Interview with Liam Bartlett, 6PR Morning

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21 September 2022

LIAM BARTLETT, HOST: First up though, today the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, of course, has flown back into Australia this morning following his attendance at the late Queen’s funeral service in London and ahead of tomorrow’s memorial service for the Queen in Canberra. And we will bring you some of that service just after nine o’clock tomorrow here on the morning program. But all that means that Richard Marles, the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, who has been Acting Prime Minister for the past week, has just completed the changeover and returned the leader’s baton as of nine o’clock. He joins us on the program. Deputy Prime Minister, good morning,

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Good morning, Liam how are you?

BARTLETT: I’m fine, but how are you feeling? You’ve literally just been, about eight minutes ago, demoted. You were Acting Prime Minister.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I was Acting Prime Minister, but I’m getting used to the ups and downs of being a Deputy. There are some moments where you’ve got a lot of security around you and then they just melt away when the boss reappears in the country. So it’s completely fine. Happy to be the Deputy Prime Minister.

BARTLETT: It’s gone. How’s it been filling those big shoes over the last few days? No blisters?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, I’m getting a little bit used to it. I’ve done it a few times now. I mean it’s interesting in that when the Prime Minister is away, there’s kind of a flow of documents and decisions which still need to be made while he’s out of the country, so it’s not just the title, there are actually things that come across your desk, which is quite interesting to see the whole broad sweep of government when, normally, I’m obviously focused on Defence.

BARTLETT: You know that’ll get written up as a leadership challenge, don’t you? ‘Richard Marles says he could get used to it.’

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think the boss is completely confident, as he should be, about where I stand on all that and he’s doing a great job and I’m very, very honoured to be his Deputy.

BARTLETT: Well done. Good clarification. Let’s talk about your normal role as Defence Minister if you don’t mind. The Ukrainians have said they want more military aid – another 30 Bushmaster vehicles if they can get them in that mix. Is Australia going to give them more?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll continue to talk with the Ukrainians about how we can keep supporting them and we’re well aware that we’ll need to keep supporting Ukraine. Right now we’ve committed the better part of $400 million worth of military support and Bushmasters have been a very important part of that. We’ve committed 60 Bushmasters and we’re on a program of delivering them to Ukraine right now. But I think whilst there have been really important counter‑offensives that the Ukrainians have achieved in the last few weeks, we do need to prepare ourselves for the fact that this could easily settle into quite a protracted conflict. And what we’re seeking to do here along with other – with NATO countries and other countries, is to support Ukraine against this Russian aggression such that Ukraine is in a position to determine its own future, such that the conflict can be resolved on Ukraine’s terms. That’s really important that we’re doing that, and that means we need to settle in for the long term, and that means that with we need to be thinking about how we can provide ongoing support to Ukraine, and we’re talking with the Ukrainian Government about how we might do that.

BARTLETT: So, there is more money in the bucket, so to speak?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: All of these things obviously come at a cost, but we get that for Ukraine to succeed here, for us to achieve the objective along with the other NATO countries, of being able to place Ukraine in a position where it can determine its own future, we are all going to need to be there over the long term. The Americans have made that clear in terms of their support for Ukraine, other critical NATO countries have as well. Russian aggression that we’ve seen here just cannot be allowed to stand.

BARTLETT: I don’t think too many of our listeners would disagree with you, but what about allowing tourists? Now, the Ukrainian Ambassador said we should stop Russian tourists coming here and enjoying themselves while their country wages war. That’s not an unreasonable request, is it?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: There is a comprehensive regime of sanctions against Russia, and we’ll continue to look at ways in which that might evolve, and there have been evolutions in the sanctions regime against Russia. Right now, the focus of those sanctions is against the Russian Government and those who have made the decision to perpetrate this outrage on Ukraine –

BARTLETT: Yep, they make the decisions, Minister. They make the decisions obviously but what good are sanctions if it doesn’t affect every person there who in turn put pressure on the government?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it is about making sure sanctions are targeted and that they have the impact on those who are making decisions and those who, we hope, make a decision in the future to withdraw from Ukraine and return to a place of peace. Our issue is not with the Russian people. It’s with the Russian Government. So, at this point, we’re not considering sanctions in respect of Russian tourists coming to Australia.

BARTLETT: I’m not sure I understand the logic there. I mean, you target the Russian oligarchs, for example. What about the other rich Russians who run around the world enjoying themselves on millions, maybe not billions, but millions? I mean, where do you draw the line?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Not every Russian tourist is in that category, obviously, but we do focus on the Russian oligarchs and those who provide the foundation of support for the Russian Government, and the decisions that they are making. Our beef is not with the Russian people. It’s with those who are making the decisions. So, that’s the focus of our sanctions. As I say, we will continue to look at the regime of sanctions we have against Russia and I’m sure that that will continue to evolve, but right now the focus is not on Russian tourists coming to Australia.

BARTLETT: So, we leave it to business to do the heavy-lifting with sanctions? That’s really what it is, isn’t it?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, I mean, there’s a whole range of ways in which at a government level we are engaging in seeing those sanctions applied across the board. You are right in the sense that when we apply sanctions to Russia, there often is a price to pay within the economy. For us, that’s not as significant as the way in which that’s being experienced in Europe. I was there a couple of weeks ago and the way in which sanctions are being applied there does come at a cost to Western European economies, but they are clearly making the decision that’s this is what needs to be done, and it’s the brave decision and it’s right. We’re part of that as well. Enormous pressure is being placed on Russia. One of the lessons that comes out of this conflict is the degree of unanimity there’s been in putting in place sanctions against Russia for the outrage they’ve perpetrated.

BARTLETT: Minister, the G20 Summit in Bali, less than two months’ time, how does it work, does the Prime Minister go or do you go with the Prime Minister or? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Prime Minister will be representing Australia at that, and it’s a very important summit. I mean, the G20 is a really important piece of global architecture and it’s a wonderful thing for Australia that we participate in that. It’s also going to be a really significant meeting for Indonesia hosting the G20, and we’re very mindful of our relationship with Indonesia, what this meeting means for them and that this meeting is ultimately a success for Indonesia, and we’re keen to support Indonesia in the hosting of this.

BARTLETT: It’s also significant for Russia, because the Russian President says he’s going. He’s going to be there. Are you comfortable with our Prime Minister being part of that?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I am because it’s really important that we are at that forum and, as I say, it’s a very important global meeting. It’s an important meeting for Indonesia, but it’s also an important meeting in which the G20 can make clear to Russia its anxiety, its displeasure, for Russia committing the outrage that they have in relation to Ukraine.

BARTLETT: They can do that without him being there. He can do that without him being there, can’t they?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Australia being present at the highest levels really matters, and it is an opportunity in being present at that meeting to make really clear where Australia stands along with the rest of the world in opposing this Russian aggression, and I think the G20 is an opportunity to make that point very clearly to Vladimir Putin.

BARTLETT: Why should Putin be allowed to be accepted in that role? See, again, Minister, we expect business and commerce to be cut off, to send a message to Putin, but the Prime Minister is then free to rub shoulders and share a cocktail frankfurt with the madman that started it all. It makes no sense.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, that phrase rolls off the tongue pretty easily, but this is going to be a moment where the Prime Minister is not going to be doing that. The Prime Minister will be making it really clear to Vladimir Putin, along with the other members of the G20, about the way in which the world stands in opposition to Russia’s actions in respect of Ukraine – 

BARTLETT: But come on, you know how it works, Minister. You know he’s going to go there, he’ll shake his hand he’ll say all the pleasantries, the niceties that go along with diplomatic messaging. It will be all that. He won’t exactly shirtfront him, will he?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I actually don’t think that’s how it will play out at all. I think if Vladimir Putin goes to the G20, what he can expect is global leaders making it completely clear to him how completely unacceptable his actions are in relation to Ukraine, and that message will be delivered loud and clear. And that is an important means by which that message can be delivered, and the G20 is an important piece of the global architecture which we need to participate in. In this instance, it can be a vehicle for getting that message to Russia.

BARTLETT: Indian PM Modi fair dinkum gave it to Putin the other day, didn’t he, very publicly? Do you think Anthony Albanese is up to that?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Totally, but to extend on the point, that happened in a meeting in Uzbekistan is where the Indian Prime Minister was present, where Vladimir Putin was. So being present and being able to deliver that message very forcefully in person has its place as well and the G20 is going to be an opportunity for that.

BARTLETT: Just finally, I know you’re flat‑out. Just very quickly, more importantly, are you off to the Grand Final on Saturday?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I will definitely be at the Grand Final on Saturday. I can feel the excitement is building within me. It’s kind of morphing a little bit into deep anxiety, I’ve got to say. By the time we get to Saturday morning, I will be a nervous wreck, but whatever happens I’m going to be there, you can be assured of that.

BARTLETT: So, you’re a hopeless Cats supporter?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I am a hopeless Cats supporter. I’ve been barracking for Geelong all my life and have been to pretty well every final that the Cats have played in whilst I’ve been alive, and certainly grand finals. And, I mean, the Grand Final, I think, is really the biggest sporting event on the sporting calendar. Obviously, Perth did a fantastic job in hosting the Grand Final last year, and that’s the case even if your team isn’t playing. But when your team is in that game, it’s a really, really special moment, and it’s a very exciting week and I can’t wait for the day.

BARTLETT: Well I hope you don’t put the mockers on them, I’ll tell you that. Talking about going to every final, I mean, that worries me.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: There is a debate in Geelong about whether the lid is on or off at the moment, you know. We’ve been trying to keep the lid on, but to be honest, lids have been flying off all over the town ever since Friday night, so we’ll see. Whether we’re putting the mockers on or not, we just know we’re going to be very happy or very sad come Saturday night, so we may as well enjoy the time between now and then.

BARTLETT: Good on you, Minister, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Liam.

 

ENDS

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