David Koch, Sunrise

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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11 October 2022

SUBJECTS: Ukraine; Defence spending.

DAVID KOCH, HOST: Well Russia has unleashed such a deadly wave of missile attacks on Ukraine overnight, the worst since the war- the start of the war. At least 11 people have been killed in the latest attack- and Russian President Vladimir Putin, has warned more strikes could follow. The latest bombing is in retaliation to that explosion of the Crimea bridge over the weekend. Joining me now, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles. Minister, Ukraine's President has said this latest attack by Russia appeared to target civilians. What's our response to that?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Well, I mean, certainly these attacks seem to show a complete indifference to civilian casualties. They've been aimed at the heart of Kyiv and I think other cities in Ukraine, it's an appalling attack. And what's clear is that we're facing a protracted conflict. I was actually with the Ukrainian Ambassador yesterday afternoon when news broke of these attacks and the sense of heartbreak was completely palpable. And from where we stand, we are now working on how we stand with Ukraine over the long term, because I think that's what we're now facing.

KOCH: So does that mean a new package of support for Ukraine? What's on the table? We've sent them Bushrangers (Bushmasters) and a whole bunch of other support so far, haven't we?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, so we have committed 60 Bushmasters and are in the process of supplying them. The schedule of delivery is on track. But we talked with the Ukrainian Ambassador about that. And we will be looking at ways in which we can continue support beyond the current commitments because we do see that this is a conflict which is going to be ongoing for a significant period of time. And ultimately what we need to be doing here is putting Ukraine in a position where this conflict can be resolved on their terms. That has to be the case because this is unprovoked aggression on the part of Russia and it's really important that Ukraine is allowed to resolve this on its own terms and that unprovoked aggression is not allowed to stand.

KOCH: Just on the Defence budget overall, it's big to start with, but it's blowing out from $50 to $80 billion by the end of the decade- and that's not including the cost of the nuclear powered submarines. What are we going to have to do? Are we going to have to cut spending elsewhere to make up for this blowout?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, in a rational world, David, the amount that we spend on defence is a function of strategic threat. And you speak to any analyst right now and the strategic circumstances we face are precarious and we are rational people but for all those reasons, we need to make sure that the spend in defence is a quality spend and we're not wasting money. And what we have seen over the last decade is an enormous amount of waste on the part of the former government. They had six, really seven, Ministers in the course of nine years. They were asleep at the wheel in terms of managing the defence budget. And we now face 28 different programs running an accumulated total of 97 years over time. And that's the mess that we've inherited and we need to fix up. We need to do that so that we're not wasting money.

KOCH: It's a lot of money. Has any Defence contract ever come in on budget and on time?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, the answer to that question is they have –  

KOCH: No. Really?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: But there are plenty now that are not meeting those targets, obviously. And what you need is proper management and you've got to have a government which is actually seeking to manage this situation and is not asleep at the wheel. And frankly, we've had ten years of negligence under the former government and it is a mess that we've inherited. But we intend to clean up that mess. And precisely because defence spending is projected to go up, we need to make sure that that spending is quality spending. We're not wasting money and we're delivering the highest capability to keep Australians safe.

KOCH: Yes, we're watching our dollars. We expect everyone to do it. Richard Marles, thanks for joining us.



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