Third Plenary Session: Saturday 2 June 2018, 1130-1300
Shaping Asia’s Evolving Security Order
Remarks by Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Ministerial colleagues, particularly our host Dr Ng, thank you Eng Hen for your hospitality here in Singapore,
The very many distinguished guests who are here today.
It is my great pleasure to join a panel particularly with my friends General Lich of Vietnam and General Ryamizard of Indonesia to discuss Shaping Asia’s Evolving Security Order. I appreciate both of their insights that they have shared with us this morning and also remark on the generous hospitality they have both always shown me when I have visited their countries in recent times. Thank you very much.
Colleagues, nobody here needs to be reminded of the far-reaching strategic importance of the Indo-Pacific region.
We see how our region continues to drive the world economy. Over the past decade alone, it has contributed two thirds of global growth, and now accounts for 44 percent of global GDP – and rising.
That economic drive sees re-emerging and rising powers in the region rapidly expanding their influence, and intensifying competition.
So how the United States and China resolve differences over trade, how and when denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula is achieved, how we foster behaviour consistent with the rules-based global order, how territorial disputes in the region are resolved are all challenges that are actually global in scope.
Added to this, as Minister Ryamizard has reminded us particularly, the terrorist threat continues to threaten Southeast Asia, as recent events in Surabaya and earlier events in Marawi have tragically reminded us. Nobody wants to see Daesh take root in our region after being denied territory and legitimacy in the Middle East.
By way of framing my remarks today, let me suggest four overarching considerations for our deliberation.
Firstly, we should continually remind ourselves that half a century of stability came about not by chance, but by design, by negotiation, and by persistence.
For now, we all enjoy the benefits, and perhaps those who benefitted most were those nations whose growing economies were protected from coercive practices and were able to trade freely within a framework of self-determination and known rules that were globally enforced.
More generally, a key role in establishing norms of behaviour was indeed played by ASEAN.
The principles in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, to which Australia acceded in 2005, continue to resonate – namely: mutual respect, freedom from external interference, non-interference, peaceful settlement of disputes, renunciation of force and effective cooperation.
These are principles to which Australia, as ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner, is fully committed– and which we re-affirmed at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit hosted in Sydney this year.
They are the principles by which Australia guides our interaction with our regional friends. More needs to be done to entrench these principles, not just as habits of cooperation, but as durable rules and norms, with structures for enforcing them.
In making these observations, I acknowledge the crucial role played by more than 70 years of United States engagement in the region. This has been instrumental in putting the region on the path of security and sustainable economic growth.
The peace, the security generated by the engagement of the United States in the region has paid dividends. The US has championed open trade and investment relationships, strengthened national sovereignty and engendered the stability needed for the region’s rapid economic progress.
I welcome the remarks by Secretary of Defense Mattis this morning reinforcing the message that from Jefferson to today the United States’ commitment is strong and in 2018 their commitment to building a shared destiny in the region.
It is in all our interests that the United States remains actively engaged in the region to ensure that peace, security and stability continues to benefit all.
We also acknowledge that a prosperous China, constructively engaged in global affairs, is a good thing. It is not possible to address global challenges such as North Korea or climate change without China’s involvement.
The second important consideration is that strategic competition has to be bound by principles and rules.
The most recent positive example from Australia’s perspective of how this approach can function positively and effectively is the maritime boundary treaty signed between Australia and Timor-Leste in March.
This treaty was negotiated through the first ever conciliation held under the auspices of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Treaty is a testament to the way in which international law, in particular in this case the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, reinforces stability and allows countries to engage and resolve disputes peacefully, without coercion and by the rules.
It is a good example of the rules-based global order in action.
The third consideration I would suggest is a vital lesson of history: disruptive changes in international relations, when imposed on others, create instability.
Changes to the rules based order must evolve through open discussion and be agreed as broadly as possible, if those changes are to support the continuation of development and growth.
Adopting a “might-is-right” approach is contrary to the interests of all nations.
Rules that have served us so well for so long, and from which we have all benefited, should not be carelessly discarded. But it doesn’t mean that they cannot evolve and adapt. Indeed, they must.
The guiding principle for any process of change must be that one country cannot author rules for others. So recasting of the rules needs to be a transparent and collective effort, open to international scrutiny – especially, but not only, if it affects the global commons.
Nations must also have the right to be free from coercion or criticism when they lawfully and reasonably communicate concerns about the behaviour of others. This extends to the reasonable expectation that rules, not the exercise of power, govern our actions.
For example, Australia’s position on South China Sea territorial disputes is well known and well established. Australia encourages all countries to clarify and resolve their territorial claims in the South China Sea based on international law.
And we have welcomed movement by ASEAN states and China towards a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.
And I noted General Lich’s observations in relation to that today in his remarks.
When Australia disagrees with the actions of another nation, including our partners and allies, we say so.
For instance, Australia continued the Trans Pacific Partnership project with like-minded nations including many who are here today to successfully bring the TPP to life, despite the pessimism of some and in that case the different view of the United States.
Finally, the fourth consideration: we benefit most from a regional order where the rights of all sovereign nations are protected and encouraged.
As a nation, Australia is prepared to address threats as they arise, especially those that challenge the fabric of our regional stability and security, such as terrorism and such as North Korea’s illegal ballistic and nuclear weapons program.
In that context, Australia has recently deployed a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft to support the international community’s enforcement of the United Nations Security Council’s sanctions against North Korea.
And in some instances, this will also mean a very practical commitment to security assistance at the request of another government. We saw this in relation to the contributions made by Australia and others to helping the Government of the Philippines after the attacks made on the city of Marawi by terrorists.
The successful efforts by the Philippines to defeat terrorists in Marawi adds to our collective regional security, and we have to work towards closer cooperation on counter-terrorism measures.
Indeed in terms of endeavouring to further enhance cooperation in this area, in February this year, I hosted an inaugural sub-regional meeting of a number of defence counterparts and representatives from six Southeast Asian countries in Perth to share lessons from a number of things, to share lessons from coalition operations in the Middle East against Daesh, to hear from the Philippines particularly about their experience in Marawi, and then to work to devise strategies together for enhancing cooperation in the area to safeguard against trans-national terrorism taking root in Southeast Asia.
My fellow panelist Minister Ryamizard attended the Perth meeting and I am pleased that he has agreed to host the next meeting in Indonesia in 2019.
I particularly note his message to us all today about the threat of returning foreign fighters to our region. It is real and it is timely.
Defence forces in and of themselves can’t, of course, defeat terrorism, but they can defeat terrorists. They have a vital role to play in supporting the whole-of-government responses and efforts to root out terrorism.
Ladies and gentleman, in the broad context of this discussion today, in terms of shaping Asia’s evolving security order, I also want to note Australia is also a strong supporter of the United Nations Security Resolution 1325, the Women Peace and Security Agenda, and we continue to work with our regional partners to strengthen women’s military participation in conflict prevention and resolution.
We also know that women and children are disproportionately affected by conflict. We also know that increasing women’s representation in peace and security processes increases the likelihood of long-term success.
More broadly Australia’s approach to the Indo-Pacific also involves engaging with nations small and large, both bilaterally and in smaller groupings, to strengthen the cohesion of nations that share our vision for the region.
Our Trilateral Strategic Dialogue with the United States and Japan is well established and we’re also always open to new opportunities to work with other close partners.
We continue to recognise and welcome ASEAN’s central role in providing regional leadership.
I also note Prime Minister’s Modi’s commitment last night in an excellent speech of India’s readiness to support a free and open Indo-Pacific.
At a time of unprecedented geo-strategic, economic and technological change, active and engaged leadership is vital.
As the Prime Minister of Australia said here last year, this is about us choosing the region we want. We should not be settling for a future imposed on us.
Our Australian 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper is another investment by the Australian Government in enhancing regional transparency. It reaffirms the assessments and the broad objectives of the Australian 2016 Defence White Paper, which remains for us the blueprint for our national defence policy settings.
Both those White Papers leave no room for doubt as to the commitment that Australia makes, and indeed will continue to make, to shape a security order in the Indo-Pacific Region that can benefit all.
I think the most important commitment that we here can all make at the end of this conference is to respect the rules-based global order that has served us and our prosperity so well in the past, and to recognise that its preservation depends on our determination and our perseverance to see that it continues.
Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.