Interview with Allison Langdon, Today Show

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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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18 November 2022

ALLISON LANGDON, HOST: Well, let’s go to Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, who joins us from Perth, and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Brisbane. Nice to see you both this morning. Look, it was a pretty big night. We had that MH17 verdict and, Richard, we also learnt that the Australian professor Sean Turnell has been released from a Myanmar prison after 650 days. How’s he?

RICHARD MARLES, ACTING PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s obviously great news that Professor Turnell is now free. As you say, he spent the better part of two years in confinement, and a difficult confinement. So we’ve got medical support on hand to assess this. I think without any doubt there will have been some impact on his health associated with having been in prison for that period of time.

But, I mean, this is obviously a very big day for Professor Turnell, as it is of course for his family and literally the thousands of people who have been campaigning for his release. I know that they – you know, this is a moment of enormous joy. And this is a person who had been held in prison for the better part of two years for doing nothing other than his job. And so we’re very, very pleased to see him released. We will be providing him with that medical support. Obviously I think we do need to give Professor Turnell some space to recover, but this a joyous occasion.

LANGDON: And good to hear he’s in good spirits, relatively, considering everything he’s gone through.

MARLES: Absolutely.

LANGDON: And, look, Pete, the MH17 verdict overnight. I mean, you were sort of front and centre of that when it all happened at the time. What were you thoughts on that?

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, Ally, just on MH17 to start and then I just want to say a quick word on Sean Turnell. Look, some relief for the families as you heard in your interview just then, I mean, that pain will never go away and the injustice of what happened will remain a tragedy and a travesty forever. So I just think the strength of those families is quite remarkable.

And similarly for Sean Turnell and his family as well and friends and, as Richard said, all that support group. This is an operation that’s been underway from the day that he was detained, and I just want to really praise the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence staff and others who have been involved in his ultimate release. It’s a great day for him and a good day for justice and a great day for our country as well.

MARLES: Yeah, well said.

LANGDON: Yeah, I know a lot goes on behind the scenes that we’re never aware of in that regard, and those efforts are really appreciated.

Let’s talk about what’s happening back at home. Unemployment has dropped again. Wages are up a little, but, Richard, I guess this also means we get another interest rate hike for Christmas?

MARLES: Well, you know, we’re facing a difficult set of economic circumstances and we’re really aware of that as a government. And, you know, some of that is brought about by international circumstances, but what it means is that our focus as a government needs to be around easing the burden of the cost of living, which is what our budget last month was all about – a seven and a half billion dollar package to try and relieve the cost of living in terms of making, you know, child care more affordable, cheaper medicines, get wages going again. These are the issues that we are focusing on because we do really understand the pressure that is on family households with the increasing costs.

LANGDON: Richard, I mean, obviously inflation is still a big issue and you’ve got gas companies this morning warning prices will continue to go up. So whatever it is you’re doing is clearly not working.

MARLES: Well, we’re very focused on this, and we understand the pressure that is on Australian households and businesses. And we do understand that in respect of energy costs as well, and we’re looking at what steps we can take to try and bring energy costs down. And in that sense we’re talking to the gas companies and the energy companies around this issue as well.

I mean, this is a difficult set of circumstances, and we’re not hiding from that. But the government is very focused in all that it’s doing right now on trying to ease that cost of living. And that was the centrepiece of the budget, and it continues to be the centrepiece of what we’re doing as a government in easing those pressures.

LANGDON: Pete, you’ve got the energy industry claiming that government attacks and their intervention are actually driving prices up. But, I mean, they are making huge profits, aren’t they?

DUTTON: Well, Ally, I think the government is on the cusp of introducing a new tax, which ultimately is just going to be passed on to consumers. It will risk investment into the mining sector. At the moment we need more gas into the system. That’s the solution. And that has the greatest ability – like any market, if you’re introducing more supply – to bring prices down. But the government is against that. And in the budget they say on their own numbers after two years of Labor being in power that prices will go up by 56 per cent and your gas bills will go up by 44 per cent.

And that’s in contrast to what they heard the Prime Minister say before the election where he promised on 97 occasions that your power bill would come down by $275, but he’s never mentioned it since the election. So I think there are all these sort of thought bubbles out there at the moment, but that’s cold comfort for families and for small businesses who just can’t afford to pay for their ever-increasing electricity bills.

LANGDON: Is there a new tax coming, Richard?

DUTTON: Oh, it’s coming.

MARLES: Well, let me just say in respect of what Peter’s just said then, getting more gas in the system is exactly what we’re working on. I mean, that – looking at mechanisms that we can put in place which see particularly on the east coast more gas in the system so that we have a downward pressure on prices is precisely the objective we’re trying to achieve.

But, you know, Peter speaks about this having been in government for the better part of a decade, where they used to talk about a gas-led recovery and actually nothing was done. I mean literally nothing was done to get additional gas supply on the east coast into the system, and that’s why we face the circumstances that we do right now. It is fair to say –

LANGDON: Okay, but I’m not hearing a yes or no in regards to a new tax.

MARLES: Well, we are talking with the sector and we are looking at what options are available to us to get power prices down –


MARLES: And that is about getting more gas into the system. But, you know, Peter and the former Coalition government have left us with a mess –

LANGDON: All right.

MARLES: And that’s the issue that we are trying to deal with right now.

LANGDON: Okay, look, I want to talk about this, because the Prime Minister met with the Chinese President in Bali this week. Now, Pete, Xi Jinping said that Anthony Albanese is more mature than the previous government. He basically called you immature, Pete. So when are you going to grow up?

DUTTON: Well, I’m 52 today, so I feel pretty old, if not mature. So thanks for reminding me of that, Ally.

Look, I think as I said during the week it’s a good thing that the Prime Minister is meeting with the Chinese President. But, look, as we’ve discussed on the show many times over the last couple of years, the problem is not New Zealand, it’s not Canada, it’s not the United States, it’s not the United Kingdom, it’s not Australia – China’s values have changed under President Xi, and we have to protect our interests.

And I know the Prime Minister is confident now that the trade sanctions will be lifted and we welcome that. And obviously there are human rights issues – we’ve talked about Sean Turnell – but there are two Australians who are still stuck against their will that we know of, and others potentially in China. So we want a strong trading relationship, but we’ve got to continue to stand up for our values. And that’s the approach that we will take, which I think is a pretty mature approach, to be honest.

LANGDON: Okay, Pete, and you just mentioned it’s your birthday, so we’ve got you a gift because we know you love a dagwood dog, right? There is evidence – exhibit A. So we’ve got you one on set this morning, that’s a present from from Karl and I.

DUTTON: Yeah, I’m just being handed it.

LANGDON: And as you eat it, Richard’s going to say all the things he loves about you.

DUTTON: This is definitely from Karl – that is not a dagwood dog. That’s some sort of mini dagwood dog.

LANGDON: I’m going out in solidarity with you.

DUTTON: That’s not a full-size dagwood dog.

LANGDON: As you eat it, Richard’s going to say all the things he loves about you. Go, Richard.

MARLES: Well, look, I get accused of – I do get accused of having a love affair with Peter on this show, such that the Prime Minister actually said that he thinks this slot should be preceded by parental guidance warning. But let me say that I think inside that very gruff exterior is a very, very big teddy bear.

LANGDON: We love love here on this show. Pete, there’s only so much sauce you can put on it before you’ve got to take a bite.

DUTTON: I’m doing 52 candles here and then once I’ve done that then I’ll be able to chow down, so let me keep going.

LANGDON: All right. Happy birthday Pete. Enjoy the day.

DUTTON: Thanks guys. On you guys, have a great day. Thanks.

MARLES: Happy birthday Pete.

LANGDON: And you know that Richard loves you. Thanks guys.


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