Doorstop interview, Washington DC

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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dpm.media@defence.gov.au

02 6277 7800

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14 July 2022

SUBJECTS: AUKUS; Australia-US Alliance; Russia-Ukraine conflict; Aged-care sector support; Pandemic leave payment.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for coming. The last few days have been a great success. I feel very honoured to represent the Australian Government as the first Minister to visit the United States and to reaffirm the importance that we place upon the alliance as the cornerstone of our national security, the cornerstone of our strategic policy, and certainly there is a sense in which that is reciprocated here in the US. I’m very grateful for the generosity with which I have been received by the American Government, by the administration, by members of Congress from both parties.

I would describe the sense of the meetings over the last few days as being one of a shared mission. There is a sense of this moment in time where the global rules‑based order is being placed under a pressure that we’ve really not experienced since the end of the Second World War, and in that moment in time there is a sense of shared mission about building team between Australia and the United States; and, more specifically, we’ve been focusing on developing a seamless defence industrial base between our two countries under the framework of AUKUS and the opportunity that AUKUS provides. That is an idea which is well received here in the United States and where there is very much that sense of shared mission.

So, I look very much forward to returning over the years ahead. There is a very busy agenda with the government in respect of AUKUS, and I look forward to building that team between Australia and the United States as we face the challenges of the world today.

JOURNALIST: Can you give us any insights into the discussions you had on AUKUS and are we any closer to deciding which submarine we will get, a timeline, or how we will address the capability gap?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: The process is on track. So, we are looking at announcing in the first quarter of next year what submarine we pursue and when we will be able to have it in the water, and what the journey looks like between now and that moment. Obviously, talking about AUKUS, talking about the process that is underway was a real focus of the conversations, but I come away with a sense that this work is on track, it is being done and we look to forward to being able to make those announcements as we planned.

JOURNALIST: You’ve welcomed the announcement that the United States made this week in terms of its Pacific pledge. What more do you want to see from the US now going forward?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We really do welcome the announcement from the United States in relation to the Pacific. It’s an important statement of American intent in the Pacific, but it’s backed up with real policies and real means by which they can engage. I think we just need to see the trajectory of this continue to grow. It’s really important that Australia is doing more in the Pacific and that’s very much our desire. That’s why you have seen the Australian Foreign Minister be so active in visiting the Pacific. It will be a focus of what we do, and in doing that it is really important that we’re working closely with the United States.

Perhaps the other point to make is that we really see the importance of climate change in our engagement with the Pacific. It is obviously an issue which is felt existentially in the region, which is felt so viscerally given those countries are on the front‑line of climate change. Prime Minister Albanese has made really clear that he wants climate change to be a pillar of the alliance and it’s a shared vision between himself and President Biden, and so action on climate change will be a feature as well in the way in which we work with the United States in respect of the Pacific.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the speech that Scott Morrison has delivered in South Korea? He’s criticised China, he’s accused China of supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine by buying Russian wheat. Do you share that principle?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, I’m not aware of the speech he’s made, so it’s probably not advisable for me to comment on it. The point we’ve been making is that the global rules-based order is under pressure. It’s obviously under pressure in terms of what we are seeing play out in Ukraine with the invasion of Russia into Ukraine, where a larger country is seeking to impose itself on a smaller neighbour, not by reference to the rule of law but by power and might. That’s why we are engaged in supporting Ukraine because we see the principles that are applying there as being applicable right around the world, and it is really important that we’re doing everything we can to uphold the global rules-based order in Eastern Europe and the Indo–Pacific and everywhere.

JOURNALIST: Just on the domestic front, there are calls for the Australian Defence Force support being provided in aged‑care homes to be extended beyond the August 12 deadline amid a new surge in Covid cases. Would you support that being extended?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, I’ll be briefed on that as I return home as to what are the pressures that are facing our aged‑care sector, and I will be getting answers having had those briefings.

JOURNALIST: As Deputy Prime Minister, do you think that the pandemic leave payment should be extended again as this new surge of COVID cases?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we made the decision that we did in respect of pandemic leave. That’s where the government stands. Again, I will be receiving briefings in respect of this. It is important that we are taking events into consideration. It’s also important that we are getting the country back to a place of normality.

ENDS

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