Prime Minister on the defence at Dawesville

THE Canning by-election, in less than a month, prompted Prime Minister Tony Abbott to visit the electorate on Saturday.

While Mr Abbott did not kiss babies, he did take time to pose with children from Port Bouvard Surf Life Saving Club.

The by-election was called after the sudden death of popular long time member for Canning Don Randall.

Mr Abbott paid tribute to Mr Randall, who he called a �great local member and a great bloke,� during the visit.

The Liberal pick for Canning former SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) soldier Andrew Hastie with Mr Abbott.

�I know that Andrew Hastie is the sort of candidate that Don Randall would be proud to hand the baton to,� Mr Abbott said.

�He’s precisely the kind of person who Don would want to go on representing the people of Canning in the national Parliament.�

Mr Abbott defended Mr Hastie following a question about a Defence Force investigation targeting soldiers under Mr Hastie’s command, who chopped the hands from dead Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister was asked if he was aware of the investigation before Mr Hastie was endorsed.

�The short answer is, I was certainly aware of it,� he said.

�But I just want to say that I listened to Andrew Hastie’s speech at the State Council this morning, he dealt with that matter in great detail – in great detail – and I have every confidence that this is a man who has served our country with distinction.

�I was aware of the matter and I was aware that there was no blemish, no stain, on the conduct of this exemplary officer.�

While Mr Abbott would not confirm the same-sex marriage vote would be a plebiscite, he did confirm �it would be a question for the people, not for the politicians�.

Mr Abbott defended criticisms levelled at Mr Hastie by residents of the Canning electorate who are unhappy that he does not live in the area.

Mr Hastie moved to the electorate this weekend ahead of the by-election.

�What more of a Perth thing to do than serve in the SAS?� Mr Abbott said.

He said Mr Hastie has made a great contribution to the country in the army.

�I know that Andrew will serve the people of Canning with the same level of commitment and professionalism and pride that he has served the people of Australia in the Special Air Service Regiment,� he said.

While at Dawesville, Mr Abbott announced $1 million from a community grants fund will go to the club.