can be absolutely no debate that to drop the bomb without warning his leader was unpardonable. Hastie knows better than most the relationship between China and Australia is going through a very tense period, and it is not for a backbencher, however passionate, to inflame it because of his personal crusade.

Hastie’s apparent recklessness has led some of his colleagues to declare it deliberate disloyalty; after all, Hastie was originally a protege of Tony Abbott and has always been part of the vengeful and recalcitrant rump of extreme right wingers determined to unseat Malcolm Turnbull.

But while there may be some truth in this, Hastie’s principal motivation was probably pure ideological obsession: he felt his position was irrefutable, so there was just no need to consult anyone else about it.

This is simply his modus vivendi. Hastie is a religious fundamentalist and a career soldier, a c.v. that seldom admits to self doubt. His world is that of black and white, right and wrong, good and evil. Compromise is cowardice, nuance is no more than political correctness, an unforgiveable sin.

This moral certainty – others may call it egomania – has shaped his short political life, with the result that he is immune to criticism; like his colleague Peter Dutton, those who disagree are dead to him. And the more dramatic the repercussions of his action, the more it will confirm that his course is correct.

Should the Chinese take umbrage, and the relationship with Australia sour further, that is all to the good; the hawkish Americans who supplied him with the intelligence will be cheering him on. They are his friends and the Chinese (and that includes the Australian citizen Chau Chak Wing) are his enemies; it is as simple as that.

So Turnbull, and his hapless foreign minister Julie Bishop, are left to pick up the pieces, and it could be a messy process. The influential (although not, thankfully, official) Chinese publication Global Times has already suggested that official visits should be postponed, perhaps for years, and that trade could also be affected. This may not happen, but Hastie would not be unhappy if it did: as far as he is concerned, he is already at war with the forces of Satan, and the sooner Armageddon comes the better; he has spent most of his life preparing for it.

All of which suggests that an evangelical warrior is not the best person to conduct international diplomacy. Which is utterly irrelevant to Hastie: who’s talking about diplomacy?


Mungo MacCallum is a veteran political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy.

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5 Responses to MUNGO MacCALLUM. For Hastie to drop the bomb without warning his leader was unpardonable.

  1. Evan Hadkins says:

    I’d be all for looking at corruption. And the establishment of a federal ICAC. The name Adani springs to mind, and the influence of the US on our intelligence service and much else.

    The story is bigger than China I think.

  2. Listening and watching QandA tonight with senator “Falujah” Molan justifying the concentration camps on Manus and Nauru and then reflecting on the loose cannon approach of Handy-Andy Hastie to diplomacy, one has to wonder where the “Liberal” is in this IPA managed Ruling Rabble?

  3. Matt Busby Andrews says:

    Chau Chak Wing currently has journalists in a stranglehold – threatening them with expensive defamation cases if they continue to insinuate that he has attempted to corrupt officials, such as the President of the United Nations.

    That would strike me as something that deserves proper investigation by a good journalist such yourself, Mr MacCallum.

    So it puzzles me that, instead of looking at something that journalists and citizens are seriously worried about – the manipulation of democratic institutions and the restriction of free press – you instead want to ridicule the whistleblower.


  4. Steve Jordan says:

    might it be that Hastie is aiming to become part of the intelligence elite in Washington with this speech? As you say, he is being cheered on now by his US sources.
    Could he be as successful in the US as David Kilcullen has been?

  5. Robin Wingrove says:

    From what I understand trade will most definitely be affected, viz: our trade of gas. I was reading that one of the trade points the Chinese have agreed to with the US over their huge trade imbalance is that of importing US shale gas which will obviously affect us and Qatar though it will be interesting to see if the pipelines in construction from Russia and their subsequent delivery of gas to China will also be affected. Hastie and Lewis can share some of the blame for this but I doubt if such ‘right men’ would ever even consider their role, let alone admit their failings. This could also have an unexpected advantage for us given the state of our power supplies.

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