Television Interview, Bloomberg

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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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3 June 2024


HOST, HASLINDA AMIN: Well, as we were talking about, you know, China's economic woes come at a time where there's increasing concern about perhaps hegemonic behaviour by Beijing, particularly in the Asia Pacific. Australia's Defence Minister Richard Marles, says security anxieties still remain in the country's relationship with China. Speaking to us at the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, he also called upon Beijing to uphold the global rules based order.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: We have sought to stabilise our relationship with China. And again, if you take a step back and look at what's happened in the last two years, big steps have been taken forward. You know, we went for a period of a number of years where there was no Ministerial contact between Australia and China. That changed two years ago when I had my meeting with my Chinese counterpart, which was the first meeting at a ministerial level between our two countries in three years. Now, in the two years since that meeting, we've had numerous meetings between ministers of both our governments. There is significant dialogue across the whole range of our bilateral relationship and we have seen a lot of the trade restored, we've seen a stabilisation of the relationship. Now, there are tensions, there are security tensions that we have, there are security anxieties that we have. We obviously want to work through all of those, but there's no point in denying the fact that they exist, which is why we talk about cooperating with China where we can, disagreeing where we must. And we have been very clear about our disagreements when they occur and one of the really important things is that when our militaries interact, they need to do so in a manner which is both professional and safe.

AMIN: This is a more aggressive China. We're seeing that in the South China Sea. It's also a China that wants to expand its presence in the Pacific. Surely you must be quite worried about that.

MARLES: What we. I mean, firstly, we make really clear that the rules based order. I know people talk about that phrase a lot, and maybe at times people can think, it almost becomes glib. But the rules based order has been profoundly important for the maintenance of peace and security in the East Asian time zone, in southeast Asia and northeast Asia. And it's been upon that bedrock that we've seen such enormous economic advancement of this region, very much to the betterment of China, to the betterment of Australia, and that's what we want to see continue. But what underpins that is that rules based order. We need to know that we can operate in the global commons according to a set of rules which everyone consistently understands, which have been in place for decades. We call on China, but we call on every nation to engage in that way and to maintain that rules based order. Now, when we have our navy operating in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, all we're doing is asserting that rules based order. We're operating in accordance with international law, and we understand that in that process, we'll interact with other militaries, particularly the Chinese navy. But those interactions must be professional, they must be safe.

AMIN: You talk about a rules based order but China wants a multipolar world where there's more than just one power. Is there no room for that, given that China's on the rise and, you know, the middle countries are doing a lot more as well?

MARLES: I think middle countries are doing a lot more. Let's be clear. China's a great power. No one's denying that America is obviously a great power, but China is a great power. We clearly see that. And there is no problem with the rise of China. I mean, the economic growth of China has seen the alleviation of poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The economic rise of China has occurred in a way which is very much bettered Australia. We acknowledge all of that. But as a great power, there is a responsibility, an increased responsibility, really, to be a guardian of that rules based order which has enabled this economic growth. And that's what we look to.


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