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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27 July 2023

SUBJECTS: Speculation on Army acquisition; Defence Strategic Review; Inflation figures; Energy prices.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in the Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite. Matt, good morning to you. Matt, can you confirm it or not?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Thanks, Pete. Great segue there, mate. Look, an announcement is going to be made at 9:30 this morning, and I don't want to steal the thunder of my colleague Pat Conroy, mate, this is his big moment, so I'm certainly not going to steal his thunder. It is speculation at this point in time, but an announcement will be made about the contract for the infantry fighting vehicle. It's an important part of the land forces development for the Australian Defence Force. And I think it reiterates the message that we had as a government coming out of the Defence Strategic Review, that we would take our time and assess the priorities that were identified through the DSR and make those commitments in due course. And one of those commitments will be made this morning. And it's part of a $19 billion program that the Albanese Government has to invest in better capability of all domains within our Defence Force. But this is an announcement that will come this morning about our land forces.

STEFANOVIC: Just tell us about the capability then, of this redback vehicle. What can it do, where can it go?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, they're quite mobile. They're an infantry fighting vehicle, so they're armoured vehicles and obviously they provide a mobile capability for the Australian Defence Force. And importantly, what we've seen in Ukraine, although there's been a lot of concentration on the space domain, on the cyber domain, and they're very important, traditional fighting, if you like, has been to the fore in that battle, and they've been traditionally land forces. So, the more we can do to bolster the Australian Defence Forces capability in that traditional area, the better.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. So, built by South Korea. Made in Geelong. I mean, we're talking about a $6 billion injection for the Victorian economy here. I mean, that's massive.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yean, look, if this is the announcement that is made this morning, it is a huge investment for the Victorian economy in jobs there. And it's also a testament, I think, to manufacturing here in Australia. And it's a big focus of the Albanese Labor Government to make sure that we're building and making and manufacturing here in Australia once again. And you often hear stories about manufacturing jobs going overseas. Well, we're bringing them back and this is a classic example of that.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, good news story. Now, just aside from that at the moment, also good news. Inflation is coming down, Matt. But you can't pop the champagne corks just yet, can we? Because we're looking at power prices at the moment up 31% in three months.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, you're right. We're certainly not out of the woods, Pete. And we've said that it's going to take a bit of time for inflation to moderate, but the important thing is that it's headed in the right direction. And I think that that is testament to the fact that we said with our Budget priorities that we would be focusing on providing cost of living relief for families and small businesses to get them through this difficult period without adding inflationary pressure. And that appears to be working. Those figures indicate that inflation is moderating, but we're certainly not out of the woods. I just will say, in terms of electricity prices, wholesale electricity prices have started to come down. And that's a good thing because there's more renewables coming into the system and we're still generating from coal fired power as well. And most of those stations have been operating, hasn't flowed through yet to retail prices, and people are still feeling the pinch with retail prices. And that's why we introduced those energy price caps, and we've got those rebates in place as well.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Matt Thistlethwaite. We'll leave it there. Appreciate your time, though. We'll talk you soon.


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