Television interview, ABC News Breakfast

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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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25 October 2023

SUBJECTS: Operation BEECH; Israel-Hamas conflict; MRH-90

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Welcome back. This Wednesday morning. You're watching News Breakfast. Great to have you company. Big news this morning. The Australian Defence Force is deploying additional aircraft and troops to the Middle East in response to the Israel-Gaza conflict. The Acting Prime Minister and Australia's Defence Minister, Richard Marles joins us now. Richard Marles. Good morning. Two extra raft planes are going. How many soldiers?

ACTING PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Look, we’re not saying the number of soldiers, Michael, but it is a significant contingent which goes with these two additional aircraft which joins the one additional aircraft which is still in the Middle East. So, that takes a total to three. And again, we're not identifying where they will be, but the point of this is to provide support to Australian populations who are in the Middle East if this gets worse, in essence- it's a volatile situation- we very much hope it doesn't. We hope that this is confined to Israel and Gaza, but we're all watching this as the world is watching this, and we want to make sure that we're prepared if matters do get worse.

ROWLAND: I appreciate you can't go into actual figures, but can we describe this as a significant number of troops?

MARLES: Yeah, I would describe it as significant contingent and it's there to make sure that we are providing that support if in fact, that support is needed. But I think there's another message that I really want to give Michael, and that is that if you are in the region, if you're in a place like Lebanon and you want to leave, then do. Don't rely on this. Take the commercial options that are available to you and make your departure. I mean, this is a volatile situation. We don't exactly know how this is going to play out. We as a government will do what we can, but if you want to leave, make sure that you take your opportunities now.

ROWLAND: Understood. So, we're talking worst case scenarios. These troops, these extra troops could help evacuate Australians.

MARLES: The point of this is around the support for Australians, that's right, Michael. But again, we really want to emphasise to Australians who are in the region, if you want to leave, make your departure now.

ROWLAND: Yeah, I hear you loud and clear, as I'm sure most Australians do. Can we talk about the estimated 77 Australians in Gaza? What's the latest with them?

MARLES: Well, it's 79 now who we're in contact with in Gaza and they are the ones who are in the most difficult situation, obviously. We are working with the international community to try and establish that humanitarian corridor. We don't have that in place yet, although obviously we have seen humanitarian supplies be brought in through Rafah, which is the entry point from Egypt. We're very much encouraging those people to get to the southern part of Gaza in accordance with the warnings that have been made by Israel. But we are in touch with those Australians and we will continue to be doing everything within our power to try and make a pathway for them to safety.

ROWLAND: What's going on on the ground there in the Middle East? Lots happening overnight in the UN as well. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, Richard Marles, said that the terror attacks by Hamas did not happen, in his words, in a vacuum. Talking about Israel's approach to Gaza over many years that has prompted Israel's ambassador to call on Mr Guterres to resign. What do you make of those comments?

MARLES: Well, I think we've got to have real clarity in this moment. The attacks that occurred a few weeks ago were terrorist attacks by Hamas. They were not attacks that were made on combatants, they were attacks that were made on innocent people. And in that sense, they are murder. And Israel does have a right to defend itself. We've made that very clear in terms of being a view of the Australian government, and that means they have a right to move against Hamas. Now, in saying all of that, obviously the rules of war need to be respected and there has to be a focus on the protection of civilian life. And we understand the Middle East has a long and complex history and there are very strong opinions that people have about the Middle East on both sides, opinions that people will have in this country as well. But nothing, nothing justifies the attacks that Hamas made a few weeks ago on those innocent Israelis.

ROWLAND: And just finally, quickly, also in your portfolio, we had the ABC discovering this morning that that Taipan crash, the helicopter crash in Jervis Bay earlier this year, was due to an engine fault that was first identified way back in 2012. How does that happen?

MARLES: Well, the engine fault has been identified. There was a recommendation, not a mandatory requirement, from the operator of the aircraft around that. There's been a process of putting those rectifications in place in respect of the guidelines that have been issued by the manufacturer, by Airbus. And that's what the army were doing in relation to this. So, that it was happening in accordance with the instructions that were being provided by Airbus. And obviously those rectifications in the aftermath of that were completed.

ROWLAND: Richard Marles. Very busy morning. Appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

MARLES: Thanks, Michael.


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