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The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
18 January 2023
DAVID KOCH, HOST: Now the Deputy Prime Minister will today farewell 70 Defence personnel who will deploy to the United Kingdom tomorrow and join a multinational effort to train Ukraine's armed forces. The Albanese Government promised in October to help teach infantry tactics so Ukrainians can defend their homeland against Russia's invasion. The aim is to train 20,000 troops this year. No ADF personnel will enter Ukraine as part of the program. Australia has so far provided $655 million in support.
Joining me now, Deputy Prime Minister, who's also Defence Minister, Richard Marles. Minister, thanks for joining us. Sending trainers, history tells us this is the first step of being sucked in to a bigger conflict. We did this during the Vietnam War. Tell me we're not going to be sucked in again.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Well, I think it's a bit different. Firstly, as you noted in the intro, these trainers are going to the United Kingdom, they won't be going to Ukraine. But it's a really important deployment because the Ukrainian Army now is very much a reservist army. It's a citizen army. So it's everyday Ukrainians who are giving up their jobs in order to fight for their country. And the heart is very much there, but the skills that are going to be provided by these Australian trainers are going to help equip the Ukrainian army for the battlefield. It's going to make them safer, it's going to save lives and it's going to keep Ukraine in the fight, which is really important, because what matters here, given this is turning into a protracted conflict, is that Ukraine is able to stay in the fight so that this can be resolved on Ukraine's terms so it’s very important that’s what happens.
KOCH: But you can give me an ironclad guarantee Australia will never have boots on the ground in Ukraine?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We're not sending boots on the ground to Ukraine and that's not what's being sought by Ukraine. What really matters here is that this training is provided and as I said, the training is going to be provided in the UK, so there are not going to be boots on the ground in Ukraine.
KOCH: So what's the exit strategy? How long will this go on for?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we need to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. That’s actually the answer to that question and we are expecting this to be a protracted conflict, but we can't allow the Russian invasion of Ukraine to stand because it's a complete affront to the global rules-based order. I mean, this is a big country imposing itself on a small neighbour, and not by reference to the rule of law, but simply by reference to power and might. And the global rules-based order, the rules of the road internationally, they're really important in Eastern Europe, they're really important here in the Indo-Pacific, Which is why Ukraine's a long way from Australia but we see our national interest as being engaged there, and that's why it's really important we stand with Ukraine and we'll continue to do so for as long as it takes.
KOCH: All right. So far we've sent money, we've sent Bushmasters, the troop carriers, to help the Ukrainians really take that war up to the Russians. Are you concerned with this next step, the extra elevation of our involvement, if you like, in training of troops to have blow back from Russia?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, we couldn't be clearer in the fact that we stand with Ukraine. We couldn't be clearer in our condemnation of Russia, and obviously we stand with the international community in doing that. So none of this is going to be a surprise to Russia in terms of where we stand as a nation and where we are placing our support. And it's not just a matter of giving that moral support, although that's important. We're one of the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine. The fact that we have contributed so much to Ukraine on this, being so far away from Ukraine, is something which is noted throughout the world, very much in Ukraine and throughout Europe. So Russia has already seen all of this, but what matters is that we stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. And that's absolutely our intention to do.
KOCH: Okay. Usually Russian communities would get a bit narky about this. Have our police or spy agencies stepped up monitoring of Russian organisations here in Australia?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, firstly, the Russian community in Australia is a very important community and they are very proud Australians who make a great contribution to our country. So let's be clear about that.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: All our security agencies monitor Russian state activity and we will continue to be vigilant about that. But the most important issue here is making sure that we do everything we can to stand with Ukraine and we'll continue to do that.
KOCH: Okay, so that monitoring has been stepped up and will stay at these high levels?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we'll continue to monitor Russian state activity and that's really important that we do that. But our principal objective here is to say to Russia and indeed to say of the world that we are a country which stands for the global rules-based order, that in this day and age we have to be resolving conflicts around the world by sitting down and reaching decisions based on what the rules of the road are. And you can't just go and walk into another country because you feel like it. And that's what Russia did a year ago.
KOCH: Yep. Can't argue with that. Richard Marles, thank you very much for your time.