Television Interview, Sunrise

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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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18 April 2024

SUBJECT/S: National Defence Strategy and the Integrated Investment Program, Bondi Junction Incident.

HOST, NATALIE BARR: Thank you, Sam. First to a developing story this morning on the protection of our nation. The Federal Government says we must project more power beyond our borders as part of the biggest shakeup of our National Defence Strategy in decades. The changes will see a funding boost of $50 billion over the next ten years and more spending redirected to warships and missiles. The Defence Minister says our focus must be in the Asia Pacific region and protecting trade routes crucial to our economy. Joining me now is Defence Minister Richard Marles. Good morning to you. Is this massive spending announcement aimed at sending a direct message to China?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, it's about making sure that Australia is more capable and it's about understanding that the world that we face going forward is much less certain and in a much less certain world, we need to really transform our own capability so that we can protect our way of life. And that is about making sure that we can resist coercion. As you said in the introduction, we're an island trading nation. We have an increasing reliance on trade for our national income. That's a good thing. But there's a physical side to that, that's our sea line of communication, trade; and we need to make sure that's protected. And to do that, we need to have a very capable Navy and we need to have the ability to project and we need to be investing more in our Defence, which is what we're doing.

BARR. So, who else besides China are we protecting ourselves from?

MARLES: Well, it is right to say that in our region, what we are witnessing is the biggest conventional military build up that we've seen since the end of the Second World War, and that is China, which is undertaking that. That's an inescapable fact. And that is changing the strategic landscape, not just for Australia, but for all the countries of the region and indeed the world. And it's in that context, as we see that, as we see China seeking to shape the world around it in a way that it hasn't done well over the last ten years, in a way that's not done prior to that, which has meant that we. We really do live in a world and a region which is less certain, where we need to be more capable. And we're going to make sure we develop that capability.

BARR: Yeah, look, it's a great lot of money. It's a big increase. A former top bureaucrat wrote a Defence paper 15 years ago and basically, it sounds like, you know, he's furious that no one listened to him and that was in 2009. He said both sides of politics should be judged harshly here because no one listened. Do you accept that? He says we're starting from scratch here.

MARLES: Well, I think we certainly have a lot of challenges. I mean what we've inherited as a 
Government was the oldest surface fleet for our Navy that has been operating since the end of the Second World War. I mean, that's what the Coalition did. What we saw as they were in an out of a submarine deal with Japan and then France, was a ten year capability gap open up on the most important military platform that we can bring to bear, and that is a capable long range submarine. So, there's no doubt that as we came to office, we were met with an enormous amount of challenges and we've had to rectify them and do what we can. The best time to act on this, of course, would have been ten years ago, but the second best time to act is now. And that's what we're doing. And in doing that, we do believe that by making these commitments, by making really difficult decisions to prioritise capabilities which enable us to project like long range submarines, like a more capable service fleet, like longer range missiles, that we can give our country agency, meaning we can build a Defence fleet force which can protect us in the future.

BARR: Ok, Deputy PM, just on another issue, one of the unsung heroes of the Bondi junction stabbing is questioning where his offer of permanent residency is. Pakistani security guard Muhammad Taha was badly wounded when he and colleague Faraz Tahir confronted Joel Cauchi. Mr Tahir sadly died from that attack. As we know, Mr Taha is on a graduate visa and it's just due to expire in less than a month. He wants to know where his offer from The Prime Minister is after another hero, that Bollard man as they're calling him, was told he can stay in Australia for as long as he likes. Will Mr Taha also be allowed to stay?

MARLES: Well, look, I'm not aware of the application that's been made by Mr Taha, but no doubt that will be worked through by the Minister. I would want to say really clearly the actions of Mr Taha are enormously brave, as are the actions of a range of people, including, as we're calling him, Bollard man, were. And what occurred at Bondi on the weekend was an appalling tragedy. But coming out of it are these incredible stories of bravery for which, you know, the nation is greatly indebted. And that you know the circumstances of Mr Taha, I'm sure will be worked through.

BARR: Ok Minister. Thank you very much for your time.

MARLES: Thanks Nat.


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