On 14 November, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr and I hosted the US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the US Secretary of Defense, Leon E. Panetta, for the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) in Perth.
At AUSMIN, we reiterated our shared commitment to Afghanistan, and discussed progress towards transition to Afghan-led security responsibility by the end of 2014. Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the mission in Afghanistan, the tenth largest contributor overall, and the third largest Special Forces contributor. We also discussed possible post-2014 contributions. For Australia’s part, this will include trainers and advisers, including for an Afghan National Army Officer Academy, and a possible Special Forces contribution in the right circumstances and under the right mandate.
Ahead of AUSMIN, Secretary Panetta and I visited the SASR (Special Air Service Regiment) at Campbell Barracks, to meet with troops and recognise the progress of international efforts in Afghanistan. Secretary Panetta and I took the opportunity to thank our troops for their efforts in Afghanistan, noting the high regard that US and ISAF commanders hold for the professionalism and commitment they consistently exhibit.
At AUSMIN, we reaffirmed our strong commitment to cooperating on emerging challenges in space. In a demonstration of our commitment to strengthening Space Situational Awareness, Secretary Panetta and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding governing the relocation and establishment of a C-band space surveillance radar at the Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station in Western Australia. We also agreed to our two nations to work together to progress a proposal to transfer a highly advanced space surveillance telescope to Western Australia.
Secretary Panetta and I welcomed the progress both countries have made in implementing the US Global Force Posture initiatives in Australia that were announced by Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama in November 2011. The rotation of around 200 US Marine Corps personnel in 2012 was a success, and Australia looks forward to welcoming a similar sized rotation in 2013.
We commenced a discussion on 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.
Meeting in Australia’s Indian Ocean capital, we recognised the growing strategic importance of the Indian Ocean and our shared strategic interests across the dynamic Indo-Pacific region, stretching across the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean Rim. We committed to explore the opportunity to cooperate on Indian Ocean matters, particularly through working with India and in the longer term increased access by the US Navy to HMAS Stirling.
As Australia’s Indian Ocean naval port, HMAS Stirling will continue to grow in significance over time.
We welcomed the recent passage by the Australian Parliament and Royal Assent to the Defence Trade Controls Act. We will continue progressing implementation of the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty. This Treaty will increase opportunities for cooperation between our Defence industries and enhance interoperability.
Our discussions yesterday underscored the strength of our long standing relationship and the importance of our Alliance to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific, including increasing bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The Australia-US Alliance, of more than 60 years standing, will continue to positively shape regional security and prosperity as both our countries adapt to the challenges and opportunities of the future.
Following AUSMIN, Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, Minister Carr and I visited the family home in Cottesloe of John Curtin, Australia’s wartime Prime Minister, who started what has become the modern day Alliance between our two countries.
AUSMIN imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/12131788
The transcript of the joint press conference is available at: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/11/14/minister-for-defence-joint-press-conference-ausmin/
The AUSMIN 2012 communiqué is available at: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2012/11/14/minister-for-defence-ausmin-2012-communique/
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392