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The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
02 6277 7800
14 June 2022
Well, let’s get a reaction now from our Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, who joins us now from Japan – not to talk about the Socceroos qualifying necessarily, but let’s get his reaction anyway. What do you think, Richard?
This is one of the great moments in Australian sport, and you just can’t help but be filled with joy when you look at the reactions. And how good is Andrew Redmayne? That guy has cult figure written all over him. I can see the Redmayne beard sprouting on faces all across the country now. I’m expecting it to see it on you, Karl.
Look, I could imagine in three years’ time, you going after him to represent you in one of those safe little Labor seats in the inner‑city he looks so hipster‑ish. Let’s move on. Look, you’re obviously there in Japan – very important stuff. There’s also a big energy crisis going on and unfolding here at home. Can we guarantee the lights aren’t going to go out?
Well, firstly, Karl, this is what happens after a decade of failed energy policy that we had from the former government. But we will be working really hard on all of this. AEMO is speaking to the major users as well as the energy companies to try to manage the load so that we can avoid this. And Chris Bowen has obviously been in close contact with Minister de Brenni and will be talking with Queensland in relation to it. So, every – we will leave no stone unturned in terms of making sure that we can manage our way through this, and we have done that up until now. But this is a really difficult situation, and the reason is clear. We’ve had a decade of failed energy policy and that’s where this has left us.
Okay. Congratulations are in order in regard to that full and frank meeting that you had with the top Chinese General, which is helping ease the tension with China. Do we have anything further to add to that at this point? Are there going to be any significant developments in terms of relaxing those trade blocks for our exporters?
Well, Karl, it was an important meeting, but I think it’s also important to understand this is just the first step. There’s a long way to go. Making sure that our two countries are talking is critically important. It was a full and frank discussion. We focused obviously a lot on the defence issues, on what’s happened in the Pacific, on the incident which occurred with our P‑8 aircraft on the 26th of May, so, it was difficult terrain to traverse. But the meeting began, and it finished, I might say, with both of us feeling that we wanted to get the relationship, the broader bilateral relationship, to a better place. And the door is open now for us to move further down this path. It’s going to be a slow process, but the first step has been taken.
Our exporters are crying out for it, aren’t they? Do you think there will be any resolution in the short term or is that going to be a long‑term thing as well?
I think we’ve got a bit of time to work through this, but, you know, it speaks, as you just have, really, to the complexity of our relationship. There’s a whole lot of security anxieties that we have in relation to China and the substantive policy of this government hasn’t changed at all from that of the previous government. We’ll continue to assert our rights in places like the South China Sea, make sure that we are working with the countries of the Pacific to be their natural partner of choice. But at the same time, China’s our largest trading partner, as you’ve observed, and we’ve got to work this through with all the complexity. But at the heart of it, you need to have dialogue. You’ve got to have professional diplomacy. So, while the substantive position of the government in relation to our national interests hasn’t changed, the tone has.
Okay. You will be meeting with your Japanese Defense counterpart today, obviously in Tokyo. How do you think tighter military ties with Japan, which is what you are looking for, how do you think that will go down with China?
Well, it’s important for us, so, you know, we’re not going to be looking to other countries in terms of influencing the relationships that we build with friends like Japan. So, we’re building this relationship with Japan on its own terms and, to be honest, it’s never been more important. I mean, China is seeking to shape the world around it in a way that it’s not done before. That makes our strategic circumstances complex – it really makes Japan’s [strategic circumstances complex]– and we share this. Both Japan and Australia are allies of the United States. We both have an interest in keeping the United States as engaged as possible within East Asia.
So, there’s so much that we share together, and when I look forward, you know, I can’t really think of a more important relationship that we have, really, than that of Japan. And that’s been emphasised by the fact that in the first few weeks of this government we’ve now had the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and our Foreign Minister in Japan, and I think the Japanese welcome that and understand the significance of the statement which is contained in that, that we really do see our relationship with Japan going forward as fundamentally important.
We’ve signed a reciprocal access agreement which allows our militaries to operate in each other’s countries. That’s actually a really big step to take. And we want to have detailed conversations over the next couple of days, which I will, with Defence Minister Kishi, to operationalise that.
Richard Marles, it seems to me that you are making inroads over there and may well it continue. Thanks for your time today from Tokyo. Really appreciate it.