Interview with Peter Stefanovic, First Edition, SkyNews

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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

PETER STEFANOVIC: You’re watching First Edition. Thank you, as always, for your company, folks. Well, let’s go back to Canberra now, because joining us live is the Defence Minister, Richard Marles. Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. We will get to Ukraine in just a moment, but energy, of course is the focus for all of us this morning. Households bracing for another $1,000 on their energy bills. When will the government intervene and force those prices down?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have made clear that we’re considering options here. And obviously I’m not about to go through those now. But we’re very aware of how important this is and how urgent the issue is. And that’s why our Budget on Tuesday night was completely focused on cost of living – a $7 billion package in relation to easing the cost of living. But, you know, what we are seeing is in part, actually, a function of energy markets around the world being disrupted by the war in Ukraine. But it’s also a function of a lost decade in Australia where we saw a government take more energy out of the power grid than they put into it-


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: And so that’s part of why we’ve got a situation now where we’re facing the situation that we are.

STEFANOVIC: Right, so just to pick up on your point there; not aware of it enough though, to address the skyrocketing energy bills.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t accept that. I mean, we are–

STEFANOVIC: You don’t accept that energy bills are on the way up?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, of course I accept that. I don’t accept the other premise in your question.


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We are looking at options available to us. We are really aware of the pressure that this is placing on households, which is why the Budget on Tuesday night was all about cost of living and how we can ease the pressure on Australian families–

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, but not energy bills is my point.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, and, as I say, we are looking at what options are available there. We are looking at how we can help with household budgets, and the cost of living is being felt right across household budgets. But it also needs to be understood that part of the circumstance that we’re in is because we’ve had a lost decade here. We’ve had a former Coalition government who took a whole lot of power out of the grid and did not replace it because they had not been able to land an energy policy, which means we’ve had a complete failure to invest in renewable energy to the degree that we need to. Now we are very focused on that and we’re very focused on what that means in terms of improving our transmission system. Marinus Link was something we announced last week. All of these are steps being taken both in the short and the medium term to address this issue.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, would you like to see– and speaking of short terms – would you like to see price caps on gas or limits on gas exporters?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, I’m not going to go into the specifics now. And we’ve been really clear not to do that. But both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have made clear that we’re considering our options here.

STEFANOVIC: Can you get a policy in place by January 1?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I reiterate, we’re looking at the available options to us, and we’re obviously very concerned about the pressure on people’s budgets. And we’re looking at what options are available.

STEFANOVIC: Right. But you don’t have a solution yet, though, do you? The government doesn’t have a solution on this?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, I don’t accept that premise either. It’s just that I’m not about to announce propositions right now. And we are looking at our options.

STEFANOVIC: The new government made a point of being upfront with the Australian public. Have you got to level up and say they won’t see $275 energy savings this term?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I mean, that was modelling that was done at the end of 2021–

STEFANOVIC: I’m sorry to interrupt, but everyone talks about this modelling. But the modelling is wrong now, right? And that may lead to you breaking an election promise.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, the modelling was done at the end of 2021 for an outcome in 2025. The modelling didn’t take into account the war in Ukraine because it hadn’t happened. And the war in Ukraine is completely disrupting energy markets around the world. But when I hear the Opposition go down this path of attack, what I hear is a continued scepticism on their part about the significance and the role that renewable energy can play in putting downward pressure on power prices and a scepticism on the Coalition’s part about the fact that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy. Now, we understand the significance of that. That’s what that modelling last year was showing, and investing in renewable energy, upgrading our poles and wires around the country- our transmission system, was the policy we took to the last election and we intend to carry that out. And it will have an impact on reducing power prices over the long term.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. So when will people see $275 savings to their energy bill?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I mean, we can walk down the path of, you know, questions in relation to the modelling. As I said, there was modelling done last year-

STEFANOVIC: No, I’m just asking when will people see the energy savings of $275?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, but, Pete, this is the line of attack that the Opposition are running.

STEFANOVIC: No, it’s just a question-

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: There was modelling done at the end of last year for an outcome in 2025. It did not take into account the war in Ukraine because the war in Ukraine hadn’t happened. But when I hear the Opposition continue to mount an attack, what I hear is an ongoing scepticism on their part about the role of renewable energy within our power system and the fact that it is what is going to provide the cheapest form of energy going forward.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Let’s get to Ukraine. Minister, Australian troops heading to help Ukrainian forces. Where will they be based?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: They will be based in the UK. So we’ve committed 70 personnel to go to the UK from January of next year. And that’s to participate in the UK-led initiative to provide training for Ukrainian service men and women. And I think what needs to be understood here is that we’re talking about a reservist force in Ukraine – in other words, we’re talking about everyday Ukrainians signing up to serve in their armed forces, and so training is fundamentally important. I’ve been in contact with the UK Defence Secretary overnight, they’re delighted that we are participating in their initiative here- and I think it really will make a difference. And what it reflects is that we do see the conflict in Ukraine as one which is going to be protracted. That’s how this is now evolving. And we, therefore, need to be standing with Ukraine over the long term to make sure that we’re putting them in a position so that they can resolve this conflict on their own terms.

STEFANOVIC: Sure, so will our troops be heading to other nations in Europe to help train Ukrainian forces, or will it primarily be or only be in the UK?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: It’s only the in UK. And, as I said, this is a UK initiative to provide this training, and we’re making our contribution to this initiative with the UK, I should say. And we’ve had conversations, obviously, with the UK for some time now about making this contribution, and they’re delighted that we are, as is Ukraine.

STEFANOVIC: So who goes? How do you select which Australian troop goes?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: There’ll be a process about looking at who is in the best position to provide that training and where those people sit within our own preparedness roster. So, I mean, the way in which we prepare or choose people for deployments is a well‑honed process now. But it’s a very significant contribution that we’ll be making. And it takes our overall contribution up to $655 million, making us one of the largest non‑NATO contributors in support of Ukraine. But that’s important because while Ukraine is a long way from Australia, the principles at stake there are ones which very much engage our country.

STEFANOVIC: And there’s more Bushmasters going, too, right?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Indeed. So, we’ve made a further contribution of 30 Bushmasters, which takes the total up to 90. Now, to be clear, you know, there is a schedule of delivery of the existing commitments into Ukraine, which is on time. So what this means is that we’ve had Bushmasters going to Ukraine on a regular basis now for months, and we’ll be able to continue that for longer by virtue of this commitment of an additional 30 Bushmasters.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Good one. Richard Marles, as always, appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us. Talk to you soon.


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