Press Conference - Fremantle, Perth

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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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19 July 2023

JOSH WILSON, MEMBER FOR FREMANTLE: Good afternoon everyone. It's great to be here at the Cockburn Arc, on Beeliar Boodjar in Cockburn and the Dockers HQ, the headquarters of the Fremantle Football Club. I acknowledge we’re on Whadjuk Noongar land. I acknowledge that we’ve been welcomed here by Colleen Hawyard who is a leader in the Noongar community and a board member at Fremantle. And we've met with two absolute champions, the captains for Fremantle of AFLW and AFL sides, Hayley Miller and Alex Pearce.

More importantly, it's great to have Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles here with me, a colleague and a friend and an avid– or I should say devoted supporter of the Geelong Football Club. Geelong and Fremantle have more in common than some might think. We're both AFL loving port cities. And I can say as a passionate representative from Fremantle, I’m glad we've shared some distinctive Fremantle products which Geelong along over the years, including Little Creatures beers and East Fremantle legend, Harry Taylor. But what Richard and I have in common with the Fremantle Football Club is our recognition of the momentous opportunity that's before the Australian community in 2023. And that is to finally achieve constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the form of a Voice to Parliament. And it's great to be here at a time when the whole Australian community is looking to walk together on that path towards greater dignity, and respect, and unity, and decision making quality through improved consultation.

The Fremantle Football Club, I'm proud to say as a long term supporter, has always made engagement with and respect for Indigenous people one of its core values. In fact, the Fremantle Football Club has more games played by First Nations players than any other AFL club. And that's something that I think is significant to note. Right around Australia at the moment there is this community campaign on the path to a Yes 23 outcome, a significant, momentous achievement when we can finally get First Nations Australians recognised the Constitution and create a mechanism for hearing from them. And it really is fantastic to have the Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, here with us as part of that effort.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you Josh. And it's great to be here with Josh Wilson, the Member for Fremantle, and to be here at the home of the Fremantle Football Club, Walyalup, and to be hosted today by Alex, Hayley and Colleen. This football club, as Josh said, has a deep history with our First Nations people. 36 Indigenous men and 12 Indigenous women have put on the Fremantle jersey and represented this club in the AFL and the AFLW. And right from the beginning, you see in Fremantle, a celebration of the First Nations history of the club, but also the First Nations present, and the nurturing of the First Nations future. And you can see that in the presence of the captain of the Fremantle Football Club, Alex Pearce, who is a proud Palawa man from Tasmania. Alex has given me today a jersey, or one of the jerseys, which was from the Sir Doug Nicholls round, which Alex helped co-design, which tells Alex’s story, his journey from Tasmania to Fremantle, where he is now doing such a fine job representing this football club.

And just as we see Fremantle celebrate and recognise its connection with First Nations people, this year there is an opportunity for our country to do the same. To do the same in making sure that our national document reflects the fact that our First Nations people were the custodians of this continent for 65,000 years. And our national document is not complete, our Constitution is not complete until that recognition occurs. And at the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart the Indigenous leadership of our country asked that that recognition occur in a practical way, through consulting with Indigenous people around issues which particularly affect them by having a Voice to Parliament. And they wanted that practical recognition in the Constitution. Because we have a persistent and stubborn gap in social outcomes between Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians. We, I think like to feel around this country that at the heart of the Australian ethos is the idea of a fair go for all. But when a group of Australians, by virtue of their birth, live shorter lives, live less healthy lives, receive less education and are poorer, it is difficult to in fact claim that there is a fair go for all. And the persistent gap which exists in social outcomes between our First Nations people and the rest of the country really is an offence to the idea of the Australian fair go. And this is really what's at the heart of the referendum that will be held later this year. It's why the Fremantle Dockers, along with a whole lot of other sporting organisations around the country, are supporting the Yes case in the referendum.

This is going to be a wonderful opportunity for the growth of our country, for making things right with our First Nations people. And I think there is actually a yearning out there in the Australian public to do that. And we are very much looking forward to the opportunity, for our nation, that the referendum later this year will present.

JOURNALIST: There's a lot of confusion in WA at the moment around our Aboriginal Heritage Act.

How concerned are you that the rollout of that and the confusion has damaged the Voice’s chances in WA?

MARLES: The WA Act is obviously a matter for the West Australian government and they're working through the issues associated with that. I'm not concerned. Last week, I was actually in the Pilbara at the Yule River Bush Meeting and in the call to action which was adopted by that meeting, the Heritage Act was not an issue which came to the fore. I mean what people were concerned about in the Pilbara, and I think this reflects the concerns of First Nations people around the country, were issues around health, education, housing, community safety. That's actually where the gap exists. And it is the closing of the gap which is the practical outcome which this country needs to see, which is at the heart, I think, of First Nations’ concerns. And I think that is kind of come to the fore in the way in which First Nations people consider the referendum, but also the way in which the whole of Australia and the whole of Western Australia sees this decision.

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister has been caught up in a heated exchange on radio with Ben Fordham, is that any indication that Anthony Albanese is frustrated? It was about the voice. Is it an indication that he's frustrated with how the campaign, the Yes campaign, is going?

MARLES: No, I don't think that at all. What I would say, knowing the Prime Minister very well, is that he is as passionate about this as any issue. And, you know, I think what the Prime Minister wants to see, I think what we all want to see, is our country to move forward in a way where we make we make things right with our First Nations population. Where we do that in terms of getting the symbols right, the recognition in the Constitution, but we do it in a way which makes a practical difference. The persistent gap which exists now must be closed, and we've got to change the way we do business. The Voice offers a real opportunity to do that. And I think the Prime Minister is very passionate about all of this, all of that, as are we all.

JOURNALIST: So you would describe it as passionate rather than frustrated?

MARLES: Well, I'm not going to comment on the interview specifically. What I know is that the Prime Minister generally is very passionate about this issue, as are we all, and for good reason.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask about the Commonwealth Games. As the member for your local electorate are you disappointed that the rug has been pulled from underneath?

MARLES: Well, you're right that the Commonwealth Games– Geelong was going to be at the centre of that and I am as the Member for Corio, really the member for Geelong. We're watching Kardinia Park’s final stand being built, and hopefully it will come online in December. And of course it's where the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games would have been. So the answer your question is, yeah, I think we're all disappointed in regional Victoria about what's happened here. But ultimately, this is a decision for the Victorian Government. We understand that. We respect that. The Victorian government's made clear to the communities of regional Victoria, including my community of Geelong, that the infrastructure that was promised as associations with the Games will be delivered. And we welcome that and we look forward to working with Victorian government to see that happens.

JOURNALIST: Putting the reasons aside, do you still feel like this is a bad look for Victoria?

MARLES: Well, look, I'll let the Victorian government ultimately answer those questions. I mean, as a as a citizen of regional Victoria and a place that was going to be part of hosting the games, a really significant part of hosting the Games, obviously there is a sense of disappointment. I think now though, we want to make sure that the infrastructure that was going to be built which, you know –

for people's interest in Geelong was going to be the swimming centre and a couple of other facilities, but the swimming centre was the main part of it – we want to make sure that that's ultimately delivered.

JOURNALIST: As Defence Minister, what can you tell us about this crash in Central Queensland involving an Army vehicle?

MARLES: Yes, I was literally made aware of this a couple of hours ago and have spoken with Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, who is the Chief of Joint Operations which manages exercise Talisman Sabre, which kicks off this weekend. A US tank was being transported in a truck from Gladstone Port to the Shoalwater Bay training area. In the course of that on the Bruce Highway, just south of Rockhampton, there was a crash. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, but it was a serious crash. Six people have been injured, one seriously. All are receiving treatment. There will obviously be an investigation by the relevant authorities in respect of the crash. Obviously, our thoughts are very much with those who have been injured and their families and where Defence can assist in this it will.

JOURNALIST: So local (inaudible) the investigation?

MARLES: Well, I think the investigation will be done by the relevant authorities, which I imagine will be the transport authorities in Queensland. But wherever Defence can assist it will.

JOURNALIST: Just back on the Commonwealth Games. When was your Government made aware of the cost blowouts for that event?

MARLES: Well, I mean, there's been an ongoing conversation, obviously, with the Victorian government. But I mean, the announcement that the Victorian government made was yesterday. They have explained the situation in relation to cost there. And this has been an issue which has been principally dealt with by the Victorian government.

JOURNALIST: Did they ever ask for assistance?

MARLES: I mean, we've been working with the Victorian government, and that's been a matter of public record. But ultimately, this has been a matter that– I mean, the Victorian government bid for the Commonwealth Games, it was their decision to pursue the Commonwealth Games and the decision that they made yesterday theirs as well.

JOURNALIST: The majority of Australians are opposed to your migration plan, will you cut back on the number of people coming to Australia this year?

MARLES: Well, the migration plan is one that is worked through and obviously what we're seeing in terms of migration is something of a return to normal post the pandemic. So the so the larger numbers in terms of coming in are a function of the pandemic having happened and we don't have the same numbers going out. I think what you're going to see with migration numbers over the journey is that as the pandemic, in a sense, works its way through and we get past it, things will return to normal.


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