Interview with Sarah Abo, 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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27 June 2023

SUBJECTS: Albanese Government’s support to Ukraine.

SARAH ABO, HOST: Following a chaotic weekend in Russia, Australia has pledged a further $110 million to support the war effort in Ukraine. The new round of assistance will include 70 extra vehicles, but critics say it's too little, too late. Let's bring in Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles in Canberra. Richard, thanks so much for your time this morning. This assistance package has been labelled underwhelming, your opponents saying it's just coming out of the existing Defence budget. What do you say to that?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, this takes our overall support to Ukraine to $610 million. Most of that's actually happened since Labor came to power. It places us as one of the largest non-NATO contributor to supporting Ukraine in its effort. The package that we announced yesterday, which has come on the back of three packages prior to that – we're essentially making an announcement every four months or so – the package yesterday was welcomed by the government of Ukraine, we worked it through with the government of Ukraine and directly goes to the sorts of equipment that the government of Ukraine is seeking, which is armoured vehicles.

ABO: We did speak to a minister in Ukraine earlier who was very grateful for the support they're receiving from Australia. But I guess this – overall they do want aerial support which isn't coming. There are other things in there like the key requests of Hawkeis, Abrams tanks or additional Bushmasters these are needed right now to put a dent in this war. Can you promise they're coming?

MARLES: Well, I'm not going to go into individual platforms. Ukraine in this instance came to us with a menu of items which they thought could be of use to them, which was very useful in terms of the conversation we were having about how we could support. We've worked through that with Ukraine, looking at the sorts of equipment that we can provide and the ways in which we can help and do that in a way which will make a difference for Ukraine on the battlefield and do so in a timely way. We've gone through all of the issues around Hawkeis and tanks, and we've taken Ukraine through all that, and we've ended up with the package we're providing. We will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes, which we imagine will be a protracted conflict for Ukraine to determine this conflict on its own terms.

ABO: This Wagner mutiny over the weekend, although short-lived showed a real threat to Putin's rule. It's been a bit difficult to follow what is exactly happening there. Do you think his military power is cracking?

MARLES: I think it is a crack in the edifice, that's how I would describe it. You’re right, it is difficult to know exactly what's going on in Russia. But clearly this is an undermining of President Putin's authority. It's not to say – I mean, he is continuing to rule Russia and I think we are continuing to prepare for a protracted conflict in Ukraine and therefore Ukraine is going to need our support. But there is no doubt this is an undermining of his authority. I think it also speaks to the authority behind the original invasion and the morale on the Russian side on that front. It's a crumbling of that. I think that's one of the big things in all of this.

ABO: One of the other major concerns, as you would know, is what impact this might have beyond Ukraine across Europe. Britain has already come out warning we must be prepared for a Russian collapse. I mean, is it actually scarier, is it worse, to have a weakened Putin who might be erratic, who might be trying to hold on to power in any way he can?

MARLES: Well, again, it's hard to speculate about what may or may not happen. Obviously we need to be ready for every –

ABO: But you must be concerned about that?

MARLES: Well, this is an entirely concerning situation, and it has been from the moment that we saw the invasion of Ukraine. We need to be prepared for every eventuality. But our focus right now is, as interested as we are in what has occurred over the course of the weekend, we still assess that the conflict in Ukraine will be protracted and that Ukraine is going to need our support for quite a long time to come. So we've made clear to Ukraine and yesterday's announcement was part of this, that we will stand with them for as long as it takes for them to be able to resolve this on their terms.

ABO: Are you concerned as Britain about a collapse in Russia?

MARLES: I mean, we are concerned about all the potential eventualities and we will prepare for them. Our focus is on supporting Ukraine right now.

ABO: Thanks so much for your time.

MARLES: Thanks.


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