Radio Interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW Mornings

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

Release content

11 October 2023

SUBJECT/S: Hamas-Israel conflict.

NEIL MITCHELL, HOST: Okay. Israel, the Middle East and Australia. On the line, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. Good morning.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Neil. How are you?

MITCHELL: How can this Government stand with people who are frightened to go out of their houses in Melbourne? What can you do? What is the gesture that you can make?

MARLES: Certainly, I definitely feel all the sense of anxiety that people have around the country at the moment and obviously, particularly members of the Jewish community. Ass you know, I was with them on Monday night. I mean we are looking very closely at what needs to be done in terms of additional security, particularly around Jewish schools. And that's been a matter where we've worked with the community over a long period of time in terms of providing–

MITCHELL: I'm told that in times of 9/11 we provided security for all Jewish institutions and schools. Could the same happen?

MARLES: Well, we're working with the community and working through those issues about what is the appropriate security and what's the best security that we can provide in these circumstances. But, I mean the fundamental point, really, you articulated in the way in which you asked your question, every Australian should have a right to go about their activities in this country free from fear and that absolutely includes kids going to school.

MITCHELL: Yeah. Do you accept that fear and nervousness is rampant within the community?

MARLES: I do, yeah. No, I do. I've had that expressed to me by members of the community in the last couple of days. Obviously, everything that's happened since Saturday is just appalling. And the sense that we had on Monday night was one of enormous sadness and I think that's the deep sense within the Jewish community now. But there is definitely an anxiety as well.

MITCHELL: You're aware of the reports, at least the bodies of 40 babies beheaded have been found in a kibbutz?

MARLES: I actually hadn't heard that, no. That’s appalling.

MITCHELL: Are all these things enough to get some of your colleagues to unequivocally condemn Hamas and support Israel's right to retaliation?

MARLES: Well, I feel that our position is really clear. I mean, we have been condemning Hamas, as we rightly should have been, from the moment that this occurred. I mean, this was an act of terror and an act of terror that has been wrought upon innocent people. And I'm trying to digest what you just said before, but it is an appalling set of circumstances that we saw play out in Israel and–

MITCHELL: But do we accept as a country, do we accept Israel's right to retaliate?

MARLES: We absolutely accept Israel's right to defend itself and to move on Hamas.

MITCHELL: So, does that involve attacks on Gaza? Do we support them attacking Gaza?

MARLES: We absolutely support Israel's right to move on Hamas and we've made that really clear. I mean, Israel's in a position right now where they need both to protect their own citizens, but to liberate them. I mean, they are facing the appalling situation where they have a significant number of their citizens being held hostage in the Gaza Strip as we speak. So, of course Israel has a right to act and we've been making that clear from the get go.

MITCHELL: One of your frontbenches, Tony Burke, has not. He does have a lot of Muslims in his electorate, but he stops short of those sort of comments. Do you believe he supports you? He supports the government line?

MARLES: Absolutely.


MARLES: Every member of the Government is really clear about the appalling actions of Hamas. And in the conversations I've had with people across the Government, there is unity about the appalling acts of Hamas. And when you look at the statements that the Government has made from– beginning with the Foreign Minister, as is right, the Prime Minister and myself, we've been completely clear that Hamas stands condemned, that this has been an act of terror that has been wrought upon innocent people, and that Israel absolutely has a right to respond and to defend itself.

MITCHELL: So, those initial calls for restraint are no longer operable?

MARLES: I mean, we're talking about comments that were made right at the start. As this has unfolded it is absolutely clear that Israel has a perfect right to defend itself and to act against Hamas. A circumstance where there are Israeli citizens who are held hostage in Gaza right now, I mean, it is an unspeakable position and obviously any government in the situation that Israel was in right now would be doing everything it could to seek to protect and to liberate its citizens.

MITCHELL: When will the national security meet? The Australian National Security Committee?

MARLES: Look, I'm not about to go into the timings of meetings–

MITCHELL: But it hasn't met yet, has it?

MARLES: Well I'm not going to go into the timings of meetings of the NSC. But frankly, the question about when a particular committee has met and making that an issue, as we've watched the Opposition seek to do, is really playing politics in a moment where this should be above politics. I want to be clear about this, Neil, from the very moment that I became aware of this, which was about 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, when I was advised by the Defence Force, and their particular focus was the security of Defence Force personnel of whom there are a few in the region and they are safe, we have been working with our agencies, we have been working with each other, we have been making the decisions the government needs to make, both in terms of the protection of Australians abroad and also security of Australians here at home and we continue to do that. And to focus on a particular timing, of a particular meeting, it’s not what this is about.

MITCHELL: Ok, well I'm asking, but not because of the Opposition, but I spoke to an Australian woman in Israel at the moment, Nicole Brodie, I spoke to her earlier today. She has a daughter on an Australian passport and twin boys, five years old, on Israeli passports. They were told they can't get a flight before Friday, if at all, and they were told they had to go to the embassy to get the visas fixed for the boys. She said I'm not going out in the war zone. This is what she said:

CALLER (clip): We’re Australian, I’m Australian. I'm bringing my kids. They actually can have an Australian passport, but we just don't have it. So, just to bypass that would be great.

MITCHELL: Can't we do anything to help get these people out? Even if we send repatriation flights? Will we look at repatriation flights?

MARLES: Yeah, look, we're looking at all options here. And, again, it's difficult for me to go into details publicly, but I want to reassure you again, really, from the minute that the news of all of this broke, we have been very focused on how we can assist Australians, obviously, who are in Israel. And the first thing was to be doing everything we could to look at the safety and welfare of Australians in Israel. But in terms of having Australians leave and return home, we are actively investigating a number of options now around how we can do that. And that's really in a circumstance where Tel Aviv airport remains open, but it is right that a number of airlines, a number of international airlines, are cancelling flights. And so, if you like, the avenue of travel is closing, hasn't closed, but it is more difficult. And in that context, we absolutely understand that there will be Australians who, as your caller has identified, who will want assistance and we're actively working on all of that as we speak.

MITCHELL: John Howard made the fair point today that in this country, we need to reduce the temperature. We need to reduce the temperature. We've got people in Melbourne marching with photographs of a terrorist leader, we've got ‘gas the Jews’ being chanted in Sydney. How does the government reduce the temperature?

MARLES: Well, we do need to reduce the temperature, so I agree with that proposition. We need to remember who we are as a nation. I mean, obviously, there are people across our country who have very passionate views about questions in the Middle East, about Israel and Palestine. We all understand that. We need to acknowledge that, quite aside from the broader issues of Israel and Palestine, this was a terrorist attack that was wrought upon innocents and there's no escaping that. But as we engage in this, it is really important that we are doing so in a way which is respectful to every Australian. And there is no place for the anti-Semitic comments that we have heard. I mean, what has been chanted at protests in this country is completely abhorrent and totally appalling and it must be condemned and we condemn it.

MITCHELL: We have a Sydney grandmother, Galit Carbone, first known Australian victim. Do you have any other reports on any other likely Australian casualties?

MARLES: I don't, but, yes, I can confirm that Galit Carbone, who's a 66 year old Australian woman living in Israel has lost her life in this appalling incident. We've been in contact, obviously, with her family both here and in Israel, and consular officials are obviously working with them, but our hearts absolutely go out to her family and this speaks further to the tragedy of what we've been seeing.

MITCHELL: We're in for the long haul, are we not?

MARLES: I think we are.

MITCHELL: It's not going to be over quickly.

MARLES: No, I agree with that. I think we are. And actually, I think that there's a whole lot of dimensions to that observation, but it's an important observation to make. But one of them is that it highlights, in a sense, the questions you were asking me earlier about the need for us to maintain civility in this country, because this is going to go on for a while and Australians are a peaceful people and it's really important that we are not turning on each other.

MITCHELL: Has Australia been asked for any aid or will Australia provide any military aid?

MARLES: No, we've not. Obviously our circumstances are very different to that in the United States. We're in contact with Israel, as you would expect, but there's been no talk of that and I think, given the circumstances, that's not surprising.

MITCHELL: Thank you very much for your time. Richard Marles, the Deputy Prime Minister.


Other related releases