Interview with Sabra Lane, ABC AM

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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

SABRA LANE, HOST: Ok, let’s go into the detail now about this new Australian assistance package to Ukraine. Richard Marles is the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

Richard Marles, thanks for joining AM.


LANE: What sort of training will these 70 ADF personnel be giving in the UK?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: It's infantry training, so what we're talking about now in Ukraine is is a reservist force – so everyday Ukrainians really signing up who have not had a lot of training. So there's a real training need here. This is an initiative that's being led by the UK, it will provide people with a few weeks of infantry training and we'll have 70 of our personnel over in the UK from January engaging in that. And I was actually in contact with the UK Defence Secretary overnight, they're certainly very excited about the fact that we are going to be playing a part in providing this training.

LANE: How long will the ADF personnel be based there?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think we'll see how that all plays out. I suppose part of this whole tranche of announcements in relation to Ukraine is premised on the fact that we expect this to be a protracted conflict - it's becoming a protracted conflict, and so we are really aware that we need to be providing support to Ukraine over the long term if we're going to put them in a position. which we want to, of being able to resolve this conflict on their own terms.

LANE: So just on that, how long are we going to keep giving them support and equipment? As long as it takes?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well indeed, as long as it takes. And as I say we expect this now to be a protracted conflict. I think it is important to observe that no one would have imagined the way in which Ukraine has been able to resist the Russian aggression, and it's heroic really that they are in the position that they're in now and all that they've achieved over the course of the year, but it does now take us to a conflict which is protracted, which is going to go on for a long time. And we've been very mindful for a while now that we need to be providing support to Ukraine over the long term. And this latest charge takes our contribution up to $655 million, we're one of the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine.

LANE: To be clear, those Australian Defence personnel, will they enter the Ukraine?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, so they're going to be in the UK. And the other component to this is obviously another tranche of 30 Bushmasters which will be getting to Ukraine?

LANE: 30?


LANE: When will they get to Ukraine?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's a schedule of delivery right now so that the previous commitments that we've made are still being delivered, and that's been expected from Ukraine, so that schedule is on time. So in essence what we're doing now is making sure that the continued schedule of delivery of Bushmasters will continue longer because we'll have more to give.

LANE: Okay that has been a problem, previously we've promised 60 how many have actually made it to Ukraine?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't have the precise number but the schedule of delivery is on time and –

LANE: Can I ask, some people would find that odd that you don't know.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, there’s 60 that we've committed, we're committing another 30. There's a program of delivery and, as I say, that's very much on time.

LANE: Ukraine has also been asking for Howitzer guns and ammunition, are we helping with that?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We have provided Howitzers and we have provided a range of other assistance, unmanned aerial vehicles, so we are providing a significant suite of measures for Ukraine. And as I say, we are one of the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine.

LANE: Why has it taken so long to provide this extra support given that Ukraine has been asking for it for months?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, there has been a schedule of delivery which has been occurring, which has been on time. Ukraine has been really thankful of the support that we've been providing. As I said, we're one of the largest –

LANE: So you're taking issue with the fact that they've been asking for it for some time and sort of sweating on it?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I don't think they've been sweating on it, I mean they've been seeking support from the world and we're providing it. And there's a huge sense of gratitude from Ukraine about the level of support that we are providing. As I say, we are one of the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine, and whilst Ukraine is a long way from Australia we are supporting Ukraine because we see the principles at stake in this conflict as ones that engage our national interests. We can't allow this abuse of the global rules-based order which Russia is engaging in to stand.

LANE I'm curious to know how many Australians are currently fighting in Ukraine with the Foreign Legion?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, I don't have that information at hand. But as a government we are very clear in the significance of this conflict., in the significance of the issues which are at stake and in the need to be supporting Ukraine, and that's what we’re doing.

LANE What do you take from the pictures overnight of Vladimir Putin watching his military test nuclear capable missiles? Is he signalling that he's preparing to use them?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think we've seen Vladimir Putin rattling the sabre now for some time and it's appalling is the answer to your question. There should be no consideration of this at all but it says a lot about who we are dealing with, it says a lot about the way in which Russia is going about its prosecution of this, and it’s why it is so important for the world to be standing up to Russian aggression and to be standing hand in glove with Ukraine.

LANE Just on a separate issue, the Medibank hack, has this crossed the National Security Committee of Cabinet table? And I'm wondering about this given the prospect of Ministers or senior defence personnel, for example, their material now being out there, possibly subject to blackmail.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We are working very closely with Medibank. The Australian Signals Directorateate are doing that. Defence itself, in answer to your question, is examining what impact this does have in relation to Defence. But I think we've now had a couple of very high profile cases in the last month, with Optus and Medibank, this is something of a wake up call to corporate Australia, but for everyone who holds data to make sure systems are as robust as they can be.

It's also really important for individuals to be protective of their own information. Don't click on links if you're not sure. You should not be going to unsource websites. And it's really important not to be giving up your personal information in a phone call unless you are 100% certain of the circumstances of that phone call. This is the world that we're now living in that the government put through legislation yesterday to increase penalties in this area. That's an important step, but it's really important that we are building a robust ecosystem across both the public and private sector to protect Australians’ data.

LANE: Richard Marles, thanks for talking to AM.



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