Doorstop Interview, Canberra, ACT

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

Defence Media

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9 February 2023


SUBJECTS: Security systems at government sites; Humanitarian support for Türkiye and Syria; AUKUS; Suspension of MH17 Joint Investigation.

REPORTER: Pieces of Chinese surveillance equipment have been found in government departments. Could that data be fed to the CCP? And should these cameras be replaced?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, it's important that this has been brought to our attention. We're doing an assessment within Defence as to where those cameras exist and when we've gone through that process we'll obviously remove those (inaudible). I don't think we should overreact to this. But it's important that it's been brought to our attention, it's prudent that we do the assessment, and we're going to act on it.

REPORTER: Minister, when were you first made aware that these cameras may actually exist within the halls of Australian government buildings?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I was first made aware in in recent weeks, and I think Defence was made aware prior to that. But we're acting on this is the point to make. You know, this is not a political issue. I mean, these cameras predate the last election. But it is right to be focused on it. We do need to be thinking about the security of our Defence estate. And so we're going through the process in a sober, calm way and we're going to remove what cameras exist.

REPORTER: How quickly do you want to see them removed? And what are your concerns around them?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, as soon as possible. But, you know, that means we've got to do the assessment, and then make sure we're acting on all of them. But again, I don't think we should overreact to it. But we should deal with it. And that's what we're going to do.

REPORTER: Minister, if I can just ask you about Türkiye. Will ADF personnel be sent as part of the search and rescue teams? And if so, when?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We're obviously working with the international authorities about how, as a nation, we can best contribute. What we're seeing unfold on our TV screens is completely tragic and I think all of us are bracing for the fact that that death toll is going to continue to rise. And the images are totally heartbreaking. You know, my thoughts are very much with the Turkish community in Australia and the Syrian community in Australia today. This, this will be a very, very difficult time for them. As you know, we've contributed $10 million initially, we're sending a search and rescue team, we’ll continue to work through with international authorities about how best we can contribute.

REPORTER: Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Keating claim the AUKUS deal will erode the country's sovereignty. What do you got to say to that? And also, when can we expect the next update on that deal?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well the announcement in respect of AUKUS, as we've been saying for some time now, is going to happen very shortly. And indeed, you'll be made aware of the date of that, I think, in the not too distant future. We're at a point where we really are very close to being able to make that announcement. I'm really confident that, in acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine capability, that will enhance Australia's sovereignty. And it will do that, because it greatly increases our capability. And that helps to build the capacity of the Australian people to determine our own future. And that's at the heart of what sovereignty is about. It's a completely reasonable question to ask, you know, ‘on what terms does Australia acquire this capability?’ And so the speech that I'll be making in the Parliament today seeks to deal with that question. But the fundamental point is this - the moment an Australian flag is placed on one of our future submarines, it is under Australian control. Completely under Australian control. And it will be deployed entirely in Australia's national interest.

REPORTER: Can I just ask you to reflect on news overseas that the joint investigation into MH17 has been suspended?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Sure. I think this has been a very tragic event in our history. It was an appalling act against that aircraft, which affected many nations, and particularly families in Australia who lost loved ones in the most appalling circumstances. For those loved ones, the news coming from the Netherlands today is going to be really difficult. People deserve to be able to have the kind of investigation which holds to account those who were responsible. And we've seen some of that, obviously, with the prosecutions that have occurred, but news that this is now not going to go further is going to be very difficult news for those families.


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