Doorstop Interview, Parliament House Canberra

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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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27 June 2023

SUBJECTS: Ukraine War; Albanese Government’s assistance to Ukraine; Economy.

JOURNALIST: Deputy PM, we've heard that we've been speaking overnight saying there's going to be justice for those who've marched against him, your reaction to that?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we've seen over the course of the weekend is a crack in the Russian edifice. I think we've also seen an undermining of the authority on the Russian side, in the war in Ukraine, which is not a surprise because Russia's invasion of Ukraine was always immoral, and it was always illegal. And it's not a surprise to us that you would see the morale on that side of this conflict starting to crumble. And that's really what we've witnessed over the course of the last few days. That said, we still anticipate that the war in Ukraine will be protracted, and that Ukraine is going to need Australia and the world to stand with this for as long as it takes to stand with them. And we will do that.

JOURNALIST: The Opposition is saying that the money that's been given to Ukraine in the announcement from yesterday isn't enough. What more could we be doing and is it enough?

MARLES: Well, we are one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the support of Ukraine, and its war with Russia. Ukraine is certainly very grateful for the announcement that we made yesterday, and it comes off the back of three previous announcements since we came to power, and announcements prior to that made by the former government. In total, Australia's now committed $610 million worth of military assistance in support of Ukraine. Most of that has happened since Labor came to power. And we've been roughly doing an announcement every four months or so, and we expect that that will continue for as long as that's required.

JOURNALIST: No Hawkeis, no tanks in this particular package. And we know the Ukrainian Government's publicly supported this package. But some are saying we probably should be giving them those things. Is there any such commitment on the horizon on that front? Are there still issues with Hawkeis?

MARLES: Yeah, look, I'm not going to go into individual platforms. But Ukraine came to us with a menu of items which they felt could make a difference in terms of their effort, that was obviously very useful for us in terms of the conversation we then had with them. What we wanted to make sure was that we were responding to them with equipment that would make a difference in Ukraine. And that would help them in their effort and do so in a timely way. I mean, there are issues with both tanks and Hawkeis, and we we've talked Ukraine through the details of that. But the package that we announced yesterday is squarely in the frame of what Ukraine has been seeking, and that's armoured vehicles. The 113s, for example, are much more armoured in their nature than Hawkeis and will be able to perform a really important function for them on the battlefield.

JOURNALIST: New economic analysis out this morning from S&P is saying that we're going to be the second slowest performing economy in the Asia Pacific, just behind Japan. How do you think that pouring all of this money into another country sits with people when the cost of living is biting so terribly here?

MARLES: Well we've been focused on the cost of living from the moment that we came to government. And indeed, next week, we will see Labor's affordable childcare package come into play. And that's going to make a huge difference for families across the country. In December, we put in place a $1.5 billion dollar package which put downward pressure on energy bills, the Opposition opposed that. But without that package, we would be seeing energy bills higher. So we've been really focused on the cost of living, we've been focused on getting wages going, we've been focused on employment, which is strong, and we're doing something that the Liberals never did, and that's deliver a surplus.

JOURNALIST: Notwithstanding all the government has achieved in terms of cost of living and in all the measures we have seen, these figures are talking about 1.2 per cent growth next calendar year. How confident are you that the voting public still have faith in your government, the Albanese Government, to deal with these cost of living pressures? Is this something that government is concerned about that the longer it drags on, the less patient people will be with you?

MARLES: We understand and are really mindful of the pressures that are on the Australian people and on household budgets around the country. We're deeply concerned about that. And that has really informed all the decisions that we've taken since we've come to government. Around the Budget, we're completely focused on the cost of living, on getting wages going on employment and on prudent economic management. We will continue to do that. And obviously we'll be judged accordingly. But our focus is on making sure that we, in a very prudent way, deliver for Australians the strongest economy that we can and we're confident we're doing that.

JOURNALIST: But what's your message to Australian families then, who might not be economic experts, they don't necessarily know what's coming. Is it brace for impact?

MARLES: Well, our message is that in the Albanese Government you have a government, which is completely focused on your household budget, which in all our decisions, we'll be looking at ways in which we can help in terms of easing the pressure of the cost of living. And be it the downward pressure that we've placed on energy bills, what we've done with affordable childcare, cheaper medicines, fee-free TAFE places, we will be completely focused on making sure that we can play our part in helping Australian households to balance their budgets.


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