Television interview, Channel 7 Sunrise

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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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26 April 2023

SUBJECTS: Defence Strategic Review, AFL stadium for Hobart.

DAVID KOCH, HOST: Joining me now, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Richard Marles. Minister, thanks for your time this morning. Before we get into the detail of the Strategic Review, what are people saying that releasing it around Anzac Day took the focus away from our diggers?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don’t accept that. I mean, this was a very important announcement that we needed to make, obviously at the end of the Review but also in the lead-up to the Budget, and that was this week. I think it is possible to have a conversation, as we do in any given year, around the full suite of public policy, but, in turn, then on the 25th to focus on those who have served in the past and continue to serve now. And that’s what we did yesterday.

KOCH: Okay. The report says the Australian Defence Force is no longer fit for purpose – we’re falling behind. Why has it taken so long for a new review to actually determine that?

MARLES: Well, it’s a good question. Firstly, I’d say we have a wonderful Defence Force, and we should feel very proud of it, and as a government we do. And the defence posture that we have had, really since the 1980s, has served the country well over a long period of time. But given the very significant military build-up that we are now seeing in our region, we are facing a much more challenging set of strategic circumstances. Also in a context where we have a much greater economic connection with the world than we ever have in the past. And so that strategic posture which has served us well over the last few decades is not fit for purpose going forward –

KOCH: Right, okay.

MARLES: And that’s what we need to change, and that’s what the significance of the review was that we announced on Monday.

KOCH: So it seems as though you’re stripping money away from the Army and putting it into the Air Force and Navy. Are sort of land-based armies, humans fighting wars, becoming a bit redundant? It’s all about technology and long-range stuff?

MARLES: I wouldn’t characterise it like that. What we are thinking about is having a Defence Force and an Army which has a much greater ability to project. So projecting is the new posture, if you like. And that goes to Army as well. So what we are looking at is giving Army much longer-range strike capability, and that’s part of the announcement that we’ve made today with a very significant increase in the money that we’re spending on missiles. But we’re also enabling the Army to operate in a more littoral environment – that is, around coastal settings, in other words, making it much more mobile. And, again, that is about projection. So we actually think this will give rise to a much more focused Army and an Army which has a much greater capability to project.

KOCH: Okay. And do you care about the response from Beijing to this? Is it a bit hypocritical of them to slam this saying we’re hyping up the tensions in the region?

MARLES:  Well, I mean, China will say what it is going to say. I mean, we’re responsible for our own posture, and our own posture is about having a Defence Force which we have now re-tasked for the first time in 35 years, and at the core of that mission is to make our contribution to the collective security of the region in which we live – the Indo-Pacific. Because we understand that the defence of Australia doesn’t really mean that much in this day and age unless we have the collective security of the region in which we live.

KOCH: Yeah.

MARLES: That’s what we are seeking to do. That’s what we’ve explained to our neighbours in the region, in the Pacific, in the ASEAN countries, and I think that our strategic intent is very much understood by them.

KOCH: Okay. Just while we’ve got you, something completely different from defence, but the Prime Minister going to announce apparently in the next couple of days the funding, $240 million funding, of a new stadium in Hobart so it can have an AFL team in Tassie. How important is that?

MARLES: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what may or may not happen. I mean, obviously we work closely with the Tasmanian government about their infrastructure priorities and they will be announced in the normal course. Tasmania is obviously a very proud Aussie Rules Footy playing state, and we’re very keen to see them continue to play their part in the AFL landscape.

KOCH: Yep, all right. Good dancing around. A stadium would only cost about two missiles, so we need to keep it in perspective. Richard Marles, thanks for joining us.

MARLES: Thanks, Kochie.


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