STEPHEN SMITH: Well to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Paul Henderson, to my parliamentary colleagues from the Northern Territory, Warren Snowdon and Trish Crossin, to the United States Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, to Lieutenant General Duane Thiessen, US Marine Corps Pacific Commander, Major General Michael Krause and our host, Brigadier Gus McLachlan, Commander of First Brigade and the Fifth RAR.
On behalf of the Australian Government and the Australian people, can I welcome very much Fox Company, led by Captain Christopher Richardella, to Australia and to the Northern Territory.
This is very much an historic day. To Captain Richardella and Fox Company, you are here today because more than 60 years ago, Australia and the United States forged an alliance, an alliance which has served us well for over 60 years, an alliance forged in the Pacific during World War II in defence of Australia, in defence of the Pacific, in defence of the United States, in defence of democracy and freedom.
And the ongoing presence of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region and its enhanced presence in the Asia-Pacific region in the course of this century will continue to be a force for peace, for security, for stability and for prosperity.
US Marines have a fine tradition in the Pacific and a fine tradition in Australia. You are highly regarded and highly respected, not just because of your great and brave conduct in the course of World War II, but because of your standing shoulder to shoulder with Australian Defence Force personnel during that period and since then.
Indeed, your division has the Southern Cross on its shoulder patch and it's there for very good reason. Today we see the start of further practical cooperation between Australia and the United States at the defence to defence and military to military level.
And over the period of the next five or six years, we'll see the 200 to 250 Marines who arrived last night and who are here today grow to a presence of 2000 to 2500 Marines.
In addition to that, in due course, we'll see enhanced United States Air Force activity through our Northern Territory and Northern Australian Air Force bases and enhanced naval traffic through our Indian Ocean port, HMAS Stirling, in my own state of Western Australia.
As the world moves to the Asia-Pacific, these are unambiguously good things for Australia and the United States to be doing, particularly the capacity for the training and the exercises that we do together, to see an enhanced role in our region in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Captain Richardella and Fox Company, one thing is absolutely sure and certain today; you are very welcome here, you are very welcome by Australia and Australians, most importantly you are very welcome by the people of Darwin and the people of the Northern Territory.
We wish you well in your training and your endeavours and most importantly, when you get the opportunity, we hope that you enjoy very much the warmth and the friendliness of Australians and the warmth and the friendliness of the people of Darwin and the people of the Northern Territory.
Welcome, please enjoy your stay here. Good luck. Thank you.