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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; National Rally Against Gender Based Violence March; Solomon Islands Election; Additional Military Support for Ukraine; Defence Spending. 

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: The Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton has taken aim at Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles saying the two cannot continue in their jobs. Mr Dutton's remarks come after a former immigration detainee released under the controversial High Court ruling was arrested in Perth alongside two others for an alleged violent home robbery of an elderly couple which left one of the senior citizens with severe facial bruising. Let's go live to the Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles. Thanks for your time. We've got a lot to talk about from the Solomons to Ukraine. But let me start with the immigration detention issue. Is it time for those Ministers to be moved on by the PM?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, those Ministers are doing an excellent job. Obviously, this incident is deeply concerning. Our thoughts are very much with those who are concerned. Clearly, this is now a matter before the West Australian courts, so there's a limit to what we can talk about here. But let me say this, Kieran, the cohort that were the subject of the High Court case last year are now under strict supervision orders. Obviously, we exist within a federal system. Issues like bail are done at a state level. But we are doing everything within the Government's power to ensure the safety of Australians and the Ministers are doing an excellent job.

GILBERT: The suggestion is that the government did not oppose bail in the case of the individual alleged to be involved in that violent home invasion. If that's the case, isn't that simply negligence from the federal Government? Can you understand why people would be upset and worried about their own safety, looking at the images of that poor elderly woman?

MARLES: Well, as I say, obviously our thoughts are very much with those concerned. Issues of bail are dealt with at a state level and that's where that lies, and it's difficult to talk about these matters now given they are before the West Australian justice system. But as I say, this cohort in terms of what's within the power of the federal Government under strict and tough supervision provisions. And that's something that's been put in place by the government and very much led by the Ministers concerned.

GILBERT: You've said that the Ministers are doing an excellent job but they haven't done anything in the last 24 hours to reassure people. I appreciate your time and we appreciate the opportunity to speak to you as always. But shouldn't those Ministers be out there as well?

MARLES: I mean, you're asking me this question. I think the Prime Minister's spoken on this. I mean, the Government's voice is clear. This is– the Ministers are doing an excellent job across their portfolios in what is a very difficult area. And it includes this specifically which has been responding to the High Court case which occurred last year, a case that any government would need to deal with. And we dealt with it in a way where we’ve put in place as tough and as strict supervision provisions as exist anywhere in the country and that's something that's been led by the Ministers concerned.

GILBERT: You know as well as I do that when it comes to governments, you really have to reassure people when it comes to security and the economy, they're two of the fundamental things. And right now, given that High Court ruling, you would much prefer these individuals be back in detention. Are there other measures you can take to expedite that process? To put this cohort back into detention and avoid circumstances like we saw in the northern suburbs of Perth, allegedly carried out by one of the members of this cohort?

MARLES: Well, I mean, if we go back to the start – I mean, in terms of the NZYQ case, we obviously made submissions in that case which ultimately did not succeed within the High Court, but were to the end of this cohort remaining in detention. So, the position of the Government has been expressed through what we've been doing in the High Court, literally since we've come to office. The laws that were overturned are not the laws of this government, they're the laws of former governments and former Coalition governments. Now, we made those submissions, it was therefore our preference that obviously this cohort be put in detention. But we live in a system where the High Court has the powers it does. Since then, what we've done is to act swiftly in putting in place the toughest, well, as tough and strict supervision orders as exist anywhere in the country. Like, literally everything within the power of the federal Government is being done to keep Australians safe.

GILBERT: I do want to talk to you about those defence issues. I know you've just got back from Ukraine and those announcements. But before we do, let me ask you about Peter Dutton saying that the Prime Minister should apologise to the organiser of the domestic violence rally, given the dispute over who was invited to speak and not speak and so on. He was accused of lying, the PM. Peter Dutton says he should apologise. What do you make of that? Should he?

MARLES: I just think this is breathtaking that Peter Dutton has gone here on this question. I mean, let's just take a step back again, Kieran. We saw a tragic incident occur in the last couple of weeks, which has seen a spontaneous movement, really, where thousands of Australians have marched in support of security for women over the course of the weekend. One of those who marched in support of that cause was Anthony Albanese. Someone who did not march in support of that cause was Peter Dutton. Peter Dutton wasn't at a rally. The idea that Peter Dutton is out there criticising the Prime Minister in circumstances where the Prime Minister stood up and marched on this issue on the weekend and Peter Dutton didn't is completely breathtaking. But the other point to make here, Kieran, this is actually not about Anthony Albanese and it's not about Peter Dutton. It's about the security of women in this country. This is not a matter which should be politicised and yet that's exactly where Peter Dutton went as quickly as he could because he seeks to politicise everything. I mean, surely the security of women is a bipartisan issue. Now, the Prime Minister has demonstrated leadership here. There will be a National Cabinet tomorrow, which he has convened straight away in order to specifically deal with this. It is utterly unacceptable that we have a situation where a woman has died at a rate of more than one week this year in relation to this kind of violence. That is totally unacceptable and we need to see action. And Anthony Albanese is demonstrating that with the leadership that he's shown and the National Cabinet will be meeting on this. Peter Dutton actually was nowhere to be seen on the weekend and that is the fact which defines Peter Dutton here.

GILBERT: Deputy Prime Minister, the PM – or the outgoing PM of the Solomon Islands. It's a significant development there. Manasseh Sogavare had poor results at the recent election in the Solomons. He is seen as the most pro-China leader in the Pacific. Do you welcome the fact that he's going to be replaced as Prime Minister of our neighbour?

MARLES: Well, look, I'm not about to comment on the internal affairs of another country and certainly I'm not about to comment on the internal affairs of Solomon Islands. Australia was very pleased to be able to play a part in facilitating the elections in Solomon Islands, which we did. And we often do provide support for the logistics around the holding of elections in the Pacific. But the outcome of those elections are a matter for Solomon Islands and as happens in their system, there is the election day, those who get elected to the parliament, and then there is a process by which a government will be formed in Solomon Islands. I think the point I'd simply make there is no matter who forms government, we will seek to be the partner of choice and we will work hard with the new government of Solomon Islands to earn that trust, as we did with the Sogavare government, as we’ve done with governments previously. 

GILBERT: Does the result diminish China’s influence?

MARLES: Again, it's hard to answer that question– it's hard to answer that question without weighing into Solomon Islands politics, which I'm not going to do. I simply say that whoever forms government in Solomon Islands we will seek to be their partner of choice and we will work very hard to earn that trust.

GILBERT: On Ukraine, you've committed the Government another $100 million. The US has also committed a significant amount. I just wonder, are defence planners looking at the situation there and weighing up the prospect that Donald Trump could, and likely, according to a lot of polls, will win in November and the prospect that he'll pull the pin on support?

MARLES: Well, I mean, obviously, we don't know what's going to happen in the American elections and given the nature of America in the world, the American elections are clearly a significant event and people, you know, think about that. But I think the important point to make is that this is a really critical time for Ukraine. It really matters that the world is standing up on behalf of Ukraine now. I mean, it has mattered from the day that Russia engaged in its appalling invasion of Ukraine, but it particularly matters now. That's why we felt it was important to not only make this next announcement or next tranche of support that we did, but to actually go to Ukraine and make the announcement there. I think the package that has passed the United States Congress, the package that was announced by the United Kingdom, I think there was a package from Denmark and obviously our own. All of it coming in a short period of time, is a real fillip for Ukraine. It is a boost in morale. I mean, particularly the American package is going to make a very significant difference in their ability to be able to prosecute the war and their interest in the war. But ultimately, this is an existential conflict for Ukraine, and Ukraine must be able to resolve this conflict on its terms. And we will stand with Ukraine for as long as that takes, irrespective of what happens in the rest of the world.

GILBERT: Just on that money, the $100 million, is it out of the existing Australian Defence budget or is it extra on top of that, out of general revenue?

MARLES: No, this is a contribution from Defence, but it is a significant contribution of $100 million. And we will continue to look at ways in which we will support. This by no means is the end of our contributions to Ukraine, of course. I mean, I think in part in answer to your previous question, the way we are thinking about it in terms of our own planning, is that this is going to be a long, drawn out, enduring conflict and we need to be there over the long term. And so we will be, you know, we are thinking about how we can continue to provide support and provide support as we have done up until this point in time. So, this is simply the next tranche in that ongoing commitment of support. 

GILBERT: Does it mean cuts out of our Defence, though?–

MARLES: No. No, it doesn’t –

GILBERT: Does that mean cuts out of our own Defence in order to boost Ukraine? 

MARLES: No. Well, Kieran, I think the point to make here is, as we've said before, Defence's budget is expanding significantly. I mean, as we announced when we announced the National Defence Strategy, what will be in this year's budget, over the next four years, represents as big an increase in defence spending over a four year period as has happened in decades. And that's measured in billions of dollars. And we are seeing an additional $50 billion over the next ten years relative to what we inherited when we came to office. So, there are very, very significant increases in defence spending which are of a historic scale. Part of our focus needs to be on what is happening in the world. I mean, we are very much focused on our region, as we should be. That's what the Defence Strategic Review asks us to be. But you cannot be focused on the regional without having an eye to the world. And clearly what is playing out in Ukraine does have an impact on the way in which the global rules-based order is maintained everywhere in the world, including in our part of the world. So, this is an appropriate commitment in terms of Australia's defence, it is an appropriate in terms of Australia’s national interest and there will be more commitments going forward.

GILBERT: Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles, I appreciate your time, as always. Thanks.

MARLES: Thanks, Kieran.


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