Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition

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

11 July 2023

SUBJECT/S: Additional support for Ukraine; NATO; Climate Club; Robodebt; polls; Cost of living

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Live now to the Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles. Good to see you, Richard. Thanks for your time this morning. So, we've got this announcement from Anthony Albanese in relation to our planes above the skies in Ukraine overnight. Is this as close as we will get to boots on the ground?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, good morning, Pete. This is an important deployment. It's important to understand this will be a deployment to Germany. But the E-7 is a highly capable aircraft in terms of what it does, providing really eyes in the sky and communication to a whole range of other military assets. So, it's a critical enabler in terms of both military support here, but also support to humanitarian efforts in relation to Ukraine. We've been working with our partners, as I've said repeatedly in interviews with you, not just with Ukraine, but with the US, with the UK about how best we can provide assistance to the effort in Ukraine. The E-7 is actually an aircraft of such capability that it's a capability that is not unique to Australia, but we're one of the few countries which actually operates it at this level. And so there was a desire from others to see us make this contribution, and we're very pleased to be able to do that.

STEFANOVIC: How likely is it or how possible is it, though, that it could be targeted by Russians as it flies above Ukraine?

MARLES: Well, firstly, it won't be flying above Ukraine, in the sense that it will not be in Ukrainian airspace or Belarusian airspace or Russian airspace. And that's an important point to understand, and it doesn't need to do that in order to be able to perform the functions-

STEFANOVIC: So where does it fly functions that it provides?

MARLES: Well, I obviously won't go into the specifics of that, but it will be flying in airspace other than that. But it is able to provide the support, the communication support and the like from a distance, which can still do what is needed to be done in terms of providing the military support to the effort in Ukraine as well as the humanitarian support in relation to the defence of Ukraine.

STEFANOVIC: So, just flying around-

MARLES: We're confident- we'll answer your question- we're confident about the fact that it won't be targeted because it will not be going into those airspaces, but it will be able to provide a really important enabling function in this conflict.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, when does that begin? When will our troops head off? We've got about 100 of them, right?

MARLES: Yeah, there's 100 people who will be part of the deployment. It's going to happen in the next couple of months. Again, I'm not going to go into the specific of the timing, but we've been working with our partners for some time now about this deployment, about when it is most usefully needed- it's for six months, and so it does play an important part in terms of the timing of other operations that occur. And so we're pleased to be able to make this contribution.

STEFANOVIC: The Prime Minister is to meet Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the NATO summit. Will there be more announcements? Will there be more support for Ukraine?

MARLES: Well, again, it's not going to surprise you that I won't pre-empt anything that will happen in the conversation between the Prime Minister and the President. We've just made a very significant announcement, not just in terms of today, but a couple of weeks ago in support of Ukraine. And that really comes on the back of a drumbeat of making an announcement every four months or so in support of Ukraine. I think the important point to understand here, we understand this is going to be a protracted conflict that Ukraine must prevail, that they need to be in a position where they can resolve this conflict on their own terms. And that is going to require the international community, certainly countries like Australia, to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. And we will do that. And that does imply that going forward there will need to be more help as this conflict evolves. We've always understood that and that's why we've made the contributions in the way we have. And I'm sure that in the conversation that happens between the Prime Minister and the President, they'll talk about how the conflict is going and the future of Australian support to Ukraine.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Australia also overnight signing up to Germany's climate Club. Would you expect that now gives us the green light to complete that EU trade deal?

MARLES: I think it's an important step in relation to the EU trade deal. I mean, again, to go back one step, really, the change in position under this government in respect of climate change, in relation to our own emissions, but also the role that we are playing internationally, has been a critical component of getting those conversations going in a much more meaningful way around a free trade agreement with the European Union. But this is a really exciting opportunity, specifically in terms of our bilateral relationship with Germany. Germany is actually a really exciting relationship. I think historically measured over the last few decades. Germany is probably the largest country with whom we've probably had the smallest relationship but that really is now changing and changing big time. And one of the aspects in which that's changing is around the partnership on clean energy. Germany looks to us as a source for clean energy, clean hydrogen and the like, and the opportunity for Australian industry in terms of supporting the energy needs of Germany and the opportunity in terms of trade associated with that relationship is massive for Australia, and it highlights that us moving down the path of a lower emissions economy and embracing renewable energy is also an economically great decision for our country because it opens up these opportunities.

STEFANOVIC: Just a couple more quick ones. The Labor government has been critical of the former government's involvement in Robodebt, but there was questionable practices by the top public servant, Kathryn Campbell, now working in defence on a salary of about $900,000. She's on leave, but will she be returning to the job?

MARLES: Look, I'm not going to discuss any individual in defence, or indeed any individual across the public service, and for good reason. The sealed section of the Royal Commission outlines- and I haven't obviously read it because it is sealed- but outlines processes in respect of those-

STEFANOVIC: She’s in your department, though, are you comfortable working with her? Working on AUKUS.

MARLES: Let me just complete that I was about to give; in terms of those who have been the subject of adverse findings and the processes that are articulated in the Royal Commission report, the steps in respect of that are being taken and have been as of yesterday. The report came down on Friday. Steps started being taken yesterday in terms of referring people to the APS Commissioner, to the AFP, to the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the like. So, that is now happening. I am not going to discuss the circumstances of any individual and again, for good reason, irrespective of what department they are in. It is right that Kathryn Campbell has been working in the Department of Defence and in respect of AUKUS over the last twelve months she has done that role. But I'm not about to discuss the circumstances of any individual.

STEFANOVIC: And just finally, your government has been lashed over the cost of living in a new poll and you've been singled out, Richard, voters have marked you down with a negative three rating. How do you feel about that?

MARLES: Well, look-

STEFANOVIC: laughing it off, not too concerned.

MARLES: I've been in this game for a while, the only reason why I'm laughing it off is Pete, because I know that polls come and go, but to live by living by them is a recipe for doing your head in. So, I mean, the only thing we can do, both for my own mental health and in terms of being a good government, is to focus on doing that, being a good government. And we are very focused on the issues of cost of living and have been since the day that we were elected. As of the beginning of this month, we now have a much more affordable childcare system and that's just one example, along with fee free TAFE, the downward pressure that we placed on energy bills, cheaper medicines and the like. And the reason we have been focused on that is because we really do understand the pressure that cost of living- the cost of living pressures that people are experiencing fundamentally as a result of a globally inflationary environment. And it's been central to our economic strategy. We're going to keep focused on that and we're not going to be paying much attention to polls which will come and will go.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Richard Marles. Appreciate your time. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon.


Other related releases