Paper presented to the
Sea Power Conference
Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
31 January 2012
Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, visiting Chiefs of Navies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
I commence by saying how pleased I am to be working so closely with Ray Griggs, Australia’s Chief of Navy, as we confront the challenges and opportunities for Navy into the future.
I warmly welcome the eight Chiefs of Navy from overseas participating in this Sea Power Conference, along with the representatives from another 35 countries.
I am pleased to be here today at what is recognised as a significant longstanding and important forum. This is particularly relevant today as maritime security moves to the forefront of strategic considerations in our region and beyond.
Combined with the Pacific 2012 International Maritime Exposition, we have a unique forum where Navy and defence and maritime industry can showcase their products to an international audience.
I am pleased that as part of the Conference, five Royal Australian Navy ships are open for delegate tours, including Australia’s newest amphibious ship, HMAS Choules, and two frigates, HMAS Sydney and Ballarat, all three berthed at Fleet Base East, together with two Mine Hunter Coastals, HMAS Huon and HMAS Yarra berthed at Cockle Bay.
The Conference theme "Naval Contribution to National Prosperity and Security" is deeply relevant to our region’s circumstances as strategic, political, economic, military and maritime weight shifts to the Asia Pacific region and the Indian Ocean Rim.
Your deliberations will be of significance to Navies around the world and will complement the ongoing dialogue on maritime security in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus Maritime Security Experts Working Group.
Historic Shift towards Asia
In this century, the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Rim will become the world’s centre of gravity.
The rise of China is a defining element of Asia’s growing influence, but it is far from the only or whole story.
Everyone sees the rise of China but the rise of India is still under-appreciated, as is the rise of the ASEAN economies combined.
The major and enduring economic strengths of Japan and South Korea also need to be acknowledged.
So must the great individual potential of Indonesia – as it emerges from a regional to a global influence.
The ongoing shift in influence is, however, not just about economics or demographics, it is also about military power, including maritime power.
The Asia-Pacific is home to four of the world’s major powers and five of the world’s largest militaries – the United States, Russia, China, India, and North Korea.
The Asia-Pacific is also home to many of the world’s largest navies – including the navies of the United States, China, Russia, and India.
The implications of this historic shift continue to unfold.
Some seem to assume that the economic and strategic influence of the United States, the world’s largest economy and superpower, will somehow be rapidly eclipsed overnight as a result of the new distribution of power.
That is not Australia’s view.
In Australia’s view, the United States has underwritten stability in the Asia-Pacific for the past half century and will continue to be the single most important strategic actor in our region for the foreseeable future, both in its own right and through its network of alliances and security relationships, including with Australia.
United States presence in this region is underpinned by the United States Pacific Command. USPACOM comprises about one-fifth of total US military strength, and includes six United States Navy aircraft carrier strike groups, two Marine Expeditionary Forces and 185,000 Naval and Marine personnel.
An ongoing United States presence in the Asia Pacific is essential to peace and stability in our region. Indeed, as the world moves to the Asia Pacific, it is even more important that there is a United States’ presence in our region.
These considerations have informed our discussions with the United States on the US Global Force Posture Review. This has acknowledged that our respective military forces must be able to respond in a timely and effective way to the range of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, peacekeeping or stabilisation contingencies that may arise in our region.
Stability in the Asia-Pacific has enabled economic and social development and prosperity, as well as the creation of a regional framework based on APEC and the ASEAN related fora, in particular the East Asia Summit.
With the rise of the Asia-Pacific comes a range of challenges.
Tensions have emerged over maritime and territorial disputes.
Australia reiterates its national interest, along with the international community, in freedom of navigation, the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce in international waters.
Australia unequivocally opposes the use of coercion or force to advance the claims of any party or interfere with legitimate economic activity.
Tensions have emerged over maritime disputes in the South and East China Seas. More recently Iran’s posturing on the Straits of Hormuz has been unwelcome.
Australia will match the European Commission’s additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, announced earlier this month. Ahead of this announcement, Iran had already threatened to use military force to protect the Straits of Hormuz and we saw the presence of Iranian military assets in the Straits.
United States, British and French vessels subsequently sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, as they were and are perfectly entitled to do so in accordance with international law.
Threats to freedom of navigation in the Straits of Hormuz are of serious concern and are unhelpful to security in the region.
We urge Iran to abide by its international legal obligations with respect to freedom of navigation in international seas.
Sea lines of communication are essential to trade and commerce. Abiding by international law, abiding by law of the sea, abiding by international norms in that respect is very important for trade and prosperity and also for peace and security. And that applies not just to those straits in our region but to other sea lines of communication in other parts of the world.
We do not take a position on the competing territorial claims in the South China Sea and call on nations to clarify and pursue their territorial claims and accompanying maritime rights in accordance with international law, including the Law of the Sea Convention.
Australia welcomes the agreement last year between ASEAN and China on the set of draft guidelines to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea as the starting point for the resolution of such issues in the South China Sea.
The Declaration encourages each of the parties to comply with their commitments, to exercise self-restraint and to resolve their disputes through peaceful means.
This is a good starting point but more needs to be done.
India and the Indian Ocean
India’s role and place in the Asia Pacific Century continues to be under-appreciated.
Australia and the region need to look west as well as east.
India is the largest democracy in the world, and as India assumes the mantle of global influence accorded to it by its democratic status, growing economy and capacity, its strategic weight in the world will naturally increase.
India has global interests, but India’s expanding strategic role has increasingly focused on our shared Asian neighbourhood.
The critical strategic importance of the Indian Ocean is also substantially under-appreciated.
The countries of the Indian Ocean Rim are home to more than 2.6 billion people, almost 40 per cent of the world’s population.
The security of its waters goes to the heart of global, regional and Australian strategic interests.
The proportion of world energy supplies passing through critical transport choke points, including the Straits of Malacca, the Straits of Hormuz and the Suez Canal will increase in the coming years.
The Indian Ocean already ranks among the busiest highways for global trade. It will become a crucial global trading thoroughfare in the future.
Crucial trading routes, the presence of large and growing naval capabilities, as well as transnational security issues such as piracy, drive Australia to put the Indian Ocean alongside the Pacific Ocean at the heart of our maritime strategic and defence planning.
In recognition of this imperative, Australia has joined the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), an initiative of the Indian Navy.
Australia will host the IONS Conclave of Chiefs in Perth in 2014.
India and Australia are also leading the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), a Ministerial level forum with membership ranging across the entire Indian Ocean region.
With India the current IOR-ARC Chair and Australia the Vice Chair, we are jointly leading efforts to strengthen regional security architecture, with a particular focus on maritime security.
After India’s two year period as Chair of IOR-ARC, Australia will take over as Chair for the subsequent two year period, and Indonesia expected thereafter.
India, Australia and Indonesia can all provide regional leadership through a forum that has much potential to deal with regional challenges. This reflects a natural extension of significant and growing bilateral relationships between the three countries.
The IOR-ARC Ministerial Meeting in India late last year agreed to examine renaming the forum, including the option of an “Indian Ocean Community”. This is consistent with India’s and Australia’s efforts to lift the organisation to greater prominence.
During my most recent visit to India in December last year, I agreed with Indian Defence Minister A K Antony that Australia and India would boost Defence cooperation, particularly in the maritime sphere.
We agreed to strengthen military to military interaction across the Navy, Army and Air Force and to establish a 1.5 Track Defence Strategic Dialogue, to be held in Australia this year. Most significantly, we agreed that Australian and Indian officials would work towards establishing a formal bilateral maritime exercise.
While in India, I visited Headquarters Western Naval Command in Mumbai, which highlighted the value of enhanced cooperation between our navies. India’s and Australia’s navies are the two most significant navies of the Indian-Ocean littoral states. Both our countries have much to gain in working together to boost maritime security in the region.
Earlier this month, I visited London for the Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations (AUKMIN). I was pleased to announce that Perth will be hosting AUKMIN in 2013, following on from CHOGM in 2011.
Perth’s status as Australia’s Indian Ocean capital makes it a natural choice to host next year’s AUKMIN meeting, underlining the growing international importance of the region.
The Importance of Regional Architecture
Australia has greatly benefited from the Asia-Pacific region’s long period of peace, security, stability and prosperity.
We owe this in great part to the creation and growth of regional institutions like ASEAN and its related forums, institutions that continue to build habits of dialogue and cooperation in the region.
Since coming to office, the Government has advocated the need for a regional Leaders’ meeting which can consider both strategic and security matters, as well as economic matters, with all the relevant countries of our region in the same room at the same time.
That is why Australia strongly supported the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN Plus Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM Plus) in Hanoi in October last year.
That is why we very much welcome the entry of the United States and Russia into an expanded East Asia Summit (EAS) this year. The United States and Russia joined with ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea. In that context I am looking very much forward to meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergy Lavrov later this morning.
Presidents and Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers from all key countries in the region now meet to discuss the full gamut of issues, from the economy and trade and investment through to peace and security.
Australia is pleased to co-chair with Malaysia the maritime expert working group of the ADMM Plus.
The establishment of the ADMM Plus offers real opportunities for practical military to military and defence to defence cooperation, including for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
Another important regional security forum is the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA).
The FPDA brings together Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia and the UK. The FPDA was established in 1971 to provide transitional security assurances for the newly formed independent states of Malaysia and Singapore.
As Singapore and Malaysia’s Defence capabilities increased, the Arrangements have developed into a forum for continued multilateral Defence interaction between members.
Today, the FPDA retains conventional capabilities while also adapting to deal with modern non-convention challenges, such as counter-terrorism, maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
This is an historic time for the Royal Australian Navy. In the coming years we will see Australia’s Navy reach a level of capability it never previously contemplated.
A strong, capable and versatile Navy able to undertake the full spectrum of operations is a key element of any maritime nation’s strategic planning.
The 2009 Defence White Paper included a significant focus on enhancing our maritime capabilities for the 21st century.
Australia’s amphibious capability received a major boost with the commissioning last month of HMAS Choules, named after former Chief Petty Officer Claude Choules. HMAS Choules weighs 16,000 tonnes and its cargo capacity has the equivalent of the Manoora, Kanimbla and Tobruk combined. Its flight deck has room for two large helicopters and can also carry around 150 light trucks and 350 troops.
Later this year the hull of the first landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ship will arrive in Melbourne. The LHDs will be the largest ships the Navy has ever had. Each ship is capable of carrying a combined armed battlegroup of more than 1100 personnel, 100 armoured vehicles and 12 helicopters, as well as a 40-bed hospital.
The introduction into service of these ships will mark a significant change in the way the Australian Defence Force (ADF) deploys its land forces and conducts amphibious operations.
The conduct of amphibious operations will be further strengthened through the implementation of Plan BEERSHEBA, a major restructure of the Australian Army announced by the Government last month.
Plan BEERSHEBA will ensure that Army is able to respond effectively to future challenges, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other operations.
It includes the dedication of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment to form the core of Army’s contribution to a future amphibious force capable of conducting humanitarian and disaster relief and other operations, particularly in our immediate region.
Army is working closely with the Royal Australian Navy to enhance amphibious interoperability, in particular in operations with the LHDs, HMAS Choules and other amphibious platforms.
Other major maritime capabilities already under construction or planned in the 2009 Defence White Paper include new destroyers, manned and unmanned long range surveillance aircraft and a range of important new or upgraded capabilities, including naval weapons and communication systems.
The Air Warfare Destroyer project is the most complex naval ship construction program ever undertaken in Australia. When complete, the Air Warfare Destroyer will be one of the most capable types of warship of its size in the world. The three ships will provide advance air defence against missiles and aircraft for self-protection, as well as for other ships and for land forces in coastal areas.
In 2014, the first two of 24 MH-60R Seahawk ‘Romeo’ naval combat helicopters will arrive in Australia. Acquisition of 24 ‘Romeos’ will allow the Navy to provide at least eight warships with a combat helicopter at the same time, including ANZAC Class frigates and the new Air Warfare Destroyers. They will be equipped with a highly sophisticated combat system designed to employ Hellfire air-to-surface missile and the Mark 54 anti-submarine torpedo.
All eight ANZAC Class frigates are being upgraded with an advanced Anti-Ship Missile Defence system which is able to identify, track and guide missiles to multiple targets at the same time at a cost in excess of $650 million. The upgrade of HMAS Perth as the lead ship for the Anti-Ship Missile Defence program was successfully completed in 2011 and the installation of the system on the remaining seven ships of the ANZAC class will be completed by 2017.
The Government is committed to acquiring 12 new Future Submarines, to be assembled in South Australia over the coming three decades.
The Future Submarine project will be the largest and most complex Defence project ever undertaken by Australia. The project is a major national undertaking and is of a scale, complexity and duration never before experienced within Defence.
Options for the Future Submarine range from a proven fully Military Off the Shelf design through to a completely new submarine. All options are being considered, other than nuclear propulsion which the Government has ruled out.
Last month I announced that a series of important steps were underway including that Government had approved the release of Requests for Information to three overseas submarine designers, and that Defence had entered into a contract with Babcock for a study into a land-based propulsion site. In addition I announced the development of a Future Submarine Industry Skills plan.
The Government will consider the Future Submarine project early during the course of this year and more announcements will follow in due course.
These are challenging times for Defence and the Navy in particular. Problems with the availability of our ships and submarines have seriously impacted on Naval capability.
A lot of progress has been made but there is still more to be done.
Nearly 12 months ago when Cyclone Yasi hit North Queensland, Defence was unable to provide amphibious ships to support the recovery and response efforts.
I, like many Australians, was very disappointed by this lack of amphibious capability in a time of national need. I made it very clear to Defence that this was an unacceptable situation that could never be allowed to happen again.
Since February last year the Government has undertaken a range of reforms and measures to address the issues with the Navy’s amphibious fleet.
In April last year, the Government purchased the RFA Largs Bay from the British Government and last month it was commissioned as HMAS Choules.
In addition, HMAS Tobruk underwent a period of scheduled maintenance to make it ready for sea.
Over the past 12 months Defence has also undertaken a series of commercial leases to augment the Navy’s amphibious capability. Subsea Operations Vessel Windermere will today complete its operations as an additional support vessel for the cyclone season.
Last month as well I announced the Government’s decision to purchase an additional humanitarian and disaster relief ship to provide additional support to the Choules and Tobruk.
In the face of a gap in our amphibious capability, I commissioned Mr Paul Rizzo to develop a plan to improve the maintenance and sustainment of our naval fleet.
His report identified a number of significant issues and made 24 recommendations to improve operational availability and outcomes to ensure the ongoing technical integrity of Navy’s ships. The recommendations of that report are being implemented.
The Collins Class submarine fleet remains our most significant sustainment challenge. In December last year I released the report of Phase 1 of the Review of the Sustainment of Australia’s Collins Class submarines, the Coles Review.
This Review is examining complex engineering issues associated with submarine sustainment. It will play an important role in guiding improvements to the way our Collins class submarines are sustained into the future in much the same way as the Rizzo report is doing for the Navy’s amphibious fleet.
Phase 2 of the review will report in April this year and focus on:
(i) Integration and Program Management;
(iii) Engineering Reliability and Navy; and
In Phase 2, the review team will gather and analyse data to put forward well-evidenced findings and recommendations on how to improve performance in Collins submarine sustainment.
Lessons learnt from the Coles Review will also play an important role in the development of the Future Submarine Project.
The lessons learnt from the challenges we have faced in the past, and the outcomes from the Rizzo and Coles reviews, will be applied to future acquisitions and future sustainment. This includes projects already underway, such as the Future Submarines, as well as future projects to provide essential naval capabilities, including supply and logistic ships, frigates and offshore combatant vessels.
The reforms I have referred to are specific to Navy, but in the past 12 months the Government has initiated a range of major reforms to improve the acquisition and sustainment of military equipment.
These include increasing the rigour of the Defence Capability Plan; improving contestability in capability decision making; the establishment of an Independent Project Performance Office; introduction of an Early Warning System to identify problems in projects before they become critical; the extension of Gate Reviews to all major capability projects; and more rigour in the Projects of Concern process.
It is important that we get our capability development and acquisition process right. Last year the Government approved a record 46 first pass, second pass and other major project approvals with a combined total value of the projects in excess of six billion dollars.
In order to realise the full potential of the capability Australia is acquiring in the coming decades, we need to ensure the ADF is correctly geographically positioned.
US Global Force Posture Review
The US Global Force Posture Review was established to ensure the US could respond to current and likely future changes in the international security environment. It seeks a politically sustainable, operationally resilient, and geographically dispersed US force posture.
The US considers its engagement in the Asia-Pacific to be an increasingly important strategic priority given the region’s location between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, its proximity to vital strategic sea lanes, and increased great power interest in the area.
One of the key Force Posture Review priorities for the United States is to increase engagement with Australia and its partners in Southeast Asia, and to strengthen regional confidence in US engagement in the region.
We have seen that reinforced by President Obama’s commitment to enhancing US engagement with the Asia Pacific during his visit to Australia and more recently in the US.
In his speech to the Australian Parliament in Canberra, President Obama committed the United States to making its “presence and missions in the Asia-Pacific a top priority”, while at the same ensuring that “reductions in US defence spending will not come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific.”
The President reiterated the US commitment to the Asia Pacific with the release of the new US Defense Strategic Guidance in January, and Secretary of Defense Panetta confirmed that the US enhanced commitment to the Asia Pacific would be quarantined from US defense budget cuts in his announcement last Friday of US Defense Budget Priority and Choices.
Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama announced during the President’s visit to Australia new force posture initiatives that significantly enhance defence cooperation between Australia and the US.
Coming on the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance, these initiatives strengthen an already robust partnership that has been an anchor of stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region.
Starting this year, Australia will see the rotational deployment of US Marines to Darwin and Northern Australia, for around six months at a time, where they will conduct exercises and training on a rotational basis with the ADF.
The initial deployment will consist of a small liaison element and a company of 250 US Marines, which will expand over the coming five/six years to a rotational presence of up to a 2,500 person Marine Air Ground Task Force. The US Marines will exercise and train on a rotational basis with the ADF in the Northern Territory.
The increased training and exercising with the US Marines will be an important opportunity for the ADF to build and refine its amphibious capability as the LHDs come on line and as the ADF implements Plan BEERSHEBA.
As part of our ongoing work with the US on its Global Force Posture Review, we will also examine the possibility of increased US access to Australia’s Indian Ocean port, HMAS Stirling.
Australian Defence Force Posture Review
It is equally essential that the ADF is correctly geographically positioned to meet future security and strategic challenges.
That is why I announced the Force Posture Review in June last year.
The Review is addressing the range of present and emerging global, regional and national strategic and security factors which require careful consideration for the future.
These strategic and security factors include:
- the rise of the Asia-Pacific as a region of global strategic significance;
- the rise of the Indian Ocean rim as a region of global strategic significance;