TRANSCRIPT: Interview with David Speers on SKY News PM Agenda
TRANSCRIPTION: Proof Copy E & OE
DATE: 15 September 2011
TOPICS: AUSMIN; Cyber Security; US Global Force Posture Review; Joint Strike Fighter.
DAVID SPEERS: Stephen Smith, thanks for your time. Cyber security is at the top of the agenda for these talks. Your American counterpart Leon Panetta has called cyber security the battlefield of the future. How will the US and Australiabe cooperating when it comes to cyber security.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well cyber security will be one of the key issues that we deal with tomorrow at our formal AUSMIN meeting. I've just come from the official dinner, the 60th Anniversary dinner for the signing up of the ANZUS Treaty, our Alliance with the United States.
But Secretary Panetta is quite right. You might recall that in Melbourne last year when we had our AUSMIN meeting in Melbourne, then Secretary Gates and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding for Bilateral Cooperation between Australia, and the United States, on cyber security.
Since then we've been working very closely with the United States, also working very closely with the United Kingdom.
And tomorrow we'll take one further step and we will officially acknowledge that a substantial cyber attack could be such an attack on Australia or the United States that it would cause the ANZUS Treaty to be triggered. And that is one of the battlegrounds for the future. Our Alliance has been good for 60 years. No-one envisaged, for example, that the United States would be attacked by international terrorists. And we're now grappling with some of the key issues for the future. And cyber is one of those most fundamental.
DAVID SPEERS: So if the ANZUS Treaty applies to cyber attacks, does that mean if the US comes under cyber attack, Australia will help in the response and vice versa. And what will this mean practically for intelligence cooperation, and particularly at some of the bases in Australia.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we are talking of course at a very high threshold level here. Of course what we want to do is to make sure that cyber-space can be used peacefully by nations and can be used successfully by industry.
But we're talking here at a level which is much higher than for example people using the internet, using cyberspace to steal commercial or state secrets. We're talking about a significant attack upon the communications fabric of a nation.
So what we'll say tomorrow is that a substantial cyber attack can open up the prospect of invoking or triggering the ANZUS Alliance, and that would mean, just as we did for example in the triggering of the ANZUS Alliance after September 11, that we would do whatever we thought was appropriate to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States in those circumstances.
Clearly that would mean technical cooperation. We have a number of agencies who work together, work very carefully and very closely in this area, but it is one of the new challenges for the future. Indeed, I'm accompanied in the United States by General Hurley, the new Chief of the Defence Force, and on the day his appointment was announced, he said that he believed that cyberspace and cyber security was one of the key challenges for the Australian Defence Force, and I agree with that as well. And I'm pleased that Defense Secretary Panetta also shares that view.
DAVID SPEERS: So just to be clear on this when you're talking about a substantial attack, the ANZUS Treaty at the moment is invoked if it's an attack on American or Australian soil. This would involve an attack on a satellite, or some sort of communications facility.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well what we know exists in terms of possibilities is that a massive cyber attack can be used to degrade, or denude, or destroy, or thwart the communications system of a nation. In particular, to thwart the communications system of the military - the national security apparatus, the national security arrangements of a country.
Now obviously we don't want that to happen. But that such an attack could well be the precursor to a more classical attack. But the theoretical possibility is there that a significant attempt to degrade military communications, the communications apparatus of a nation state, does lend itself to being treated as one of the modern day military, defence, and national security challenges; and that's what we'll be doing tomorrow.
DAVID SPEERS: The United States does have communications cooperation in facilities like the Harold E Holt Naval Base at Exmouth in WA. Are we talking about expanding that sort of cooperation.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we have longstanding, very successful cooperation with the United States in communications and surveillance area. We have our joint facilities. The joint facilities program has been there since the 1980s. Just as we're looking at cyber, we're also looking at space itself.
And again at Melbourne - we started the process of cooperation with the United States on space matters, and that is as diverse as seeking to reduce the amount of debris that there is in space, but also to ensure there's some rational use of space, orderly use of space so far as satellites and the like are concerned - whether that's for civil or military use.
So we continue to work closely with the United States on the range of modern-day challenges, and cyberspace is one that we've spoken about. Space per se, and satellites in space is another. But there's no substantial change proposed to what we're doing with our joint facilities.
That's an ongoing program. And one which is at the heart of the cooperative arrangements between Australia and the United States under the ANZUS Treaty.
DAVID SPEERS: At last year's AUSMIN talks in Melbourne, a working group was set up to look at the bilateral force posture issues about more American involvement through either training, prepositioning of equipment in Australia, greater use of Australian facilities and ports by the US military. Where are things at with that now?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well those discussions have been and will be ongoing. We'll talk about the work that our officials have been doing on the United States Global Force Posture Review. We of course have our own Force Posture Review underway which I announced some months ago.
But that detailed work - those discussions - will continue tomorrow. We're not expecting to make any decisions tomorrow. There's a lot of work that needs to be done. But we are looking at, as I've made clear in the past, notions such as more frequent and regular exercises; more exercises, potentially on Australian soil, the prepositioning of stores and the like; a great cooperation on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance - it's what I colloquially or anecdotally describe as the possibility of more ships in and out, more planes in and out, and potentially more troops in and out on exercises and the like.
But there's a bit more work that we need to do on the detail of those arrangements. And one of the issues that I do want to explore with the United States is the extent to which some of those issues might be subject to the very significant financial and budget challenges which the United States now has, and that applies very much to the Defence Budget.
So there's a fair bit of work to go on that front.
DAVID SPEERS: And how much will you be considering the sensitivity of this issue in China for American military cooperation here in Australia?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well we have made no secret of the fact that we believe the ongoing presence of the United States in the Asia Pacific and in the Pacific itself is unambiguously in the Asia Pacific's interest.
We think the United States has been a force for good since World War II in helping to bring peace and stability and security and prosperity to the Asia Pacific. So we have been actively encouraging the United States to not just maintain but to enhance its presence in the Asia Pacific. And that's because we know that in the course of this century, economic and strategic and political and military influence will move to our part of the world.
Yes, the rise of China - but also the rise of India, the rise of the ASEAN economies combined with, the emergence of Indonesia, the ongoing importance of Japan, and the Republic of Korea. So if that is our strategic starting point and our strategic understanding, then it just makes sense for us to enhance our engagement in a practical way with the United States just as, on the other hand, we are enhancing our practical engagement with China.
In the last 12 months, for example, we've seen the first live fire exercise with China through our Navy. So we also are growing our practical cooperation with China. Now it's not in anywhere near the same league as our Alliance relationship with the United States. But the two aren't mutually exclusive.
DAVID SPEERS: And just finally Minister, will you be raising with your American counterparts any concerns about the escalating cost of the Joint Strike Fighter project? Australia's buying 100 of these, or plans to buy 100 of these but the costs keep going up.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well I had the chance this evening over dinner to speak again to Secretary Panetta about the assistance that we believe the United States can give us on our new Submarine program. I didn't have the opportunity to speak about the Joint Strike Fighter, but I expect I'll get that opportunity tomorrow. I'll again make the point that the last thing I will allow to occur will be a gap in capability.
But I'll be interested to have Secretary Panetta's views about the Joint Strike Fighter program. But I've made it clear - both in the United States before and in Australia that I'm worried that we're now coming up against scheduled risk. And I don't want to see a gap in capability occur.
But on our Air-Force capability, I also make the point that I was very pleased that on the way to San Francisco I went to Los Angeles and picked up at the Boeing plant in Long Beach just outside of Los Angeles Australia's fifth C-17. That's now flying back home.
So that's a very very successful story so far as Australia and the United States, military cooperation is concerned. And that's added substantially to our disaster relief and humanitarian assistance capacity.
So that's a good news story. But on the Joint Strike Fighter, I'm not going to allow a gap in our capability to occur, but we don't need to make a judgment about that until some time next year.
DAVID SPEERS: All right, Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, thanks very much for joining us.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you, thanks very much.