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Today, 4 September, I visited the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and attended the Last Post Ceremony, my last official function as Minister for Defence.

I was accompanied by the Director of the AWM, Dr Brendan Nelson.

Dr Nelson has served the AWM admirably, and his respect and compassion for Australia’s service personnel and their families makes him especially suited for his role.

Today marks the Battle for Australia Day, which commemorates all who served and died in the defence of Australia in 1942 and 1943.

The Last Post also reminds us of the sacrifices of all Australian men and women who have served and the more than 102,000 Australian service men and women who have died in all wars and conflicts, on peacekeeping duties, in disaster relief and on humanitarian assistance missions.

Each Last Post remembers a specific Australian killed in a past conflict. Today’s Last Post remembered Flight Lieutenant John William Yarra DFM, a Second World War fighter pilot. Flight Lieutenant Yarra, No 453 Squadron, RAAF, was killed in action on 10 December 1942 on flying operations over Malta in the Mediterranean.

With the Last Post Ceremony, we also recognise the contribution of the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who are currently serving in Afghanistan, and in peacekeeping and security operations around the world.

Their service makes them a standard bearer for those who follow.

We particularly remember the 40 young Australians who have fallen in Afghanistan.

We honour their memory. Our thoughts are with their families, friends and mates.

The traditions forged at Gallipoli, Kokoda, in the defence of Australia, and in Afghanistan, have become an indelible part of our history.

The sacrifice that we honour today helped forge our national identity, helped forge our natural characteristics and helped set our national values and virtues.

It has been an honour to serve as Australia’s Minister for Defence over the past three years.

Irrespective of the outcome of Saturday’s election, I wish my successor every success.

 

Media contacts:

Mr Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528

Department (02) 6127 1999

On 31 August I laid a wreath at the Commemorative Service at State War Memorial Flame of Remembrance, Kings Park honouring the 53rd anniversary of the cessation of the Malayan Emergency with the Malaya Borneo Veterans, Western Australia. 

I was honoured to be here this year as I was last year.

Malaysia also celebrated the 56th Anniversary of Independence. 

Australia’s involvement in the Malayan Emergency began in 1950 with the arrival of RAAF aircraft and personnel in Singapore. 

Dakotas from 38 Squadron were deployed on cargo runs, troop movements, and paratroop and leaflet drops in Malaya, while six Lincoln bombers of 1 Squadron provided the backbone of air operations. 

By October 1955, when the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (2RAR), arrived in Penang, the outcome of the Emergency was no longer in doubt, although a lengthy “mopping up” stage followed, largely undertaken by Australian troops. 

2RAR left Malaya in October 1957 and was replaced by 3RAR in the same month. After six weeks of training in jungle warfare 3RAR began driving the insurgents into the jungle. 

Early successes for the Battalion confirmed the growing ascendancy of the security forces over the insurgents and by late 1959 operations were in their final phase. 

3RAR left Malaya in October 1959 and were replaced by 1RAR. 

As the threat continued to dissipate, the Malayan Government officially declared the Emergency over on 31 July 1960, although Australian forces would remain in Malaya for a further three years. 

Lasting 13 years, the Malayan Emergency was the longest continuous military commitment in Australia’s history. 

Thirty-nine Australian servicemen were killed in Malaya, including 15 on operations, and 27 servicemen were wounded. 

Media contact:

Minister Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528

Yesterday and today, Wednesday and Thursday 28-29 August, I visited Brunei Darussalam to attend the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) and to conduct bilateral discussions with regional partners.

The ADMM-Plus brings together Defence Ministers from the ten members of the Association of South East Asian Nations and the eight ‘Plus’ countries of the East Asia Summit, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia, and the United States.

By involving all members of the East Asia Summit, the ADMM-Plus strengthens and deepens trust and cooperation on defence and security matters throughout the Indo-Pacific.

During today’s formal ADMM-Plus Meeting, Defence Ministers exchanged views on regional and international security challenges and reaffirmed the importance of building trust in the Indo-Pacific region through practical military-to-military and defence-to-defence cooperation.

My intervention during today’s Meeting is available here: http://www.minister.defence.gov.au/2013/08/29/minister-for-defence-intervention-at-the-asean-plus-defence-ministers-meeting-admm-plus/

Practical cooperation under the ADMM-Plus occurs through Experts’ Working Groups (EWGs) on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, military medicine, counter-terrorism and peacekeeping operations.

Australia is an active participant in the EWGs and currently co-chairs the Maritime Security EWG with Malaysia.

Next year, Australia will co-chair the Counter-Terrorism EWG with Singapore.

Three significant military exercises occur under the ADMM-Plus framework during this year.

A Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise was held in Brunei Darussalam in June, and a Counter-Terrorism Exercise will be held in Indonesia on 9-13 September.

On 29 September – 1 October, Australia will host a Maritime Security Field Training Exercise in the vicinity of Jervis Bay and the East Australian Exercise Area. This will involve representatives and ships from 14 of the 18 ADMM-Plus member states. This is a significant demonstration of the practical military cooperation that occurs under the auspices of ADMM-Plus.

During today’s Meeting, Defence Ministers welcomed the establishment of a new ADMM-Plus EWG on Humanitarian Mine Action, which will promote practical and effective cooperation among member states in dealing with the remnants of war in the region.

Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to rid our region of explosive remnants of war and looks forward to working with the EWG’s inaugural co-chairs, Vietnam and India, and ADMM-Plus partners to further strengthen regional cooperation on this important issue. Australia supported Vietnam’s suggestion for this new EWG.

At the conclusion of today’s ADMM-Plus, Defence Ministers released a Joint Declaration which is available here.

With my ADMM-Plus counterparts, I then participated in an audience with His Majesty, the Sultan of Brunei.

While in Brunei Darussalam, I conducted discussions with a range of regional counterparts.

Yesterday evening I discussed the situation in Syria with the United States Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. Secretary Hagel and I also continued our discussions on greater US involvement in the region and reaffirmed our commitment to enlarged US Marine rotations in northern Australia.

In June this year, Australia and the United States agreed to progress to a larger six month rotation of around 1150 US Marines to northern Australia from 2014. The intention over coming years is to establish a six month rotational presence (not before 2016) of an up to 2500 person Marine Air Ground Task Force, rotating into northern Australia in the six month northern dry season.

Following the successful completion of Exercise Talisman Saber 2013, around 1000 Australian Army and United States Marine Corps personnel are currently participating in Exercise Koolendong 2013, which is being conducted at the Bradshaw Field Training Area south-west of Darwin.

Around 700 Marine Corps personnel are involved in the Exercise and have been drawn from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit based in Okinawa, Japan and around 150 from the Marines currently on a six month rotation in Darwin. Australia’s contribution comprises 150 Australian Army personnel from the 5th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment based at Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

I met with Singaporean Defence Minister Ng. We discussed our ongoing bilateral cooperation and welcomed Australia and Singapore’s appointment from next year as co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus Counter-Terrorism Experts’ Working Group.

I also met with Malaysian Defence Minister Hishamuddin to discuss the important collaboration between our two countries as the inaugural co-chairs of the ADMM-Plus EWG on Maritime Security. As members of the Five Powers Defence Arrangements, we reaffirmed our commitment to supporting peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

As well, I met with New Zealand’s Minister of Defence, Dr Jonathan Coleman, Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense, General Thanh and Myanmar’s Minister for Defence, Lieutenant General Wai Lwin.

During the course of today, I also had discussions with China’s Minister of National Defence, General Chang, Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo, Japanese Defense Minister Onodera, Republic of Korea’s Defence Minister Kim, Indian Minister of State for Defence Singh and Thailand’s Deputy Defence Minister Yathasak.

This afternoon I laid a wreath at the Pantai Muara Memorial which commemorates the Australian-led liberation of Brunei from Japanese occupation by Allied forces and the local population in June 1945.

Media contact:

Minister Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528

Today, Wednesday 28 August, I depart Australia for Brunei Darussalam to attend the second ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus).

The ADMM-Plus brings together Defence Ministers from the 10 member states of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the eight ‘Plus’ countries of the East Asia Summit, namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States.

The ADMM-Plus builds on the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting, which was established in 2006 by ASEAN and is the Defence Ministers’ Meeting format equivalent of the East Asia Summit. It provides a forum for key regional partners to discuss peace and security cooperation, build stability and promote greater practical defence cooperation among the 18 nations.

I attended the inaugural ADMM-Plus in October 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam, with Australia as a founding member. In recognition of its growing significance as part of the Indo-Pacific regional architecture, Defence Ministers last year agreed to increase the frequency of the ADMM-Plus from every three years to every two years effective from this year’s meeting.

The ADMM-Plus fosters practical defence-to-defence and military-to-military cooperation in counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military medicine, maritime security and peacekeeping operations.

Practical cooperation under the ADMM-Plus occurs formally through Experts’ Working Groups (EWGs). Australia is an active participant in the EWGs and currently co-chairs the Maritime Security EWG with Malaysia.

Three significant military exercises occur under the ADMM-Plus framework during this year.

A Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise was held in Brunei Darussalam in June, and a Counter-Terrorism Exercise will be held in Indonesia on 9-13 September.

On 29 September – 1 October, Australia will host a Maritime Security Field Training Exercise in the vicinity of Jervis Bay and the East Australian Exercise Area. This will involve representatives and ships from 14 of the 18 ADMM-Plus member states. This is a significant demonstration of the practical military cooperation that occurs under the auspices of ADMM-Plus.

As the 2013 Australian Defence White Paper notes, the Indo-Pacific region has benefitted from a long period of peace, stability and security by encouraging dialogue, cooperation and confidence building.

ASEAN has played a central role in generating stability in the region. The ADMM-Plus represents an important addition to the strategic architecture of the Indo-Pacific and provides a mechanism for enhancing the habits of cooperation that underpin regional security.

Australia has long been a reliable partner of ASEAN and an active participant in ASEAN-related meetings, including the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. Australia became ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner in 1974 and the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN Australia dialogue relations will be celebrated in 2014.

In ongoing recognition of Australia’s important relationship with ASEAN, last month Australia announced the appointment of Mr Simon Merrifield as Australia’s first resident Ambassador to ASEAN. His appointment begins next month in Jakarta.

I will be joined at the ADMM-Plus by the Deputy Secretary Strategy of the Department of Defence, Mr Brendan Sargeant, and the Commander of Joint Operations for the Australian Defence Force, Lieutenant General Ash Power.

I will also take the opportunity to conduct bilateral discussions with regional partners.

Given the timing of the meeting, as a matter of courtesy I have advised the Shadow Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston of my attendance at the meeting.

Media contacts:

Mr Smith’s office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528

Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999

Minister for Defence Stephen Smith joined the Premier of Western Australia, Colin Barnett, the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, and the Trustees of the Australian Sailor Monument to launch the Australian Sailor Monument Appeal in Fremantle, Western Australia, today. 

The Australian Sailor Monument will be erected at North Node, Rous Head, Fremantle.  Fremantle is the appropriate place for such a monument, given the city’s close historical association with the Royal Australian Navy. 

The site, which has been made available by the Fremantle Port Authority, is particularly suited to the monument as it represents the last point of the Australian mainland seen by sailors before they sailed into the vast Indian Ocean and beyond.  It was, for example, the last point of land seen by HMAS Sydney and its 645 ship’s company as it departed on its last voyage. 

The Fremantle Authority has undertaken to landscape the surrounding area to create a community park.   

The monument will specifically acknowledge the role of the sailor in our nation’s history and reflect the values of honour, honesty, courage, integrity and loyalty displayed by Royal Australian Navy sailors for over a century.   

The monument is proposed to include a bronze sculpture of a sailor leaving home to join his ship, a structure imbued with symbolic imagery that will also act as a sundial, and a series of independent, free standing ‘centenary’ walls designed to resemble a flotilla of ships tied up in harbour.  Combined, these will provide a unique and lasting tribute to those men and women sailors who have served Australia valiantly both in peacetime and in war.   

The monument will be able to function as a place for special ceremonies and commemorations, and also as a place of solitary contemplation and quiet remembrance. 

It is very appropriate that such a project is launched in the same year that Navy celebrates the centenary of the arrival of the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet into Sydney.  

The total cost of designing and constructing the monument is estimated at $1.5 million.  The Australian Government has demonstrated its full support for this project by contributing $250,000 towards its construction.  The Western Australia State Government has also contributed $250,000.   

Vice Admiral Griggs today announced  the Royal Australian Navy would contribute a further $150,000.

The remaining $1 million will need to be funded by private contributions through the Australian Sailor Monument Appeal.

Financial contributions to the Australian Sailor Monument can be sent to:

 The Australian Sailor Pty Ltd

 PO Box 643

WEMBLEY WA 6913 

Further information on the Australian Sailor Monument, including visuals and project team contacts, can be found at: www.australiansailormonument.com.au 

Media contacts:
Minister Smith’s Office:  Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999