Television Interview, Today Show

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

13 October 2023

SUBJECTS: Hamas-Israel conflict; Voice to Parliament

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Welcome back. The first flight to evacuate Australians from Israel is due to takeoff later today. The government now receiving a large demand from Aussies trying to escape. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles from Melbourne and Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton in Brissie. Guys, thank you so much for your time today. A lot going on. Richard, let's start with that repatriation mission. I can't quite recall anything like it in my memory. This is a massive logistical exercise, some of which obviously needs to be kept under wraps, but it's also incredibly dangerous. A lot of moving parts.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Yeah, look. That's true, Karl. So, we've got Qantas flights which will be taking people from Ben Gurion, which is the Tel Aviv airport, to London, and we are working very closely on that. We've obviously put a lot of energy into this and we've got- looking at other avenues in which we can provide assistance or travel to those who are looking to leave Israel at the moment. There's actually about 10,000 Australians who live in Israel, a lot of them are dual citizens and it's not about moving all of them, most of them are wanting to stay. But you're right, there is a significant demand on the part of a number of Australians to leave and we're doing everything we can to provide that assistance.

STEFANOVIC: Look, I can understand that some of the details are going to come in the fullness of time, but do you know how many roughly are coming out? Can you give us a rough idea? And even just the logistics of moving these people from wherever they are in Israel to the airport comes with its dangers and then what happens when they get to London? Is there anything else that's been organised to help them get home?

MARLES: Yeah, so, I think the way for me to answer the question about the size of the demand is that it's measured in hundreds. You're right, there are issues around safety of travel, within Israel I mean, but we're giving advice around that. At this point the Jordanian border, the Israeli-Jordanian border remains open and so we're focused on that as well. In terms of those who we're providing flights to London, we will then be looking at what assistance can be provided at that point in terms of getting people home, but obviously the priority is getting those who want to leave Israel to get them out.

STEFANOVIC: Look, I think it's a great thing that the country is doing this. Richard, we spoke to, for example, a Queensland mum. There's a lot of anxious parents- a Queensland Mum in Townsville, I think her 15 year old son is stuck in Israel on a study tour- needs to get out, can't because he's 15. So, she needs a bit of help with that. And we might pass on her details to your department, but-


STEFANOVIC: But, there's a lot of emotion around this at the moment and a lot of anxious people.

MARLES: Yeah, I mean, that's absolutely right. I mentioned 10,000 Australians living there, but of course, there will be other Australians who are there, such as the person you've just described, who will be there on short term visits, who are there as tourists, and they're caught in the middle of this as well. And so we're looking at all of those people and looking at the ways in which we can provide assistance to those who need assistance. But this is, as you would imagine, a key focus, probably the key focus in terms of government activity now in supporting Australians who are there.

STEFANOVIC: All right, let's move on. The country's top spy chief has warned that the conflict between Israel and Hamas has the potential to create opportunistic violence in Australia. The boss of ASIO also issued a warning to all Australians, including politicians, against inflaming domestic tensions, saying, words matter. Pete, I think the government felt he was talking to you yesterday. How do you respond?

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, PETER DUTTON: Well, firstly, Karl, I just want to offer support to the plan the government's got in place to try and evacuate people. It's obviously a deteriorating situation and the government's right to make this call. And we'll give every support to what I think is a very important decision and one that I hope can give some comfort to Jewish families here and those who are wanting to get out and back to Australia. So, any way we can assist, we will. In relation to Mike Burgess' comments- I spoke to Mike yesterday, and I had a briefing earlier in the week from the agency heads. They're understandably concerned about some of the scenes you've seen at Sydney Opera House and some of the activity otherwise. If people are saying that they're going to ‘gas the Jews’ or ‘f the Jews’ or ‘f Israel’, that sort of conduct doesn't have any place in our country. It's been condemned absolutely and rightly, and that does incite violence. It does hit the ears of young, impressionable people who might think that they need to act in relation to that. And you've already seen some police activity in Melbourne, so I think the cuteness can be dropped. I think the language of Mr Burgess was targeted at those anti-Semitic views, and I think he's been very clear about that in public and private.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Richard, what's wrong with deporting anyone on a visa who was caught out saying, gas the Jews on?

MARLES: I mean, let's firstly be really clear that what was said on Monday was absolutely abhorrent and appalling. It should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and I do that now. It is astonishing in this day and age that you would hear that language being used in our country. And obviously, from the Prime Minister down, we're encouraging people not to attend that rally on Monday night. And for all of us, it is a deeply set of disturbing scenes. I think from here, it is important to let the police do their work. I don't think it's a matter of politicians suggesting what should or shouldn't happen in that moment, the police and the authorities and the system ought to do its work in the face of what we saw on Monday night. They were terrible, terrible scenes. And I take the words of John Howard, actually, during the course of this week, where he's implored everyone to work in terms of turning the temperature down, I think that is right.

STEFANOVIC: He also said, with respect, that you were pussy footing around a little.

MARLES: Well, obviously I don't agree with that comment, I don't think there's anything in what I've just said now which is pussy footing. And we have made really clear our condemnation of those scenes in Sydney on Monday night and of course, the actions of Hamas over the weekend. I don't think we could have been more unequivocal in the way in which we have condemned all of that, but it is right now for the authorities to do what they should do in response to all of this.

STEFANOVIC: Would you have a problem deporting someone?

MARLES: Well, I think this is a matter for the authorities to work their way through and I actually don't think it helps for politicians to weigh in on that process. I mean, that's a process which should now play out in accordance with how the rules work. And part of turning the temperature down is allowing those processes to work and for us to do everything we can to be advocating on behalf of social cohesion in this country. That's really now the great challenge for us.

STEFANOVIC: 30 seconds left. A very big day tomorrow in this country. The referendum on the voice, Pete, looks like it's going to be a no. We'll wait and see in the fullness of time in regards to that. But you can't send us back to another referendum, can you?

DUTTON: Well, Karl, I hope it's a no vote on the weekend because it hasn't been properly explained. It's divisive, it's permanent once it goes into the constitution and I just don't think in there millions Australians are going to support it. In fact, quite the opposite. And I think they're angry because the detail hasn't been provided. It won't be a message of rejection to indigenous Australians, quite the opposite. We want practical outcomes for people in indigenous communities. We don't want a big bureaucracy in Canberra created at the cost of billions of dollars and therefore four or five in ten Labor voters are now voting against the Voice, and good on them.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, according to the latest News Corp polls, voters rate the Voice as the 17th most important issue to them. You guys did really make a mess of this.

MARLES: This is the culmination of a long process which actually began under the Howard government in seeking recognition of indigenous Australians in the constitution. We passionately believe that doing so by creating a voice to Parliament can make a real difference in closing the gap of social disadvantage which is experienced by indigenous Australians. We said we would do this at the last election. We're giving Australians their say, and I think there is an enormous opportunity this Saturday for our country to take a big step forward.

STEFANOVIC: All right, appreciate you guys being on. It's been a really long week. And, Richard, I think the whole of Australia is behind the safe repatriation of Australians out of Israel. So, all the very best with that. Thank you for being on. Appreciate it.

MARLES: Thanks, Karl.


Other related releases