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Good Morning everybody. I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Whadjuk people of the Nyoongar nation, and pay my respects to their elders past, present, and emerging. But also as Minister for Defence, I acknowledge the service of all of our indigenous men and women who have served our nation in peace and war with such great distinction. I welcome many fellow West Australians and dignitaries here including Pierre Yang, Liza Harvey, and Mayor Barry Sammels.
I also particularly welcome my colleague Madeleine King, the Member for Brand, who is representing the Shadow Defence Minister Richard Marles. Also to Rear Admiral Mead, the Commander of the Australian fleet; Captain Morthorpe, the CO of HMAS Stirling; and of course Commander Livingstone, the CO of HMAS Toowoomba. But most importantly, I welcome the men and women of HMAS Toowoomba and all of your family and friends who are here today to say farewell.
In preparation for today, I have been reflecting on the achievements of Navy over the past 12 months – and Navy’s achievements are many. Last year, Navy did over 200 port visits and at its peak had 29 ships at sea with 2,800 crew. All at a time when Navy’s workforce continues to grow. As Rear Admiral Mead has just said, currently under Operation Bushfire Assist, Navy is providing extraordinary support to the thousands of fellow Australians who are in crisis. Hundreds of personnel, three ships, MRH-90 helicopters and as I witnessed firsthand on HMAS Adelaide on Friday – with a great deal of pride and passion. But importantly, we are gathered here today to farewell you, the crew of HMAS Toowoomba. I would also like to thank your family members who love you and support your service to our nation.
Australia is a global maritime nation. We understand that the security of our three oceans is essential to our nation’s security but also to our economy. This is the Toowoomba’s sixth deployment to the Middle East. It is also the Royal Australian Navy’s 68th rotation to the Middle East Region since 1990. The 68th deployment. The role OF each and every one of you, on Operation Manitou, is to support both the Combined Maritime Force and the International Maritime Security Construct. Both are critical to promoting maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East, a region of ongoing and vital interest to Australia. Australia’s enduring presence in this dynamic and rapidly changing region requires the efforts of Australians like all of you, working with our Coalition partners. Your six-month mission is clear. To promote maritime security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East. And I know that HMAS Toowoomba will play her part with honour and distinction to promote freedom of navigation and safe passage. Even though you have been preparing, and preparing well, for this deployment for 12 months, I know – and talking to some of you here today – it doesn’t make saying goodbye to your loved ones any easier. Our service men and women, all of you, voluntarily enlist to serve our nation – but your families, who make your service possible - are all conscripts to our cause. We ask just as much of our Defence families as we do of those who serve in uniform – so today, on behalf of the Australian Government, I say thank you to you all. And I know, and I can see here today,that separation from home is always difficult, whether it’s your first deployment for many of you or whether this is fourth, fifth sixth or even the seventh deployment. But I hope your families find comfort in the knowledge that you are all doing your bit for Australia – to make us safer and to make the world a safer place for everyone.
Our Navy is sending its best officers and its best sailors in one of its most capable ships. You are well trained. You are ready. Your motto – fearless – how very apt that is. The HMAS Toowoomba is highly capable. Her air defence; surface and undersea warfare; surveillance; reconnaissance; and interdiction capabilities. Her advanced combat data system can counter simultaneous threats from aircraft, surface vessels and submarines. All of this capability will serve you well through the days, the weeks and months ahead at sea.
As I conclude, I reflect back to last July when Navy welcomed home the crew of HMAS Ballarat from the Middle East. After more than eight months at sea, her crew seized more than one billion dollars’ worth of illegal narcotics, half a million rounds of small arms ammunition and hundreds of kilograms of chemical fertiliser.
No doubt saving the lives of so many. I know each and every one of you will serve with equal distinction, and you will make our world a safer place while at the same time protecting Australia’s national interests.
So, to Commander Livingstone and the ship’s company, farewell; be safe, make us proud and remain fearless. I, along with your family and friends, look forward to welcoming you home. I wish you all - Fair Winds and Following Seas.
And God bless you all.