Press conference, Adelaide

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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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12 December 2023

SUBJECTS: Commonwealth Supported University places for AUKUS; Surface Fleet Review; Beef exports; Final COP statement; Australia Day at the UK High Commission; AUKUS legislation in the US Congress; MYEFO

SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA, MARIELLE SMITH: I am Marielle Smith, I'm one of the Labor Senators for South Australia. And it is an absolute pleasure to have our Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles in town. Few people have been a bigger supporter of our submarine industry in South Australia, of manufacturing and all the opportunities than being Richard Marles. We're here at the University today because under our commitment to support new STEM places, which will be the backbone to the skills development we need for AUKUS and all the opportunities that that brings, 1,000 of those places will be in South Australia and 700 here at this university. All of us in South Australia have known for a very long time that there is huge future potential in our state. But we need to make sure that young people in South Australia with all their amazing talent, have the opportunity to study locally here so that they can take advantage of all the opportunities we know AUKUS and associated announcements will bring. We want to make sure that young South Australians who study here in South Australia, they stay here and work in South Australia and can do that in world leading facilities like the one we have here today. But over to you, Richard for more. Thank you.

ACTING PRIME MINITSER, RICHARD MARLES: Thank you. And it's great to be here with Senator Marielle Smith who does such a wonderful job representing this state in our nation's parliament. We are here today really celebrating Adelaide and South Australia as the heart of the Australian Defence Industry. And it has been a very significant year in terms of Australian Defence Industry but industry here in South Australia with the announcement of the pathway by which Australia would acquire a nuclear-powered submarine capability back in March, which will see those nuclear-powered submarines constructed right here in Adelaide. Since then, we have now seen the land swap between the South Australian Government and the Commonwealth Government, which is really the very first step in enabling that to occur. At the time of making the announcement in March of this year, we highlighted the need to make sure that we were building the workforce that would be required to construct nuclear-powered submarines in this country, which is a huge challenge. Since then, as Marielle has said we've announced University places around the country which are additional to help support this program- 1,000 of which are here in South Australia. 700 of which I hear at the University of Adelaide and other 330 at Flinders University.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Silicon Valley at the AUKUS trilateral Defence Ministers meeting with my counterparts from the United States and the United Kingdom. There we focused on pillar two of AUKUS, which is collaboration between our three countries in respect of innovative technologies for our respective defence forces. And one of the outcomes of that specifically was our three countries working together on the development of a quantum clock. And right here at the University of Adelaide we literally are looking at two quantum clocks right there which this university has been forefront of developing. We’ve just met Silanna which is one of the oldest, perhaps the oldest chip company in Australia, which now would describe itself as a quantum foundry. These are exactly the high tech capabilities that will have such a huge opportunity as we seek to build a seamless defence industrial base between our three countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, and ourselves. And- Adelaide- the University of Adelaide will really be at the forefront of that today. We've also had the opportunity of meeting a number of defence industry companies to take them through the huge potentials coming forward. This is going to be the single biggest industrial endeavour in our country's history building nuclear-powered submarines. That is going to happen right here in Adelaide. We need to be doing everything we can to build the workforce of the future, but we are taking very big steps down that path and it's a pleasure to be here in Adelaide today to talk about it.

JOURNALIST: Deputy Prime Minister, Ed Husic made a comment today that people expressing concerns (inaudible). Do you agree with this?

MARLES: I think we are seeing an appalling tragedy play out in Gaza and in Israel, which obviously follows on the absolutely appalling terrorist attacks that occurred by Hamas on the 7 of October. You know, Australians around the country have very strong views about this. And some of those views differ. And we live in a harmonious and peaceful nation, and that's why people want to be here. It is important that people have the freedom of expression to articulate their views about all matters, but about what's happening in the Middle East. It's important that in the expression of those views, we do so in a way that is respectful and mindful of the unity that we have as a country. But it's really important that in this moment as those views are expressed, we are looking after each other and that is a really important point to keep front and centre as we watch the very troubled events playing out in Gaza.

JOURNALIST: Minister when do you expect to release the Surface Fleet Review, and what guarantees can you give the workers on the Hunter Class Frigates about their jobs?

MARLES: Sure, we have made clear from the moment that we've received the Surface Fleet Review that we would be releasing it, along with the government's response in the early part of next year. We're in December, so that's not far off. I'm not going to pre-empt the Review. What I would say is that, you know the Hunter program has had its issues, but there are real steps forward that are being taken by those working on Hunter right now out of Osborne. Indeed, the work that's being done right now on the prototype blocks there is of the highest standard. And BAE, who are obviously building a Type 26 vessel for the UK Royal Navy. Comment about how good that work is, relative to their experiences in the UK, we're obviously pleased with the fact that we are seeing very significant steps being taken forward in relation to that.

JOURNALIST: Acting Prime Minister there's some abattoirs being allowed back online to Chinese export market. There is still a lot in South Australia, I suppose, it's quite a cubicle in the areas of wine and seafood. What assurance might you be able to get them and I know (inaudible). Is there any progress to be made yet?

MARLES: Well, the in the Trade Minister in Don Farrell, the nation is very much well served by an active Trade Minister which this state is very much served by a very loyal citizen of South Australia. And enormous work has been done by the Trade Minister and the government in terms of putting trade back in place and we have sought to stabilise our relationship with China. And what you have referenced today in relation to the abattoirs is another step in that direction. I'm not going to venture predictions going forward, but we will keep on the path that we are currently on, which does seek to stabilise the relationship with China. China and the relationship with China is a complex relationship. We've said this lot. With the one hand we've got our largest trading partner and on the other we've got our most significant security anxiety. But for all those reasons, it's important that we do diplomacy excellently. And I want to say that we value the most productive relationship that we can have with China that has underpinned the steps that we've taken since we've come to power and you see the reflection of that in the trade which has been brought back.

JOURNALIST: Minister is there the prospect of an agreement on climate statement or is Australia going to stick to the position is as it stands and potential death sentence for Pacific islands?

MARLES: Well, firstly, the announcements coming out of COP in relation to renewable energy, in relation to greater energy efficiency are statements that we support. We are obviously very mindful of our Pacific family. They are on the front line of climate change. Personally, I have been to all the coral atoll nations of the Pacific which are particularly on the front line and have seen firsthand what those countries are facing. And we are really clear that part of our policies in relation to climate change are about reforming our own emissions reductions targets which we have been doing, but it is also to help the Pacific tell its story around the world which it is doing at COP and we will continue to do that.

JOURNALIST: Do you support the UK High Commissioner’s decision to cancel the Australia Day charity event in London?

MARLES: Well, firstly, the premise of that question isn't right. There will be an Australia Day function in London, at Australia House on Australia Day next year. No ifs, no buts. And what we're seeing from the Leader of the Opposition here is a shameless attempt to beat something out of nothing. There will be an Australia Day event at Australia House on Australia Day next month. What that event is and how it's managed is obviously a matter for the High Commission itself. But there is no doubt at all the Australian

JOURNALIST: Minister, another Defence question. Are you confident that AUKUS enabling legislation will pass the US Congress later this week? And secondly, what would a Trump presidency mean for AUKUS?

MARLES: Well, I mean, in terms of the first part of your question; we are very hopeful and optimistic about the news that we are hearing from Washington. I was there not long ago, as was the Prime Minister and both of us had the opportunity to meet members of house and members of the Senate to talk to them about the legislation which is before the Congress right now. When we visited them, we were given a really positive reception and what became clear is that there is a sense whether you are speaking to Republicans or Democrats about the value of the relationship between America and Australia, and specifically the importance of the arrangement with AUKUS and the strategic value to the United States of Australia acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine capability. And all of that is bipartisan across the political spectrum in the US. And so, we are hopeful and I say that being completely respectful of the processes that are playing out in the Congress. Ultimately, it is a matter for the Congress. But we are very hopeful about how that is tracking. And I think that then leads into the other part of your question that there is bipartisanship in America, in support of Australia and in support of AUKUS- as there is in the UK and as there is here in Australia of course. And that's why I think the citizens of all three countries can have a sense of confidence about the power of this relationship and this arrangement, because it transcends politics in each of our countries. And that is what gives confidence that over a multi-decade program, this will continue across all of our three countries because this is going to take place over the course of decades, it needs bipartisan support and it exists.

JOURNALIST: The Treasurer and Finance Minister have flagged another $10 billion in savings in the Mid-Year Economic Outlook. (Inaudible)

MARLES: Well, I'm not going to pre-empt what MYEFO reports tomorrow, other than to iterate what the Finance Minister has announced that it will contain $10 billion worth of savings and reprioritization. But the point I would made about that is at the heart of what we are doing in terms of economic management as a government is prudency. And that's what we need to do to conduct a war on inflation, which has been built around the world right now. But the best thing we can do is being prudent in terms of our fiscal management as a government, we delivered a surplus- something that the Liberals never did- the first surplus in 15 years. And the reason that we're able to do that is because we had an eye to savings and reprioritization which we see an expression of tomorrow. And that takes the total of the savings of reprioritisation that we've done since coming to office to almost $50 billion. Now the amount of savings and reprioritisation that the Liberals did in their last budget was precisely zero. They gave us a trillion dollars of debt, with nothing to show for it. We are a very different government when it comes to prudent economic management. And that is absolutely essential, so that we can do everything we can to fight the inflation which has been experienced around the world and which we have obviously have seen in Australia and hopefully we're on the other side of that now.


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