Interview with Karl Stefanovic and Allison Langdon, Today, Nine

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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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27 October 2022

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well Australia is stepping up its support for Ukraine in a landmark move this morning. 70 ADF troops being deployed to train Ukrainian troops.

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles joins us in Canberra. Nice to see you this morning, Minister. The training is going to happen in the UK, not in Ukraine. Any concerns about how Russia might respond to this?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we need to be doing is making sure we're standing in support of Ukraine over the long term and that's very much one of the things that is underpinning these decisions, that we see this as being a conflict which is going to go on for the long term, but we need to be standing with Ukraine so they're able to resolve this dispute on their own terms. We can't allow the Russian aggression that we've seen play out through the course of this year - and this - be allowed to stand. This training is really important. What we're seeing in Ukraine now is really a reservist force, so that's every day Ukrainians signing up to be servicemen and women in the Ukrainian defence forces, they need training. It's a UK led initiative and I've been in contact with the UK Defence Secretary overnight, they're delighted that we will be participating in this and this is going to provide basic infantry training and our personnel will be on the ground in the UK in January.

STEFANOVIC: I think it's a great thing. Are you prepared for any kind of backlash from Vladimir Putin, directly or indirectly?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, from the get go - and this has been a bipartisan issue in Australia - we've been standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine. This, along with an additional 30 bushmasters, takes our contribution up to $655 million. We are one of the largest non-NATO contributors in support of Ukraine and we're doing that because whilst Ukraine is a long way from Australia, we get that the principles which are at stake here engage our national interest. You simply can't have a large country seeking to impose itself on a smaller neighbour, not by reference to the international rule of law, but by reference to power of mind. And that's exactly what Russia has tried to do and that's what we must not allow to stand, and we must stand with Ukraine over the long term to make sure they are in a position to end this dispute on their own terms.

LANGDON: Deputy Prime Minister, we've been talking to a lot of people this morning who are pretty scared about what's ahead in regards to cost of living, with the inflationary figures that we saw yesterday - take a little listen to what they've been saying this morning.

GRAB: I'm feeling worried for the future. I can actually see a lot of issues coming this summer as well for pensioners, elderly people. It's going to be so hot, they're going to be afraid to put on a fan or an air conditioner.

GRAB: I’m angry because the Labor Party traditionally was to help the low and middle income earners. They haven't given us any hope. Hope is happiness and happiness is health.

LANGDON: What do you say to that?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well I certainly understand the sense that people have about the pressures on their budgets, which is what the current circumstances is giving rise to. Increases in power prices and inflation and we're really mindful of this. The budget on Tuesday night was really all about cost of living and trying to ease the burden of cost of living for Australian families. Cheaper medicines is a really important example of that. But it was a $7 billion package in relation to trying to ease the cost of living and in fact, some of this does have to do with the war in Ukraine in terms of how energy markets around the world have been really disrupted, and so we are looking at all the options that are available to us there in the short term. In the medium and longer term, we've got to deal with this issue as well and that is actually about getting more renewable energy online because that's the cheapest form of energy, that's at the heart of the policies that the government has had, and again, part of this is that over the last decade, we've really had a lost decade when it comes to energy policy and under the Coalition, we saw more energy go out of the power grid than go into it, and that's part of the circumstances of what we're facing now.

STEFANOVIC: We've spoken about this many times, but do you concede now that the $275, that was never going to happen?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, this was modelling down at the end of 2021 about an outcome in 2025. The modelling didn't take into account the war in Ukraine because it hadn't happened. But what the modelling pointed to was how important renewable energy is and modernising our transmission system will be, in putting a downward pressure on energy prices over the medium to long term, and we completely stand by that. We've got to get more renewable energy online. And when I hear this line of attack from the opposition, what I hear is a continued scepticism on their part about the role that renewable energy can play and the need for us to modernise our power system. We’ve had a decade of –

LANGDON: I think the sentiment this morning Minister is that this is a broken promise. That’s the sentiment from people on the street.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are very focused on how we can ease the cost of living right now. We're very focused on what we can do right now in respect of power prices. We're also mindful of what we need to do over the medium and long term to actually solve this issue and having a wasted decade of energy policy and more power going out of the grid than going into it - which is what we saw under the Coalition - forms part of what we have to deal with, what we've inherited and it is a really difficult situation and it is putting pressure on Australian households and it is putting pressure on pensioners. We understand that, which is why the budget on Tuesday night was completely focused on the cost of living.

STEFANOVIC: All right. There's a lot of heavy news in that field that is coming at us, and it's coming at us fast. It's always good to talk to you. We'll see you bright and early on your breakfast show of choice tomorrow morning, and we'll be in your home town.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I’m looking forward to that. Indeed.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, see you.


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