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Transcript of interview with Marius Benson: 12 November 2012 : Defence cuts/US criticism, nuclear subs, abuse in the Catholic Church

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Transcript - ABC Newsradio with Marius Benson November 12, 2012

RE: Defence cuts/US criticism, nuclear subs, abuse in the Catholic Church

BENSON: Yes thanks indeed for your time, you’ve been critical of the Defence cuts that have been the subject of

discussion before these AUSMIN talks, but the question that hasn’t been answered by the Opposition is, if you’re in

government, will you restore the funding.

JOHNSTON: We are certainly going to work as hard as we can to do that, the black hole that we’ll be confronting is

as yet unspecified, we’ve got another Wayne Swan Budget to come, they‘ve put about an extra $1.4 billion into the

Budget in terms of costs for the Growler system, the problem that we have now that we’re seeing on a regular basis

is that officially the Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific, Dr Kurt Campbell has come out now just three days

out from AUSMIN and said these cuts are on the agenda.

Now this is a very significant issue for Australia...

BENSON: But the Defence Minister himself said specifically yesterday on the Insiders they are not on the agenda.

JOHNSTON: Well Marius if you have a look at the quite respected journalist from Fairfax who has written on what Dr

Campbell has said, he quotes him, asks about the cuts he said it will be on the agenda and we’ll be discussing it in

Perth next week.

Now no spin, no smothering of this with disingenuous commentary from the Minister is going to avoid the issue that

the Americans are clearly concerned that we are not pulling our weight.

BENSON: What’s your position on this other specific point that’s come up this morning with Joel Fitzgibbon, the

former Defence Minister; the Fin Review is reporting him saying this morning that the Government should not rule out

using a fast attack nuclear submarine when it replaces the Collins Class subs of the moment. Do you think a fast

attack nuclear submarine should be a future option?

JOHNSTON: Marius nuclear submarines are not Coalition policy and they’re not on the table for us to be examining.

Firstly, out of courtesy to either the U.S or the U.K we do not have the capacity to build and operate our own reactors

we would have to get one from an ally. Without officially being able to talk to them and of course the Opposition can’t

do that, we’re in no position to make assumptions that we would have access to such technology.

Secondly, we have no indigenous capability to maintain and sustain, even from an Occupational Health and Safety

perspective, to look after nuclear submarines. From our point of view it’s not on the table and it’s not our policy.

BENSON: Senator can I just leave Defence there and ask about another issue that’s in the news this morning and

ask about the child sex abuse allegations against the Catholic church. There have been a number of investigations

established in relation to that. But there’s a call for action at a Federal level from people like Senator Doug Cameron

from the Labor Party, people from the Greens in fact we’ll be hearing from Christine Milne from the Greens in a

moment, and from other independents like Tony Windsor from New South Wales. What’s your view, should the

Federal Government now act on this?

JOHNSTON: I’m not across that issue totally, but the fact is this has been an absolute blot on the landscape in terms

of people’s faith and trust in the church. I think there’s clearly a major degree of concern out there and I think the

Government needs to look at this very closely.

But remember, Royal Commissions are very expensive and people have to be cross-examined in giving their

evidence and the victims are often the last consideration in this and I am concerned that we put them through a court

process that aggravates the situation.

BENSON: So do I understand to be saying you are concerned but you don’t think a Royal Commission is appropriate?

JOHNSTON: I think a Royal Commission needs to be investigated but they do have the potential to run off the rails

and not deliver what the victims are seeking. We need to be careful, we need to monitor what we’re trying to achieve

with such a Commission such that the victims can receive some solace in the process being cross examined by

lawyers day in, day out often is completely counterproductive.

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