Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Defence Stephen Smith today outlined the Government’s strategy for Australia’s enhanced regional defence engagement, which will be geared towards maximising the opportunities of the emerging Indo-Pacific region.
The 2013 White Paper addresses the range of significant international and domestic developments since 2009, which influence Australia’s national security and defence settings, including their impact on force posture, future force structure and the Defence budget.
These include the ongoing economic strategic and military shift to the emerging Indo-Pacific region.
The 2009 Defence White Paper made clear Australia’s enduring interest in the stability of the wider Asia-Pacific region. The Indo-Pacific adjusts Australia’s priority strategic focus to the arc extending from India though Southeast Asia to Northeast Asia, including the sea lines of communication on which the region depends.
This region is the location of unprecedented growth that has seen some countries, including China, India, Indonesia, and the Republic of Korea transformed within a generation.
Australia’s international defence engagement is a critical component of the Government’s approach to managing this transformation. The 2013 Defence White Paper highlights the Government’s strategy to take advantage of the opportunities and manage the challenges of this transformation.
Southeast Asia and North Asia
Southeast Asia and North Asia are home to a number of significant regional powers, including China, Indonesia, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Both in and beyond Southeast Asia, Australia supports a rules-based regional security order that fosters cooperation, eases tensions between states and provides incentives to major powers like China and India to rise peacefully.
The Government’s policy is to strengthen the regional security architecture so that it embraces the United States, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and other regional states within a community that is able to discuss political, economic and security issues and act cooperatively to address them.
The Government will also actively support institutions such as the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, which have significant potential to help achieve this objective.
Australia’s longstanding partnership with Indonesia remains our most important defence relationship in the region. The Government will develop options to expand our existing program of maritime, counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation with Indonesia, including through expanding our bilateral exercise program and increasing the frequency and scope of personnel and unit exchanges.
Australia and New Zealand have agreed to implement measures to deepen practical cooperation under the 2011 Review of the Australia New Zealand Defence Relationship – including at the Australia-New Zealand Defence Ministers meeting in November 2012. Australia and New Zealand will be pursuing a mutual sealift cooperation program, a 1.5 track dialogue, and eventual New Zealand participation in the Australia-US exercise Talisman Sabre.
Australia has a fundamental interest in the security and stability of the Pacific Island states. The inaugural Annual South Pacific Defence Ministers meeting was held on 1-2 May 2013.
The Government has decided to implement a Pacific Maritime Security Program to assist Pacific Island states manage their Exclusive Economic Zones. The Pacific Maritime Security Program will broaden and strengthen the region’s capability to respond to maritime security, fisheries protection and transnational criminal threats.
The centrepiece of the Program will be the gifting of a fleet of vessels to replace the existing Pacific Patrol Boats. The Program will also propose to enhance practical cooperation across the South Pacific and include exploring ways to strengthen the capacity of countries to develop a regional response capability.
The Government is committed to deepening Australia’s longstanding defence relationships with Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.
Australia’s shared maritime security interests with Timor-Leste, and the importance of deepening bilateral cooperation in this field, will be recognised by an invitation to extend the Pacific Maritime Security Program to Timor-Leste’s defence force. In response to improvements in the security situation, the focus of Australia’s defence presence has recently transitioned from the provision of a stabilisation force to a capacity-building role through a Defence Cooperation Program.
The Indian Ocean – South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa
The Government will engage closely with other countries with interests in the region to ensure that Indian Ocean dynamics are supported by a regional security architecture that provides mechanisms for the exchange of perspectives and management of the region’s security challenges.
Australia and India are taking further steps to develop and expand upon the Strategic Partnership, under the framework of the 2009 Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation.
Australia will continue to provide training to develop counter-insurgency related skills in the Pakistan military, and to help it to build professionalism and management capacity.
The Middle East also remains an area of significant strategic priority for the Government, not only for Australia and our national interests in the global energy trade, counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism, but also for the impact unrest there can have on global security.
International Defence Engagement Capability
Defence’s overseas workforce is central to achieving its international engagement goals. Defence staff attached to Australian diplomatic missions manage cooperative activities, assist in acquiring new defence capabilities, and help the Government understand Australia’s strategic environment through effective diplomatic reporting.
In 2010, the Government commissioned a review of Defence’s non-operational overseas workforce. The Review considered whether Defence’s non-operational overseas footprint appropriately reflected Australia’s current and future strategic focus.
As recommended by the Review, the Government has directed Defence to rebalance its non-operational overseas workforce footprint towards the Indo-Pacific region, to be offset by reductions in positions in the United Kingdom and Europe. Defence has already placed additional positions in Tokyo and New Delhi.
The Government will also invest in the development of skills and establish additional defence representation positions overseas to support Australia’s increased international defence engagement. This will include the development of a skills-based cadre of ADF and Australian Public Service officers focused on supporting international engagement. Priority will be given to developing engagement capacity with our regional neighbours.
3 May 2013
PRESS OFFICE (02) 6277 7744
MINISTER SMITH’S OFFICE (02) 6277 7800