11 October 2022
SUBJECTS: Ukraine; Power prices; Stage 3 tax cuts.
JOURNALIST: Minister, what is Australia's response to the strikes across Ukraine?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: This is an appalling act by Russia. What's really clear is that these strikes have been done with complete indifference to civilian populations. They've been directed at population centres in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine. I was with the Ukrainian Ambassador yesterday when the news broke about these strikes, and the heartbreak was palpable. So what this says to us is that this is going to be a protracted conflict and we need to be making sure that we are able to stand with Ukraine over the long term, so that we can put Ukraine in a position where they can resolve this conflict on their own terms.
JOURNALIST: We’ve heard President Zelenskyy suggest that Australia was working on another support package for Ukraine, any details yet on what that would include?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, we're talking with the Ukrainian Ambassador, with the Ukrainian Government, about ways in which we can continue to support Ukraine. We get that this is a conflict which is going to happen over a long period of time, and we need to be standing with Ukraine. It's really important that Australians understand that the principles at stake here engage our national interest. We can't have a complete flouting of the global rules-based order where a large country invades its neighbour, not by reference to international law, but by reference to might. And that's why we stand with Ukraine, that's why we see it's critically important that Ukraine is able to resolve this dispute on its own terms. And that means we need to be providing support to Ukraine over the long term.
JOURNALIST: You’ve talked about support in terms of training this morning, what does that potentially look like? What does that involve?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, that's just one option that's on the table. The United Kingdom is providing training assistance for Ukraine. So we're looking at that option as well as others. We've not made any commitments yet as to what exactly the package of support would look like, but we are working with the Ukrainian Government about ways in which we can help.
JOURNALIST: Power prices are going up Deputy PM, 35 per cent according to some this morning. Does that make a $275 per year cheaper power bill under your government a more difficult goal to achieve?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we're facing is the consequences of a decade of inaction, when under the former government we had four times as much dispatchable power come off the grid as was put onto it. What we understand today is that the cheapest form of energy is renewable energy and that means we need to be encouraging renewable energy production, we need to have a grid which is sophisticated enough that it can accept that renewable energy, and that's what we're working on. That's at the heart of our policy, and that will drive power prices down. But you can't deal with a decade of inaction in just a few months, we've never pretended that you can. We are working though with the energy companies right now to see how we can alleviate the pressure in the short term. But we now have a settled energy policy through this parliament and that will pave the way for us being able to put in place an energy system which puts downward pressure on energy prices.
JOURNALIST: Just one more. You mentioned that these strikes in Ukraine are in major population centres, a lot of civilians have been harmed, what is Australia's message to the people of Ukraine?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we stand with the people Ukraine. What's happening to Ukraine is heartbreaking and this is a country which has experienced much suffering over its history. And what it is experiencing now with the unprovoked aggression of Russia, just cannot be allowed to stand. But what we also say to the people of Ukraine is that their resistance to Russia is completely inspiring. It has inspired the world. They are in a position that none of us would really have imagined by virtue of the way in which they have stood up to this and it's really important, therefore, that the world stands with them and that's what we intended to do.
JOURNALIST: On stage three tax cuts, can you rule out any changes to those once and for all? And, polling today shows that taxpayers are in favour of cutting spending rather than raising taxes, not surprising, with the cost of living pressures?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, our position on tax is well known and we've been making it clear now for some time that our position has not changed since the election.