In a doorstop interview with journalists at Parliament House, Canberra, this morning, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles outlined further Australian supports for the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Australia’s contribution will, for the first time, include instructors sent to the UK to train Ukrainian soldiers in England.
Australia will also send another 30 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles.
Following is a transcript of Mr Marles’ interaction with the media this morning…
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Today the government is announcing its latest tranche of support for Ukraine; 30 additional Bushmasters, 70 ADF personnel who will go to the United Kingdom in January to participate in a UK-led initiative to provide training for Ukrainian forces – infantry training. And this is really important because we are dealing with a reservist force in Ukraine, everyday Ukrainians signing up for the conflict, which has now become a protracted conflict. That’s why we know that we need to be standing with Ukraine, over the long term, if we’re going to put Ukraine in a position where they are able to resolve this conflict on their own terms. These are really important measures that takes our overall contribution to $655 million, making us one of the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine. While Ukraine is a long way from Australia, we are doing this because the principles at stake there are ones which engage our national interest. We cannot allow to stand the proposition that a large country will impose itself on a smaller neighbour, not by reference to the rule of law, but by reference to the power and might. That’s what this Russian aggression has done, and that’s why it’s really important that we stand with Ukraine and we’re doing that.
JOURNALIST: How long do you intend to have troops training Ukrainian troops? And just to confirm, there’s no Australian troops going into Ukraine?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: So the Australian troops will be going into the United Kingdom. This is part of a UK-led initiative, and I’ve been in contact with the UK Defence Secretary overnight, and they’re delighted that we are participating in this program.
As to how long – we’ll see. I mean, we are really clear that this is going to be a protracted conflict. And we need to be there for the long-term. And that’s what’s at the heart of the announcement that we’ve made today.
JOURNALIST: Defence over the forwards in the Budget is slightly under what was in the budget forwards last year. What is your reaction to that, are you disappointed in that, or is it par for the course? And why it’s such a big cost jump between what we’ve already committed to the $655 million? What’s the expensive part in this tranche of support?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is commensurate with what we’re doing. So, you know, Bushmasters are not cheap and sending personnel to another country, deploying them in order to engage in any activity – in this context training – is also an expensive undertaking, but it’s important that we are doing that.
Defence spending goes up every year through the forward estimates. Defence spending in the current financial year is more than it was in the last financial year. And defence spending in this current financial year is more than what was budgeted in March under the former government for this financial year. So defence spending is going up, that’s what we’ve said will happen. It will go north of 2 per cent of GDP. And we’ve made clear that in a rational world, defence spending is a function of strategic threat, strategic complexity. It is a complex world out there and we are rational people.
FILE PHOTO: Two Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles bound for Ukraine wait to be loaded onto a C-17A Globemaster III aircraft at RAAF Base Amberley. Photo by Leading Aircraftwoman Emma Schwenke.