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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6 October 2023

SUBJECTS: Voice to Parliament Referendum; Nixon Report on Australia’s immigration system; China relationship.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Independent Senator Lidia Thorpe has unleashed on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese over the Voice and the failure of authorities to protect her from repeated and targeted threats. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton join us now. Morning guys, nice to see you. Richard, to you first up. Is the AFP investigating the Neo-Nazi video? I mean, it's appalling isn’t it?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well there's no place for the video that we saw and this debate needs to be done in a respectful way and frankly, those who are participating in the debate, certainly public representatives, including Lidia Thorpe, need to be able to go about their business in a way which is safe. The AFP obviously acts independently of government and they're charged with the safety of all MPs and I certainly have confidence in the AFP. But I think what this really says is that we need to be moving forward with this debate in a way which is respectful and which goes to the issues at hand. It's obviously a very important moment for the country. We believe it can be a very unifying moment for the country, but it's so important that this debate is done in a respectful way.

STEFANOVIC: It certainly doesn't feel that at the moment, does it. Just on that security question though, does she have adequate protection?

MARLES: Well, again, this is done at arm's length from government. It is a matter for the AFP and the AFP assess all Members of Parliament in terms of their security. I have confidence in the AFP, it's a great agency, but certainly every Member of Parliament, but every person who's participating in this debate should be able to do so in a manner where they feel safe.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Pete, Ray Martin says if you don't know, vote no. He says it's an excellent slogan, if you're a dinosaur or a –head. Which one are you?

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, I'm sure Ray thinks millions of people are both. But I just think actually, it demonstrated the arrogance of the Yes campaign. And these sort of comments actually drive people to a No position because they're just asking reasonable questions. And when Ray says, well, the detail’s out there, the fact is it's not and everybody realises that. And I think the arrogance of elites and celebrities like Ray Martin, the funny thing actually is Ray out of it, that he has no idea how much damage he's done to the Yes case and it just makes people, I think, more reluctant, you know, tradies and others who are just saying I want to help indigenous people, but the Prime Minister's not putting the detail out there so I don't understand it, i'm not voting for it. And to be abused by Ray Martin, who is revered by, or has been revered by a lot of Australians and for him to double down over that issue overnight is a bit rich. And of course the Prime Minister was sitting there in the audience applauding him for the comments he made.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, what are you going to do, just over a week to go, if it doesn't get up?

MARLES: We're focused on getting it up, Karl and that's what we're doing each and every moment between now and the 14th of October. And in my engagements with people around the country, when you explain what we're trying to do about having our First Nations people recognised in the Constitution as the custodians of this continent for 65,000 years, people think that makes sense. And the idea that what we would do is we will listen to Indigenous Australians on issues which affect them so that we can close the gap of social disadvantage, people get that that's fair–

STEFANOVIC: There's no plan B?

MARLES: And so we’re focused on making those arguments in a respectful way.

STEFANOVIC: But there’s no plan B?

MARLES: Well we've made clear – I mean, unlike Peter, we've made clear this is the referendum that we're putting to the Australian people. Under us there's not going to be a second referendum, which is what Peter's been out there saying, that he's going to have another referendum if this one fails. We've made clear what the plan is. This is what we took to the last election, that we would give Australians this decision. We're giving Australians this decision and we are making our arguments coming from a place of conviction. We're being positive about that and we'll see what Australians say on the 14th of October.

STEFANOVIC: To be honest with you both, either way, whatever the decision, I'll be glad when it's over. I'm sick of the fights at barbecues. Every weekend it's the same. Pete, Clare O'Neil came out swinging on yesterday's show saying this about how the Coalition government handled abuses of temporary visa holders.

CLARE O’NEIL, MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Peter Dutton created the Home Affairs Department. He was the Immigration Minister for almost the entire time that the Coalition were in government. And while he was roaming around the country telling everyone what a tough guy he was on borders, he was actually cutting the migration compliance function in our Department, taking his eye off the ball of what was happening in the migration system. And all of these problems emerged under his watch. This is his legacy and I think it's really appropriate that he come forward and explain why there was such a profound difference between what he said and what he was doing.

STEFANOVIC: What have you done to Clare, Pete?

DUTTON: Well Karl, I cancelled the visas of over 6,000 people including bikies, and sex offenders, and rapists, and paedophiles, et cetera, et cetera. Our country is safer because of that. We got all of the kids out of detention Labor put in there. They had 50,000 people arrive on 800 boats and 1,200 drowned at sea. We brought an end to all of that. We don't have the dysfunction on our borders now. The Labor Party, including Clare O'Neil and Anthony Albanese spent years saying how hard I was and that I was too hard, now they're saying that I'm a marshmallow. There's no consistency in what they're saying and there’s no legitimacy in–

STEFANOVIC: I don't think you've ever been described as a marshmallow.

DUTTON: That's how I am on the inside, Karl. What are you talking about?

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, a big, soft, cuddly teddy bear. Hey, Richard, just before we go, Anthony Albanese's trip to China could pose a security threat, we learned this week. Now, I do feel like you can talk with some experience about this, having spent a bit of time on RAAF planes. Are they safe or not?

MARLES: Well, RAAF planes are safe, obviously that's not the issue that's been raised and it's difficult for me to go into that. But I simply say, this is a really important visit. We need to stabilise our relationship with China. They're our largest trading partner, they're obviously a country that matters to Australia. The relationship was not in a good way when we came to power and this is important in stabilising the relationship in terms of getting trade back on track, which is what we've seen, but it's important from our national security point of view. We've got the defence dialogue back in place now, that's really critical in terms of avoiding miscalculation, misunderstanding. This trip is a really important trip and I'm sure it's going to be a success.

STEFANOVIC: All right, good to see you guys. Thank you so much, have a good week. Appreciate it.


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