Television Interview, Today Show

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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Deputy Prime Minister’s Office - 02 6277 7800 -

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10 February 2023

SUBJECTS: Resignation of Alan Tudge; Cost of living; Surveillance cameras.

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well, Peter Dutton's leadership will face its first major test, Alan Tudge's resignation forcing a by-election in the Liberal held seat of Aston. He joins us now, along with Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. Good morning to you both, good to see you.

Now, Peter, this has to have you worried. It was once a very safe Liberal seat that's turned marginal in the last election.

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, Sarah, firstly, I mean, Alan Tudge has done a great job as a local member, so he'll be missed. And as the Prime Minister and I commented on in Question Time yesterday, the reality of politics now means that our children get death threats. And that's certainly the case in Alan Tudge’s situation. It's horrific, it's completely unacceptable. But the pressure now on families and for public figures as well, that's a reality of social media. So pressure has been building there for a while. So Alan will be missed as a local member, but it is a tough seat for us to hold, there's no question about that. And there are a lot of families there, though, who are really feeling the pain of their mortgages, which will always be higher under Labor. That's the difficulty. That's the reality of what they're experiencing at the moment. So it'll be a hard-fought contest, but we'll get a date from the Speaker, no doubt, in the coming weeks.

ABO: And, of course, there's no room for death threats or the family feeling under threat either. Very well said there, no one deserves that. But, Richard, this is politics at the end of the day, and winning this seat could give you the crucial boost you need in Parliament. Could you snatch it do you think?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Well, firstly, let me just add my voice to what Peter said in relation to Alan Tudge, and to actually reaffirm what you just said then, Sarah, that there is no room for this in politics, and you’ve got a feel for Alan and his family in terms of what they've experienced over the last few months. And we all very much wish Alan the best in the future. I mean, we all choose to go into politics, but our families don't, and often they bear a lot of the burden here. But Alan served in Parliament for a long time now and been a member of Cabinet, so he goes with a distinguished career. Look, I think Peter is admirably answering questions this morning, but I know there is a cold sweat dripping down his back as he is thinking about this by-election which is coming up. But we take nothing for granted.

DUTTON: That happens every Friday up against you Richard, you know that.

MARLES: We take nothing for granted. It'll be a hard fought contest but we’re looking forward to it.

DUTTON: I shake getting out of bed.

ABO: I did just want to check, though. Peter, do you have a passport to Melbourne yet? I'm not quite sure when you were last in Melbourne. I mean, will we see you down in Aston campaigning? The Liberal Party is a huge risk of being wiped off the map down there.

MARLES: That's a very good question, Sarah.

DUTTON: Well, Sarah, I was actually at the Channel Nine box at the cricket - at the tennis rather - just the other night.

ABO: That’s got nothing to do with it.

DUTTON: Well, I saw all of your colleagues there, swanning around.

ABO: Was Karl there?

DUTTON: I did see Karl.

MARLES: There was a lack of border control there.

ABO: I love this. Okay, no, but seriously, come on, this is going to be tough. Are we going to see you campaigning down there in the east of Melbourne, Peter?

DUTTON: Yeah, of course. There's no question about that. And as I say, by-elections are always difficult and there are different issues, lots of local issues. The government's ripped money out of road projects in Aston. They have, I think, abandoned the area for a long period of time. And as I say, Alan is a popular local member and that always brings a vote with it, which won't be present in the by-election, but we will preselect a great candidate. And that process has already started. But you'll be seeing lots of us down in Aston and we regularly get to Melbourne. I've got lots of friends down there, so I always enjoy travelling down there, as you both do as well.

ABO: I will believe it when I see it, Peter. No, but you're right, we do love Melbourne, so get down there as often as you can.

All right, let's quickly move on now. We've got the RBA. Karl’s very fired up about the RBA this week. Aussies have had enough. They've increased interest rates now for the ninth consecutive time, warning there may be further rises to come. Richard, the Coalition's new slogan, ‘Australians always pay more under Labor’, it's starting to feel a little bit like that at the moment.

MARLES: Well, let's not forget that interest rates started to rise under the Coalition. We very much understand that there are significant cost pressures that families around Australia are facing. A lot of that has to do with the state of the economy that the Coalition left us when we came to office. But that's why we've got a whole package in respect of cost of living, in terms of cheaper medicines, more affordable childcare. Almost the very first thing we did coming to government was to get the minimum wage going again. But look, at the end of last year, we put legislation through the Parliament to try and ease the pressure on increased energy costs and the Opposition voted against that. So, for all their carping, we see what they actually do on this issue and they vote against actually trying to help. We are very focused on this and that's a point that we continue to make.

And I guess also we did see the first rate on the eve of the election. So, Peter, some of these problems are hangovers from the previous government.

DUTTON: Well, Sarah, just to put it into perspective, I mean, Labor always has bad luck when they're in government With the economy. Interest rates are always higher. They were in the Rudd-Gillard period. They were in the Hawke-Keating period. Somehow bad luck always follows Labor. Or you could actually go with the reality that is that they make bad decisions which increased interest rates. The Reserve Bank met on 100 occasions when we were in government. They raised interest rates once. They've met eight times since Labor's been in power. They've raised interest rates eight times. And that's because all the policies that they're introducing are inflationary and they're driving up the price of your mortgage. The Prime Minister promised before the election he'd reduce your power prices by $275. And we're seeing today that they're just going to go up and up and up under Prime Minister Albanese. And that's why families are angry at Labor.

ABO: Okay, and just quickly, because this has been an issue that, Richard, you raised yesterday, which we know is an issue. I mean, Defence Ministers, just as well your secret and highly sensitive discussions haven't been secretly recorded by the Chinese, right. How on earth did this happen?

MARLES: Well, firstly, all the cameras which have been registered with this company within Defence have been removed. But I've actually asked for another audit to be done in case any are missed. And if there are any, we'll remove them as well. But let's be really clear about this – this issue was made aware back in 2018. That not only predates the last election, but the one before that. I'm not sure how many Liberal Defence Ministers there were between 2018 and the last election, but this issue was there for the entirety of Peter's tenure in the job and nothing was done about it. We've actually gone out and made sure that these cameras have been removed and we're going through a thorough audit to see whether there are any more. And if there are, they will be removed. We've not tried to make any political mileage out of this, but we're watching the Liberals try and make something of this. The truth of the matter is, this was made aware to them when they were last in government. They did nothing about it.

ABO: It is a frightening prospect to think about out what they may have overheard. Thank you both so much for your time. Happy Friday. We'll catch you again soon.



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