Doorstop Interview, Washington

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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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9 July 2024


JOURNALIST: Deputy Prime Minister, welcome to Washington, DC, welcome to NATO.

MARLES: Great to be here. And it is going to be a very exciting few days, a very significant few days. The 75th anniversary of NATO reminds us that over that period of time, NATO has been a defender of peace in the world; in the post-World War order; in the Cold War and now, today. And our connection with NATO has never been more important, we see that the world is much more connected place, Ukraine puts that into stark relief, and the significance of that conflict on the Indo Pacific. So we're very pleased to be here. 

JOURNALIST: I was going to ask you, with the Indo Pacific strong presence there, you've got Japan and South Korea and New Zealand, all here all invited, essentially, what do you specifically, and does the Australian Government want to get out of you being here this week? 

MARLES: Well I think the world is a much more connected place. What we're seeing with the war in Ukraine is a conflict which has relevance for us in the Indo Pacific. It's why we deeply value our partnership with NATO as part of the Indo Pacific forum and it's obviously very significant that Japan, Korea and New Zealand are also here as part of that. I think we obviously want to understand how the war in Ukraine is being prosecuted, how we can support, what implications that has for our region and we also want to look at ways in which we can cooperate with NATO more. 

JOURNALIST: And you'll get a chance to spend some time with Joe Biden, the US president who's hosting this summit at dinner at the White House on Wednesday. And then obviously, the Indo Pacific Forum on Thursday, what is it you want to discuss with him and the Prime Minister is not here himself?

MARLES: Well, I think, firstly, it’s a deeply important forum and the Prime Minister has been at the last two NATO forums and that has been a departure from what we've seen in the past. The Prime Minister being at the last two speaks to the significance that NATO now has for Australia. And I think that is the point that we'd be wanting to make to everyone who is participating here at NATO, to the United States, the United Kingdom and all of those countries in NATO, as well as the NATO leadership itself, just how significantly we regard NATO. I mean, from an Australian point of view, we need to see Ukraine be able to resolve its conflict on its terms and NATO is fundamentally essential to that and that makes NATO fundamentally relevant to us. 

JOURNALIST: A lot of the world leaders are going to be looking with interest and the performance of the US president this week given the concerns that have been publicly raised about his mental acuity here in the United States, do you have any issues with an 81 year old octogenarian being a leader of the free world? 

MARLES: No, Joe Biden has done a magnificent job as President of the United States and we have worked very closely with his administration and we really couldn't be happier with the presence of his administration in the Indo Pacific. The way in which he has played a leadership role in the Indo Pacific but in fact throughout the world. The point that I've made on numerous occasions is Lloyd Austin, the US Secretary of Defense is my defence counterpart with whom I have met the most of any defence minister in the world. That says a lot because there would be a whole lot of defence ministers around the world who've made the same observation and it says a lot about the way in which the American administration is managing its relationships with the world. And I'm sure that Joe Biden will do a fantastic job hosting NATO here this week. 

JOURNALIST: Just wondering what is the message you want NATO and the Indo Pacific countries to be sending to the rest of the world, particularly to the likes of Russia?

MARLES: Well, NATO stands for the maintenance of the global rules based order and that's where Australia stands as well. And that's fundamentally in Australia's national interest, but it's in the interests of global peace and it's in the interests of global prosperity. NATO has been a defender of that, over 75 years, through the period Post War through the Cold War and through the period since. Its 75th anniversary being celebrated here speaks a lot to the significance of NATO and the role that has played in maintaining that rules based order and that is more important now than it has ever been. I think it's fair to say that NATO has been more important to Australia now than it has ever been. 


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