Radio Interview, Perth Live with Oliver Peterson

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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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10 October 2023

SUBJECTS: Hamas-Israel conflict.

OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: Joining me now is the Defence and Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles. Good afternoon.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon, Ollie. How are you?

PETERSON: I'm well, thank you very much, Deputy Prime Minister. Firstly, have you got any further information on those reports that an Australian woman was kidnapped by Hamas in Israel?

MARLES: Look, I'm not in a position to confirm any information there and we are reticent about talking about individual cases, but we are very much monitoring the welfare of Australians who are in Israel now. There's about 10,000 Australians who live in Israel, a number of them are dual citizens and there'll be other Australians who are visiting and we are very concerned to be investigating the welfare of those people through our embassy in Israel and also through the community here in Australia.

PETERSON: Do you have any indication on how many of those 10,000 remain unaccounted for?

MARLES: I don't have that number. What I can say is that we don't have any confirmed reports of Australians either being killed or hospitalised as a result of the terrorist attacks that we've seen over the last few days.

PETERSON: Are you organising or considering evacuation flights for Australians to be able to leave Israel?

MARLES: Look, at this point, the Tel Aviv airport remains open and there are international flights going from Tel Aviv. We will obviously continue to monitor this situation closely. And it is right that there have been some international airlines which have cancelled flights into Tel Aviv, but as we speak, the airport is open and it is a situation that we're continuing to monitor.

PETERSON: Israel has obviously declared war. There is all out assaults on Gaza. Do you have any information if there are any Australians in that region?

MARLES: Again, there are the Australians who are in Israel, as I've described, and obviously we are monitoring what's occurred here and we're seeing the steps that Israel are taking and we understand them. I mean, in the face of what has occurred, we clearly understand Israel's right to defend itself, and more than that, to act in a way which seeks to protect and to liberate its citizens. I mean, this is going to be a fast moving situation and we will continue to assess it as it goes forward.

PETERSON: Has Israel requested any military assistance from Australia?

MARLES: No, they haven't, and there hasn't been any talk of that kind. I mean, again, it is important as part of the global community, that we stand in solidarity with the people of Israel, given the appalling act of terror that they have faced, given that we've seen more than 900 innocent people lose their lives as a result of this act of terror. And we very much stand in solidarity with Israel and we are obviously in communication in a constant way with the government of Israel.

PETERSON: Do you see war maybe spreading through the Middle East? Hezbollah has reportedly fired rockets into northern Israel from Lebanon. Is Iran, for example, even going to mobilise?

MARLES: Look we will, as I've said, continue to monitor this, so I don't think it helps for someone in my position to speculate about that. I mean, the circumstances given the significance – or the enormity, I should probably say – of the events that have occurred over the course of the weekend, is such that there's an uncertainty about what we will see going forward which is why it's obviously really important that we do continue to monitor events. But I think at this point, our focus is very much on Australians who are in the region. Our focus and our thoughts are very much with the people of Israel given the appalling act which has been wrought upon them, and we stand in solidarity with the people of Israel.

PETERSON: On the home front, we had protests in Sydney last night with chants like this:

(clip plays)

PETERSON: It's abhorrent, Minister, how can it go ahead? It's appalling, it could be a crime. How can a group of Australians gather and urge the killing of another group of Australians?

MARLES: Well, I am appalled by what you've just played and the reports that have come from those protests. I mean, obviously we understand that there is a broader context in the Middle East, but firstly, what we saw on the weekend was an act of terrorism which was not wrought upon combatants, it was wrought upon innocent people. People who were attending a music festival, people who were at home going about their daily lives. And when you hear chants of that kind, there's no other way to describe them than as being anti-Semitic. And there is really no – well, there's no place for that in our country. We understand that people feel passionately about issues in the Middle East, but debate in this country and the way in which we express ourselves in political discourse has to be done in a respectful way. And I'm appalled by what we have seen at the protest in Sydney last night.

PETERSON: It is sickening, isn't it? I didn't think we'd hear in 2023, people standing on the steps of the Sydney Opera House chanting, “kill the Jews, kill the Jews” would you?

MARLES: No. And I find it amazing that, as you say in this day and age, that we could be hearing chants and messages of that kind. It is appalling. And I think at this moment, whatever one's views about the Middle East, we just need to take a step back and see the clear fact that what occurred here was an act of terror against innocent people. And there isn't any place to start talking in the way in which we've heard, which ultimately is anti-Semitic and has no place within our society today.

PETERSON: Are there grounds to arrest the people who are making those sorts of chants?

MARLES: I mean, that's ultimately a matter for the NSW Police and for others. But what I would say is that in terms of the discourse in this country, that has no place and it should be condemned in the strongest terms and I do so.

PETERSON: There are plans, Deputy Prime Minister, for further protests, obviously, in Sydney this weekend, other cities in Australia as well. Should they go ahead?

MARLES: I think people should not be going ahead with protests of this kind. This was an act of terror and conducted by an organisation which is listed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian Government, by the Australian Government across governments of both persuasions. That's who has engaged in this. And it was innocent people who have lost their lives going about their daily business, seeking to enjoy life, those going to the music festival, seeking to enjoy being young. That's what was happening here. That is a tragedy. And in that moment, given what we have seen, we stand in solidarity with the people of Israel.

PETERSON: Richard Marles, thanks for your time this afternoon.

MARLES: Thank you, Ollie.


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