Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News

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The Hon Peter Dutton MP

Minister for Defence

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18 February 2022


We'll go live to Brisbane now, the Defence Minister Peter Dutton joins us. Thanks so much for your time. Things look to be moving very fast on the border there. Is Russia about to


Good morning Laura. Well, as you've seen reports there, they're very concerning and there's no indication that I've seen that Russia is moving back or taking a decision other than one to move into Ukraine. I think the US President this morning and Secretary Blinken have been very clear about their analysis of what's going on. It's a dire situation, and on every indication that we're seeing at the moment you would expect that Russia is in the early stages of that invasion, of that incursion.


Does Russia's aggression embolden China, and what does that mean for our region?


Well Laura, it means a lot of things. I think people obviously realise that it's a far-off part of the world in Eastern Europe, but it can affect the global stability, it can affect energy prices, it can affect my other elements of our life. So we're in a global environment and these
instances do disrupt even our own activities within our region.

None of us want any act of war in our region, and we're doing everything we can to stare that down and it's the case that the Coalition is always stronger on the issue of national security than the Labor-Greens alliance would be if they were in government.


Labor hasn't been in government for 10 years. It's a very different world we find ourselves in 10 years on. Leasing the Port of Darwin is something that happened under your Government, and the idea of this prisoner exchange swap was even flagged. That looks pretty dumb in hindsight, doesn't it?


I think if you look at where we are in 2022, even quite different to be fair to Richard Marles when he made the speech in Beijing in 2019, saying that he wanted a deeper Defence cooperation between Australia and China; we've seen I think a reversal of some of the activities that businesses are involved in with China, and research projects over the course of the last couple of years. So if the decision was before us in relation to Darwin port today, there's no way in the world we would support that decision.

China under President Xi is now in a very different space and as a world we need to be realistic about that. They've been very open about their plans in Taiwan, and that would have a dramatic negative ripple effect through the Indo-Pacific, and that would impact very severely our country as well and that's why we're doing everything we can to stare down that aggression.


Well, if China is as imposing as you say it is, why wouldn't you cancel the Port of Darwin lease today? Is it in your power to do so?


Well there's a review that the National Security Committee has commissioned. We're looking at that, and that's partway through its process and we'll make an announcement in due course. But from my perspective, I mean we're investing in submarines, where Labor never invested in one. We're investing in frigates; Labor never invested in one. We're buying aircraft and we're setting up the guided weapons enterprise systems here to build missiles and to build hypersonics, the underwater capability, all of that is what Labor never did, but that we are doing and I think that's why most Australians recognise that Anthony Albanese has never had experience in the national security space and that's why people rightly perceive Anthony Albanese and Labor to be weak on national security.


We heard from Dennis Richardson yesterday on this program. This is what he had to say about the debate playing out in Parliament.

I'm simply puzzled why a government that has such a good record on national security should conduct itself in this way. I know why they're doing it. But it is grubby beyond belief. I think the government would be delighted with the fact that everyone's now talking about national security. However, it's achieving that goal in a way that is damaging to the national interest.

So, you've worked with Dennis Richardson over a long period of time. We heard from the current spy chief. What do you think's going on here? What do you make of those comments? You know, have public servants gone bear on their remit this week? Is it their job to provide intelligence and not political advice?


Well a couple of points here Laura. I mean firstly, I know Dennis well, and I couldn't have a higher regard or respect for him, but I disagree with him in the conclusions that he's drawing about the Government's motivations. We're pointing out that there is a significant difference between the approach of the ALP and the Government.

This is the similar scenario that played out before the 2007 election where the Labor Party said that they were no different to the Coalition when it came to border protection policy, but when they get into government the reality is that they don't have the backbone, they don't have the ability to implement the plans, implement the actions that are needed to keep our borders secure or to keep our country secure.

If you look at the comments of Paul Keating, I mean, somebody who similarly hasn't worked for the head of an agency or the head of a government for a long period of time, I mean it's what – 30 years or something since Paul Keating would have received national security briefings and a number of years since Dennis has as well. So I think that’s the difference. Also public servants aren't political partisan people; they work for the government of the day.


Finally before I let you go, you're at an important conference today. It's Australia's first Women in Defence Technology Conference. It's really acknowledging what women do in a male-dominated industry. What are you doing there today?

I'm really proud to be here today and I think firstly to pay tribute to Marise Payne who really did an enormous amount as Defence Minister and now as Foreign Affairs Minister to boost female participation, particularly within the government ranks. We've seen a steady increase, but not fast enough in the Australian Defence Force, on Defence boards we're up to about 48 per cent now of women on those boards, we're increasing the number of opportunities and today I'm really here to celebrate the successes of many women who have achieved and have been the trailblazers, the first female in their particular job, or the first person to pioneer a program. It's really quite amazing when you look at the depth of commitment and the results of that. I think we should celebrate that, but recognise that we've got a lot more to do.


Peter Dutton, thank you for your time.


Thanks Laura. Thank you.


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