Minister for Defence – Address to the 4th Annual Curtin University National Security and Strategy Workshop

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Introduction 

Thank you John Hartley, chair of this Workshop for that introduction, and for the invitation to speak at this event. 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. 

It is a pleasure to be at the 2012 National Security & Strategy Workshop, the fourth such annual Workshop held by Curtin University. 

It is the second National Security & Strategy Workshop I have attended, following my attendance at last year’s event. 

This annual strategic series plays an important role in providing a dedicated forum for government, business, academia, and the wider Western Australian community to discuss and debate issues of strategic significance to Australia and our region.  

Perth next week will host the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

Perth’s status as Australia’s Indian Ocean capital made it a natural choice to host this year’s meeting, underlining the increasing importance of the Indian Ocean. 

AUSMIN is the premier forum for strengthening Australia – United States Alliance cooperation on foreign policy, defence and strategic matters.  

The first AUSMIN was held in 1985 in Canberra.  Australia was represented by Foreign Minister Bill Hayden and Defence Minister Kim Beazley.  The United States was represented by Secretary of State George Shultz and Admiral Crowe, Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Command.  

There have been 22 AUSMIN meetings held to date.  This year’s AUSMIN will be the 23rd. 

It is normally held annually, with the venue alternating between Australia and the United States.  

The last AUSMIN was held in San Francisco in September last year marking the 60 year anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance.

In 2010, AUSMIN was held in November in Melbourne. 

AUSMIN 2012, the fifth AUSMIN meeting since the election of the Government in 2007 and the fourth with the Obama Administration, reflects the importance with which the Governments of Australia and the United States place on the enduring strategic importance of the Alliance.  

Australia’s Alliance with the United States continues to be the bedrock of Australia’s defence, security, and strategic arrangements. 

Australia works in close partnership with the United States to advance shared security interests in our region and globally. 

Both countries are committed to military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan to prevent it from again becoming a base for international terrorism, and are working closely in the Asia-Pacific region to promote peace and security, investment and prosperity. 

In its 61st year, the Australia-United States Alliance is the indispensable, enduring feature of Australia’s strategic and security arrangements. 

Since the first formative meeting of Australia’s great World War Two Prime Minister – John Curtin – and the United State’s great World War Two President – Franklin Roosevelt – in South Carolina on Anzac Day 25 April 1944, the Alliance has been supported and developed by both major political parties on both sides of the Pacific: Labor and Liberal, Democrat and Republican. 

The formal Alliance that has underpinned our unique record of shared commitments has changed but the commitment remains unflinching. 

With the Indo-Pacific region going through a period of significant geopolitical change, it is important to ensure that our Alliance continues to grow and develop to meet the strategic and security challenges we face. 

Curtin laid the ground work for such an approach in his ‘Call to America’ speech in December 1941, when he encouraged Australia to think through problems itself and to apply an independent and creative approach to international challenges. 

He articulated a clear-eyed vision of Australia’s place in the world, supporting a new global order based on international law and setting the stage for our Alliance relationship with the United States. 

This vision is just as relevant today, and is especially relevant to this Workshop.  

The theme of this year’s Workshop is Secured Prosperity: Border Security, Critical Infrastructure Protection & Strategic Sustainability of the State & the Nation. 

Securing the ongoing prosperity of Australia is irrevocably tied to the sustainable security of our diverse region, based on global, regional and bilateral security frameworks and adherence to international norms. 

This is a central theme of the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, released by Prime Minister Gillard on 28 October.

The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper outlines a long-term strategy to position Australia to benefit from the opportunities of the Asian century, while managing future challenges. 

It outlines the Government’s national objectives and pathways to building sustainable security in our region, including:

  • maintaining a comprehensive approach to security, including through the release of a new Defence White Paper in the first half of 2013;
  • promoting cooperative arrangements among major powers in the region including promoting the development of the expanded East Asia Summit as a crucial regional institution;
  • working with the United States to ensure it continues to have a strong and consistent presence in the region, including through enhanced practical cooperation between Australia and the United States (US);
  • supporting China’s full participation in the region’s strategic, political and economic development;
  • maintaining Australia’s strong support for global, regional and bilateral security frameworks and norms based on the United Nations Charter, including through our membership of the UN Security Council; and
  • pursuing practical cooperation and building local capability with regional partners across a range of issues such as terrorism, people smuggling, transnational crime, counter-proliferation and disaster management. 

Maintaining a comprehensive approach to security 

One of the fundamental responsibilities of any Commonwealth Government is to protect, defend and enhance our national security interests. 

This includes providing for comprehensive strategic planning processes involving regular Defence White Papers. 

The 2009 Defence White Paper committed to White Papers at intervals no longer than five years apart. On that basis the next White Paper would be due in the first half of 2014. 

As a result of significant developments internationally and domestically since 2009, the Government has brought this forward to the first half of 2013. 

One of these significant developments is the strategic shift to our region, which is clearly identified in the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper as having major implications for Australia’s future, and has particular implications for Defence and national security. 

In this Century, the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Rim, what some now refer to as the Indo-Pacific, will become the world’s strategic centre of gravity. 

The rise of China is a defining element in this, but it is far from the only or whole story. 

The rise of India is still under-appreciated, as is the rise of the ASEAN economies combined. 

As the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper states, the pace and scale of Asia’s rise have been nothing short of staggering. 

Asia is set to become the world’s largest economic region before the end of this decade, and within only a few years, the Asian region will not only be the world’s largest production zone, it will be the world’s largest consumption zone.  

The structural shift of global economic gravity towards our region means the scale and pace of Asia’s rise in the coming decades will be truly transformative.  

By the end of this decade, Asia is set to overtake the economic output of Europe and North America combined to become the world’s largest economic power.  

By early next decade, the combined output of China and India is expected to exceed that of the whole Group of Seven (G7).  

Asia will not only remain home to the majority of the world’s population, but the average GDP per person in Asia is set to almost double by 2025.  

The critical strategic importance of the Indian Ocean continues to be substantially under-appreciated. 

The countries of the Indian Ocean Rim are home to more than 2.6 billion people, almost 40 per cent of the world’s population. 

The security of its waters goes to the heart of global, regional and Australian strategic interests. 

The Indian Ocean already ranks among the busiest routes for global trade. It will become a crucial global trading thoroughfare in the future. 

The proportion of world energy supplies passing through critical transport choke points, including the Straits of Malacca, the Straits of Hormuz and the Suez Canal will only increase in coming years. 

Crucial trading routes, the presence of large and growing naval capabilities, as well as transnational security issues such as piracy, will drive Australia to ultimately put the Indian Ocean alongside the Pacific Ocean at the heart of our maritime strategic and defence planning. 

The ongoing shift in influence towards our region is, however, not just about economics or demographics.

Military and strategic influence is also moving to our part of the world. 

Economic growth has underpinned military modernisation and military capability growth across the region. 

The region will be home to three of the world’s superpowers – the United States, China and India – and home to four of the world’s largest militaries – the United States, Russia, China, and North Korea. 

The region is also home to the world’s largest navies, including the navies of the United States, China, India and Russia. 

The implications of this historic shift continue to unfold.  

No one can say with precision or certainty what the new international or regional order will look like: the regional and international community response to these challenges will be critical and will in many ways help determine the outcome. 

Promoting cooperative arrangements among major powers in the region 

By the second half of this Century, the Indo Pacific will be home to three super powers and the strategic environment will be defined not just by the relationship between Washington and Beijing but also by the relationships between Washington and New Delhi and New Delhi and Beijing. 

The US, China and India will be the great strategic powers of our region and the international community. 

The emergence of three great strategic powers in the region will see an adjustment in the balance of power across the region and around the globe.  

These changes of strategic circumstance, the changes in economic, political and military weight, do require adjustments and the US, China, India and Australia and the region are adjusting to that. 

How the international community manages that adjustment to ensure continued stability and prosperity is the most important challenge that we have in the coming decades. 

And that adjustment cannot be done by what some describe as a policy of containment, which is not viable. 

It is not possible for a country or countries to contain another country with a population of 1.3 billion, whether that is China or India. 

These shifting strategic influences must be managed by the international community through constructive and positive bilateral relationships, though dialogue and through regional architecture. 

This is why since coming to office in late 2007, the Australian Government has advocated the need for a regional Leaders’ meeting which can consider both strategic and security matters, as well as economic matters, with all the relevant countries of our region in the same room at the same time. 

That is why we very much welcomed the entry of the United States and Russia into an expanded East Asia Summit (EAS) last year.  

The United States and Russia joined with ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea. 

Presidents and Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers from all key countries in the region now meet to discuss the full gamut of issues, from the economy and trade and investment through to peace and security. 

Australia strongly supported the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) in Hanoi in October 2010 and looks forward to the second meeting in Brunei in 2013.  

The establishment of the ADMM Plus offers real opportunities for enhanced practical military to military and defence to defence cooperation, including for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. 

Australia is pleased to co-chair with Malaysia the Maritime Security Expert Working Group of the ADMM Plus.  We are working with Malaysia toward the establishment of a practical ADMM plus maritime security exercise, which will follow a successful table-top exercise this year. 

The ADMM Plus Maritime Security Expert Working Group works alongside the other expert working groups: on Counter-Terrorism chaired by Indonesia and the United States, on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, chaired by Vietnam and China, on Military Medicine chaired by Singapore and Japan and on Peacekeeping Operations chaired by the Philippines and New Zealand. 

Australia also welcomes Brunei’s proposal to host a humanitarian assistance and military medicine exercise for the ADDM Plus nations in conjunction with its chairing of the 2013 ADMM Plus meeting. 

Working with the United States to ensure it continues to have a strong and consistent presence in the region 

In Australia’s view, the United States has underwritten stability in the Asia-Pacific for the past half century and will continue to be the single most important strategic actor in our region for the foreseeable future, both in its own right and through its network of Alliances and security relationships, including with Australia. 

A continued, indeed enhanced, United States’ presence in the Asia Pacific is essential to peace and stability in our region.  Australia welcomes the United States enhanced engagement, its rebalance to our region. 

Amidst the strategic shifts we are seeing, some have posited, indeed even suggested to the US itself, a substantial decline in or a withdrawal from our region. 

I do not see it this way. 

The US is not going away and is re-balancing towards the Indo-Pacific, as President Obama underlined in his speech to the House of Representatives in November last year. 

President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary for Defense Panetta have all reinforced that the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean rim is of vital importance to the US. 

We are seeing a shift in focus by the US to our region, from US Central Command focus on the Middle East to the US Pacific Command, characterised when I was recently in Hawaii as having responsibility “from Hollywood to Bollywood”, from the West Coast of the United States to India and the Subcontinent.  

Substantially enhanced practical cooperation between Australia and the US is an essential part of Australia’s contribution to regional peace and stability. 

In November last year, the Prime Minister and President Obama announced during the President’s visit to Australia new force posture initiatives that significantly enhance practical defence cooperation between Australia and the US.

Coming on the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance, these initiatives strengthen an already robust partnership that has been an influence for stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region. 

It represents an evolution of existing exercises and activities that the US already conducts with the ADF in Australia. 

The first rotation of around 200 US Marine Corps personnel arrived in Darwin in April. 

The initial rotation was a US Marine Corps infantry company. 

Over a six month period, this initial US Marine Corps rotation undertook bilateral training in Australia with the ADF and conducted unilateral training in Australia.  

The US Marines spent the majority of that time in Northern Territory ADF training areas and ranges including the Mount Bundey and Kangaroo Flats Training Areas. 

The intent in the coming years is to establish a rotational presence of up to a 2,500 personnel Marine Air Ground Task Force, rotating into Northern Australia in the northern dry season. 

Australia and the US have also agreed to discuss closer cooperation between the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Air Force that will result in increased rotations of US aircraft through northern Australia.  

This will also enhance bilateral collaboration and offer greater opportunities for combined training and exercises.  

The details of such enhanced aerial access are yet to be considered or agreed between the Australian Government and the US Administration. 

Down the track, it is also proposed to examine the possibility of increased US naval access to Australia’s Indian Ocean port, HMAS Stirling. 

For Australia, this presence will support our long-held strategic interests in maintaining and expanding US engagement in our region.  

US force posture initiatives are an extension of our existing defence cooperation and defence arrangements.  

Australia already hosts military exercises involving large numbers of US military personnel. 

But the US does not have permanent military bases on Australian territory and this will not change.  The activities will take place in Australian facilities.  

This initiative will also provide tangible benefits by increasing the number, variety and complexity of training opportunities for the ADF.  

This will further develop our interoperability with US forces and help the ADF develop its ship to shore capability which will be important as our two Landing Helicopter Dock amphibious ships come on line from 2014. 

Our respective military forces must be postured to respond in a timely and effective way to the range of contingencies that may arise in our region, in particular humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

We expect that this deepening practical cooperation with the US will also reinforce existing relationships and provide opportunities to enhance cooperation with our partners in the region. 

Australia is exploring these possibilities with both the US and our regional partners. 

For example, Australia, Indonesia and the United States are planning to hold a trilateral Australia-Indonesia-United States humanitarian assistance and disaster relief desk top exercises over the coming months and a full scale exercise in 2013, under the general auspices of the East Asia Summit humanitarian assistance and disaster relief framework. 

Indonesian President Yudhoyono has said on a number of occasions that he sees the prospect of China observing such exercises and in the longer term he sees the potential for Australia, the US and China doing exercises themselves, which Australia welcomes. 

The United States has signaled its intent to significantly enhance its military, economic and political engagement in the region more generally. 

The United States is enhancing its relationships with Singapore and the Philippines.  

The US has sought to enhance its economic engagement with the region through the negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership.  

The region has welcomed the enhanced US political commitment to the region through its membership of the East Asia Summit and its active role in the ASEAN plus Defence Ministers meeting. 

Supporting China’s full participation in the region’s strategic, political and economic development 

Australia’s policy is for Australia and the world to engage China, and for China to engage the world. 

We want China to play a full and constructive role in the affairs of our region and we want a deeper and stronger relationship with China at all levels, just as we want China and the US to have a deeper relationship at all levels. 

The level of economic integration between Australia and China sets an important benchmark for our political, strategic and defence to defence and military to military engagement. 

The challenge is to raise our level of political and strategic engagement to the same level as our economic engagement. 

The same is true of the US-China relationship, but even more importantly so. 

The bilateral relationship between the US and China is and will be the most important bilateral relationship we will see in the course of the first half of this century. 

In the fullness of time the bilateral relationships between the US and India and between China and India will grow to the same level of importance. 

We now see deep economic integration between the US and China. 

What we now need to see is the US and China grow their political and strategic relationship to the same level so as to avoid strategic competition between the two. 

Very much at the heart of continued stability and prosperity in the region is a positive and enduring bilateral relationship between China and the US at every level from the economic to the strategic to defence to defence and military to military. 

Occasionally I have seen the suggestion that somehow a country like Australia could be a bridge between the US and China. 

Two great powers do not need a country with a population of less than 25 million people to be a bridge between them. 

That is a matter for them – and a positive constructive relationship between two such powers is essential for stability and security during this Century. 

And Australia says exactly that to both China and the US, namely there is an essential need for a positive relationship between China and the US at every level. 

Australia is encouraged by the enhanced engagement between US and China which we are now seeing. 

That is why we have welcomed the progress made by US Secretary for Defense Panetta and Chinese Minister for National Defence Liang at their ministerial meeting in Washington earlier in the year, and why we welcomed the visit by Secretary Panetta to Beijing recently. 

In line with our policy of engagement with China, Australia is committed to developing strong and positive bilateral Defence to Defence and military to military ties with China through dialogue and practical activities. 

Late last year, the ADF and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) undertook Exercise Cooperation Spirit 2011, a bilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise in Sichuan Province, a demonstration of deepening practical cooperation.

The ADF and PLA have just completed the 2012 iteration of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief Exercise Cooperation Spirit, this time in Australia and also involving the New Zealand Defence Force. 

Exercise Cooperation Spirit 2012 is one of several defence activities helping to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and China in 2012. 

Maritime engagement between our navies continues to grow. 

In May HMAS Ballart visited Shanghai for five days and conducted a passage exercise with the Chinese Navy frigate Anqing at the mouth of the Yangtze River. 

Australia looks forward to welcoming the reciprocal visit by three PLA-Navy ships to Australia later this year. 

Growing practical military to military cooperation is supported by enhanced bilateral dialogue on strategic and defence issues.  

In 2010, the Secretary of the Australian Department of Defence and our Chief of the Defence Force held the 13th Defence Strategic Dialogue with the Chief of the General Staff of the PLA. 

In June, I met with Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie in Beijing for the inaugural bilateral Australia-China Defence Ministers’ Dialogue. 

Maintaining Australia’s strong support for global, regional and bilateral security frameworks 

United Nations 

Australia’s membership of the United Nations, and the international obligations and responsibilities that brings, is a fundamental pillar of Australia’s approach to security and stability. 

This includes a strong history of contributing to United Nations and multilateral peace and security missions. 

Australia’s election to serve as a non-permanent member on the United Nations Security Council for 2013 and 2014 will give us a direct hand in shaping solutions to the world’s most pressing security challenges. 

The UN Security Council is at the core of the UN – it has primary responsibility in the global system for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has the power to make decisions that are binding on all UN Member States and to authorise coercive measures including sanctions and the use of force. 

This will be Australia’s fifth term on the Security Council since joining the UN as a founding member in 1945.  

Australia held the first Presidency of the Security Council in 1946. It has been 27 years since Australia last served on the Council in 1985-86. 

Since 1947, in excess of 65,000 Australians have served in more than 50 United Nations and other multilateral peacekeeping operations around the world. 

Australia has provided forces and leadership for peace observation and enforcement, weapons destruction, demining, training, and disaster relief all over the world including a key role in security and stability close to home in East Timor and Solomon Islands.

NATO 

Australia and NATO have strong reasons to cooperate together beyond Afghanistan.  The challenges of cyber security, international terrorism, nuclear proliferation and maritime security are enduring and reach beyond both Australia and Europe’s immediate region. 

This is why Australia strengthened its relationship with NATO through the signature of a Strategic Partnership in June this year during the visit to Canberra of NATO Secretary General Rasmussen. 

At the NATO Chicago Summit in May 2012, Australia participated in a unique meeting of NATO and its partners which agreed to enhance political dialogue and practical cooperation.  

This followed the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November 2010 and release of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, which outlined NATO’s interests in broadening its role in global security, and identified new and fundamental security tasks required of NATO. 

Australia welcomed NATO’s acknowledgement in its Strategic Concept of the importance of working with partners such as us. The Strategic Concept provides a solid basis for greater involvement of partners in NATO’s activities. 

NATO-Australia working relations are already close, with Australia’s participation in a range of NATO working groups in areas such as military logistics, communications and information systems.  

Australia also has substantial bilateral defence relationships with key NATO allies, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. 

Indian Ocean Rim 

In addition to putting substantial diplomatic effort into the establishment of the East Asia Summit and the ADMM Plus, Australia has also sought to strengthen the strategic architecture around the Indian Ocean Rim. 

This is why Australia joined the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in 2008 and will host the IONS Conclave of Chiefs in Perth in 2014. 

This is also why Australia joined India to lead the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), a Ministerial level forum with membership ranging across the Indian Ocean Rim. 

With India the current IOR-ARC Chair and Australia the Vice Chair, we are jointly leading efforts to strengthen regional security architecture, with a particular focus on maritime security. 

After India’s two year period as Chair of IOR-ARC, Australia will serve as Chair for the subsequent two year period, with Indonesia expected thereafter. 

India, Australia and Indonesia can all provide regional leadership through a forum that has much potential to deal with regional challenges. This also reflects a natural extension of significant and growing bilateral relationships between all three countries. 

The IOR-ARC Ministerial Meeting in India late last year agreed to examine renaming the forum, including the option of an “Indian Ocean Community.”  This is consistent with efforts, including by India, Indonesia and Australia, to lift the organisation to greater prominence and reflects the need to further develop the security architecture of the Indian Ocean Rim. 

Another important regional security forum for Australia is the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) which brings together Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Last year FPDA militaries conduct Exercise BERSAMA LIMA in the Malaysian Peninsula area. The Exercise involved around 4,000 personnel, 19 warships, 68 military aircraft, as well as support elements from the FPDA countries. 

The FPDA celebrated its 40th Anniversary last year and today retains conventional capabilities while also adapting to deal with modern non-convention challenges, such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

Pursuing practical cooperation and building local capability with regional partners 

Defence and the ADF’s international engagement in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond is both a strategic necessity and an important strategic asset for Australia. 

Port visits, training and exercises, international engagement activities, familiarisation visits both underline neighbourhood engagement and demonstrate the ADF’s capacity to meet the strategic tasks required of it by Government, whether security and stabilisation or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

As well, practical defence to defence and military to military cooperation in our neighbourhood region – in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping training and operations, exercises and training and maritime security – help build habits of mutual respect, trust and cooperation between defence organisations, militaries and nations, and adherence to international norms. 

All this not only minimises the prospect of tension, misunderstanding, misjudgement and miscalculation, but builds on and enhances positive cooperative bilateral and regional relationships. 

Defence and ADF international engagement must not just reflect the ADF priority tasks – the defence of Australia, security, stability and cohesion of our immediate neighbourhood and stability in the wider Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean Rim – it must now reflect the historic shift of strategic weight to our region.  

The new strategic circumstances, for example, requires enhanced defence to defence and military to military relationships with China, India, Indonesia, PNG, Tonga and Vietnam, let alone the ongoing enhancement of existing relationships such as Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States itself. 

Concluding remarks 

As I have outlined today, securing the ongoing prosperity of Australia is irrevocably tied to the sustainable security of our region. 

This means we must understand the implications for Australia of changing strategic, security and economic circumstances in our region and beyond. 

Our region will face a diverse range of challenges in the future, including terrorism, people smuggling, transnational crime, counter-proliferation and disaster management. 

These issues will challenge us as we continue to provide for the ongoing defence and security of Australia. 

To address them we will continue to promote cooperative arrangements among major powers in the region and encourage strong support for global, regional and bilateral security frameworks and norms. 

We will also make strategic, risk-based decisions about Australia’s long-term National Security and Defence needs. 

I am confident that, together, the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper and the 2013 Defence White Paper will provide a way forward to address these challenges.  

Thank you.


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