TRANSCRIPT: RESPONSE TO QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE IN THE HOUSE OF RERESENTATIVES
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 21 NOVEMBER 2011
TOPICS: Australia-United States Alliance; President Obama visit.
STEPHEN SMITH: I thank the Member for Holt for his question and acknowledge his longstanding interest in the Australia-United States Alliance. This year, marked by President Obama's visit, we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Alliance. As President Obama said when he was here, the Alliance has never been stronger. For 60 years, it has been the bedrock of our security, strategic and defence arrangements.
The Member asked me about recent developments. In terms of the operational structure of the alliance, we do not have US bases in Australia. We have joint facilities, which were effected in the late 1980s. Pine Gap is the classic and obvious example in that respect. We also have very substantial training exercises with the United States and provide access to our facilities. That is all done under a status of forces agreement that was struck in 1963. Perhaps the best example of the training that we do with the United States is Exercise Talisman Sabre, which is carried out every two years. On the last occasion, this year, we had between 14,000 and 15,000 military and defence personnel from the United States in Australia.
The Alliance has moved with the times. We saw over a decade ago the invoking of the Alliance for the first occasion in the aftermath of the terrible events of 11 September 2011 in the face of international terrorism. At the AUSMIN meeting this year in San Francisco, through an accord struck by the four principles at the meeting, we agreed that, for example, a cyber attack could be an attack that would invoke the provisions of the Treaty.
The Member asked by about operational and practical developments. The whole world is moving to our part of the world. It is not just the rise of China. It is also the rise of India, the exponential increase in the growth of the ASEAN economies, the ongoing importance of Japan and the Republic of Korea, the emergence of Indonesia as a global influence not just a regional influence, and the ongoing importance—economically and strategically—of the United States.
As the Prime Minister made very clear during the President's visit, the ongoing engagement by the United States in the Asia-Pacific in this the Asia-Pacific century is absolutely important—indeed, not just its ongoing engagement but its enhanced engagement.
That has been reflected by the announcements made by the Prime Minister and the President during the President's visit. Firstly, there will be a rotational group of United States Marines in the Northern Territory, starting in the first and second quarters of next year with a group of 250 and growing over time to a group as large as 2,500 marines and Air Force personnel in 2016-17—a taskforce group. We envisage that we will see training and exercises conducted at the Delamere weapons range, at Mount Bundy and also at Bradshaw.
As well, as I and the Prime Minister have indicated, there is the prospect of greater utilisation of airfields in Northern Australia—in particular RAAF Base Tindal—by United States aircraft. I have also indicated that further down the track we will have ongoing consideration of allowing US surface and submarine vessels greater access to our Indian Ocean port, HMAS Stirling, Fleet Base West. This is an ongoing extension of the training and exercises that we do. At the same time, it is the single most important development in the operational arrangements under the alliance since the striking of the joint facilities in the 1980s. This is unambiguously in Australia's national interest and unambiguously in our region's interest.