Joint media release

  • The Hon Andrew Hastie MP, Shadow Minister for Defence


In another signal of weakness from the Albanese Government, Defence officials have confirmed that Defence Minister Richard Marles did not bother to discuss the request from the United States for an Australian maritime contribution in the Red Sea with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, despite a dedicated meeting in December to specifically address the matter.

It took Labor more than two weeks to consider, and ultimately reject, this modest request and today we discover that Richard Marles abdicated his seat at the table – instead sending General Angus Campbell in his place.

This is weak leadership from the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, both of whom lack the necessary instinct and toughness for national security duties.

Richard Marles should today explain his absence from the December meeting, and why he failed to discuss the matter with Defense Secretary Austin.

This is another example of the Albanese Government failing Australia on national security.

Last November, the Prime Minister failed to raise China’s sonar attack on the HMAS Toowoomba with President Xi Jinping. Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were injured by the reckless act committed by the Chinese warship. Yet the Prime Minister failed to raise the issue directly with President Xi, even though he had the opportunity to do so at APEC.

The world is on edge. Strategic disorder is breaking out across the globe. Houthis are choking sea lanes and destroying ships in the Red Sea, while Iran fires hundreds of missiles into Israel.

Through of all this, the Albanese government is absent in word and deed. They won’t articulate the threats, and they won’t act to stop them. Meanwhile, our Allies do the heavy lifting and we watch on the sidelines.

This is a pattern of weak leadership from a weak Defence Minister. Our ADF and the Australian people deserve better.