Doorstop Interview, Washington

Release details

Release type

Related ministers and contacts

The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

Release content

10 July 2024

SUBJECTS: NATO Summit; US Presidential Election; AUKUS; Support for Ukraine. 

JOURNALIST: Well, first of all Deputy Prime Minister, you’re here this week for the NATO Summit, there's a lot of speculation here in the United States around the US President Joe Biden. How much are world leaders here looking at the performance of the US President this week?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think people are focused on the 75th anniversary of NATO and the challenges that are facing NATO and its allies in the contemporary world. I mean, it is a very significant moment to acknowledge the 75th anniversary of an organisation which has been central to keeping peace in the world over a significant period of time. But we face challenges around the world; the global rules-based order is under as much pressure now as it's been, really, at any point since the end of the Second World War. And that is the thing that is on– front and centre of people's thinking. Certainly, from Australia's point of view, at this meeting, that's what's front and centre and our thinking, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to engaging with NATO in this moment. But that is driven by the complexities and the challenges that we are finding in the world today. 

JOURNALIST: So, the leader of the free world is obviously pretty important in making sure that the world has enjoyed freedom and rules-based order for the last 75 years. So what do you think is the perception around maintaining strong leadership out of America? 

MARLES: Well, America has been providing strong leadership. I've made this point on a number of occasions: the defence minister I have met the most since being in government is Lloyd Austin, the American Secretary of Defense. And that's not an insignificant thing to say, because I would be just one of a number of defence ministers around the world who would say that. I think it's a vignette which says a lot about the way in which the Biden Administration has been engaging with the world, about the way in which the US and that Joe Biden has been managing its relationships with the world, and we could not be more pleased with that. We're certainly very pleased about the focus that the Biden Administration has placed on the Indo-Pacific, on the issues which are front and centre for Australia. So we are seeing strong leadership by America. That's certainly how we see it. And that is absolutely critical in terms of the challenges that the world faces today.

JOURNALIST: Does the government feel that this instability though, could lead to another Trump presidency? 

MARLES: Again, we are– it's an election year. And America's got a right to go through its political processes in an election year, and I'm going to let America do that themselves without providing a commentary on it. It's part of the democratic process. It's obviously a process that we go through ourselves. We will work with whoever the American people choose to lead it after the first Tuesday in November. Right now, we are working very closely with the Biden Administration and we're very happy with the role that the Biden Administration is playing in terms of providing American leadership in a troubled world. 

JOURNALIST: What did you think of Joe Biden's debate performance?

MARLES: Again, I'm not about to provide commentary on domestic American political affairs. It really doesn't matter what we all think, the American process is for the Americans to judge and to participate in. We all will watch it around the world, but fundamentally, it's an American process. What matters for someone like me to say is that whoever is elected President in November of this year, we will work with and I am sure that the Alliance between Australia and America will continue to be strong and that the key equities that we have in that alliance such as AUKUS will remain on track. 

JOURNALIST: Does Australia have any concerns about the ongoing viability of AUKUS should there be a change of administration? And what work are you doing while you’re here in Washington DC to, sort of, bolster support for AUKUS among congressional Republicans, Trump Republicans and the like?

MARLES: So the answer the first question is, we don't have concerns. I mean, we have really been pleased and gratified by the support that we see for AUKUS across the political spectrum in the United States. And we saw a really graphic example of that at the end of last year, with the passage of the package of legislation through the Congress that was supported by Democrats, by Republicans, by Trump Republicans. And I think that says a lot about the support across the political spectrum for AUKUS. And so, we are confident that whatever happens in November in America, we will continue to have a strong alliance with the United States and the key equities that we have in that alliance will be able to be maintained. This week, I am participating in a congressional program where I'll be meeting a number of members of Congress, again, across the political spectrum. And I will definitely be talking about the importance of AUKUS, about thanking them for their support for AUKUS in December of last year, but also making clear what the next challenges are in terms of the AUKUS journey.

JOURNALIST: Just on the question of US leadership, how important is that leadership in Ukraine, from the US, regardless of the result of the election in November? 

MARLES: Well, American leadership in Ukraine has been really important. The conflict in Ukraine clearly matters to Ukraine, but it matters to the world because what Ukraine is fighting for, in addition to its own country, is the rules-based order and we're all deeply invested in the rules-based order. I mean, that's why we see that Ukraine being able to resolve this conflict on its terms is in Australia's national interest. That's why we've provided significant support to Ukraine up until this moment of time and we’ll continue to provide support to Ukraine. We see this as a conflict that is likely to endure over a period of time and we certainly will be standing with Ukraine for as long as it takes for Ukraine to resolve this on its own terms. It really matters that countries around the world – and obviously this will be a big topic at NATO this week – it really matters that those countries continue to support Ukraine, that we see the leadership of NATO in that respect. 

JOURNALIST: Do you have any concerns about how a Trump administration would handle Ukraine? 

MARLES: Well, again, I'm not going to go into commentary about what may or may not happen. It matters that we see support for Ukraine. And that will continue to be our position and it will continue to be our advocacy (inaudible).

JOURNALIST: Just on NATO, have you have you detected, or do you sense that there's going to be a change in language, especially out of the communique, on how China is perceived in the Pacific?

MARLES: Look, I’m certainly not going to pre-empt what will happen in the communique. The point I would simply make here is that the global rules-based order and its maintenance is fundamental to Australia's national interests and to our national security. As an island trading nation where trade forms an increasing proportion of our national income and our national prosperity, we are deeply invested in that rules-based order, in things like the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, on concepts such as freedom of navigation. Now, NATO matters to us because that is central to the ethos of NATO. NATO is about that. It is about that, obviously, in the North Atlantic, but in a much more interconnected world. The example which is set in the North Atlantic is fundamental in terms of how the rules-based order is maintained around the world, including the Indo-Pacific and that is the point that we will be seeking to make this week; that the maintenance of the global rules-based order is being placed under pressure in Eastern Europe, but around the world as well, and we feel it in the Indo Pacific. And all of us need to be champions for that. Thank you. 


Other related releases