Television Interview, Sky News

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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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4 July 2024

SUBJECTS: Top Secret Cloud; Hamas-Israel conflict; Parliament House protest; Australian economy. 

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Deputy Prime Minister, thanks for your time. So an Australian Government cloud for defence and intelligence information. Is this needed because of a threat or attack carried out, attempts, what's going on here?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's really needed to keep pace with what it is to be a modern and capable defence force. And to be clear, this will manage top secret data across the Australian Government. Now the principle users of that are Defence and our national intelligence community, but it will be all top secret data. But the way to think about this is that in a modern defence force, we have sensors on particular platforms, on our planes, on our ships, sensors that pick up data which enable a high-tech platform like the Joint Strike Fighter to target or to defend itself against the incoming threat, or to defend, say, a ship from an incoming threat, all of that data is top secret. And that data needs to be managed in a way which is secure, which is resilient, which is able to be provided in real time. And that's what this capability represents. And we need to move to a cloud-based solution, which gives much greater resiliency in the way in which that data is managed. But we need to do that, obviously, in a way which is very secure. And so whilst we describe this as the cloud, we are talking about data centres that will be built specifically for this, that will be in Australia.

CONNELL: In Australia, the actual centres? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely in Australia. Where the links between the data centres only carry this traffic. So it will be very airtight and very secure. 

CONNELL: And how quickly? Because if we need this, does that mean right now we're a bit more vulnerable, when does this get off the ground?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: This will take place from 2027, it will give us greater resiliency. So it's hard to describe this without getting into the weeds–

CONNELL: But until then we're more vulnerable then. Isn’t that the case? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's not a question of security, we have all the security that we need now. But what happens with cloud-based data management is that you have greater resiliency in terms of access to that data. So whereas there might be data on a particular server, the server goes down, you have an issue about retrieving that until you get the server back up. This is a more distributed solution between a network of servers that would exist within these data management centres. So what we have absolutely works very well now. But to keep pace with where modern technology is going – 

CONNELL: So it’s sort of future proofing, rather than–? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Correct. And also to keep pace with the United States and to maintain our interoperability with the United States. 

CONNELL: Okay, so they want us to have this as well, otherwise–? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we want to have it together. And this will give us a common operating environment in terms of our computing infrastructure between our two countries. 

CONNELL: Security in the building, a bit of talk today, more activists out the front. I'm interested in this as well, ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’. We've all heard the slogan. They want to get support for their cause, is this going to achieve the opposite?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think we live in a democracy where we cherish freedom of speech, where people have a right to express their views and obviously, there are lots of Australians who feel very deeply about what's occurring in the Middle East. But it's very important that as people express their views, they do so in a way which is peaceful, which does not put lives at risk, which does not engage in vandalism and we've seen quite a bit of vandalism of public property and public institutions over the last few days and weeks and months actually. And to do that, really, is to act in a way which is disrespectful to our fellow Australians and so I think everyone respects the right of people to have their say, but we've got to be doing it in a way which is respectful to each other which has front and centre what it is to be special as Australians and what we have in common as Australians. I think that's the point that we need to remember right now. We really do need to see these things happening in a respectful way.

CONNELL: In terms of that in common angle then I suppose, what do you make of this group, the Muslim Vote, it seems to want to divide voters along religious groups, and we've had Christian parties, pretty small ones before, but this is very specific on Palestine. Is this a concerning development in politics do you think?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Oh, look, I mean, we've had parties which represent particular interests, particular issues and throughout our history. So you know, let's see how this all plays out. Again, you know, in a democratic society where there is freedom of speech and freedom to organize, you're going to see people organized in different ways around different issues. From the Labor Party's point of view, we seek to be obviously a party of government and we are that now. Broad based, we have many muslims who are members of the Labor Party today, as we have many members of the Jewish community and indeed other faiths and other ethnicities. We seek to represent all Australians in this place. 

CONNELL: Do you don’t have a particular concern for this group as a theory, you'll just see how, I suppose, how they go about their cause? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think that's right and then I suppose that will be for them. But for us as the Labor Party, what we seek to do is to represent all of Australia and speak about these issues in a way which brings people together, and which does so with dignity and respect. 

CONNELL: Just finally on the economy. So if there's a rate hike in August just after the budget, will the voters blame Labor?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we have been doing in every step that we've been taking, is to make sure that government policy, the executive policy, the fiscal policy which we control, is putting a downward pressure on inflation. That's why we've done two surpluses in a row, something which the Liberals never did. And it's why when we have been putting in place cost of living measures, we've been designing them in ways which bring prices down, such as energy bill rebates. That as a measure is designed to bring prices down–

CONNELL: And that brings headline inflation down. There's still though this argument on what the overall impact was. So we were told that the budget would bring inflation down. If it doesn't do that, in particular underlying inflation, and we see rate hikes, wouldn't that mean the budget has failed the primary purpose, the number one priority? 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We've taken two massive Liberal deficits and turned them into Labor surpluses. When the Liberals left power, what they were anticipating in terms of their budget forecast going forward was deficits in the federal budget through to the 2060s. Immediately, we have turned them around and delivered two surpluses. We've done that by being really prudent in the way in which we manage the budget. 

CONNELL: Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, thanks for your time. 



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