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Working Group Co-Chairs Ms Suriani Ahmed and Commodore Vince Di Pietro
Distinguished members of the Working Group.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I welcome you to Perth as Australia’s Minister for Defence, and as the local Member of Parliament for Perth, as you are meeting in my electorate.
I am pleased to join you for the inaugural ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) Maritime Security Experts’ Working Group.
I am very pleased that Australia is Co-Chairing this Experts’ Working Group with Malaysia.
Australia has a strong bilateral relationship with Malaysia and we cooperate closely on regional issues, including maritime issues. Australia and Malaysia work closely together through the ASEAN related regional architecture.
Australia and Malaysia also cooperate under the framework of the Five Power Defence Arrangements, an important mechanism for regional security and stability, which this year celebrates its 40th Anniversary.
The Five Power Defence Arrangements brings together Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
I welcome Ms Suriani Ahmed, Under Secretary for Policy and Strategic Planning at the Malaysian Ministry of Defence, who Co-Chairs this Experts’ Working Group meeting with Commodore Vince Di Pietro, the Royal Australian Navy’s Director General of Navy Capability Plans and Engagement.
I know your Co-Chairs will ensure a hard working and productive two days ahead.
ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus)
I was pleased to be one of the 18 Defence Ministers who met in Hanoi last October to inaugurate the ADMM-Plus.
The ADMM-Plus is a Defence-led forum focusing on practical defence cooperation. It presents an important opportunity for sharing experiences and lessons learnt, and promoting coordinated responses to emerging regional issues.
The creation of the ADMM-Plus shows that the region has taken a significant step towards meeting its peace and security challenges.
The ADMM-Plus is the Defence Ministers equivalent of the expanded East Asia Summit for Presidents and Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers. It is made up of the ASEAN countries plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States.
This creates a forum for the key regional players to discuss peace and security cooperation, build stability and promote greater defence cooperation.
Australia believes the region’s best guarantee of security and stability continues to be an environment in which nations calmly work towards resolution through dialogue.
Practical Cooperation in 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.
Our region will continue to face natural disasters. It is in our collective interest to look at ways to cooperate and coordinate our response to the frequent demands of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Moving people and relief supplies quickly in response to contingencies, such as Australia has done this year in Japan and New Zealand, will continue to be a task critical to our region.
The ADMM-Plus offers real opportunities for practical cooperation in maritime security. As a maritime nation, Australia is particularly interested in the need and the potential for regional cooperation in maritime security.
Your efforts in this Expert’s Working Group will be most important in taking this important subject forward.
ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Experts’ Working Group
The key task for the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group is to foster a positive and constructive dialogue to improve maritime cooperation in the region and help address maritime security challenges as they emerge.
This is why Australia is so pleased to Co-Chair the Expert Working Group on Maritime Security.
As Co-Chair, Australia is committed to working closely with Malaysia to improve maritime security cooperation in the region, and to support improved information sharing among ADMM-Plus members.
This inaugural Working Group meeting will discuss regional challenges and consider approaches to maritime security in the Asia-Pacific.
The Asia-Pacific Century
In this century, the Asia-Pacific will become the world’s centre of gravity. Economic, political, military and strategic influence is moving to our region.
The rise of China is a defining element of this growing influence, but it is not the only or whole story – the rise of India continues to be under appreciated, as does the strength of the ASEAN economies combined.
The enduring strengths of Japan and South Korea must continue to be acknowledged and so must the great individual potential of Indonesia as it emerges from regional to global influence.
Some people seem implicitly to assume that the economic and strategic influence of the United States, the world’s largest economy and superpower, will somehow be eclipsed overnight.
The United States, which has underwritten stability in the Asia- Pacific for the past half-century, will continue to be the single most powerful and important strategic actor in the region for the foreseeable future, both in its own right and through its network of alliances and security relationships, including with Australia.
The Asia-Pacific region has prospered because of the foundations laid down by this stability.
On average, the Asia-Pacific region’s economic growth has been outpacing other regions for many years, but the shift in influence is, however, not just about economics or demographics.
Economic power underpins military modernisation and contributes to our political and strategic weight.
The Indian Ocean
Australia is a maritime country and continent, touched by the Pacific and the Indian Oceans.
Australia is acutely aware of the critical strategic importance of the Indian Ocean to our region. 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 Indian Ocean is the third largest body of water in the world. Australia has the largest maritime jurisdiction of any Indian Ocean country.
The security of its waters goes to the heart of Australia's national interests, and indeed the interests of the region.
Indian Ocean shipping routes are vital to Australia's economic interests, particularly for the energy and resources that meet rising demand in the Middle East, India and China.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, known as IOR-ARC, is the region's largest grouping. Its interests are as diverse as its broad membership. Australia will assume the Chair of IOR-ARC for 2013 and 2014, having being Vice Chair to India for the period 2011 to 2012.
While the ADMM-Plus will develop an important security focus for the region, IOR-ARC members will complement this work on a range of interests, including fisheries management, disaster management, education, tourism, and agriculture.
We must recognise that the maritime security environment in this region underpins our aspirations for further economic growth.
For many participants in this Working Group, our national security is linked closely to maritime security. As well, our national prosperity is linked to the security and stability of the oceans, seas and straits.
Australia recognises that ASEAN has been the region’s premier regional institution and ASEAN has been central to Australia’s strategic approach to the region.
Australia is a founding member of the East Asia Summit and welcomes its recent expansion to include the United States and Russia.
The East Asia Summit has the right membership and mandate to address the full range of security, political and economic issues.
It is vital that we build a robust architecture of security and cooperation to guarantee the peace and prosperity of our people in the years ahead.
Maritime Security in our Region
From time to time, territorial disputes do raise tensions in the region. We have seen this recently in the South China and East China Seas.
Australia does not take a position with respect to competing territorial and maritime boundary claims in the South China Sea or elsewhere.
We encourage all States to invest in their own continued prosperity by resolving maritime disputes patiently and calmly through multilateral security and negotiation mechanisms, consistent with international legal norms.
It is appropriate for these matters to be considered regionally, as they were at the ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers Meeting in Hanoi last year.
It is important that regional architecture deals with emerging challenges in the maritime domain, both traditional threats such as territorial disputes, but also emerging threats from piracy, terrorism and transnational crime.
This broad view includes not just traditional security challenges, but new and emerging non-traditional security challenges – like modern piracy, terrorism and disaster relief – which give rise to new challenges for nations and regions alike, including in the maritime domain.
Piracy has been a challenge to maritime transport for hundreds of years, but has recently taken on a more modern and aggressive dimension in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.
Australia, along with other members of the ADMM-Plus, is making an important contribution to countering piracy, including off the Horn of Africa.
I recently welcomed home to Australia the HMAS Stuart following its six month operational deployment to the western Indian Ocean serving as part of Combined Task Force 151.
HMAS Stuart conducted important counter-piracy, anti-smuggling and counter-terrorism activities, alongside many of the nations in this room.
I expect the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group will help in developing effective multilateral counter-piracy solutions.
We know that piracy can be prevented. I note the success of our neighbours Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in combating piracy in the Malacca Strait.
I expect the ADMM-Plus will learn from these four member countries in reducing the threat of piracy and identify further opportunities to combat piracy throughout our region.
As we improve our capacity to intercept piracy, the next challenge for the region will be the enforcement of an effective system to prosecute apprehended pirates. We must work together to find such a solution.
Australia is committed to improving regional maritime security. We are already cooperating with many of the nations represented here today.
I urge you all to put forward practical initiatives for maritime security cooperation.
As a region, we can improve the ways we identify risks to maritime security and share ideas on how those risks might be mitigated.
We should be equipped to collectively maintain law and order on the seas for which all of us depend for our national economic well-being.
And we can also share lessons learnt from our operations, discuss maritime security best practice and improve the ability of our defence forces to operate together.
I urge you to think creatively about what the ADMM-Plus can do to improve peace and security in the maritime domain and I encourage you to turn those ideas into action.
I look forward to hearing about progress with your work and reporting to my ADMM-Plus colleagues on the Working Group’s contribution to strengthening regional maritime security.