Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
Australian Defence Force Posture
2013 Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal Launch
Darwin Convention Centre
11 April 2013
***Check against delivery***
Thank you for that introduction Major Gordon Main.
I acknowledge my Federal Parliamentary colleague Senator Trish Crossin.
I also acknowledge Terry Mills MLA.
I also acknowledge members of the Salvation Army, especially Majors Neil Venables, Peter Wood and Dianne Main.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am pleased to launch the 2013 Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal, the Salvation Army’s 46th Annual Red Shield Appeal.
The Salvation Army, ‘the Salvos’, has been operating in Australia since 1880 and is one of Australia’s best known and respected charities. It offers a wide-range of diverse social and community services to Australians in need.
The Red Shield Appeal is the Salvation Army’s major Annual fundraising drive to help finance its important network of services.
Proceeds from the Appeal enable the Salvos to continue their invaluable work assisting Australians with emergency relief, including during humanitarian disasters, providing aged care services, children’s services from Christmas gifts to camps, and housing for domestic violence victims.
The national fundraising target this year is $79 million.
The Prime Minister who I saw yesterday evening when she stopped off in Darwin on her return from China has asked that I read you the following message:
“It is with great pleasure that I send my best wishes to The Salvation Army as it launches its 2013 Red Shield Appeal. I am glad that my colleague, Stephen Smith, is able to be with you in Darwin.
The Salvation Army is not only one of the country’s largest charities, but is also one of the Australian Government’s biggest not-for-profit partners, helping us deliver government-funded services to thousands of Australians.
During 2012, The Salvation Army assisted over 17,000 people into employment. Each week The Salvos found 4,600 beds for people sleeping rough and distributed over 6,000 food packages or vouchers to families in need. The nearly 10,000 volunteers and 5000 employees ran more than 600 social programs across Australia and were among the first on the ground when floods and fires affected our nation.
Yet, as someone who spent countless hours watching her mother volunteer as a Salvation Army cook, I know that it is not just time or skill that Salvos volunteers offer to those in need, but also love and care, friendship and compassion. These are the things that lift up an individual and enrich a society.
I am, therefore, delighted to announce that the Australian Government will donate $350,000 to The Salvation Army’s 46th Annual Red Shield Appeal. I also encourage all Australians to give what they can when the Salvos come knocking on their door.”
I as well encourage all Australians to support this year’s Red Shield Appeal.
The Salvation Army and Defence
The Salvation Army and the Australian Defence Force (ADF), in particular the Australian Army itself, have a long history.
The Salvation Army has been providing services and offering support and spiritual guidance to Australian Defence Force personnel since the Boer War in 1889.
The Red Shield Appeal in particular has strong links to our military, drawing its name from the Red Shield emblem used by Salvation Army chaplains and support workers during the First World War.
First established in Australia in 1914, Red Shield representatives served alongside Australian personnel overseas during the war.
Red Shield representatives have subsequently supported Australian troops on deployment in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam.
In more recent years, support for ADF personnel and their families is provided through the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Defence Services.
Red Shield Defence Services have supported our troops in peacekeeping and stabilisation deployments in Cambodia, Somalia, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.
Red Shield Defence Services have also supported our troops and their families in Australia during and after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Known colloquially as the ‘Sallyman’ or ‘Sallywoman’, Red Shield Defence Services support ADF personnel and their families in any way they can, with assistance through welfare and morale support, as well as personal counselling and religious fellowship.
ADF personnel benefit greatly from the work Red Shield Defence Services do. Many current and retired personnel see the Red Shield Appeal as an opportunity to give back to an institution which as a charity supports them, their colleagues and the wider Australian community.
The main funding for the great work Red Shield Defence Services does come from the Red Shield Appeal.
ADF personnel conduct annual and biannual collection activities in support of the Red Shield Appeal.
This support consists of local and on-base donation collection, as well as the widely known doorknock appeals.
In support of this year’s Red Shield Appeal, ADF personnel deployed around Australia and on operations across the globe will be collecting donations, helping to contribute to this year’s $79 million fundraising target.
Defence in the Northern Territory
Darwin is an appropriate place to launch the Red Shield Appeal and to talk about Australian Defence Force Posture.
The Northern Territory has an important place in Australian military history and is now a key element of strategic Defence planning considerations.
Darwin hosted a large number of Australian and United States (US) military units during World War II and was bombed by Japanese forces on many occasions.
This commenced with two major air raids on 19 February 1942. Eight ships were sunk, two were beached and later refloated and many of the other 35 ships in the harbour were damaged by bomb or machine gun fire. Darwin town and the RAAF aerodrome were also heavily damaged by the raid. A second raid of 54 bombers was launched two hours later on the same day.
The raids on 19 February were the first two of sixty-four raids against the Darwin area and its nearby airfields, which bore the brunt of Japanese attacks on mainland Australia.
Defence’s response to the cyclone that devastated Darwin on Christmas Day 1974 has been described as one of its largest peacetime disaster relief operations.
Cyclone Tracy flattened Darwin with winds in excess of 160 knots. It killed 49 people ashore and a further 16 at sea.
The Australian military forces provided an immediate and necessary response to the domestic disaster of Cyclone Tracy.
During the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy, Darwin was the centre of the largest airlift in Australian history in which the majority of Darwin’s inhabitants were evacuated by air from RAAF Darwin.
Army units followed up by providing limited accommodation and services to facilitate reconstruction. As the civilian capacity grew the military withdrew, and the Northern Territory assumed normal governance arrangements in due course.
Today in Darwin I will again visit some of our essential Defence facilities and bases, Robertson Barracks, Headquarters Northern Command (NORCOM) and the North-West Mobile Force (NORFORCE).
These facilities, together RAAF Darwin and RAAF Tindal, reflect the strategic importance of our northern and north western approaches and are relevant to the topic I have been asked to speak about today, namely the defence of the North.
Defence’s presence in Darwin and the Northern Territory makes a significant contribution to the Territory and Darwin’s economy. Defence contributes over $800 million annually to consumption in the Northern Territory and generates over 11,000 jobs.
With just 1 per cent of Australia’s population, the Northern Territory is home to:
• 10 per cent of Australia’s permanent Defence Force personnel;
• 70 per cent of Australia’s Abrams Main Battle Tanks;
• 75 per cent of Australia’s Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters; and
• 70 per cent of Australia’s Armidale Class Patrol Boats.
Major Defence sites in the Northern Territory include:
• Larrakeyah Barracks
• Robertson Barracks
• RAAF Base Darwin
• RAAF Base Tindal
• HMAS Coonawarra;
• Major training areas, including the Bradshaw Field Training Area, Mount Bundey Training Area and Delamere Air Weapons Range; and
• the Australia-US joint Defence Facility Pine Gap.
Larrakeyah Barracks is the main base for the ADF in the Northern Territory. ADF units at Larrakeyah include Headquarters NORFORCE, elements of the Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Army Watercraft Troop.
Robertson Barracks is the home of the 1st Brigade.
The 1st Brigade is the only mechanised formation in the Australian Army. Vehicles include the Abrams tank, the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) and the M113 Armoured Personnel Carriers.
Robertson Barracks is home to a range of important Australian Defence force units and as well as visiting US Marines.
Robertson Barracks is currently undergoing a major upgrade to provide new and upgraded working, training, emergency response and equipment support facilities.
The works are substantially complete at a total project cost of over $72 million. The Hardened and Networked Army Facilities project has also provided additional working accommodation and other support facilities at Robertson Barracks.
RAAF Base Darwin
RAAF Darwin is one of the RAAF’s main forward operating bases. RAAF Base Darwin was established in June 1940.
The Base hosted a large number of RAAF and US Army Air Forces units during World War II and was bombed by Japanese forces on numerous occasions.
The RAAF Base Darwin Redevelopment project is in construction and will provide a fuel farm, fuel reticulation system, workshop facilities and ground support equipment with a total project cost is $48.7 million.
RAAF Base Tindal
RAAF Tindal was initially built for the RAAF as Carson’s Airfield in 1942. The airfield was constructed by the US Army 43rd Engineer General Service Regiment and the Civil Construction Corps.
In 1984, the Australian Government decided to move the RAAF’s fast jet base in the Northern Territory from RAAF Darwin to Tindal.
This move provided the RAAF with a base which was outside the cyclone zone and easier to defend against external attack. RAAF Tindal became operational on 1 October 1988 and was officially opened on 31 March 1989 by the then Prime Minister, Bob Hawke.
HMAS Coonawarra is home to ten of Navy’s Armidale class patrol boats and three Landing Craft Heavy.
Around 600 Navy men and women are based in the Darwin area, most of whom work at HMAS Coonawarra or Larrakeyah Barracks, where they are focused on supporting Fleet operations.
Bradshaw Field Training Area
The Bradshaw Field Training Area, at 8700 square kilometres, is the largest in Australia and a major component of joint exercises such as Talisman Sabre.
Operations at Pine Gap commenced in 1970. Since 1988 it has been officially called the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap. Previously, it was known as Joint Defence Space Research Facility.
Pine Gap makes a vital contribution to the security interests of both Australia and the US and is an outstanding manifestation of the level of cooperation that has been achieved in our closest defence relationship, our Alliance with the US. The facility has two principle roles: the collection of intelligence by technical means and the provision of ballistic missile early warning information.
The 2013 Defence White Paper: Australian Defence Force Posture and our Northern and Western Approaches
In May last year the Prime Minister and I announced that the Government would deliver a new Defence White Paper in the first half of 2013.
Work on the White Paper which will be delivered by the end of June is progressing well.
The White Paper will address the significant international and domestic developments since the 2009 White Paper which are influencing Australia’s Defence posture, future force structure and Defence budget, including:
• The ongoing strategic shift to our region, the Indo Pacific, particularly the shift of economic weight to our region;
• The ADF’s operational drawdown this year from Afghanistan, Timor Leste and Solomon Islands;
• The US re-balance to the Asia Pacific and Australia’s enhanced practical cooperation with the US pursuant to our longstanding Alliance relationship;
• Australia’s own Force Posture Review – the first in a quarter of a century;
• The 2009 Defence White Paper judgment that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was the most fundamental economic challenge facing Australia and the ongoing adverse effects this has had and continues to have, namely a significant deleterious impact on the global economy, seeing Defence funding now confronted by what former US Secretary of State for Defense Leon Panetta calls the new fiscal reality.
Today I outline why Australia’s own Force Posture Review and Australia’s enhanced practical cooperation with the US are particularly important and have significant implications for Australia’s northern and western approaches.
The ADF Force Posture Review
The ADF’s Force Posture, or geographic positioning, has not received enough attention over recent decades.
The last major review of ADF geographic positioning was done in March 1986, some 25 years ago, by then Defence Minister Kim Beazley and Paul Dibb.
This resulted in the establishment of some of our so-called bare bases, RAAF Learmonth and RAAF Curtin in Western Australia and RAAF Scherger in Queensland.
These bare bases are well located to deliver critical air power capabilities, including air combat and strike operations in our northern approaches.
This review also saw the move of some of our major fleet assets and submarines to HMAS Stirling (Fleet Base West) south of Perth in Western Australia.
HMAS Stirling is well-located for maritime operations in Australia’s western and northern approaches, and has excellent access to industry support and a maritime exercise area.
HMAS Stirling will continue to be a highly effective homeport for submarines and frigates and will grow in importance as India and the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean rises.
With some obvious exceptions, including the assets and facilities mentioned above, these days the disposition of Navy, Army and Air Force assets does not reflect the reality of where the ADF must operate, whether for military operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping and stabilization or other contingencies.
The ADF must be better positioned to meet current and future strategic circumstances, particularly as this relates to the ADF’s priority tasks, namely to deter and defeat attacks on Australia and to contribute to stability in our immediate neighbourhood, the South Pacific and Timor Leste.
These priority tasks overwhelmingly involve our north and our northern and western approaches.
While securing northern and western Australia presents challenges because of the size, distance and relative lack of infrastructure, the ongoing growth and scale of minerals and petroleum resources development in these parts of Australia need now also to be addressed in Force Posture considerations.
There are significant weaknesses and risks to our current Force Posture which left unattended would become even more apparent in future years.
These risks relate to the capacity of ADF bases and facilities to support capabilities in Australia’s North and West, and our ability to sustain high tempo operations in northern and western Australia, in our northern and western approaches and in our immediate neighbourhood, let alone South-East Asia and the wider Asia Pacific region.
In other words, risks which go to the capacity of the ADF to meet its principal and priority tasks – namely to deter and defeat attack on Australia and to contribute to stability and security in our immediate neighbourhood.
The Force Posture Review considered all of these factors and made recommendations about the future Force Posture of the ADF and the future security and strategic environment and challenges Australia needs to be able to respond to.
The Review examined logistics support requirements, training areas for large-scale exercises, demographic and economic factors and engagement with industry.
The Prime Minister and I released the Force Posture Review in May last year.
The Review found that as a general proposition, our changing strategic environment does not necessarily require widespread changes in the actual physical location of our Defence Force bases, but that substantial adjustments needed to be made.
It concluded that there are risks associated with the ability of the ADF to sustain high-tempo operations in northern Australia, our neighbourhood and our region.
The Review concluded that Australia needs a Force Posture that can better support operations in our northern and western approaches, as well as operations with our partners in the wider Asia Pacific region and the Indian Ocean Rim.
The Review found that Navy’s future capability and sustainment requirements pose the greatest challenges for force posture and basing.
Navy will place significantly greater demands on the capacity of wharves, dockyards and support facilities into the future.
This demand cannot be met without a long-term strategic approach to planning and investment in Navy’s future basing and infrastructure.
The introduction of the Navy’s future amphibious capability, two Landing Helicopter Dock ships, will have a transformational effect on Navy, the ADF generally and Force Posture.
The Review examined basing options and the possibility of enhanced access to commercial ports.
While permanent Navy bases in the north are not recommended as operationally necessary, the Review recommends investment to enhance Broome, Cairns and Darwin as naval bases be considered.
Darwin Port is recognised by Defence as a key strategic location for ADF capabilities.
Defence is working with the NT Government and the Land Development Corporation to explore the possibility of constructing a hardened barge ramp at East Arm Port to support Land Helicopter Dock (LHD) Ship capability, as part of their proposed logistics park and marine loading facility.
The Review as well highlights the potential for greater wharf capacity and support facilities at HMAS Stirling (Fleet Base West) to support major surface combatant capability and operations.
This expansion would provide facilities to homeport the Future Frigate, forward deploy AWDs and support visits by US Navy vessels.
It would also enable HMAS Stirling to continue as the primary submarine homeport when the 12 new Future Submarines enter service.
The Review also recommended that additional East Coast options for AWDs and LHDs involving Brisbane be considered.
The Review found that while our Air Force bases are well-located, many lack the capacity to fully support new platforms, and some in Northern Australia face significant logistical constraints.
The Review recommended that bases at Edinburgh, Learmonth, Pearce, Tindal and Townsville be upgraded to enable unrestricted operations by KC-30 air to air refuelling aircraft and P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft.
It also recommended that Curtin, Learmonth, Tindal and Townsville (with Scherger as a lower priority) be upgraded, to support future combat aircraft operations.
The Review found that Army’s current posture does not require significant change.
It found that 1 Brigade’s current disposition, centred in Darwin, should remain, as should 7 Brigade in Brisbane.
The Review also considered strategic logistics such as munitions and fuel availability, supply and storage.
Very importantly, the Review also found that there was a need to assess fuel and support requirements for forward bases during high tempo operations and a need to identify risks, deficiencies and required mitigation measures.
Fuel supply is a critical factor in sustainability. The Review underlined key risks affecting northern bases such as the storage capacity of some air bases, especially the bare bases and the dependence of Curtin, Learmonth, Scherger and Tindal on fuel supply by road, challenging during protracted high tempo operations, with some routes also vulnerable to closure during the wet season.
While the fuel supply chain can meet current requirements, its resilience under the stress of major operations is much less certain.
No decisions have been made about individual proposals in the Force Posture Review and these are now falling for consideration in the 2013 White Paper process.
Enhanced practical cooperation between Australia and the US
In Australia’s view, the US 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, US’ presence in the Asia Pacific is essential to peace and stability in our region. Australia welcomes the US 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 our region, as President Obama underlined in his speech to the House of Representatives in November 2011.
President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary for Defense Hagel have all reinforced that the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean rim ,which some describe as the Indo Pacific, is of vital importance to the US.
We are seeing a shift in focus by the US to our region and to the US Pacific Command, which was characterised to me when I was last in Hawaii, as having responsibility “from Hollywood to Bollywood”, from the West Coast of the US to India and the Subcontinent.
Our region is now experiencing a period of rapid change in economic and security terms.
This will see an adjustment in the balance of power across the region and around the globe.
The rise of China is a defining element in this, but it is far from the only or whole story.
China is absolutely pivotal to Australia’s political, strategic and economic interests.
China is now our biggest trading partner as well as our most valuable inbound tourism market. A record 625,000 Chinese visited Australia during 2012, up 16 per cent on the previous year.
Our relationship with China is a strong one and it’s a diverse one.
That’s why the Prime Minister announced that the Australian Prime Minister and the Premier of the People’s Republic of China will meet annually to provide high-level leadership and strategic direction to the relationship.
To support the work of leaders, Premier Li and the Prime Minister also agreed to:
• An annual Foreign and Strategic Dialogue led by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and China’s Minister for Foreign Affairs; and
• An annual Strategic Economic Dialogue led on the Australian side by the Treasurer with the Minister for Trade and led on the Chinese side by the Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.
The relationship will be described as a Strategic Partnership to reflect the importance both countries place on the relationship, its expanding scope and depth and the shared interests of both sides in a stable and peaceful Asian region.
In the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, the Government committed itself to extending Australia’s bilateral architecture with China through regular high-level meetings between leaders and senior ministers.
The PM’s announcement delivers on this commitment.
Over the past few years defence has enhanced its engagement with China to include working level exchanges, and practical cooperation in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises, maritime engagement and peacekeeping.
We want to continue to build positive, cooperative and comprehensive relations with China and have always said that any country is entitled to modernise its military as its economy grows.
On the Defence Relationship, Australia is committed to enhancing our positive and constructive defence relationship with China, as engagement in this area is of mutual benefit.
In celebration of last year’s 40th anniversary of Australia-China diplomatic relations, I welcomed the notable achievements in our bilateral defence relationship, including:
• Reciprocal naval ship visits, including a counter-piracy exchange during the People’s Liberation Army-Navy visit to Sydney in December last year;
• The inaugural Defence Ministerial Dialogue in China in June last year;
• Trilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise COOPERATION SPIRIT 2012 in October last year, which included New Zealand Defence Force participation; and
• The 15th annual Australia-China Defence Strategic Dialogue in December, co-chaired by the Chief of the Defence Force and General Fang Fenghui.
Our militaries are focussed on strengthening and diversifying the relationship into the future with a robust forward plan of engagement, including:
• a strategic policy and military capability planning exchange;
• joint military band performances and cultural displays;
• a Chinese Navy ship visit to Sydney for the International Fleet Review in October; and
• the 16th annual Defence Strategic Dialogue to be held in Australia late this year.
The rise of India is also still under-appreciated, as is the rise of the ASEAN economies combined.
The Indian Ocean already ranks among the busiest highways for global trade. It will become a crucial global trading thoroughfare in the future.
The major and enduring economic strengths of Japan and South Korea also need to be acknowledged.
So must the great individual potential of Indonesia – as it emerges from a regional to a global influence.
On 5 April I concluded my visit to Timor-Leste. This was my second visit to Timor-Leste as the Minister for Defence, and my third as an Australian Government Minister.
My visit came just a week after the successful conclusion of the ADF’s Operation ASTUTE on 27 March.
Operation ASTUTE was the ADF’s contribution to the maintenance of peace and stability in Timor-Leste, particularly through the United Nations mandated Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF).
The ISF, which had supported peace and stability in Timor-Leste since 2006, ceased security operations and commenced its withdrawal from Timor-Leste on 22 November 2012. The conclusion of Operation ASTUTE last week also marked the end of the ISF.
On 4 April I completed a two-day visit to Jakarta, Indonesia. This was my eighth visit to Indonesia as an Australian Government Minister and my second visit to Indonesia as Minister for Defence.
Australia and Indonesia have a well-developed Defence relationship focused on counter-terrorism, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping.
The Lombok Treaty establishes the modern framework for cooperation between Australia and Indonesia in defence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, maritime security and disaster response.
In September last year, Minister Purnomo and I signed a bilateral Defence Cooperation Arrangement, which introduces the formal framework for practical Defence cooperation under the Lombok Treaty.
Our officials are now working together to examine further areas for collaboration. We also agreed that we would look for opportunities to engage with other partners in the Indo Pacific region.
These changes of strategic circumstance, the changes in economic, military and political weight, require adjustments – and China, India and the US and our region are making adjustments.
To adapt to these changes, the US, Australia, and other regional countries are focusing on increasing bilateral and multilateral cooperation, as a means to strengthen regional security arrangements.
Enhanced practical cooperation between Australia and the US is an essential part of Australia’s contribution to regional peace and stability.
In November 2011, 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 which has been an influence for stability and peace in the Asia Pacific region for decades.
They represent an evolution of existing exercises and activities that the US already conducts with the ADF in Australia and are aimed at supporting long term regional peace and stability in the Asia Pacific.
The first rotation of around 200 US Marine Corps personnel arrived in Darwin in April last year.
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 ADF training areas and ranges in the Northern Territory including the Mount Bundey and Kangaroo Flats Training Areas.
In May and June 2012 the US Marines also travelled abroad to engage in training activities with Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The intent in the coming years is to establish a six-month rotational presence of up to a 2,500 personnel Marine Air Ground Task Force, rotating into Northern Australia in the northern dry season.
Defence is coordinating assessments of the social and economic impacts associated with the proposed rotational deployment of 1,100 Marines in 2014.
These assessments and public comment on it will help inform Government consideration of the size, nature and timing of the next steps.
The next assessment is expected to be available shortly.
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 access of US aircraft through northern Australia, in particular RAAF Tindal.
Specific aircraft types and numbers are yet to be assessed, as our initial planning develops, taking account of the exercise and training needs of both our countries.
At AUSMIN 2012, Australia and the US also discussed potential opportunities for additional naval cooperation at a range of locations, including HMAS Stirling, Australia’s Indian Ocean port.
Increased cooperation through HMAS Stirling is very much the third cab off the rank of three priorities that we have been discussing and implementing with the US.
For Australia, this presence will support our long-held strategic interests in maintaining and expanding US engagement in our region.
The 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.
The US does not have permanent military bases on Australian territory and this will not change. The activities will take place in Australian facilities under the 1960’s Status of Forces Agreement.
These initiatives will also provide tangible benefits by increasing the number, variety and complexity of training opportunities for the ADF.
They 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.
While in Australia, the US Marines have worked to establish and strengthen relationships with the Darwin community. There have been no adverse incidents involving the Marines – no parking tickets and only two speeding fines!
The next rotation of over 200 Marines will arrive in the Northern Territory later this month.
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, Indonesian President Yudhoyono has welcomed the US Marines in Darwin as well as the potential for enabling Australia to invite ASEAN and ASEAN-related forum countries, to conduct joint exercises, particularly in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief context.
And it was President Yudhoyono who made the comment shortly after the announcement of the Marine deployment to Darwin that he could envisage at some stage into the future Australia, the US, Indonesia and China conducting practical exercises.
And that’s why, for example, Australia will invite members of the East Asia Summit or the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus forum, in particular and including Indonesia, to a desktop humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise in Darwin. Indonesia has responded positively to this suggestion.
Indonesian President Yudhoyono has said on a number of occasions that he sees the value in the prospect of including the US and China in multilateral exercises in the region, which Australia welcomes.
Over the past few years Australia has enhanced its engagement with China to include working level exchanges, and practical cooperation in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises, maritime engagement and peacekeeping.
We want to continue to build positive, cooperative and comprehensive relations with China and have always said that any country is entitled to modernise its military as its economy grows.
The US has signalled its intent to significantly enhance its military, economic and political engagement in the region more generally.
In addition to this practical cooperation with Australia, the US is enhancing its relationships with regional countries including India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.
The US has also outlined a vision for a substantive and sustained defence to defence and military to military relationship between the US and China that builds trust through cooperation.
This will build on the existing closely entrenched economic integration between the US and China.
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 Defence Ministers Meeting Plus forum.
National security and economic security are the two highest priorities of any Commonwealth Government.
Protecting and defending our national security interests involves making complex strategic judgments about short-term and long-term risks and opportunities in relation to the international strategic environment.
It means taking action to address the significant challenges we have before us.
This includes judgments about Defence Force Posture and operations, Defence capability and Defence funding.
All of these challenges including Force Posture and the defence of our north and western approaches will be addressed in the forthcoming 2013 Defence White Paper.