Karl Stefanovic, 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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17 March 2023

SUBJECTS: Downing of US drone; AUKUS; Electricity prices; AFL.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, tensions between Russia and the US are rising this morning, the Pentagon releasing footage of a Russian jet allegedly releasing fuel over an American drone. It's incredible vision. To discuss we're joined by Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, from Avalon in Victoria, and Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, in Melbourne. Morning guys. Nice to see you this morning,

Richard, good morning to you. I'm sure you would have seen that vision. How's that all going to play out with Russia and the US?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think what this confirms is what we suspected when we were talking earlier in the week that what Russia has done here is act really unprofessionally. And you can see that with the vision. I mean, this is completely inappropriate in terms of the way in which two militaries should interact. And this shows, again, that Russia just doesn't play by the rules. And at the end of the day, that's what's at the heart of what's going on in Ukraine. I think the way in which the US are responding to this is responsible and really important. But this is a clear demonstration of the fact that Russia does not play by the rules.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, I'm hearing from my defence contacts this morning that we might be buying some Tomahawk missiles from the US, is that happening?

MARLES: Well, we are working with the US on having more missile capability because it's a really important part of what we need to be doing with our posture, which is to have a greater ability to project. That's actually at the heart of what we're doing with submarines, of course, but making sure that we have longer-range strike missiles is a really important capability for the country. It enables us to be able to reach out beyond our shores further, and that's ultimately how we are able to keep Australia safe.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, how many and when?

MARLES: Not in a position to go into all of that, but we are looking at how we can have greater projection, and so longer range strike missiles are a really critical component to it.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. You would have felt a little bit like a US drone this week when Paul Keating dumped a motherlode on you?

MARLES: You can always rely on the line from you, Karl. I've had a lot of questions this week about that. That is certainly the most colourful. Look, I have spoken quite a bit about this. I mean, Karl, we are focused on really talking to the Australian people about why we need to be doing what we're doing. And I think, I mean I've said this in all seriousness before, that one of the things that's really impacted me, but all of us in government, in coming to government, is the consequential moment of the time in which we have. We face really tough strategic circumstances. The global rules-based order is under threat around the world, and what we've just been talking about in Ukraine is an example of that. And we need to be making sure that we prepare Australia for the future. And this is a critically important capability for our country. And that's what we're focused on explaining.

STEFANOVIC: Pete, real popcorn moment for you, I guess. And I know you're going to exploit the great divisions inside Labor right now.

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, I thought it was like a scene out of The Comedy Company, Karl, where you had old Uncle Arthur in the sherry cabinet again and there he was out running around and abusing all the family members. It was a really tough week. Look, I mean we've all been on the end of Paul Keating sprays, but it was a special effort this week, right.

So, look, I just think on the Today Show, we're behind cousin Richard all the way and we'll back him in against the crazy old uncle. So I thought it was sad. And, yes, it shows a very deep division within the Labor Party, which is unfortunate in a week when the government should be speaking with a united voice. You've now got Peter Garrett, the union movement and others coming out against the AUKUS deal. And it's in our country's best interest. That's why we negotiated AUKUS and we'll do everything we can to support the government, to help them get through their family feud.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, this is a problem for you. There are some deep divisions and pretty vocal people inside your own party now having a proper crack.

MARLES: Oh look, I think none of what we've heard is a particular surprise. But when I speak across our Party Room to people, in turn they have the same sense that I do of how significant is the moment in which we've come to government. And I think we all feel the mandate and the obligation to make sure that we are handing on to our kids and our grandkids a country which is much more self-reliant and has the capability to keep ourselves safe over the decades ahead. And I actually think there's broad support for that. I mean, I appreciate the gratuitous commentary from Peter, but we'll make sure we deal with all that. But at the end of the day, we are focused on speaking to the Australian people as we are with our own Party Room. And I'm really confident about where the Government is standing, the correctness of what we're doing and the importance of giving this country, our country, this capability.

STEFANOVIC: Peter, you have given it bi-partisan support, but if you were hoping to intimidate Beijing in any kind of way, it hasn't really worked. The Guardian reporting, they're wondering if we'll be taking tourists on these subs to China, effectively calling them a nuclear-powered P&O cruise.

DUTTON: I don't think that's the case at all. It's tough work and they turn the crew over very quickly because, particularly for a generation that wants to spend a lot of time on their phone, that's not available to them in this job. And they're underwater, undersea, on the subs underwater for a long period of time, in some cases months at a time. So it's tough work and the best of our submariners do us proud, and this is a capability that we should be proud of as well. The AUKUS deal that we struck with the US and the UK was all about achieving this as quickly as possible so that we can keep peace and maintain peace in our region. And that's why we absolutely support the Government's decision and the decisions, the hard work, that Richard's undertaken.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, moving on. Now, there are fresh warnings of gas shortages this winter as the energy crisis deepens, which means, obviously, higher prices across the board. Richard, when exactly is power going to be $300 cheaper under your Government?

MARLES: Well, we understand the challenges with energy prices, which is why, at the end of last year, we had an intervention in the market. An intervention which involved us bringing back the Parliament, giving Peter an opportunity to vote in favour of Australia's household budgets, something that the Liberal Party ultimately voted against. But that step made a difference. Future energy electricity prices were half in February what they were in November. And what we know is but for the steps that we took in December, we would be facing even higher electricity prices. So Australians can be completely confident where we're at as a Government – we are doing everything we can to deal with the pressures that are being placed upon Australian's budgets by virtue of the energy markets. Peter is busily playing politics and voting against that.

STEFANOVIC: Pete, 10 seconds.

DUTTON: Well, it's nonsense. You're seeing in Victoria here prices are going up by a third from the first of July and the regulator here is saying that disconnections are up 31 per cent this year and they promised a $275 cut 97 times before the election. Never done it. Never mentioned that figure since. Richard won't. And every decision they're making is actually driving up electricity prices and gas prices, and people are feeling that and it's a very tough time for families.

STEFANOVIC: All right, thank you, guys. Just one final thing. Obviously Geelong playing tonight. Sarah reckons she's going to add to your woes this week with a big Pies win. It's going to be a tough one for you, isn't it, big fella?

MARLES: Well, Karl, we take very seriously the national obligation of making sure that Collingwood doesn't win, and that's what Geelong will be doing for the nation tonight.

SARAH ABO, HOST: Richard Marles. No, no, no, no. That is unacceptable behavior from you. Just you wait. We're coming for you.

STEFANOVIC: Wow. Fiery. I love it. Have a great weekend, guys.


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