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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4 March 2024

SUBJECTS: Dunkley by-election; ASEAN Summit; King Charles visit to Australia. 

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Leaders from across Asia are gathering in Melbourne today for ASEAN talks focused on the economy, regional security issues and the rise of China. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles is attending the summit. He joins us now. Richard Marles, very good morning to you.


ROWLAND: Very well, thank you. I want to get to ASEAN in just a moment, but first ask you about the Dunkley by-election, Labor's win there. How much is that, in your view, a big shot in the arm for the Albanese Government?

MARLES: Well, I think it is certainly a fantastic achievement on the part of Jodie Belyea to be able to attract, pretty well, the primary vote that was received by Peta Murphy, who was obviously a very popular local member, is an incredible achievement. I think we felt very confident about the standing of the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, and he was in the electorate a lot during the campaign and certainly that was received very well and we had a sense of confidence about that. I mean, that really stands in contrast to Peter Dutton, who was essentially shielded from the campaign, didn't even turn up on election day. And we are very focused on questions around cost of living. Obviously, the tax policy that we have put in place, which is going to make a difference for every taxpayer in this country, that was something that we played very significantly into the campaign as well. So, when we look at where the Government's going, how we are travelling, the key policies that we have in place, we feel pretty good about how they were presented in Dunkley and the result.

ROWLAND: Okay, let's go to the ASEAN meeting now. How much will rising ambition, the rise of China, be front and centre of discussion amongst leaders there?

MARLES: Obviously we will talk about China in the sense that they are part of the global landscape, but this meeting is not about China. This meeting really is about our relationship with ASEAN. And it's remarkable that we've got, with the exception of Myanmar, of course, every ASEAN leader here in Melbourne as part of this summit. It says a lot about the place that Australia has in ASEAN’s thinking. Obviously, from our perspective, ASEAN is completely central in terms of our economic future, but it's very much central in terms of our security future. We really see that Australia's security lies very much within our region. The defence of Australia doesn't mean that much unless we have a stable, and peaceful, and secure Southeast Asia. And so we feel deeply connected, both in an economic and a security sense with ASEAN. And I think those countries feel the same in relation to Australia, which is why you're seeing such a significant turnout of ASEAN leaders in Melbourne over the next couple of days.

ROWLAND: Diaspora communities from countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are urging the Government to raise human rights concerns in their countries. Will you?

MARLES: Well, we always speak with our voice around the question of human rights. I'm not going to go into the specifics, obviously, of meetings– what will be said in respect of any specific meeting. But Australia is always an advocate on behalf of human rights and we do that in the meetings that we have around the world. And so you can be assured that we will go about our business in the way that we normally would in the course of these meetings.

ROWLAND: Okay. Before you go, the Prime Minister has confirmed planning is still going ahead for a possible visit by King Charles and Queen Camilla later this year. And of course, we wish the King all the best in his battle against cancer. My question to you, Richard Marles, is do you reckon people care? Will there be that much excitement about a visit if it actually happens later this year?

MARLES: No, I think people care. And you're right, we are very much thinking about King Charles at the moment in terms of his battle with cancer. But King Charles has a long connection with this country, obviously went to school in his youth here in Australia and this would be his first visit to Australia as the King. And I think there is an affection for King Charles. I know that King Charles has a deep affection for Australia. And I think a royal visit by King Charles and Queen Camilla later in the year would be a really tremendous and popular event. And I do think that Australians would very much welcome seeing King Charles in our country later this year.

ROWLAND: Okay, Richard Marles, as always, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

MARLES: Thanks, Michael.


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