Television interview, Today Show

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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; MRH-90 incident investigation.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Military aviation investigators will travel to the Northern Territory where a US aircraft crashed over the weekend, killing three Marines and seriously injuring five more. Let's bring in Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles in Geelong. Richard, good morning to you. How are survivors doing this morning?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are five who are in the Royal Darwin Hospital. I don't know the circumstances of their condition, but obviously our thoughts are very much with them, as they are with the three personnel who lost their lives in what was a really tragic incident yesterday, as you said, on Melville Island north of Darwin. I think, again, this is highlighting the risks that there are in doing defence exercises, but these are really important exercises and the sacrifice of these personnel is felt deeply across the defence community.

STEFANOVIC: Well said. I mean, it's just awful, isn't it. Have you been in touch with your US counterpart, and how are they reacting?

MARLES: Look, I was in touch with Ambassador Kennedy yesterday and again overnight to express on behalf of the Government and also the country our condolences and to make clear that we were there, standing ready to provide whatever assistance we could. In fact, the agencies of the Northern Territory Government, along with the Australian Defence Force, were on hand almost immediately when this accident occurred. And as I said, the five who are in hospital are in the Royal Darwin Hospital now. And there's certainly gratitude on the behalf of Ambassador Kennedy for the support that we've provided. I mean, we work very closely with the United States, particularly at this time of year, because the Marine rotation is in Darwin through the dry season. The Ospreys, which are the type of aircraft that crashed, are a feature of Darwin at this time of year with the presence of the United States Marines. It's operated by the US Marines. And so, you know, just as the Americans were with us, sadly just a few weeks ago, in the Whitsundays, with the tragic loss of our own personnel in the helicopter accident, we're standing by the United States in this moment with them.

STEFANOVIC: Look, obviously there are some issues with that aircraft. On the ground, too, there must have been some extraordinary work done to get the survivors out during that scene. Is there any indication of what caused it yet?

MARLES: There isn't. What will happen now is a number of investigations will be triggered with an accident of this kind, including, I think, from the United States, and we'll work with the US around the jurisdictional basis of those. But we really do need to allow those investigations to play out to work out exactly what happened here. I mean, the Osprey is a very unique aircraft. It's effectively a helicopter which turns into a plane in flight. It is a troop carrier, there were 23 people on board. It's remarkable that in many ways, so many have survived. But obviously, this remains a very tragic incident and the loss of those lives are keenly felt.

STEFANOVIC: You raised the loss of the Australian military personnel, for the benefit of their families this morning, do you have any update at all on the investigation?

MARLES: Look, the investigation continues and we work very closely with the families of our lost crew about the recovery of the MRH-90. The waters in which the MRH-90 has gone down in are very difficult, and the diving circumstances there are amongst the most difficult that divers who have been involved have faced. It's a function of the depth and the currents around the Whitsundays, and so that continues. But we keep in close contact with the families about what is happening with the recovery there. And both of these are deeply tragic events and they do remind us of the risks involved in defence exercises. But again, these exercises are fundamentally important. You don't have a capable Defence Force unless you engage in exercises so that we can be match fit, but also exercises of this kind, Predators Run, which was the exercise that was occurring over the weekend, is with ourselves, the United States, with Indonesia, the Philippines and East Timor. It demonstrates our ability to work closely with those countries. There's a deterrent effect in doing the exercises, and so this is a very important part of what the Defence Force does and it's a reminder each and every day of the risks and the sacrifice that those who wear our uniform take.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, thank you.


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