Radio interview, Triple M Townsville Breakfast

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

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28 September 2023

SUBJECTS: Army restructure.

STEVE PRICE, HOST: You know, one thing you can be sure of, and that's change. Well, I'm a good example. But as our city grows, we have a great future. You know, we have our bumps along the way, there's no doubt about that. But here's some positive stories, some extraordinary stories. And a good bloke, Richard Marles, he’s our Deputy PM. He's also Defence Minister. Let's find out what the news is, the knows phone's going. We’re 102.3 Triple M, yeah?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Hi. Is that Steve? It’s Richard Marles speaking.

PRICE: Oh, g'day, Marlsey. How are you, mate?

MARLES: Very good, how are you?

PRICE: I'm really good. I believe you had brekky with our Brigadier. Brekky with a Brigadier, hey?

MARLES: I did have brekky with the Brigadier.

PRICE: Did you have a little run as well along the Strand?

MARLES: Well, we went in the other direction, to Pallaren is it?

PRICE: Pallarenda it is. You can't stop that Brigadier. You know, he told me he swims around – swims from here, around the island and back.

MARLES: He said he goes in the water every day.

PRICE: He scares the sharks and the crocs, that boy. Mate. Welcome to town, our great garrison city. And he tells me you're a good bloke. And look, I believe everything the Brigadier says. Now, tell me about these big changes. We are a garrison city. We've seen all deployments. Now we're seeing even more changes.

MARLES: Well, that's right. So, what we'll be announcing today is a restructure of the Army nationally. But what it means for Townsville is an extra four to 500 people coming here over the course of the next two or three, mainly two, posting cycles. So, basically, over the next four years, which will be a big shift.


MARLES: Well, obviously, in terms of numbers. What we're doing with the brigade here is taking it from one – which is a brigade where, when you look at what we're doing, Darwin and Brisbane, the brigades do the same things. We're now having an emphasis and a specialisation, and here it's going to be around heavy armour. So, all the tanks in the Australian Army, for example, will now be based in Townsville, as well as our infantry fighting vehicles.

PRICE: Yeah – sorry. You said we need to adapt. That was your quote. Adapt to what?

MARLES: We need to adapt to a changing strategic landscape and one which is much more complex for the country. And so what that really means is we need a much more focused Defence Force than the one we've had over the last few decades. Which is not a criticism of what it's been, we've had a different set of strategic circumstances, but now we really need to be focused on our defence and the collective security of our region.

PRICE: Of course. What will this mean to this great city, do you think?

MARLES: Well, it's going to mean more people are coming here. It's going to mean, obviously, more equipment. I think probably to kind of take a step back and give a sense of the strategic value of Townsville. You said it's the great garrison city, that's absolutely right. I mean, along with Darwin, these are the two great garrison cities in our country. And the Defence Strategic Review really made clear that we need to have a focus on our northern bases. And so we are really seeing Townsville as being a platform from which we project, and in this case, projecting Army and projecting the heavy armour of Army – tanks, infantry, fighting vehicles –

PRICE: And aviators, too.

MARLES: Aviators as well. And that's both in terms of RAAF Base Townsville, but also in an Army sense what we're now seeing is the consolidation of our attack helicopters, what are currently the Tiger helicopters, but in the future will be the Apache and the Chinooks, they're obviously based out at the airport as well.

PRICE: We love them. Hey, are we going to get some Black Hawks up here?

MARLES: Black Hawks are going to be based down south, but Black Hawks move troops around so you’ll see Black Hawks from time to time.

PRICE: Can we get a gate guard, one of the older Black Hawks? I know you’ve got a shed of about 30 of them down there. Could we get one as a gate guard? You’re Defence Minister, you could fix that up for us.

MARLES: Ah, let me take that away.

PRICE: Mate, we really appreciate it. We got projects like the brilliant NQ Spark and so many others. We're very proud of our Defence and I know with the shake up in the Indo-Pacific and whatever, we do have to look ahead for whatever possible abilities and we do have to be prepared. So, this will be great for our city. Mate, thanks for coming up and thanks for talking to me.

MARLES: Absolute pleasure, Steve. Thanks for having me.


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