Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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29 June 2023

SUBJECTS: Deputy Prime Minister visit to Solomon Islands; New military and humanitarian assistance package for Ukraine.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in his assistant now, Matt Thistlethwaite. Matt, good to see you. Thanks for your time. So, what's the boss said, should I say superior? He's not really the boss, is he? You're superior anyway when it comes to the defence portfolio. What's he saying about concerns that he may or may not have about Solomon Islands and China?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, it's the Deputy Prime Minister's first visit to Solomon Islands since he's taken on the role of DPM, but it's certainly not his first visit. Richard's got a very strong and long-lasting relationship with the Solomon Islands and the Pacific more broadly. He's had some important meetings, most notably with the Prime Minister Sogavare to discuss regional assistance that Australia provides around security and combating illegal fishing, which is a huge issue. And of course, no doubt the discussions involve the issue of climate change, which is a major issue for the Solomons and for Pacific nations.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, just further, I didn't have time to ask the Treasurer this morning, but now you've got a bit more money heading towards a bigger surplus. Matt, are you going to send, and we're talking about defence here, are you going to send more money and better vehicles, better equipment to Ukraine?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, we've just announced a $100 million package of extra support for Ukraine. It comes on top of the already half a billion dollars of support that we've given. We've given weapons, we've given artillery, we've given vehicles like the Bushmasters, but that support continues, and it's pretty important support. And Australia is one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the resistance efforts by the Ukrainians, and they're doing a wonderful job in difficult circumstances, so that assistance will always continue to be reassessed. But at the moment, we provided a reasonable package, and it includes humanitarian relief as well.

STEFANOVIC: Sure. I had Simon Birmingham on earlier this week. He called that a token contribution when it comes to aid. But when it comes to vehicles, some of them are Vietnam War era. I mean, is that good enough now?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, they're still in circulation and they're still in use by the Australian military because they're capable vehicles and they do the job, and they're tried and tested. And certainly, that's why the Ukrainians need vehicles that they know will be able to perform in the role and do the job. And that's the assistance that Australia has supplied.

STEFANOVIC: Where are you this morning, Matt? You got a fête on behind you or something? I can hear some stray audio.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: So, Pete, I'm at a very chilly Eastlakes park where I've joined members of the local Muslim community for  Eid prayers, and it's a great tradition in the community here. So, I just completed those Eid prayers, and I'm about to go and have some breakfast with members of the Muslim community.

STEFANOVIC: Beautiful. Well done, Matt. Thank you. We'll talk to you again soon.


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