Television Interview, Today Show

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

Release content

14 April 2023

SUBJECTS: Cyclone Ilsa; Voice to Parliament; Employment figures; Student leadership in schools; Adelaide

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, thousands of residents in WA are right now taking shelter as tropical Cyclone Ilsa makes landfall in the state’s north. And we'll bring in Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles in Geelong and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Sydney. But to Richard, first up. Richard, I was just wondering for the ADF, I know it's early days, might be ready to help out in WA if things get worse from here?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, look they are Karl and I think all our thoughts right now are with the people of the northwest of Pilbara, Port Hedland as they brace for Cyclone Ilsa. We're working with NEMA, that is the Defence Force are working with NEMA, and they're pre-positioned and ready to go. Obviously, we haven't had requests right now, but they're there in case there are requests. But right now I think all of our thoughts are with those communities.

STEFANOVIC: You've got a pretty big week ahead, don't you? I know in terms of the Voice, there is some speculation this morning, at the very least, that you may change the date of Australia Day. Is that true? Is that coming next?

MARLES: No, I think Australians want to see our First Nations people recognised in our Constitution through a Voice to Parliament. That's what we're focused on. And that will be a hugely uplifting moment for the nation if we can pass that referendum. And I think this is a moment that can bring the country together and really, that's what we're crying out for. And I think there's the opportunity for the Liberal Party, for Peter to get on board here. The step that Julian Leeser took this week is obviously a step of real moral courage, to follow his conscience, the question is whether Simon Birmingham is now going to do the same. But what we need to see is the whole country coming together behind this, because I think that's what Australians want to see.

STEFANOVIC: But changing Australia Day, that's not coming next, though? Changes to the flag, anthems?

MARLES: No. And all of that is about trying to create distraction away from what should be the central issue here, and that is recognising our First Nations people in the Constitution, which Australians want to see happen.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Peter Dutton has been accused of playing political games with his trip to Alice Springs. The Northern Territory Police Minister even accusing him of a “dog act”. Your response to those claims?

MARLES: Well, I think it's really important that we're not making Alice Springs a political football. A lot of work has gone on here to try and improve the situation in Alice Springs and we've been very hands on in this regard. Linda Burney has been there a number of times in the last few months. She's going back in the next couple of weeks. Since the Prime Minister was there in January, we've worked with the Northern Territory government to put in place restrictions on alcohol. That has now seen all the stats trending in the right direction, both in terms of crime and alcohol related violence. We're putting in place the funding in an ongoing sense, which under the former government, was due to come to an end in the middle of this year. That's going to make a real difference as well. And I think, again, we need to be working with each other to try and improve the situation in Alice Springs rather than make it a political football at this moment in time.

STEFANOVIC: Pretty strong employment figures. You must be buoyed by that. But now the threat of looming increased interest rates is a worry for most families across the country.

MARLES: Well, we understand the pressure that the global inflationary environment has placed upon Australians and that's why a real focus of our Government since coming to power has been easing the pressures in relation to the cost of living, cheaper medicines, doing what we did in December of last year to ease the pressure on energy bills within people's households. So we're very focused on this. Employment is a key factor here and we are buoyed by the positive employment figures, but we understand there's a long way to go in terms of focusing on those cost of living pressures. And what people know that they will get with the Albanese Government is a government which is really focused on these bread and butter issues and doing everything it can to make sure that we do help households get through what is a very difficult time.

STEFANOVIC: It's difficult alright. Look, a couple of quick ones. Religious schools across the country are under fire this morning over a move to exclude gay students or those having premarital sex from becoming school captain. I don't even know where you start with that. Your thoughts?

MARLES: Look, we obviously respect the views of people of faith. We've been working hard to make sure that in all our antidiscrimination legislation, that we are protecting people of faith. But we've been very clear as we've walked this road over a number of years now, that as we do that, we can't see a situation where we're inadvertently discriminating against kids. It's really important that that not happen. And that's why I feel a bit uncomfortable about the reports that we've seen in the papers today. I mean, obviously, leadership and the qualities of leadership are not a function of people's sexual orientation. And we need to make sure that we have the widest pool of people for leadership positions across our society, and that should apply here as well. But it's really important that we do not see, as we walk down this road, discrimination against children.

STEFANOVIC: I agree with you 100%. Look, you were supposed to go up against Peter Dutton today. We're having communications issues with him, but I figure you're enjoying this a little bit more, just talking to me, having me on your own this morning.

MARLES: Peter's making the best contribution he has so far.

SARAH ABO, HOST: Uh oh, fighting words.

STEFANOVIC: He's not had a great couple of weeks. How do you reckon he's going while he can't hear us?

MARLES: Well, I think he's done really well today. This is the strategy, obviously, that he put in place in the lead up to the Aston by-election and we saw the result there. I think we've set the tone now, going forward.

ABO: Silence your opponent.

STEFANOVIC: Good on you, Richard. We're broadcasting from Adelaide today, your favourite part of the city? And you can't say the South Australian Premier, that's the only thing you can't say.

MARLES: Well, I'm a big fan of the South Australian Premier, but I know- I've seen the picture of where you're broadcasting from right now. The Adelaide Oval is spectacular. There are great golf courses, I might say, as a golf aficionado, in Adelaide as well. And I think that the Adelaide beaches, particularly for young kids, are one of the great undiscovered secrets of this country. So big fan of Adelaide.

STEFANOVIC: Good on you, mate. Nice of you to be with us today. We'll talk to you soon. Thank you.


Other related releases