'That's strong language': Today panel clash over defence boost amid China tensions

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

The federal government’s new $270 billion military splurge has been lambasted as a “colossal pissing of money up against a wall” by former Labor senator Sam Dastyari.

His bold comments came during heated debate on Channel Nine’s Today show on Thursday, clashing with radio broadcaster Chris Smith over Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s 10-year pledge to strengthen the nation’s military amid growing global tensions, particularly between China and several nations including Australia.

“If you are going to spend $270 billion of taxpayers money on a gun show, my point was, you will be better off spending half of that in free gym membership because at least then you get a gun show we can appreciate,” Mr Dastyari said.

He labelled the move as “posturing” by politicians ahead of the Eden-Monaro by-election this weekend.

“It is a colossal pissing of money up against a wall,” Mr Dastyari said.

Sam Dastyari, who was on the Today show, didn't hold back when discussing the government's new Defence funding.
Sam Dastyari didn't hold back on Thursday when discussing the government's new Defence funding. Source: Today

Host Ally Langdon branded Mr Dastyari’s comments as “strong language” before Smith jumped in.

“I don't agree with that at all,” he hit back.

“I tell you why because none of us, none of the three of us have been privy to the constant intelligence that's been plonked on the table of cabinet, and that they have had to consider over the past six months.

“This has come from information that no-one in the public domain knows about.”

Smith said Mr Dastyari’s stance was in contrast to the response from Labor MPs and made him sound like a Greens politician.

Yet Mr Dastyari was unfazed, slamming the expenditure and suggested the millions of Australians economically affected by the coronavirus pandemic would be better suitors for the money.

“Look at all the people in welfare living near the poverty line. There are better ways of spending that money,” he said.

Smith said he was concerned Australia’s defence alliance with the US while Donald Trump was in power meant Australia was vulnerable.

“I don't think the alliance will go as far anymore under someone like Donald Trump, where he will end up on our northern coast trying to defend us against someone,” he said.

“We have got to be self reliant here. We have to show people in a deterrent way that we are not to be messed with.

“Now we don't want to fight against China and have an all-out war, it will be over in about five minutes but we have to show some kind of reliance that pushes away those who think we are an easy strike.”

Scott Morrison (left) warned Australia needed to be prepared for a 'dangerous' post-coronavirus world. Pictured right are ships.
Scott Morrison has warned Australia needs to be prepared for a "dangerous" post-COVID world. Source: AAP

On Wednesday, Mr Morrison told Today Australia needed to be prepared for a “dangerous” post-COVID world.

“The big competition between China and the United States mean tensions are much higher,” he told Channel Nine’s Today show on Wednesday morning.

“We need to be prepared. We need to be working with other countries in the region and all of our Defence Force and Defence strategy is built on the alliance, also as a foundation with the United States.”

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