Download the above photograph of the Minister.


Stephen Smith MP

Minister for Defence

to the

Third Plenary Session

of the

12th International Institute for Strategic Studies’
Shangri-La Dialogue


Military Modernisation
and Strategic Transparency


***Check against delivery***


Thank you Dr Chipman for your warm welcome.

Fellow Plenary Session panel members, Indonesian Minister for Defence Purnomo and United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defence Hammond.

Distinguished participants.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you very much for inviting me to the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-La Dialogue and to present to this Plenary Session on ‘Military Modernisation and Strategic Transparency’.

I am pleased to attend my third Shangri-La Dialogue and, more importantly, pleased to maintain successive Australian Defence Ministers’ record of attending every Shangri-La Dialogue since its inception in 2002.

Australia’s recent Defence White Paper, launched on 3 May this year, made the following key judgement:

a new Indo-Pacific strategic arc is beginning to emerge, connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans through Southeast Asia. This new strategic construct … is being forged by a range of factors.

Notably, India is emerging as an important strategic, diplomatic and economic actor, ‘looking East’, and becoming more engaged in regional frameworks.

Growing trade, investment and energy flows across this broader region are strengthening economic and security interdependencies.

These two factors combined are also increasingly attracting international attention to the Indian Ocean, through which some of the world’s busiest and most strategically significant trade routes pass.

The ongoing shift in influence to the Indo-Pacific is, however, not just about economics.

Economic growth has underpinned military modernisation and military capability growth across the Indo-Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific is home to four of the world’s major powers and five of the world’s largest militaries – China, India, Russia, the United States and North Korea.

As well, the region has its fair share of potential flashpoints, in the Taiwan Straits, the East China and South China Seas, the Korean Peninsula, and Kashmir.

It is also home to non-traditional threats such as international terrorism, energy security, particularly susceptible to the adverse consequences of climate change and in regular need of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Military Modernisation

The Indo-Pacific is predominantly a maritime environment with Southeast Asia at its geographic centre.

Australia’s 2013 Defence White Paper (“the White Paper”) observed that while overall defence spending is growing in Southeast Asia, most states are spending a similar proportion of Gross Domestic Product on defence as they did prior to the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997.

The White Paper also made the important distinction that while “much of the procurement of Southeast Asian countries is aimed at consolidating existing capabilities and upgrading professional standards, some countries – particularly Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam – are introducing advanced platforms”.

These advanced platforms include beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles, air-to-air refuelling, modern surveillance radars, digital data-links, highly capable airborne early warning and control platforms and electronic warfare systems.

Together, these advanced capabilities can provide a significant increase in combat capability through improved situational awareness, better command and control and improved integration of defence networks.

It is not surprising that in this maritime domain, some Southeast Asian countries are introducing advanced submarines that have highly capable systems, such as Malaysia’s diesel-electric SCORPENE Class equipped with the Blackshark torpedo.

The Indonesian Navy is seeking to introduce advanced corvettes, submarines and anti-ship guided missiles over the next 20 years.

More broadly in the Indo-Pacific, the size of China’s economy, combined with its domestic defence industry and military planning, has enabled its official defence spending to deliver significant capabilities, including modern submarines, and the continuing development of anti-ship ballistic missiles, fifth-generation fighter aircraft, carrier-based air power, anti-submarine warfare capabilities and counter-space systems.

India is also pursuing modernisation across its military forces, strengthening its capacity for maritime operations in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal through new classes of frigates and destroyers, new conventional and nuclear submarines, a submarine-based nuclear deterrent, its own designed aircraft carrier, advanced fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft and maritime surveillance aircraft.

The need for strategic transparency

Australia acknowledges that its future prosperity is tied to the stability and security of our diverse and dynamic region, a region emerging as the world’s economic, political and strategic centre of gravity, but which also faces a range of security challenges.

Australia recognises military modernisation is a natural part of any country’s economic development.

The countries of the Indo-Pacific are no different in this respect. Australia both expects and accepts that the countries of the region will continue to modernise their defence forces, as Australia will.

At the same time, however, Australia will continue to encourage all countries to be open about their defence policies, procurement plans, military planning and transparent about strategic intentions.

Sometimes commentary around transparency seems often to focus exclusively on China.

The requirement for strategic transparency is not unique to any one country. It applies to all in the Indo-Pacific.

Australia encourages all countries to be open and transparent about their military capabilities and strategic intentions, as this will help to increase understanding and mutual confidence within the region.

Military modernisation, coupled with long standing maritime and territorial disputes and continuing potential flashpoints raise the risk of strategic misjudgement or miscalculation.

This underlines the need for strategic transparency.

Transparency of strategic intentions, defence policy, force posture, capability and modernisation builds confidence and reduces potential or perceived insecurity.

It allows countries to understand better the perspectives of others, filling what could otherwise entertain suspicion and concern.

If countries do not offer transparency, we are all collectively faced with a risk of miscalculation.

White papers are an opportunity presented to Government to make declaratory statements on their defence policies and postures and, present opportunities to provide more detailed assessments of their security environment and proposed policies to address security challenges.

They can describe current military capabilities, force structure, budgets, and outline future modernisation proposals.

They can provide information on why certain procurement and modernisation paths are being pursued, and the policy position that is supported by those capabilities.

This transparency can help to reassure the region that there is trust in defence planning and procurement, and that acquisition of capabilities do not need to bring about a sense of threat.

It can for example be difficult for others to understand the logic or rationale behind another country’s military activities, without first having the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of that country’s strategic intent through transparent public statements or direct dialogue.

Providing others with an understanding of intentions and perspectives does provide a basis upon which to build cooperation.

Sharing perspectives helps identify common interests and challenges, expanding the opportunity in which to pursue deeper cooperative defence engagement.

Shared renewed interest in growing maritime trade, for example, has provided a basis for regional cooperation at multiple defence and military levels to address piracy.

Transparency, of course, is not achieved through a single event or document.

Transparency is a continuous process. Ongoing dialogue and engagement builds habits of mutual trust, cooperation and understanding.

Regional security architecture can both enhance this understanding and help the region to keep pace with strategic change.

The ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus has made rapid progress, providing opportunities for such cooperative engagement. It will conduct its first Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise later this month, involving all 18 Member countries.

Future training, exercises and familiarisation visits under this framework offers a key way through which to develop military to military and defence to defence linkages.

Practical military-to-military activities help foster regional partnerships and themselves build transparency, openness and interoperability.

As well, activities which enhance interoperability will also help us respond more effectively to the contingencies the region will continue to face, particularly:

  • humanitarian assistance and disaster relief;
  • stabilisation and peacekeeping operations;
  • detering illegal fishing and piracy;
  • and counter terrorism.

Australia’s military modernisation

In the interests of strategic transparency, I now outline key judgements and decisions from Australia’s 2013 Defence White Paper.

The White Paper judged that “Over the next three decades, Australia’s relative strategic weight will be challenged as the major Asian states continue to grow their economies and modernise their military forces.”

The White Paper also made the commitment that “Australia will, however, maintain the capacity for effective self-defence and for an active regional posture.”

The White Paper sets out a framework to continue to defend Australia’s national security interests, to have an effective and capable Australian Defence Force (ADF), and to have four priority tasks for the ADF.

The first priority task is for the ADF to be capable of the defence of Australia.

The second is to be capable of operating and taking lead responsibility in Australia’s immediate region, the South Pacific and Timor-Leste.

Third, to be capable of operating with our partners in the Indo-Pacific, in particular, South East Asia.

And fourth, to be in a position to make a contribution where our national security interest warrants it, to a broader or a global operation, of which Afghanistan is a current example.

The White Paper outlines key joint force and service specific capabilities the ADF requires to meet these tasks including:

  • Enhanced air combat capability: it has long been Australian policy to maintain an air combat capability advantage in the maritime approaches to Australia. That has in the past seen the purchase of the F-111 and F/A-18F Super Hornets. It is also the strategic thinking behind the Australian Government’s announcement of the purchase of 12 new F/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft and confirmation of the Government’s commitment to acquire Joint Strike Fighter aircraft with the first of three squadrons arriving in 2020.
  • 12 Future Submarines: the Government has narrowed consideration of this key capability to two options, an evolved Collins Class Submarine or a wholly new design. We have determined that the combat system will be a United States system. This decision reflects that an off the shelf submarine is not capable of giving Australia the operational requirement and capacity we need for a maritime country and maritime continent.
  • The ongoing reorientation and reorganisation of the Australian Army under Plan BEERSHEBA, giving us three multi-role battalions based in the north and the north east of Australia: Darwin, Townsville, and Brisbane.

The White Paper outlines key areas for ongoing investment in capabilities which support the ADF more generally: an enhanced amphibious capability based on the introduction of two new Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock ships and three Air Warfare Destroyers, and cyber, intelligence, communications, Space Situational Awareness, Command and Control and simulation capabilities.

Australia will also further analyse investment in unmanned aircraft for maritime and land area intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, including a potential for these assets to have a combat role.

Consideration of the Australian domestic and the international legal position and Australia’s public policy framework will be important preconditional elements of any future Australian consideration of the use of armed unmanned aircraft.

Enhanced Regional, Alliance, and Global Defence Engagement

Australia’s January 2013 National Security Strategy and the November 2012 Australia in the Asian Century White Paper make clear that for prosperity reasons alone Australia must take advantage of the opportunities and minimise the risks of the Indo-Pacific.

The 2013 Defence White Paper describes how the Government plans to enhance our defence relationships across the region as a critical element of the Government’s strategy to so do by helping strengthen regional security.

As countries in the region modernise their defence forces, there is also scope to implement deeper strategic and security partnerships.

Australia sees opportunities to broaden and deepen these partnerships.

We want to take these partnerships forward at a pace and with a focus that meets the mutual interests of Australia and our partners.

Our longstanding partnership with Indonesia is of particular priority. We will also work hard to strengthen other relationships across the region including China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Vietnam.

Our partnership with New Zealand remains critical to our security responsibility in our immediate region: Australia and New Zealand will continue to work together across the spectrum of strategic planning, operations, capability development, and institutional cooperation.

We will also strengthen our support for regional multilateral security frameworks, including the East Asian Summit and the

ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus.

The White Paper recognises that our Alliance with the United States remains our most important military relationship and the ongoing pillar of Australia’s strategic security and defence arrangements.

In its 62nd year, the Australia-United States Alliance is an indispensable, enduring feature of these arrangements. Both countries are committed to working closely in the Indo-Pacific to promote peace and security, investment and prosperity.

The Alliance has never been stronger, as reflected by the expansion of practical cooperation to areas such as cyber and space. The Alliance continues to adapt and remain relevant to contemporary security challenges.

These enhanced arrangements include rotations of US Marines to northern Australia.

The initial rotation of around 200 Marines occurred between April and September 2012, and a second company-sized rotation of around 200 Marines arrived in Darwin on 21 April 2013 for six months.

Our stated intention is to grow this to a 2,500 strong Marine Air Ground Task Force over the next few years.

The Australian Government is currently considering the detailed arrangements for a future six month rotation of 1100 United States Marines to start in 2014.

We are also starting to discuss enhanced aerial cooperation, which will result in increased rotations of US aircraft through northern Australia, and the potential for additional naval cooperation at a range of locations, including HMAS Stirling near Perth, our Indian Ocean naval port.

Defence funding

Transparency of defence funding and investment in military modernisation is an important part of strategic transparency.

According to figures released on 15 April by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), world military expenditure totalled $1.75 trillion in 2012, a fall of 0.5 per cent in real terms since 2011.

SIPRI found that military expenditure in Asia and Oceania rose by 3.3 per cent in 2012. China, the second largest spender in 2012, increased its expenditure by 7.8 per cent ($11.5 billion). Russia, the third largest spender, increased its expenditure by 16 per cent ($12.3 billion).

Large increases were also seen in Vietnam and in Indonesia. Spending in India decreased by 2.8 per cent.

The Australian Defence funding model will now be based on a four-year Forward Estimates Budget cycle, with that determined on an annual basis taking into account contemporary strategic economic and fiscal circumstances and a subsequent six-year general guidance for Defence planning purposes.

In the recent 2013-14 May Budget, the Australian Government has provided $113 billion to Defence over the Forward Estimates period 2013-14 to 2016-17, with the Annual Budget growing from $25 billion in 2013-14 to $30 billion in 2016-17. This compares to $103 billion in the 2012-13 the Budget Four Year Forward Estimates period.

For general guidance for Defence planning purposes, the Government has provided funding guidance of around $220 billion for the subsequent six years from 2017-18 to 2022-23.

The Government has also committed to increasing Defence funding towards a target of two per cent of GDP. This is a long-term objective that will be implemented in an economically responsible manner as and when fiscal circumstances allow.


The Indo-Pacific is undergoing significant economic and strategic change. The changes in our region present strategic challenges but also enormous opportunities for prosperity in the decades ahead.

We have all greatly benefited from the Indo-Pacific region’s long period of peace, security, stability and prosperity.

We owe this in great part to a long period of substantial adherence to international norms and the creation and growth of regional institutions which continue to build habits of dialogue and cooperation in the region.

Our regional institutions continue to develop under the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus. We now see Presidents and Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers from all key countries in the region meeting to discuss both issues of prosperity and investment and peace and security.

We must continue to invest our effort, energy and resources into our regional institutions to ensure that we are best equipped to manage the challenges that lie ahead.

Practical Defence to Defence and Military to Military cooperation – in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping training and operations and maritime security – will help build transparency and habits of mutual respect, trust and cooperation between our militaries and our nations.

This building of mutual respect, trust, confidence and adherence to international norms will minimise the prospect of tension and the risk of miscalculation.

Continuing to build support for our regional institutions and habits of dialogue will help us withstand and resolve tensions if and when they arise.

This is the best collective transparent approach to deter conflict, enhance regional security and maximise prosperity for the people of our region and our nations.

The Defence Legislation Amendment (Woomera Prohibited Area) Bill 2013 gives effect to the recommendations of the Hawke Review of the Woomera Prohibited Area. 

The Woomera Prohibited Area is Australia’s most important military testing range.  It is used for the testing of war materiel under the control of the Royal Australian Air Force. It covers 127,000 square kilometres in South Australia, approximately 450 kilometres North North West of Adelaide. It is the largest land range in the world, with a centre line of over 600 kilometres, comparable in size to England. 

At the same time, the Woomera Prohibited Area overlaps a major part of South Australia’s potential for significant minerals and energy resources, including 30 percent of the Gawler Craton, one of the world’s major mineral domains, and the Arckaringa, Officer and Eromanga Basins for hydrocarbons and coal.  Olympic Dam is adjacent to the Woomera Prohibited Area and is part of the same geological formations. 

The South Australian Government has assessed that over the next decade about $35 billion worth of iron ore, gold and other minerals resources are potentially exploitable from within the Woomera Prohibited Area. 

On 17 May 2010 the then Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, announced a review to make recommendations about the best use of the WPA in the national interest.  This was undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke and involved consultation with a wide range of affected stakeholders.  On 5 November 2010, the Review’s Interim Report was released for public comment, with Government provided with the Final Report on 4 February 2011.  On 3 May 2011, with the then Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson MP, and with the support of the South Australian Government, through its then Premier, Mike Rann, and the Minister for Mineral Resources Development, Mr Tom Koutsantonis, I released the Final Report, with the Government agreeing to implement the recommendations. 

The Department of Defence set up the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office that same month and a Moratorium was issued on all but the most advanced applications for access to the Woomera Prohibited Area, to enable the development of protocols necessary to implement the Review. 

Minister Ferguson and I released a draft Deed of Access for minerals exploration for public consultation in April 2012.  The Deed proposed an access regime for exploration companies during the transition phase to full implementation of the Review’s recommendations. Public consultation was undertaken on the draft Deed by the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office in Adelaide in May 2012 and a workshop followed in Canberra in June 2012. 

In October 2012, Minister Ferguson and I announced that the Woomera Prohibited Area was open to resources development under the transitional Deed of Access regime. We also announced the creation of the Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board and the appointment of Mr Stephen Loosley as Independent Chair of the Advisory Board and the Hon Paul Holloway as Deputy Chair. 

On 8 May 2013 the Minister for Resources and Energy and I jointly released for public consultation draft legislation to implement the recommendations of the Review.  The Coordination Office held a public consultation workshop in Adelaide on 10 May. 

The Hawke Review considered how to use the Woomera Prohibited Area in a way that ensured that both its full national security and economic potential was realised.  The Review proposed a system to maximise the co-existence between defence and non-defence users of the area.  

The Review recommended that Defence remain the primary user of the area, but acknowledged that exploitation of the Woomera Prohibited Area’s considerable minerals resources would bring significant economic benefit to South Australia in particular and Australia in general. 

The Review proposed that the Woomera Prohibited Area be opened up for resources exploration to the maximum extent possible, but within the confines of its primary use for defence purposes.  This will allow Australians to take advantage of the resources potential in the Woomera Prohibited Area while ensuring its future viability as the most important test and evaluation range that supports the Australian Defence Force. 

The Bill establishes a framework that provides all non-Defence users within the Woomera Prohibited Area a greater level of certainty over Defence activity in the Area and greater certainty over access arrangements.   

It allows users to make commercial decisions with some assurance as to when they will be required to leave the Area because of Defence activity.   

The framework maintains the primacy of the Woomera Prohibited Area as a national security and defence asset and sets up a co-existence scheme that allows access by non-defence users subject to conditions that protect the safety of all users in the Woomera Prohibited Area and ensure the appropriate national security protections for an area used to test defence capability. 

As recommended by the Review, Indigenous landholders, pastoralists with an already established presence and existing mining operations in the Woomera Prohibited Area will continue to access and operate under their current arrangements.  

The co-existence scheme established by the Bill will apply to new users of the Woomera Prohibited Area.  Existing users of the Woomera Prohibited Area have the option of voluntarily joining the co-existence scheme established by these legislative measures if they so choose. 

The Woomera Prohibited Area contains recognised traditional owners and significant Indigenous sites. Under the Bill, permit holders who gain access to the Woomera Prohibited Area will be required to protect these sites and comply with all relevant Native Title and Aboriginal Heritage laws.  Indigenous groups with current statutory and access rights expressly retain these rights.  They will not need to apply for permission under this legislation, which does not disturb existing rights. 

The Bill will insert a new Part VIB into the Defence Act 1903, and amends the definition of ‘defence premises’ in Part VIA of the Defence Act to include the Woomera Prohibited Area.   

Consequently, this will allow appropriately trained and qualified defence security officials to apply the security powers provided for by Part VIA to ensure the safety of all users and the security of the Woomera Prohibited Area. 

While the Bill provides the overarching framework for the legislative scheme, the detail of the proposed regime is to be included in the Woomera Prohibited Area Rules, to be agreed by the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Resources and Energy. 

In broad terms, the Bill: 

  • Authorises the Minister for Defence, with the agreement of the Minister for Resources and Energy, to make the Woomera Prohibited Area Rules prescribe certain matters, including defining the Woomera Prohibited Area, and the zones to be demarcated within that Area. 
  • Creates a permit system for access and use by future non-defence users of the Woomera Prohibited Area. 
  • Introduce offences and penalties for entering the Woomera Prohibited Area without permission and for failing to comply with a condition of a permit. An infringement notice scheme and demerit point system will apply to the offence for failing to comply with a permit condition. The details of these schemes will be included in the Rules. 
  • Provide for compensation for acquisition of property from a person otherwise than on just terms, although the Rules may limit the amounts of compensation payable by the Commonwealth.


Extensive consultation was undertaken during the Review process and the legislation implements the recommendations put forward in the Review.  Submissions were received from interested stakeholders, including:

  • the resources industry;
  • Indigenous groups;
  • pastoralists, and
  • environmental groups. 

The consultation period on the Bill itself was short. The Government’s intention is to enact legislation before this Parliament is prorogued. This is in the interests of providing non-Defence users of the Woomera Prohibited Area with certainty and assurance about their use of the area. 

Consultation on the Bill included: 

  • the release of an information paper on the proposed legislative framework for the Woomera Prohibited Area  The paper provided a general overview of the proposed policy framework proposed for implementation in the legislative package.   
  • On 8 May 2013, an exposure draft of the Bill was released for stakeholder feedback. 
  • The South Australian Government hosted a consultation workshop in Adelaide on 10 May 2013, chaired by the Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office, to discuss the Bill. 
  • On 24 May 2013, the South Australian Government hosted a discussion between Defence officials and traditional owners of the Maralinga Tjarutja and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands, about the legislation. 

Stakeholders provided feedback through the workshop and by written submission.  Feedback was considered and where appropriate the exposure Bill was amended to take concerns into account.  Amendments which occurred as a result of stakeholder feedback included express and specific recognition of the existing authorities for existing users, including Indigenous groups. 

After discussions Department of Defence officials held with the traditional owners of parts of the Woomera Prohibited Area, The Government agrees, as a matter of policy, with their request that no ‘wet canteens’ under the current Defence Regulations for the Woomera Prohibited Area will be created in the lands held by the Maralinga Tjarutja  or Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara traditional owners. 

The Woomera Prohibited Area Rules will be released for public consultation today with a period of a month for interested stakeholders to consider and provide feedback.  

The Woomera Prohibited Area Coordination Office will conduct extensive consultation during this period. I encourage all stakeholders to provide the Office with their comments.  All reasonable suggestions and contributions regarding the Rules will be considered for incorporation by the Government.

Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board 

The Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board has been established to oversee the Woomera Prohibited Area access system and foster relationships among the Woomera Prohibited Area stakeholder groups. 

The Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board has an Independent Chair, Mr Stephen Loosley, and an Independent Deputy Chair, the Honorable Paul Holloway.  Mr Stephen Loosley is Chairman of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Mr Holloway is a previous Resources Minister of South Australia. 

Other Board members are senior representatives from the Commonwealth Departments of Defence, Resources and Energy, and Finance and Deregulation, and the South Australian Government.  

The Board was established to ensure:

  • that the balance between economic interests and national security is maintained;
  • the effectiveness of the access system in safeguarding Defence activities; and
  • Indigenous and environmental interests are properly accounted for.

The Woomera Prohibited Area Advisory Board meets on a regular basis to undertake these functions. 

Woomera Prohibited Area Rules 

Draft Woomera Prohibited Area Rules 2013 will be released for public comment today. 

The Rules provide for the detailed arrangements to give effect to the Bill.   

This detail includes prescribing an area as the Woomera Prohibited Area and the provision for zones and exclusion windows within those zones. 

The Rules will also provide for:

  • various types of permission to be at a place within the Woomera Prohibited Area, including standing permission, written or oral permission and by way of a permit.  
  • the process by which permits may be subject to suspension or cancellation including the ability for a permit holder to have the Minister review a decision in relation to a cancellation of a permit. 
  • the Secretary of the Department of Defence to appoint people to be authorised officers to give infringement notices. 
  • demerit points which may be incurred when a person pays the penalty contained in an infringement notice or is convicted or found guilty of an offence. 
  • a cap on compensation payable to a person for loss or damage suffered in the Woomera Prohibited Area, not resulting in death or personal injury, of $2 million. 


This important legislation:

  • establishes a framework that provides non-Defence users within the Woomera Prohibited Area, in particular industry, with a level of certainty over Defence activity in the area;   
  • allows users to make commercial decisions with some assurance as to when they will be requested to leave the area because of Defence activity; and
  • protects the safety of all users in the Woomera Prohibited Area and to ensure the appropriate national security protections for an area used to test defence capability. 

I commend the Bill to the House.

Opening Remarks 


Stephen Smith MP 

Minister for Defence 

at the 

Arria Formula Meeting

Hosted by Australia and Guatemala 


“Implementing the UN Security Council’s women, peace & security agenda  

United Nations 

New York 

17 May 2013

** Check against delivery**

Thank you Ambassador Rosenthal.

I am very pleased to join you, Security Council members, civil society organisations, UN agencies and other distinguished guests and panelists today. 

I join in thanking Togo as President of the Council for its commitment to this issue, as well as the panelists for participating in what will no doubt be a good discussion, learning from the experience of those actually in the field. 

I also thank Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Affairs Herve Ladsous for his contribution as the Head of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Affairs. 

Herve is a highly experienced and widely respected French diplomat who started his career as a young diplomat with a posting to Australia in the 1980s. 

Furthering the effective implementation of the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security agenda is a priority for Australia. 

Since the Security Council adopted resolution 1325 in 2000, the UN has been charged with implementing a broad agenda to address the disproportionate adverse effect that armed conflict has on women and girls. 

This includes preventing and addressing sexual violence and working to ensure women’s full and effective participation in conflict prevention, resolution, and post-conflict peacebuilding.

 Australia has been a strong supporter of Security Council Resolution 1325, on Women, Peace and Security, since its adoption in 2010. 

Women are too frequently the victims of appalling atrocities in conflict situations. Evidence shows that violence against women escalates during conflict and remains at high levels in post-conflict situations. 

Sexual violence is now globally recognised as a tactic of war, and is considered a war crime. 

Women in war-affected countries often bear the highest costs of war – they can be destroyed physically, psychologically, economically and socially. 

But women also play a key role in resolving conflict, and are able to lay the foundation for peace and rebuilding their communities in the aftermath of war. 

Resolution 1325 was the first to link women’s experiences of conflict to the international peace and security agenda. 

Australia’s international support of the Resolution 1325 since 2000 has included increasing women’s participation in peace building and rebuilding communities. 

Australia has also supported training for United Nations Peacekeepers in how to protect women from sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations. 

We have helped develop best practice scenario-based training materials to be used in pre-deployment and in-country training programs for military peace keepers. 

In addition, the Australian Government has developed a national action plan to better implement the principles of Resolution 1325, including the full participation of women in peace processes, and the protection of women and girls. 

The plan comprehensively draws together our efforts to support Resolution 1325. It will also build on the excellent work done by our defence personnel and Federal Police to make women and children safer in war-affected regions around the world. 

The UN’s peacekeeping missions are at the forefront of implementing this mandate. The UN has made important strides in these efforts through gender and women protection advisers. 

Australia has seen these efforts firsthand through our currently deployed peacekeepers, rebuilding in the Middle East, South Sudan and Cyprus. 

We have also seen how critical the early participation of women is to achieving enduring peace through our regional experiences in Bougainville, Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands. 

The need for a central role for women from community-level peacemaking, to key partners in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, is clear. 

In the Solomon Islands, as part of the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI), Australia supported the work of a gender advisor to provide advice across the breadth of RAMSI programs and counterpart government agencies. 

This included work to remove barriers inhibiting women’s participation and representation in Government, and strengthening organisations to foster women’s leadership development through civil society. 

In Timor-Leste, the Australian Federal Police provided training to the Timorese police force on gender-based violence. 

We have also learnt that cultural settings within defence forces themselves are critical to the effective implementation of a gender mandate. 

Comprehensive gender awareness training is one way to further this, but women’s participation in the military is also critical. 

Within Australia, the participation of women in the Australian Defence Force is essential. 

Women have a proud history in the Australian Defence Force. 

The first women to serve in Defence were those in the New South Wales Army Nursing Service, which was established in 1899. 

Army nurses subsequently served in the Boer War in 1901 and the Australian Army Nursing Reserve was created in 1902. 

Women have served in every major conflict Australia has been involved in. 

Today, women represent 14 per cent of personnel in the Australian Defence Force. 

However, the percentage of women in the Australian Defence Force has increased by only two per cent over the past 20 years. 

This progress is far too slow and is very much out of step with other relevant industries, where women’s representation has been steadily increasing. 

It is critical for the future of the Australian Defence Force that we address this recruitment challenge. 

In April 2011, the Australian Government announced the opening up of all roles in the Australian Defence Force to women, including combat roles, on the basis that determination for suitability for roles in the Australian Defence Force should be based on physical and intellectual ability, not gender. 

Prior to this announcement, women were eligible to serve in 93 per cent of employment categories. 

Roles to be open in the future to women from which women were previously excluded include: Navy Clearance Divers, Mine Clearance Diver Officers, Air Force Airfield Defence Guards, Army Infantry and Armoured Corps, Army Artillery roles, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Combat Engineer Squadrons and Special Forces. 

The Australian Government is also progressing important cultural reforms in Defence to address ongoing concern in relation to failure to meet appropriate standards of conduct. 

This includes the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force and in Defence generally following reviews into the treatment of women in Defence conducted by the Australian Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Elizabeth Broderick. 

In March last year, the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley and I released the comprehensive Defence reform program which outlines how these reforms will be implemented: Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture. 

Internationally, Australia has supported the development of training tools and an analytical inventory for peacekeepers on addressing conflict-related sexual violence. 

As the Council seeks to address the many complex and ongoing security challenges before it, including in Mali, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is critical that we ensure strong gender mandates are included early, and implemented effectively. 

The breadth of the women, peace and security mandate entrusted by the Council is one that Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and other UN agencies have been making strong progress in implementing. 

I look forward to today’s meeting building greater understanding of the achievements made in this regard and ways to address the challenges that remain. 

Thank you.



Stephen Smith MP

Minister for Defence

at the 

Anzac Day Service 

Commonwealth War Cemetery 



25 April 2013 

*Check against delivery*

 President of the Australian Senate, Senator the Honourable John Hogg, Australia’s Ambassador to Thailand, James Wise, New Zealand’s Ambassador to Thailand, Tony Lynch, Veterans and their families. 

Distinguished guests, our Thai hosts, ladies and gentlemen. 

I especially acknowledge the presence of former Prisoners of War and their families and friends who have joined us here this morning. 

I am honoured as Australia’s Minister for Defence to join you at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery to pay homage to the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the service of their country. 

Today is a time for us all to remember and reflect. 

We remember the sacrifices of the Anzacs ninety-eight years ago on the shores of Gallipoli, and we honour the sacrifices of all our peoples who have suffered and died in wars past and present. 

We honour all Australians and New Zealanders who have served in uniform across more than a century.

We remember 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 wars and conflicts, on peacekeeping duties, in disaster relief and on humanitarian assistance missions. 

Today we honour our service men and women currently serving on operations in Afghanistan, and on peacekeeping and security missions around the world. 

Of the nearly 10,000 Australian Prisoners of War who worked on the Thai‑Burma Railway, more than 2,800 did not survive the ordeal. 

Many of those are buried here at Kanchanaburi. The head stones along rows of silent graves tell the story of a generation lost. 

Young lives shattered on the Thai-Burma Railway through overwork, ill‑treatment, neglect, beatings and disease. 

Stories abound of their courage, their strength in adversity, their bonds of mateship, their ingenuity, and their compassion. 

POW Stan Arneil tells us that the POWs never stopped caring for one another; taking turns sitting in the makeshift wards of bamboo hospitals on what they called ‘death watch’. It was a point of honour among Australians that ‘no man died alone’. 

They were not alone then. They are not alone here today. 

A veteran’s prayer is that their children and our nations never again have to witness the horrors of war. 

As the POWs from the camps established in this very area will surely confirm, war is not glorious. 

The losses among our POWs would have been far higher but for the help of local Thai villagers, who risked their own lives to assist the prisoners. 

Australians will forever be grateful for the assistance of these generous and brave people living on and near the Thai-Burma Railway, as they selflessly carried the injured along the steep and slippery path to medical help. 

We will never forget their selfless courage. 

We remember the hundreds of thousands of Asian labourers – relocated from Malaya or the then Dutch East Indies as well as conscripted Thais and Burmese – who were forced to work on the Railway. 

An estimated 75,000 Asian labourers perished. They do not lie in rows of marked graves, but their loss highlights the tyranny and injustices of war. 

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

A nation egalitarian in spirit and independent by nature. 

A belief in a “fair go” for all and in not leaving the weak or vulnerable behind. 

Optimism about what can be achieved by ingenuity and hard work. 

And the courage to work together to achieve in the face of adversity. 

The traditions forged at Gallipoli, and later by the POWs who suffered and sacrificed on the Thai-Burma Railway, have become an indelible part of our history. 

Today those traditions continue to inspire us as we join in enduring respect and gratitude for the fallen. 

Lest We Forget.



Stephen Smith MP 

Minister for Defence 

at the 

Anzac Day Dawn Service 

Hellfire Pass 

Sai Yok 


25 April 2013 

***Check against delivery*** 

President of the Australian Senate, Senator the Honourable John Hogg, Australia’s Ambassador to Thailand, James Wise, New Zealand’s Ambassador to Thailand, Tony Lynch. Veterans and their families who have travelled from Australia to be with us today. Our Thai friends.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great privilege for me as Australia’s Minister for Defence to be at Hellfire Pass on this special day for Australia and New Zealand.

As we meet here in the soft light of early morning, we are honoured by the presence of former Prisoners of War who have joined us with family and friends.

Being in this place will be a deeply poignant reminder for them of their own endurance, of fallen mates, of their bond with those who suffered alongside them, of those who helped them survive.

We gather at this hour on this day to remember the Anzacs who leapt ashore at Gallipoli and who landed on history’s page on 25 April 1915.

It is a day we remember all those who suffered during times of conflict or crisis, whether Service personnel or civilians, whether Australian, New Zealander or Thai.

We remember those members of our Australian Defence forces who served in conflicts ranging from the Boer War to our ongoing operation in Afghanistan.

We remember those who continue to suffer physically or mentally from the trauma of war and we remember and acknowledge our debt to them and their families.

Most solemnly, we remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The spirit of Anzac Day, kindled on the rocky shores of Gallipoli in 1915, has become a vital part of our national heritage.

C.E.W. Bean described the Anzac spirit as standing for “reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship, and endurance that will never own defeat”.

These qualities are part of our country’s national ethos and imbue all aspects of our national life. They are qualities that are in evidence across the length and breadth of our country and our continent.

They are values and virtues shared by our New Zealand brothers and sisters.

They are the qualities those Anzacs, who were interned by the Japanese military and who suffered extreme hardship at this Pass and on this Railway, relied on for their very survival.

Work commenced on Hellfire Pass in April 1943.

A place aptly named for the night scene of POWs struggling with their awful task in the light of carbide and bamboo fires.

Through their pain and sacrifice, the pass was completed by August.

In those few short months an estimated 700 Allied POWs had died on this small section of the Railway.

Gone now are the shouts of “speedo!, speedo!, speedo!” as the guards forced the pace of construction on the Railway.

Gone now are the cries of anguish and the sound of metal on hard rock.

Gone now are the scenes described by Bombardier Hugh Clark as having come from a scene “out of Dante’s inferno”.

Gone now is the smell of sweat, blood and acrid smoke.

The conditions in which the Prisoners of War toiled on the Railway were brutal and inhumane.

Poorly fed and forced to work day and night in harsh and intolerable conditions.

Battling disease and subjected to horrific cruelty by their military captors.

According to Japanese records, four million cubic metres of embankments were constructed. Three million cubic metres of rock was shifted by hand. 14 kilometres of bridging was constructed.

Twenty per cent of the Prisoners of War who worked on the Thai-Burma Railway died. 12,500 young lives cut short. 2,800 Australians who never came home.

An estimated 270,000 Asian labourers were also forced to work on the Railway. 75,000 did not survive.

It has been said, a life lost for every sleeper laid.

Those Prisoners of War who did survive suffered crippling damage to their health. Many died after the war at a significantly higher rate than veterans of other theatres.

The endurance of the Australian and New Zealand Prisoners of War and the way they looked out for each other still rightly inspires our two nations.

Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop, despite being tortured himself, was one of many Prisoners of War who stood up to brutality to protect those who became sick and weak.

Like many who showed extraordinary leadership and courage, he continued to serve his country and his mates after the war. He fought tirelessly for proper post-war support for Prisoners of War.

He won recognition for those Thais, like his friend Boon Pong, who risked their lives to bring food and medical supplies to the Prisoners of War. His friendship with Boon Pong went on to forge even stronger bonds between Australia and Thailand.

Weary Dunlop’s ability to forgive his captors later in life and promote reconciliation with Japan was also an act of courage and greatness.

The sun will shortly rise through the trees above reminding us of the hope that lies in the dawn, and of the need to remember.

On this day we take time to honour all Australians and New Zealanders who have served in uniform.

We recognise the contribution of the men and women of our Defence Forces who serve today in peacekeeping and on operations around the world. Their distinguished service makes them a standard bearer for those who follow.

We remember today the young Australians and New Zealanders who have fallen in Afghanistan. We honour their memory and share a tragic sense of loss. Our thoughts are with their loved ones.

Today, as every year, Australians throughout the world gather to commemorate Anzac Day and remember lives lost.

We also celebrate our national characteristics, our values and our virtues: the notion of a fair go, of looking out for one’s mates, of a sense of humour in adversity and perseverance, and the sure and certain knowledge that however bad our circumstances might be, there is always someone else worse off who needs a helping hand.

In the words of Weary Dunlop, “in suffering we are all equal”.

Lest We Forget.