Television interview, Sunrise

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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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28 August 2023


SUBJECTS: US Marine Corps Osprey incident.

MATT SHIRVINGTON, HOST: Returning to our top story this morning and an investigation is underway after three US Marines were killed in a chopper crash in the Northern Territory. The aircraft went down near Melville Island, 60 kilometres north of Darwin on Sunday. 23 Americans were on board the V-22 Osprey helicopter. That type of aircraft is used for military training exercises in the area, which also involve Defence personnel from Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Timor-Leste.

Joining me now is Defence Minister Richard Marles, good morning to you. Can you give us an update first off, the rescue mission of the aircraft, how's it going this morning?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are agencies from the Northern Territory Government, obviously the Australian Defence Force, who are providing all the assistance we can in terms of the rescue, and now the recovery of the aircraft. As you've just reported, three American Marines were killed, another 20 were onboard and five of them are now in the Royal Darwin Hospital. Obviously, our thoughts are very much with the families of those Marines. This is a desperately sad and tragic event, and it just reminds us how dangerous and how risky defence exercises, but they are fundamentally important for our national security. I've been in contact with Caroline Kennedy, the American Ambassador, and obviously expressed our thoughts and condolences on behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people to her.

SHIRVINGTON: Do we actually know what happened, how the aircraft came down?

MARLES: We don't. It happened around 9.30 yesterday morning. But the facts surrounding how the accident occurred is still something that is being investigated. And obviously, what will now happen is this will trigger a number of investigations which occur in an event of this kind, which I think will also include the United States. And we will work with the US around the jurisdictional basis of the various investigations that occur. But, I mean, the answers to those questions will take some time to come out with those investigations.

SHIRVINGTON: So, do we know if some of the troops jumped from the aircraft before it actually crashed?

MARLES: Again, I'm not aware of the specifics of that, and I think all of the details surrounding the crash and the survivability of it for those who did survive will come out in the investigation.

SHIRVINGTON: Richard, we know this all too well, unfortunately, with the ADF crash in the Whitsundays only within the month. It calls into question, doesn't it, the safety of these exercises? The safety of the aircraft being used?

MARLES: I mean, the Osprey is a platform, an aircraft which is used by the US Defense Force. We don't use it ourselves. It is something that the Marines use as part of their rotation in Darwin. So, Ospreys are a feature of the American presence in Darwin through the dry season. I mean, defence exercises carry risk. In doing these exercises, we seek to simulate the experiences that would happen in conflict. And that's important, so that we have a Defence Force which is obviously match fit and that we are demonstrating the capability of working closely together with our partners. Which is what was occurring in this particular exercise, which, as you said, involved in Indonesia, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, along with Australia and the United States. It's really important that we engage in exercises. You don't have a capable Defence Force unless you do that. But these carry risk, and that is a very sad part of this. But it's also, of course, why in this moment, we think very much of the sacrifice of these three Marines.

SHIRVINGTON: Yeah, that's right. No, our thoughts are with them, that's for sure. Minister, thanks for joining us.

MARLES: Thank you.


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