Radio Interview, 3AW

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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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25 April 2024

SUBJECT: Anzac Day

HOST, TOM ELLIOTT:  At Gallipoli it is 04:17 in the morning. The Dawn service there is going to start shortly. One of the guests at the service is the Deputy Prime Minister of our country. He's also Defence Minister Richard Marles. Good morning.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Good morning, Tom. How are you?

ELLIOTT: I'm good, thank you. I know you're not at the service yet, but what's the mood like there at Gallipoli?

MARLES: Well, you know, for me, it's a once in a lifetime experience. And I got here yesterday. It's really a two day event here, which I didn't appreciate. On the 24th- yesterday- there were services for the UK and Ireland. There was a French service and there was the main Turkish service. So, we've run into a lot of Australians who are here for this and there's a sense of pilgrimage. I mean, this is- I think- for everyone coming here most for the first time, there's a sense that you are doing something that is a once in a lifetime experience which goes to the heart of our nation, what we're about as a people. And it's very exciting, but it's also deeply poignant.

ELLIOTT: Do you find it extraordinary, as I do, that a country that we fought against, in fact, we invaded at the Gallipoli campaign, honours our war did in the way that the Turks do?

MARLES: I do. It's unique and I think it's a really important insight, Tom, and I actually met with my counterpart, Minister Güler and made exactly that observation. You know, I think part of the generosity in spirit of Mustafa Kemal Attatürk, who was the founder of modern Türkiye, who was the Commander during the Gallipoli campaign, but later on spoke about the fact that those who died here and were buried here were now sons of this country, too. And that was a remarkable statement to make. But I think it's also about the fact that, you know, as a veterans day unlike any other, I think, around the world, we're not commemorating a great military victory. I mean, we have military victories, of course, in our history, but that's not what we're commemorating- we're commemorating, in fact, what was a military disaster. But really we're commemorating character. We're commemorating sacrifice and service. And all of that is really much bigger than the outcome of a particular battle and I think it's because of that and the way we do it, but also the very unique relationship which now exists between Australia and Türkiye that this is able to occur in the way that it has and it is very, very unique. I was at the Turkish event yesterday, which is a huge event for them. They will be here at the Dawn service this morning. And I think we are commemorating something much bigger than the particular outcome of any given battle.

ELLIOTT: That's a very good point. I'm just racking my brain trying to think of any other national day or commemoration which is really about a defeat and not about a victory and I can't think of one. So that makes Anzac Day unique.

MARLES: It is. It's genuinely unique and it's something I really like about it and it is because it's commemorating something much bigger. But we call it the spirit of Anzac but really, I think what that means to people goes to the heart of how we would see the Australian character. And I think in a historical sense it's more the revelation of the Australian character, the revelation of the spirit of Anzac, which is why we commemorate this more than the outcome- the outcome of the First World War. And that is, it says a lot about who we are as a people. But it also enables this day to then be not just about this, but of course about the service that all of those who wear our nation's uniform have given throughout our history. And I think it's also why we are seeing new generations engage in this in increasing numbers in a very organic way- it's something quite special.

ELLIOTT: On a more prosaic nature, or matter, I mean, we have a lot of young people who attend Anzac Day services, which I think is great as the number of veterans has fallen with the passing of the generations that fought World War One and World War Two, and Korea. We've got a lot of young people who wear their relatives’ medals- they turn up in great numbers. But we do appear to have a bit of a recruitment issue in the ADF at the moment. And I just saw on television before, the Prime Minister is talking to Papua New Guinea about the possibility of recruiting PNGs into the Australian military. What can we do about that?

MARLES: Well, firstly, on the second of those two points, and I won't go into it deeply on this day, but when we announced the National Defence Strategy last week, we opened the door to thinking about whether we do recruit non-Australian citizens, because it's not just a matter of retaining the numbers in the Defence Force, we need to grow it over the coming decade or two. Now, there's a fair way to go on all of- there's a lot of things we'd need to work through and I think the most obvious group that one would look at is the 600,000 New Zealanders who call Australia home. But we do need to be encouraging people to serve. You're right, we have found it difficult, particularly post pandemic- unemployment rates have been low. I mean, businesses around the country have been struggling to find people and the Defence force is no different to that. But it is an incredible life. It's an incredible life of service. I mean, I have the real privilege of being able to meet those who are serving in our Defence Forces. And the sense of cause and mission that they bring to their work and to their lives is something that is very important for them, something they cherish and they find it deeply fulfilling. And it is a really, really great career. And I should say we are starting to turn numbers around in the sense that recruitment numbers are starting to turn in the right directions- the separation rate is also declining, but there is more that we need to do here. And I think part of it is letting people know what's on offer in the Defence Force and the great opportunities that exist there.

ELLIOTT: Out of interest, did you have any close family members who served or anybody that you remember in your family?

MARLES: It's, again, a really good question. I wouldn't really describe myself as coming from a military family, but my grandfather, who I knew, who I have memories with- he died in 1982- but growing up, I remember watching the cricket and other sport with him, he was a sports fan. He fought at Pozieres in the First World War and indeed he won a Military Cross there. And I had the great honour a couple of years ago being taken to the very spot where he won his Military Cross. It wasn't something he talked a lot about in his life, but there's no doubt that the First World War deeply marked him and is a part of our family history. And his brother, who I didn't know, his brother Leo, did come to Gallipoli. Indeed, he landed on the 25 April here. Through the records we're able to determine he landed at 8.30, about four hours after the first landing. So, my great uncle was here throughout the Gallipoli campaign and that makes the commemoration of this very special. But I was listening to your intro earlier. I mean, the First World War, particularly the losses involved in it, both in terms of those who died, those who were injured, really marked our nation very early on in our history from since federation. I mean, Australia as a country was only 14 years old when this happened. And I think you alluded to it, but you can't go to a town in our country of more than a couple hundred people without seeing a monument to those who served and died in the First World War. And when you look at the names- and the number of names- in quite small places, you just realise how every Australian was impacted, how there was a kind of scar early on in our history which has rippled through the ages.

ELLIOTT: Look, thank you for your time. I know you have to go. Richard Marles there, Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Defence Minister. 


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