Doorstop, Darwin Convention Centre

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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19 February 2024

SUBJECTS: 82nd anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin; Strengthening Australia's northern bases; ADF recruitment and retention.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR VETERANS’ AFFAIRS: It's an honour to be here on behalf of the Albanese Government to attend this very moving commemoration of the 82nd anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin. All Australians owe our service personnel and the people of Darwin who defended this nation 82 years ago an enormous debt of gratitude. This was the bulwark, the defence of our nation during World War II, and unfortunately, I believe that not enough Australians understand just what the people are Darwin went through during the Second World War and how close Australia came to being invaded. But thanks to the bravery, courage and the sacrifice of our servicemen and women at that time, and the people of Darwin, they were able to resist 62-odd raids on this city and across northern Australia, to make sure that we can live in freedom and peace today and today we pay tribute to them for that sacrifice.

JOURNALIST: Quick question, I suppose even you mentioned in the speech, the significance of remembering this day and in the context of what we're looking at do geopolitically right now, I suppose, do you find that how important is it to be reflecting on war in a time of so much uncertainty?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, we live in a time when there's uncertainty in our region. And we should never forget the service and sacrifice of those defended Darwin 82 years ago and just how close Australia came to being invaded. And that salient lesson is important in ensuring that we are ever vigilant in our defence policy, and then the investments were making to ensure that we strengthen Northern Australia. And that's why the Albanese Government is investing close to $9 billion in shoring up and strengthening our bases across northern Australia and that includes in the Territory upgrades to Tindal air base in Katherine, HMAS Coonawarra upgrade to the wharf there, Larrakeyah Barracks, Robertson Barracks and RAAF Base Darwin. They’re all getting major upgrades in their facilities. There'll be more troops that will be stationed here in Darwin. And it's a representation of the government's commitment to ensuring that we bolster Australia's defences here in the north, and that the people of the Territory have the support that they need to ensure that this remains an important garrison town.

JOURNALIST: Obviously, you just touched on it that Darwin has a proud military history, and how will this military history being continued, and I suppose to speak to the critical role that Darwin plays in Australia's defence strategy today?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Unfortunately, I don't believe enough Australians understand the significance of the Bombing of Darwin and just how close Australia came to being invaded and the heroics and the bravery of those that defended our nation at that time. That's why this commemoration is so important. That's why this is a national day of commemoration, and it's really pleasing and heartening to see. It's really pleasing and heartening to see the schoolchildren from the Territory taking part in this important commemoration today. It's a tradition that we're handing down to the next generation so that they understand the service and sacrifice of those who defended Darwin 82 years ago, and the service and sacrifice of members of the current Australian Defence Force, and what they're going through to make sure that we defend our nation in the future.

JOURNALIST: Minister, retention has been a problem for the ADF lately, do you hope that the defence of Darwin resonates with the next generation?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: It's great to see the school kids participating in this commemoration, and I hope they'd come away from this proud, proud Australians, and understanding the service and sacrifice of those who defended Darwin 82 years ago. We know we need to grow our Australian Defence Forces. That's why the government is investing in retention bonuses. That's why we're doing a review of Defence Housing. We're bolstering our policies to ensure that we do more to support Defence families. But I hope that these younger members of the Territory see that there's a rewarding and fulfilling career in the Australian Defence Force that they can make a huge contribution to some of the most exciting projects that are being undertaken in Australia's history, AUKUS, bolstering the north, the Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance investments that we're making for high-tech, high skilled, exciting opportunities for people to work and be a part of the Defence of Australia in the future. Thank you.


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