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The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Defence
Defence Media: firstname.lastname@example.org
25 March 2022
We’re joined by Defence Minister Peter Dutton in Perth and Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles in Geelong. Gentlemen, good morning. Minister, we'll start with you. Expanded sanctions and more weapons to Ukraine and still Vladimir Putin is going on the attack. What's going to stop him?
Well Charles, I think the world being united, in particular Europe staying together, and applying these sanctions and continuing to ramp up the pressure. Everybody’s shocked and nobody wants to see the horrific scenes unfolding in Ukraine.
There's only one person, as we know, in the world who can pick the phone up to President Putin – that's President Xi from China. That's really where I think the pressure needs to come from.
It's okay for the US and UK and Australia and other like-minded countries to continue to ramp up pressure, but Putin's resisted it so far, and we need to remain united, but China needs, frankly, to step up and not provide the comfort that they've provided to Russia, but to step in and to really put pressure on them to withdraw from Ukraine and to stop this carnage from taking place.
As you said, pressure is increasing. Is it time for us to increase our sanctions against Russia and potentially even expel the Ambassador?
Well Charles, we've stepped up a number of times with different sanctions. We've worked with our like-minded partners to make sure that we're working in concert.
In addition to that, as you say, we've now had four C17 flights of military and medications and equipment otherwise that's been requested by the Ukrainians to help them in their fight, to help them survive, stay alive, and to repel the Russian forces.
So there's a lot that we're doing, as much as most other countries, particularly in terms of the sanctions. Marise Payne has been fantastic in applying those sanctions whenever we've been able to get the information in relation to individuals or corporations.
Scott Morrison led the charge yesterday in calling for Russia to be either kicked out of the G20 or Vladimir Putin not invited to the next summit. Richard, is he right with that? Should Vladimir Putin come to Indonesia when the summit is held later this year?
Look, we agree with Scott Morrison on this, and with the government in, well, it's handling of the whole issue with Ukraine and I agree with Peter's comments.
I think the government has done the right thing in standing with the international community in terms of the various sanctions that they've put in place and we need to continue to do that.
We should be working with Indonesia and all the G20 countries to make sure that at the next G20 there is complete unanimity in condemning Russia for its war of aggression in Ukraine. That's really important that the G20 adds its voice to the global community, which we're seeing with NATO, which we've seen with the General Assembly of the UN, which we're seeing with the G8.
It's really important the G20 adds its voice to all of those voices in condemning Russia for what its doing.
We're seeing the impact of a strong, unified international alliance in stopping and expanding power in Europe. There is concern this morning here in Australia that a new security pact between China and the Solomon Islands would give Beijing another strategic foothold in the Pacific to our east. Minister, we don't have that kind of alliance here in the Pacific. Can we do anything to stop China building a military base in the Solomon Islands?
Well Charles, we've got a fantastic relationship with the Solomon Islands and we're there by request of the Solomon Islands Government at the moment.
We have about 50 people on the ground. They're going to stay there to work towards keeping a safe and secure environment in the run-up to 2023 and there's a lot more that we can do together.
We're providing support and aid to them, and I think it's obviously that as part of the Pacific family, we want to be able to work together and we want to be able to resolve any issues within that family, within our region.
We would be concerned, clearly, about any military base being established and we'd express that to the Solomon Islands Government.
You've seen the details of the pact though Minister. And instantly more money was flowing from Australia to the Solomon Islands. Has your Government dropped the ball on this over the last decade with winding back some of the foreign aid budget, particularly when it comes to the Pacific, this place that is in our backyard and is being sought after by China, a big expanding power?
Not at all Charles. I mean if you look at the facts of the amount of support that we've provided into the Pacific, working very closely. The work that we've done in Tonga. The work that we continue to do in PNG and every other nation.
I’m meeting with my New Zealand counterpart this afternoon, and it's a standing agenda item for all of us to be able to be realistic about China's footprint, their exertion, their pressure and the way in which they conduct their business.
I don't think it's consistent with the values that we share with the Solomon Islands and with Tonga and with other countries, near neighbours of ours in the region.
There's aid that we've provided. There's more that we'll continue to provide support for many ways in which we work very closely together and we'll continue to do that.
But we want peace and stability in our region. We don't want unsettling influences, and we don't want pressure and exertion that we're seeing from China continue to roll out in the region.
Richard, should the government have done more, both the Abbott, the Turnbull, the Morrison government, perhaps even Australian government dating back -- and Labor governments dating back 10 years?
Well, it's really important that we are working closely with the countries of the Pacific so that Australia is the natural partner of choice for all the countries of the Pacific, particularly when it comes to security matters.
I do think this draft document that has become public is really concerning. To be fair – and I accept what Peter said – over the years, going right back to the Howard government, the sorts of issues that are in that document is exactly the support that Australia has provided under the Howard government, under the Rudd and Gillard governments, and in the last 12 months the Morrison government has put people, as Peter said, in place in Solomon Islands.
But it is really important that we make the Pacific a focus of our foreign policy, and this is a point I've been making now for a long time. The Pacific matters. It's a delicate issue. It's a complex issue to get to a point where we are the natural partner of choice, but it's completely doable.
And we need to be making sure that everything is done in terms of our support for the Pacific and the way in which we relate to the Pacific, our engagement with the Pacific, to make sure that at the end of the day Australia is the natural partner of choice when it comes to security and, indeed, when it comes to economic issues as well.
Yeah, and support. Look Richard, I want to ask you about what's been a really tough week for Labor. Anthony Albanese doubling down on the refusal to order an inquiry into the late Kimberley Kitching's claims of bullying. From your behalf, you've said time and time again – I don't want to go back to this well – there wasn't effectively a formal complaint made to you from Senator Kitching. Did she mention what was going on to you, though?
Look, as I've said before on this, I've had many conversations with Kimberley over the years and in her time as a senator - they were obviously private conversations and I don't intend to go into a running commentary about them. Normally I really wouldn’t speak about them at all, but given what has been out there, you know I have made clear that Kimberley did not make a complaint to me.
She didn't ask me to take action. She was unhappy about the Senate tactics committee obviously, but she didn't make a complaint to me and she didn't seek action.
Richard, Peter, thank you so much for your time this morning.
Other related releases
Joint press conference with Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko, RAAF Base Amberley
Interview with Allison Langdon and Richard Marles, Today Show, Channel 9