Television Interview, ABC Afternoon Briefing

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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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30 April 2024

SUBJECTS: NZYQ High Court Case; Additional Military Support for Ukraine; Australia-Republic of Korea 2+2 Meeting; Austal: Solomon Islands Election. 

GREG JENNETT, HOST: Well, Richard Marles, you've really clocked up a few flying hours of late, so we appreciate you backing up and I promise we will get to your trip to Ukraine and to defence matters in a few moments time. But it's hard to go past the deeply flawed safety regime in place around detainees who've been released in the immigration system. Will you apologise to Ninette Simons and her husband in Perth, who had their home invaded and robbed for not having moved sooner to protect them?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, obviously our thoughts are with the Simons family. It's clearly a very distressing event. It's difficult to go more into it because obviously this is now a matter in front of the West Australian justice system. What I would say is that, I mean, the Government in the NZYQ case obviously was supporting a proposition, which was that these people should remain in detention. This was a decision of the High Court. From there, the Government has put in place as tough and as strict a set of supervision orders as exist anywhere in the country. They are the steps that we've taken. Now, we exist within the context of a federation. There are issues around bail which are dealt with at a state level. At the federal level, we are obviously doing everything we can to put in place the strictest conditions possible.

JENNETT: All right, I might test that proposition a little further with you in a moment, because a bit of water has flowed under the bridge since the original High Court decision in NZYQ, legislatively speaking. But just on a fact regarding the release detainee, Doukoshkan, who's at the centre of this Perth case, was he wearing a monitoring bracelet at the time of the home invasion?

MARLES: Look, I'm not in a position to go through all of those details. And I repeat, this is now a matter which is in front of the West Australian justice system. Our thoughts are very much with the family concerned here. This is a terrible event and our thoughts are deeply with them. We have done everything within the power of the federal Government since the NZYQ case to put in place as tough and as strict a set of supervision orders as exists in Australia. That's what we did. It is literally everything within our power from the moment that this occurred. And that comes in a context where this was not our choice, it was not our decision. It was, of course, a decision of the High Court. It was a decision of the High Court not in reference to laws that Labor put in place, but in fact, laws that have been put in place by a former Coalition government. But that said, we face the outcome of a High Court decision and we've acted in the way that we have, putting in place very tough supervision orders.

JENNETT: It's not the supervision orders that are necessarily in question here right now, though, is it? Because in early December, Parliament rushed through powers for preventative detention orders. Now, that was five months ago. At the time Andrew Giles told everyone on the 6th December we've already begun preparations to ensure that we can do all we can, as quickly as we can – the inference being to lodge applications for PDOs. Have any PDO applications been lodged?

MARLES: Well, I mean, we are moving forward in relation to the lodgement of those applications. But again, Greg, that was a regime based on similar provisions that were put in place under the former Coalition government. Now, when you look at the length of time it took for the former Coalition government to put in place preventative detention orders, to even seek their applications, it took a very long time, much longer than has occurred between when the legislation passed the Parliament and this date today. So, we are working on this as expeditiously as we can on the basis of a model which was suggested by the Coalition, which they themselves operated and operated much more slowly than what is going on right now. So we are, I come back to what I said–

JENNETT: All right. But four and a half months is a long period of time. Sorry to interrupt. But four and a half months is a long period of time. It is arguable, and I'm not sure it has been argued in the court, but it's arguable that on the timeline of events there in Perth, if a PDO had been applied to Doukoshkan, he may not have been in a position to commit the crime that he's alleged to have committed here.

MARLES: Well, I mean, that's total conjecture. The process by which one puts in place orders of this kind are very significant. You are talking about putting somebody into custody not based on what they've done, but what they might do. So, unsurprisingly, there is a very high standard which needs to be met here in terms of submissions that are made. When you look at what the Coalition did when they had this in place, the period of time that it took to even make an application was far longer than what we're talking about between when this legislation passed the Parliament and today. Now we are well down the track of getting preventative orders in place. But this is a very significant process and what you've just said in terms of what may or may not have happened is utter conjecture. The reality is that a lot of this exists across jurisdictions. From a federal point of view, we have put in tough and strict supervision orders from the moment that the High Court made its decision. As I say, it was not the decision we wanted. We were arguing for a different decision in the High Court, but the High Court has its powers. The moment that decision was made, we've acted expeditiously.

JENNETT: Ok, look, just final one on timing. You say work is progressing, but how far off would you expect any applications on release detainees for PDOs?

MARLES: Look, I'm not going to put a date on that and it wouldn't be wise for me to do that. We are working as quickly and as expeditiously as we are. I would make a point that we are operating on a much faster timeframe than that which the Coalition operated under when they were last in government, on the model that they suggested we put through the Parliament and we did.

JENNETT: All right, final one on this, Richard Marles and I do acknowledge your availability to answer the questions we have on it. But where are Ministers Giles and O'Neil? It seems they're rarely available at incidents around– matters in Perth are the latest example, but incidents around breaches of community safety. Where is their regular reporting also that they’ve promised on the NZYQ case load?

MARLES: Again, I don't think the commentary in relation to them is particularly fair. I mean, in terms of the Government, I'm speaking on this, the Prime Minister has spoken on this. So the Government is very much present in terms of answering the very reasonable questions that you've asked. And the Ministers concerned are doing their job and they've been doing their job from day one in relation to this.

JENNETT: All right, let's move on to defence matters. You've returned from a trip to Europe with a side trip to war torn Ukraine, where you announced an additional $100 million in aid. Ukraine, of course, has expressed its appreciation for this. At the current rate that Ukrainian forces have been struck by incoming drone and missile fire from Russian forces, how long do you expect the extra $50 million worth of air defence equipment that you announced there to actually last before having to be topped up again?

MARLES: Well, there's a little in that question. Firstly, obviously, it's not just Australia which is providing support to Ukraine. And in terms of their air defences, they're receiving support from friends and allies around the world. And the most significant component to that, of course, is the package which has passed the United States, which is obviously of a different order of magnitude, as you would expect, given the size of the United States. And I think that the American package being passed in recent weeks, there's been a very significant package announced by the United Kingdom, Denmark announced the package as well, we've made our announcement. All of this, I think, has given a boost to morale, a fillip to Ukraine. Air defences are a key part of what they need to put in place. I mean, they have the system of air defences operating in Kyiv and around the country, but it is the area where they need the greatest support. Half the package that we announced on the weekend was dedicated to short-range air defence, but was dedicated to air defences. But I think the important point to make is that this is a significant moment in this conflict. I mean, it has been important for the world to stand with Ukraine from the moment that Russia crossed the border in its appalling act of aggression. But as we stand here right now, more than two years down the track, it really is a moment where it is critically important that the world is standing with Ukraine so that they know that the world will stand with them for as long as it takes for them to resolve this conflict on their terms. And that's why we felt it was important in making this announcement, which is just the next tranche of support, there'll be more to come, but we felt that that's why, on this occasion, it was important to actually be in Ukraine, to do that, to demonstrate our support.

JENNETT: Yeah, and we've already had recorded on this program the appreciation of the Ukrainian community back here for those announcements. Now, you and Penny Wong are holding talks with Korean counterparts tomorrow, Minister. We know that they hanker for deeper defence industry ties with Australia. If Hanwha Ocean returns with a revised offer for Austal, the West Australian shipbuilder, what's the Government's in principle attitude towards full Korean ownership of that company?

MARLES: Look, I'm not about to comment on the ownership structure of Austal. Obviously, we've announced, in a pilot way, if I could put it that way, Austal being our strategic shipbuilder in Western Australia. So, Austal is a critically important company for Australia in terms of establishing continuous naval shipbuilding in this country and particularly in Western Australia. So, Austal matters. Hanwha is a really important company now as well within Australian defence industry, given the role that they playing, here in Geelong actually, in terms of building the infantry fighting vehicles, the Redbacks. They're also building the self propelled howitzers here. and I'll be touring the facility here in Geelong with the Korean Defence Minister later today. We see a growing place that Hanwha has within our defence industry and the providing of capability to our Defence Force. But I think that forms part, as you said, of a growing relationship with Korea more generally in terms of our defence to defence relationship. Indeed, I would say that as we speak now, that relationship is at a historic high point and we want to take it further. And that will very much be part of the conversations that we have later today and tomorrow in our two plus two.

JENNETT: All right, we'll see what announcements come from that. And look, finally, Solomon Islands, the era of Manasseh Sogavare's prime ministership is over there with his decision not to attempt to lead a renewed coalition government. Has he paid a price at home for his stance on China and foreign policy? And what do you expect of Jeremiah Manele if he is the replacement?

MARLES: Well, I think it's probably not wise for me to comment on the internal affairs of Solomon Islands generally, but certainly as they are in the process of forming a government there. Look, I think all I would say, Greg, in relation to this, is two things. Firstly, obviously, Australia is very pleased to be able to play a part in facilitating the elections in Solomon Islands and we've done that in other countries in the Pacific. But beyond that, how the outcome of those elections, both in terms of who's elected to parliament, but also then the formation of a government is a matter for Solomons and we will very much leave that to them, as we should. But then simply say, no matter who forms government in Solomon Islands going forward, we will do everything within our power to seek to be the natural partner of choice and we know that we need to work hard to earn that trust, and that's what we will do, as we have done with the Sogavare government, as we've done with previous governments in Solomon Islands. Solomon Islands matters. They are a deeply critical country to the region, to Australia's national security, seeing improved human development in Solomon Islands will be a focus of the way in which we engage on our bilateral relationship. And we look forward to doing that with whoever forms government in Solomon Islands in the coming weeks. 

JENNETT: All right, and when a government is formed you can be sure we'll have some follow up questions around the formation of that with the Australian government. Richard Marles, I think we did a lap of the world, starting here in Australia and ending in the Solomons. As we said at the beginning, we really appreciate your availability, particularly after a tough few days there over the last week.

MARLES: Thanks, Greg. Appreciate it.


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