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Russia-Ukraine war: Australian defence minister Peter Dutton says Australia should be prepared for war. Video / 9 News

Australian defence minister Peter Dutton has dialled up his rhetoric about the threat of China and Russia, warning Australia should be prepared for war.

Dutton’s comments echo those of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison who used a dawn service address to warn of a new “arc of autocracy” from Beijing to Moscow.

Morrison said he had drawn a red line and would not hesitate to join allies to keep China off Australia’s doorstep following a controversial security pact between Beijing and the Solomon Islands.

Speaking with Nine, Dutton issued a frank assessment of the situation, encouraging Australians to accept the “reality of our time”.

“We shouldn’t take for granted the sacrifice that was made by the Anzacs,” he said.

“We have to be realistic that people like Hitler and others aren’t just a figment of our imagination or that they’re consigned to history.

Labor deputy Richard Marles said Dutton was all words, no action. Photo / Tim Hunter
Labor deputy Richard Marles said Dutton was all words, no action. Photo / Tim Hunter

“We have, in President Putin at the moment, somebody who is willing to kill women and children. That’s happening in the year 2022.”

He warned China was on “on a very deliberate course” and the only way to “preserve peace is to prepare for war and be strong as a country”.

When Nine host Karl Stefanovic questioned his “provocative” language, Dutton pushed back.

“We’re in a period very similar to the 1930s now and I think there were a lot of people in the 1930s who wish they had spoken up much earlier into the decade,” he said.

Presented with Dutton’s comments at a short press conference in Darwin, Labor deputy Richard Marles claimed the defence minister was all words, no action.

“We are at a moment in our history where our strategic circumstances are as complex as many points since the end of the Second World War,” he said.

Hitting out at the Australian government’s record, Marles pointed to the dumping of a French submarine contract in favour of UK and US designed nuclear-powered vessels – which are not expected to arrive until 2040.

“We certainly need to prepare, but we have not seen the preparation under this government.”

“This is a government which repeatedly fails,” Marles added.

Asked if he was concerned about China crossing the Prime Minister’s “red line”, the Labor deputy said a military base in the Pacific would “dramatically change the framework of Australia’s national security”.

“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.”

Both Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese linked the war in Ukraine to the Anzac spirit.

“On this particular day, as we honour those who fought for our liberty and freedom, we stand with the people of Ukraine who do the same thing at this very moment,” Morrison said.

He and Labor deputy leader Richard Marles attended a Dawn Service in Darwin as the nation marked the 80th year anniversary of the city’s bombing.

Despite a brief pause to mark Anzac Day, it’s expected national security will remain a key issue as leaders resume their campaigns.