National Press Club Q&A

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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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17 April 2024

SUBJECTS: Announcement of the National Defence Strategy and the Integrated Investment Program; Wakeley Church Incident

DAVID CROWE, MODERATOR: Well, thank you very much, Deputy Prime Minister, for that speech with so much detail in it. We have about 15 questions at least from the journalists here. We’ve only got less than half an hour, so we’re hoping to move quickly through them. 

I’ll start the questions with one that touches on some of the theme there at the end of your remarks about what’s being done today. Because my question is about speed. You’ve been in office for about two years. The general purpose frigates are yet to be chosen. You’ve had the Defence Strategic Review. You’ve had a review after that, and subsequent work. You’ve got four options. Is that an example of Defence being too slow at actually making commitments and getting things moving? When can we expect the general purpose frigates in the water? 

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you for that question. I mean, in respect of the general purpose frigates specifically, we will have the first of those in the water in this decade. And we have brought forward the acquisition of them. And the means by which we have done that is by making clear that we will purchase or procure the first of those through an overseas build of an existing frigate, which is in service right now. I mean, that represents one of the preconditions of the tender that we will operate. 

And what we are seeking is, in doing that, to acquire for our Navy a capability which is the minimum viable capability in order to perform the task that we seek. And minimum viable capability, which is a really important philosophy that was expounded in the Defence Strategic Review, is utterly central to getting new platforms into service quicker. 

I mean, it is right to say that we have to speed up Defence processes. We need to make sure that we get the cutting edge technology and the cutting edge platforms into service more quickly. And that is why we are making the decisions that we’ve made around that procurement specifically. 

More generally, I think the point that I’d want to make is this: I’ve tried to describe it in terms of what our strategic challenge is. You know, we have commentators out there who would talk about our Defence Force needing to acquire everything yesterday in case of the worst case contingency that might be experienced in terms of great power contests in the next few years. I mean, obviously, if one spends 10 seconds thinking about this, as a medium power we are never going to bring to bear the kind of military capability that exists in the United States or China. 

Now, our strategic challenge is not trying to be a peer of the United States or China. The strategic problem that we are trying to meet, that we are trying to solve, is making sure that in a much less certain world in the future we are able to resist coercion and maintain Australia's way of life. That is the strategic cat that we are trying to skin. 

And what that means is that our focus is on making sure that we are bringing to bear the kind of capabilities that will enable us to do that in, you know, a decade from now and beyond. That is the challenge that we face and that is the challenge that we’re meeting. 

CROWE: Thank you. The next question is from Andrew Greene, and I remind everybody – keep it to one question. We’ve got to move through as many questions as we can. Thanks, Andrew. 

ANDREW GREENE: Defence Minister, it’s been something like 783 days since Russia began its illegal invasion of Ukraine. Since Labor’s been in office, Australia’s fallen from being the most significant non-NATO contributor to about fifth place behind countries like Japan and Korea. We’ve also turned down requests for things like coal exports and specific military equipment. How can defence industry trust what you’ve unveiled today if a country that is already under attack is seeing Australia’s support diminish? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, Australia continues to support Ukraine. Let me be clear about that. Our support is north of $700 million in military assistance, closing in on a billion dollars in terms of overall assistance. And we will continue to play our part. And as we announced when the UK Defence and Foreign Secretaries were in Australia a few weeks ago, Australia will participate in the drone coalition in support of Ukraine. Recently we’ve made an additional commitment of $50 million to the UK’s support fund for Ukraine. And we will continue to stand with Ukraine. 

As I said in my speech, we understand that we exist in a broader context and that when the global rules-based order is under threat in Ukraine – which it most certainly is by the appalling invasion of Russia into Ukraine – that is an issue which engages our national interest because we are entirely invested in the global rules-based order. So we will continue to support Ukraine, as we have. 

It is also the case, as I said, that we will maintain a focus on our region and on the strategic challenges that we face here. That is the call of the Defence Strategic Review, and we are adhering to that. And we have absolute challenges that we face right now on our doorstep, and that has to be our primary focus. 

CROWE: Next question is from Tom Connell. 

TOM CONNELL: Thanks, Minister. Just looking at the overall spend on the Integrated Investment Program, so it's budgeted in this document - it says the budget is $330 billion over the decade. But the planned investment actually has a broader amount given - $330 billion up to $420 billion, so 90 billion extra dollars. Does that mean you and the next nine Coalition Defence ministers will have to, each year, justify what has always been overspend on Defence projects, or will we have a continued line item every year in the budget, “Here’s how much we overspent on Defence. That means the budget is worse off”? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I guess if I can address the question of overprogramming, which is really the issue that we face here, it is really important that we get overprogramming levels down. I mean, what we inherited was a practice that had been engaged by the former Liberal government to make all sorts of promises, all sorts of commitments without putting any money behind them. I mean, they announced a $35 billion Guided Weapons and Ordinance enterprise and assigned $1 billion towards it. So much of what we saw was, in fact, nothing more than hoopla and fantasy. And what it meant was that the overprogramming levels were at such a degree that it made it almost impossible for Defence to properly plan. 

And so that is why we have in the work that we’ve done – in not just reprioritising spending within the Integrated Investment Program but actually getting those overprogramming levels down – we’ve done that so we can actually manage the Defence budget in a way where we can fulfil our strategic objective. And so that is what we are doing. And there’s been very difficult decisions that we’ve had to take in order to do that. 

I think the other point to make is you will see a range in the numbers that are in the Integrated Investment Program. That’s there for good reason. Yeah, in part it’s about having a contingency in place. There’s also commercial in confidence. I mean, were we to publish specific numbers in respect of all of those items, it would place Defence at an enormous disadvantage in the way in which it procured what it needs, and that’s why, in fact, ranges have been published in relation to the Integrated Investment Program – for very good reason – over a long period of time. But fundamentally, we are committed to getting those overprogramming levels down, and we need to. 

CROWE: The next question is from Ben Packham. 

BEN PACKHAM: Thank you, Minister. Ben Packham from the Australian. So you’re putting in $5 billion more over the forwards. That’s roughly 10 per cent of a single year’s Defence budget. Correct me if I’m wrong – it’s probably two and a half per cent over the forwards. If strategic circumstances have worsened over the past two months, why so little? And how much is eaten up by inflation and currency movements? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, Ben, it’s $5.7 [billion], and, you know, I accept that, you know, often we’re talking about large numbers which are difficult to contextualise, which is why I’ve taken some time to try and do exactly that. You can judge us by some abstract perfect, or you can judge us by history and what’s happened in the past. 

This is the biggest commitment in terms of increasing the Defence budget over the forward estimates in decades. So you can describe it in the way in which you have, but it flies in the face of the decisions that have had to have been made by Defence ministers for decades and decades. $5.7 billion over the forwards as an increase in the Defence budget is an historically very large number. And there is no escaping that, no matter how one tries to characterise it. 

That is what we are doing. And it is a reflection of the strategic circumstances that we face. Taking Defence spending from two per cent, which is about what it is now, to two point four per cent of GDP over the course of the next decade, that is money which is in the budget which has been contested and decided through all the cabinet processes which is being reflected in the forward estimates in this year’s budget, this year. That growth, over that period of time, is the most sustained growth in the Defence budget since the Second World War. So, again, you can characterise it in whatever terms you want, but that is the historical fact. In historical terms, this is large. 

But the real point is this, Ben, that is where we have Defence spending now. That’s the decision that this government has made. That’s what stands in stark contrast to what we inherited. The decision really is now for the Liberals. Because these things happen over a long period of time. For the people in this room, for the Australian public to have a sense of confidence that that will occur, there needs to be bipartisan support around it, and right now there is not. Right now this question actually lies with Peter Dutton and Angus Taylor, because they stubbornly assert that where they have Defence spending is at the envelope which they took to the last election, which would be 2.1 per cent of GDP over the same period. 

PACKHAM: Sorry, just following up on the second part on inflation, though – 

CROWE: We’re going to go to Anna Henderson. 

PACKHAM: What proportion is inflation? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, the $5.7 billion is additional money, and the historic context that I have given you is taking into account exchange variations that we’ve seen over that period of time. 

CROWE: Anna Henderson. Thank you. 

ANNA HENDERSON: Thank you. Anna Henderson, SBS News. You’re the Deputy Prime Minister and a member of the National Security Committee. So earlier this week, you were part of the group that decided to embrace the New South Wales Police decision to call the stabbing in Sydney a terrorist incident. Local member Dai Le and other faith leaders say this has only served to stir up dissent and community tension. What was the justification for labelling it with that label so quickly, and do you also, as a result of this concern acknowledge that it could well stir up that community concern and further tensions? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, we acknowledge the call that the New South Wales Police made in respect of this incident and we support it. 

ANNA HENDERSON: There’s nothing further you’d like to add about the justification? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I mean the New South Wales Police were the police force at hand which had all the facts in their possession and which characterised this in those terms. And all that we– all the information we received backs up the information that the New South Wales Police had and the call that they’ve made, and we support it. 


CROWE: Next question is from Matthew Knott. 

MATTHEW KNOTT: Thank you for your speech, Minister. You mentioned in your address about expanding the number of ADF personnel and about expanding it to non-citizens. Can you provide a bit more detail on that? It has been discussed, the idea of enlisting Pacific Islanders or perhaps members of the Five Eyes nations, but we don’t have any detail from the government. And how far could that go? How many numbers of people could we be talking about there? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, good question. I mean, so I think you should read what I’ve said today and what’s in the National Defence Strategy as opening this door. And there are questions and issues that we would need to work through in respect of any category of non-Australian citizens that might enter into the Australian Defence Force. But I think the important thing is we’ve got to start looking at this. I mean, an obvious place to start looking is amongst AUKUS partners or Five Eyes partners. I think – people can correct me if I’m wrong – but there are 600,000 Kiwis who live in Australia right now. Again, that is another obvious place for us to look to. 

We are thinking about ways in which we can involve Australia’s Pacific family more in our Defence Force work, and there is certainly an interest around the Pacific in respect of that. Now, as I say, there’s issues in relation to each of those categories and groups of people. But this is a rubicon that has been crossed by the defence forces of our friends and allies. You’ll see Nepalese and Fijians serving in the British Armed Forces. You’re seeing Micronesians serving in the US Armed Forces. So it is a bridge that’s been crossed by others. We do have a significant workforce challenge which I’ve articulated. We are starting to turn that around in terms of recruitment and retention of those currently in the force. But it’s not just a matter of maintaining the current numbers in the force; we need to grow the force through to 2040, and to do that we need to be thinking about these avenues and this wider pool of people that we can draw from. 

CROWE: Next question is from Tess Ikonomou. 

TESS IKONOMOU: Thank you very much for your time today. You’ve committed to improving culture and that the workforce plan will be informed by the Royal Commission. Just touching on retention and recruitment problems in the military, do you accept that the issues raised have caused them? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: In the Royal Commission? 


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think the Royal Commission has exposed challenging evidence and facts for the Defence Force. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. And we take the work of the Royal Commission really seriously. It’s very important work. And I acknowledge Matt Keogh who is in the room today who has been leading our response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission. But not for a second would I seek to diminish the evidence and the testimony that is been provided by so many people to the Royal Commission and the stories that have been told there, and the picture that it paints. 

It is really important that we have culture operating at the highest possible level. Culture that is befitting a very unique workplace. But culture which encourages people to participate in it across the full breadth of the diversity of Australian society, because we need to be drawing on that entire talent pool if we’re going to have the numbers that we need to have. 

We see there are many lessons that we can be learning from the Royal Commission. You know, that’s evidenced in the way in which we have implemented the interim recommendations of the Royal Commission report already. We look very much forward to the final report of the Royal Commission. And as I said to the Royal Commission itself, we are utterly committed to adopting the thrust of the recommendations which come from the Royal Commission. 

CROWE: Thank you. Before we go to the next question, I have one on the phone here. It’s from Andrew Tillett, the defence correspondent at the Australian Financial Review, who was going to be sitting in this chair before he got Covid. So I’m going to ask his question for him, Deputy PM.


CROWE: And here it is: US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy has told a conference in Perth today that Australian resources companies providing raw materials for batteries are – in quotes – “under assault” from state-owned Chinese companies in Indonesia. So how concerned are you about the national security and economic implications of this? Is it true that those companies are under assault from China? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, firstly, I wish Andrew all the best in this recovery, having just walked this journey myself at the end of last week. I think the way I’d answer this is that our critical minerals industry, our rare earths industry, our mining, our resources sector, is really important for the country’s economy, but it’s really important for the country’s security. 

In the National Defence Strategy and, indeed, in the Defence Strategic Review, there is an idea which is articulated of national defence, an idea which says that whilst the ADF is very central our nation’s defence, it’s by no means the totality of our national defence. National defence needs to be thought of across the whole gamut of Australian society and across the whole gamut of Australian statecraft. That includes our diplomacy, for example, but it very much includes our industrial base in this country and the resilience of our supply chains. 

These companies are fundamentally important for Australia’s future. The resilience of our resources sector, our participation in critical minerals and rare earths is absolutely central to, I think the role that we can play more globally, but is absolutely central to our prosperity but also our national resilience and, therefore, our security. And we are very mindful of them. 

CROWE: Next question is from Andrew Probyn. 

ANDREW PROBYN: Minister, Andrew Probyn. Perhaps I should have called in my question – you know, bit of a tickle. Go well, Mr Tillett. 

Minister, you said today that Australia no longer had the luxury of a 10-year window of strategic warning time for conflict. It sounds a bit scary. How much time do we have? And given that it seems to be well under 10 years, do you concede that having a greater missile capacity is a much more valuable strategic deterrent than the nuclear subs will be? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, again – I mean both are deterrent is the answer to that question. But, again, it’ a really good question, but it goes to the heart of how we need to conceptualise our strategic challenge. I mean, really going back to the 2020 Defence Strategic Update we had for the first time an assessment that we sit within the 10-year threat window. I mean, if anything else, what that must demand of us is urgency and focus, and both of those concepts are central to the Defence Strategic Review and now the National Defence Strategy and have to inform the decisions that we make. You know, like, it really does mean that we have to be focused on making sure that we are dealing with our region and bringing to bear what resources we have for our region. 

We need – drilling into that a bit further – to be particularly focused, as we are, on bringing to bear newer capabilities which will enable us in a much less certain future– much less certain world in the future to be able to resist coercion and maintain our way of life. That is what we are trying to do with our Defence Force. And in that sense, having nuclear-powered submarines in the 2030s and beyond will be fundamentally important to that. I mean, I do think that they will be the single most important military platform that we bring to bear, but– 

PROBYN: Minister, how long have we got? You said it’s under 10 years. 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Bringing to bear, though, deterrence is really important, and longer range strike is part of this as well. And that’s why, you know, I’ve articulated a whole range of longer range missiles that we will bring to bear. I mean, the answer to your question is we need to be doing this as soon as we can. None of this happens overnight. But in preference to extending existing platforms today versus acquiring new platforms that we can have up and running in the next 10 years, we choose the latter. We choose the latter because it is that strategic problem that we are trying to solve. 

CROWE: And there maybe four questions from Andrew Probyn later. But right now we have Daniel Hurst. Thank you, Daniel. 

DANIEL HURST: Daniel Hurst from Guardian Australia. Shortly after you were sworn in as Minister for Defence you said about acting on the Brereton inquiry into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan: “History will judge us. It’s really important that there’s follow through and that it’s fully implemented, and I’m deeply committed to that.” On the 15th of May last year General Campbell the Defence Chief provided you with advice about holding commanders accountable, including whether to cancel any honours or awards. It’s now been 11 months. Why has it taken so long to make a decision on this, and what specific problems are you trying to work through before you’ll be in a position to advise the Governor-General? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, firstly, I stand by all the comments that I made immediately after the election in relation to the Brereton report. I mean, the Brereton report was a hugely significant piece of work in response to, you know, appalling allegations. And in the face of those appalling allegations I think the Brereton report and its recommendations offered kind of a defining opportunity for our nation to do right in the face of wrong. 

I really want to acknowledge General Angus Campbell and the way in which he handled this with I think enormous bravery in asserting that we need to be following through to the fullest possible extent the recommendations of Brereton. And we are utterly committed to doing that. 

Now a, you know, you’re right in the timing that you have described. We will – those are on my desk now and are very much front and centre. And we will complete that work. But can I just say a, timing in respect of that is not as important as thoroughness and getting those decision right. And that – so that is what I am focused on. We will take the time to do this thoroughly, to get it right. But we will get it done, because history will judge us on the extent to which we follow through on Brereton, and we mean to do that fully. 

CROWE: Will you complete that work this year? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I’m not going to put a timing on it. But what we will do is complete it thoroughly and we will get those decisions right. 

CROWE: Next question is from Ben Westcott. 

BEN WESTCOTT: Thank you very much for your speech, Minister. I just wanted to follow up on Ben Packham and Andrew Probyn’s questions: every government minister and close Australian ally has emphasised the difficult strategic times we find ourselves in. You yourself said we’ve lost the 10-year strategic window, and yet we find ourselves with a military which is not fit for purpose, according to the Defence Strategic Review, and about 90 per cent of the funding you’ve announced today doesn’t come in for about half a decade. Now, the AUKUS subs don’t get here till the 2030s. Neither do the six Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels. So to read from your own IIP document, “Only in 2031 and beyond do we find a delivery of an ADF that is fit for purpose across all domains and enablers.” How can we afford to wait so long? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I mean, there’s an altruism, which is that the best time to have acted on all of this would have been 10, 20 years ago. But the second best time to act on it is now. And that’s the reality of what we face. In many respects the questions that you’re directing to me now given the lead times in Defence are properly answered by those who were governing a decade ago, and that wasn’t us. You know, we inherited the circumstances that we found, and we are dealing with them now. 

But I want to say that in dealing with the urgency at the moment – and reiterate the point I made to Andrew – you know, you could be faced with trying to extend the life in the next two or three years of what assets that we’ve got, pumping a whole lot of money into sustaining those, or making sure that we acquire new capabilities to put us in a transformationally different position a decade from now, and we choose that. We choose that because that is the strategic problem that we are trying to solve. 

You know, those commentators who suggest that we’re going to be playing some big part in the worst contingency that may or may not occur in the next few year, it lacks wit. Like, it genuinely lacks wit. There’s no analysis in that because we will never be a peer to the United States or China. That’s not what we’re trying to do. But in a much less certain world in the future, which is possible, which we need to make sure that we have transformational capability in place so we can resist coercion and maintain our way of life. That is the strategic cat that we are trying to skin. And I do think that we can do that over the time that we have. 

Now, in saying that, there’s no waiting. Like, what we are doing with the new general purpose frigate will be the single fastest acquisition of a capability of that kind that we’ve seen. Like, we’ve said we will bring that into service this decade, dramatically bringing forward that capability. And that requires the difficult decision of accepting that that will be done through an overseas build initially, albeit beyond that we’ll seek to have those platforms built in Australia. We are doing that through adopting a philosophy of minimum viable capability. You know, too often what we’ve seen in the past is procurements where people seek to have all the bells and whistles put on top, and that is a recipe for ensuring that we go beyond budget and beyond time and we don’t have a capability at all. So we are doing minimum viable capability. There is though waiting. You know, we are getting this done as quickly as humanly possible given the mess we inherited. 

CROWE: Next question is from Kym Bergmann.

KYM BERGMANN: Thank you, Minister. I refer to the $13 billion that you’ve committed over the next decade for nuclear-powered submarines. Now, if I understand, a full one-third of that $4.7 billion is the impending transfer to the US submarine building industry. Can you explain how that figure was calculated? And is it a coincidence that that’s almost exactly the same amount that you’ve committed to giving to the UK submarine building industry? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, let’s be clear: we are making a commitment to both the US and the UK industrial base. We are doing that for differing reasons in the two countries. In respect to the US, by enabling them to increase their production rate of Virginia class submarines and their sustainment rate such that they are then in a position to be able to transfer Virginia class submarines to Australia which will see us having them in our Navy from the early 2030s. That’s getting a nuclear‑powered submarine up and running in the Royal Australian Navy 10 years ahead of what we inherited when we came to office in 2022. 

In respect of the UK, by running what will be a joint class of submarine with the United Kingdom, that is going to mean that Rolls Royce’s production facility, which will be making the nuclear reactors – for both the submarines being built in Barrow in the UK and in Adelaide in Australia – they will need be to producing more nuclear reactors, that factory needs to expand as a result. So, yes, we are putting money into both of those industrial bases for those reasons.

But let’s be clear: the vast bulk of the money that we’re going to invest in industry is right here in Australia. You know, what we will build in Adelaide at the Osborne Naval Shipyard is going to in the highest tech, most complex manufacturing production line in Australia. It will be the single biggest industrial endeavour our country has ever undertaken. It will employ thousands of workers in Australia and provide enormous opportunities for small and medium-size businesses across the country to supply into that. 

So, you know, that is the reason we are making the decisions that we have. The amounts that we’ve provided to both the US and the UK are the consequence of the negotiations that we’ve had with them. I think we’ve done well in terms of the amounts we’re providing given what we’re getting back in return. But it really is the key that unlocked the optimal pathway which allows us to see an evolution of our nuclear – well, of our submarine capability from what it is today through to when we’re operating eight nuclear-powered submarines in the future. 

CROWE: We’ve gone a bit over time, but we still have enough time for two more questions. The next is from Anthony Galloway. 

ANTHONY GALLOWAY: Thank you. Anthony Galloway from Capital Brief. You’ve declared we’re moving from a balanced Defence Force to a focused one, and you also mentioned that projecting deterrence isn’t just about doing it from our coastline but much further from home. But is a lot of this plan predicated on the United States remaining deeply engaged in East Asia? And what are the contingencies with the capabilities the we’re committing to here for a much more complex region in which the US has disengaged and it’s not about forward defence in the Taiwan Strait or South China Sea; it’s about projecting deterrence much closer to home? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good question. So I think the starting point is what we tried to do is the foundational thinking around what is it that is our challenge, what sort of– what job do we need our Defence Force to do and what sort of an ADF do we have in order to do it. Like, that’s pretty simple stuff, but that is the process that we have tried to work through. 

You know, what we see is that we have a deep economic connection to the world which has a physical manifestation to it. You know, our sea trade. The example that I gave in the main speech really does try to describe that we have vulnerabilities associated with those sea lines of communication which is actually the main game for us, much more than it is to be thinking about any invasion of the Australian continent. So the job our Defence Force needs to do is to be focused on that. That and the fact that when you look at our economic connection, it is largely with our region, and so the stability of our region is at both the heart of our national prosperity and our national security, and so, again, a job of the Australian Defence Force is to contribute to the collective security of our region. 

Now, both those things are well beyond our shoreline. Both those things require us to have a capacity to project. And it’s off the back of that that you then see all of the decisions that we have made in terms of the kind of defence force that we are seeking to build. 

But on top of all of that to go, I think, to the nub of your question, the assessment, you know, the strategic assessment, of what the world looks like over the next decade and beyond is that it becomes precarious and less certain in every respect. And so what we need is a dramatic transformation in our capability in order to meet that. 

That’s why we are talking about investing so much money in our defence. That’s why we are talking about growing our Defence budget in historic terms. That’s why we’ve actually made the decisions to commit real money, not fantasy money, to that endeavour. It is precisely so that we can have genuine Australian capability to be able to meet that moment in that time frame. And that is what we are trying to do – becoming a much more capable self-reliant country. And that starts with the investment of funding decisions that we’ve made. 

CROWE: One last and very quick question. The next one is Melissa Coade. 

MELISSA COADE: Thank you, Minister. Melissa Coade from The Mandarin. Thank you for illuminating some of the geostrategic requirements that Australia’s national security faces. Given the national crisis that the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide also underscores, can you please tell us if this Labor Government would be prepared to entertain the idea of independent oversight of suicidality and rates of suicide in Defence, even if the Defence and ADF bureaucracy don’t believe that’s the best way forward? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for that question. Look, we’re obviously aware that this is an idea which the Royal Commission itself is thinking very carefully about, and they’ve spoken publicly about that and I think spoken publicly about it here. And the short answer really to this question is that we are going to look very carefully at the recommendations that come– that are made by the Royal Commission. We are very open to the recommendations that will be made by the Royal Commission, clearly. In fact, more than that: we are committed to implementing the thrust of those recommendations. But in relation to that specifically, you know, we are open to this idea, as I said to the Royal Commission itself. But, you know, I don’t seek to answer it conclusively now because I think the right thing to do is to actually see what the Royal Commission has to say, look at the model that it proposes, the rationale that it puts forward for that, and we’ll give that very careful and due consideration. 

CROWE: Thank you. Now, we’ve covered plenty of ground there and I will skip the longer wrap-up. I think suffice to say at this point, please join me in thanking Richard Marles.


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