SUBJECTS: ANZAC Day; Emmanuel Macron’s re-election; Katherine Deves; Scott Morrison’s failures on national security; US Marine rotation; Solomon Islands.
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Well, can I start by saying it’s fantastic to be here with my colleagues, Terri Butler, Luke Gosling, our Member for Solomon, and Malarndirri McCarthy here on Larrakia Country. It’s been a wonderful morning and it’s been fantastic for me to be able to commemorate ANZAC Day in the great garrison city which is Darwin. This is a day where we acknowledge the service of those who have worn our nation’s uniform and it really is wonderful to be able to do that in the presence of so many people who are wearing our uniform today. It was also great to see the engagement of the United States Marine Corps. The US Marine Corps rotation was established by Julia Gillard and the Gillard Government. It is profoundly important for our national interest in terms of America’s presence in the region and as part of our alliance with the United States. But what’s really clear, as we have ANZAC Day in 2022, is that the US Marines are now very much a part – and very much a positive part – of life here in Darwin. As we take a break from the partisan contest of our democracy, it is, though, worth just acknowledging our gratitude for our democracy and for the freedoms which surround it. It is those principles which are very much at the heart of ANZAC Day. Can I just also, on behalf of the Labor Opposition, extend our congratulations to Emmanuel Macron in his re-election to the French Presidency. France is our neighbour. France is a Pacific country. And as such, France deeply matters to Australia. It is a profoundly important relationship in Australia’s worldview and we certainly look forward to working with President Macron as he leads France over the coming years.
JOURNALIST: Mr Marles, just quickly on Katherine Deves, she’s just done her first media interview, she says that she was affected, she’s been a victim of media pile-on. There have been death threats. Has the debate around this been too intense?
MARLES: Well, let me firstly say, no one who is in public life should have to endure death threats. And they are totally unacceptable.
JOURNALIST: Peter Dutton made comments today, he said that Australia has to prepare for war. What’s your response to that kind of commentary? Do you agree?
MARLES: We are at a moment in our history where our strategic circumstances are as complex as any point since the end of the Second World War. And we certainly need to prepare. But we have not seen the preparation under this government. And words are one thing, action is another. This is a government which beats its chest, but when it comes to actually delivering and doing what needs to be done, this is a government which repeatedly fails.
JOURNALIST: [Inaudible interjections]
MARLES: Let me finish. Under this government, we’ve seen six defence ministers in its nine years. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that under this government, we’ve seen a failing in the management of the submarine procurement, which means that in the last 10 years, we’ve seen a capability gap open up of 20 years in terms of the success of submarines to Collins. Now that is action, that’s what needs to, we need to be acting in that space. Words are one thing, action is what matters. And this is a government which repeatedly fails, as it has in its management of relationships in the Pacific, as it has in terms of the sale of the Port of Darwin.
JOURNALIST: If the government is as bad as what you say it is, what does it say about the Labor Party that you’re here in the Top End campaigning? Why isn’t the Labor Party storming away at this election?
MARLES: We don’t take any elections for granted. We don’t take any part of Australia for granted. And this is a critically important part of Australia. And it’s a critically important part of Australia to be remembering on this day. Darwin is one of a few of our really critical garrison towns. Darwin is an enormous asset in terms of the defence of our nation. And on a day where we are commemorating those who have served wearing our uniform, it’s also really important that we are here in Darwin where war met Australia just over 80 years ago, with the bombing of Darwin. So this is a really important place to be on this day.
JOURNALIST: Will Labor commit to any kind of increase in the US Marines, talking about the importance of Darwin, do you want to see that bolstered here?
MARLES: The US Marine rotation was established by the Gillard Labor Government, we welcomed its evolution since, and we welcome its ongoing evolution.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison says China establishing a military base in Solomons would be crossing a red line. Do you agree with a comment like that? And what happens if China does indeed cross that line?
MARLES: Let me be clear, first of all, if there is a Chinese military base in the Pacific, that dramatically changes the framework of Australia’s national security. If there is a Chinese military base in the Pacific, Australia at that moment is less safe. And the fact that we find ourselves asking these questions in this moment, says everything about the failure of Scott Morrison in his managing of the relationships in the Pacific and, specifically, Scott Morrison’s failure to manage the relationship with the Solomon Islands. Because of Scott Morrison’s failures, Australians are less safe.