Speech to Chief of Army's LAND FORCES Seminar

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The Hon Christopher Pyne MP

Minister for Defence Industry

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4 September 2018

Building a Resilient and Rules-Based Security Community in the Indo-Pacific Region

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

To members of the international military leadership who are here today; to the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Angus Campbell; to current and former members of the Australian Defence Force, particularly the leadership of the Australian Army: the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Rick Burr; the Deputy Chief of Army, Major General Jake Ellwood; Head Land Capability, Major General Kath Toohey; Army’s Generals and the broader members of the Defence senior leadership group.

Welcome to you all.

The Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force have built a close network of relationships, both globally and in our own region – the Indo-Pacific – reflected by your presence here today.

The Government of Australia is absolutely committed to widening, deepening and strengthening these ties — as foreshadowed formally in the 2016 Defence White Paper, which I will talk about shortly.

The Chief of Army’s Land Forces Seminar is a great opportunity to increase understanding across a broad range of areas, not the least showcasing defence capability and industry, but it also provides a unique opportunity to increase understanding between respective defence forces.

Increased cooperation with like-minded international partners and continued regional engagement is a high priority for the Australian Government, and this was clearly set out in the 2016 Defence White Paper and reinforced in the 2017 Foreign Policy White paper.

And this is for a good reason – namely – to help us anticipate and resolve challenges before they become conflicts, not just respond to them, within the Indo-Pacific and further afield.

Australia has a long history of regional engagement based on strong people-to-people links, ranging from capacity-building to joint exercises, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance and by supporting and leading training activities with our partners.

We recognise that the Indo-Pacific region is extremely dynamic, with militaries modernising rapidly as economic and strategic weight shifts, and this only serves to reinforce the need for deeper understanding and greater cooperation.

In the spirit of regional cooperation and engagement, it is interesting to see so many international delegations here for the Chief of Army’s Land Forces seminar.

Your presence here over the next three days is an important opportunity to discuss our mutual views and share our experiences and understanding to identify the areas for the application of land power, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.

This year’s Chief of Army Land Forces Seminar addresses key questions on how international partnerships can help build, develop, and sustain land power to respond to the complex range of security challenges that shape our strategic environment and the future of land forces in the Indo-Pacific.

The emphasis on the role of Land Forces is an important focus for us all.  Land forces are that essential element of national capability that provides access and influence in the very domain where people live.

This is fundamental, as we examine how collectively our nations Land Forces operate to ensure security of our Nation’s interests and protect our sovereignty.  

I commend and seek to reinforce the importance of these collective investments by our Governments.  As we all are acutely aware, we continue to live at an interesting time in world affairs.

In the past year alone, we’ve seen rapid economic and military growth across Asia, improvement in the prospect for peace on the Korean peninsula and a terrorism threat that has evolved in unexpected ways.

In this setting, strengthening international military cooperation can only be viewed as an important means to help promote and build upon regional security.

For Australia, the Indo-Pacific region fills our vision across the cardinals of the compass and is the arena where our common future will unfold.

Australia lies at the geographic centre of this region and holds the fulcrum between the Indian and Pacific corners of Asia. Australia’s continued engagement and close work with regional partners is an absolute must.

The unfolding positive shades of the Indo-Pacific region’s geo-strategic diversity are truly remarkable and significant for Australia’s security and prosperity, and understanding this diversity can help us appreciate the regional dynamics.

This is a region of widening and deepening activities that contribute significantly to globalisation. Against this backdrop are eight of the 10 most populous nations on Earth, 50 per cent of the world’s population, and the largest democratic nation in the world.

It contains 12 member states of the G20.

The three largest economies in the world are Indo-Pacific nations.

Ten of the world’s fourteen smallest economies, including some of the climatically fragile, are in the Indo-Pacific.

The busiest international sea lanes are in this region, and nine of the world’s ten busiest seaports, as well as most of the world’s largest cities of today and tomorrow are here.

And this is also a region that is heavily militarised – some seven of the world’s ten largest standing militaries and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations are located in the Indo-Pacific.

Some might see this diverse array of cultures and ideologies as international policy’s greatest challenge.

I see it as our region’s greatest strength.

Through diversity, there is strength; through a multitude of views, we will find the means to fix the challenges we face together.

We can build a safe and prosperous community of nations in our region through a shared understanding of the challenges.

And Land Forces 2018 provides a forum for countries near and far to strengthen shared interests and build resilient networks of peace and prosperity. Defence is a part of this process.

I want to emphasise here the paramount importance of partnership in achieving this goal. By partnership, I mean:

•           Engagement between our forces to help build mutual understanding;

•           Building resiliency and strength to aid each other; and

•           Sustaining a rules-based order.

In this setting, Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper and follow on Foreign Policy White Paper – clearly highlight the importance of continuing to build upon Defences existing international engagement profile.

As you would know, Australia’s 2016 Defence White Paper announced a significant investment in new capabilities, notably for Army - the $5.2 billion dollar Combat Reconnaissance Vehicle; that combined with broader Defence capabilities enable the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force, to respond to crises and maintain security within the Indo-Pacific region.

However, the Defence White Paper also specifically calls on Defence to increase its investment in the Defence Cooperation Program to build confidence and capacity of countries in the Indo-Pacific and to contribute to our collective security.

Our commitment to these goals is represented by the amount of training that Australia provides for international military students in Australia; the number of exercises that the Australian Defence Force participates in across our region, and the number of Australian Defence Force personnel located overseas to conduct international engagement with partner nations.

The Australian Army – including through its engagement with your countries – plays a critical role in this growth structure from which all partners benefit.

Engaging with nations in our region – and beyond – bilaterally, regionally and globally, and doing so through collaborative activities will help us understand our strategic environment to respond to those shared challenges which I mentioned earlier.

By generating active and effective security partnerships and building relationships, we create strong regional and international security architectures that provide safety and security to our people and strengthen our economic activities.  Deepening our practical engagement with partners remain of vital interest.

The Australian Army has a key role to play in this endeavour which is best captured under what Lieutenant General Burr describes as ‘Army in Motion’. 

That’s commitment through persistent engagement, that ensures we have a force posture to respond to the continued challenges both traditional and non-traditional, remain agile, and leverage the knowledge of our armies collectively.   

As I know is evident to this audience, deeper engagement between the armies in our region alongside strengthening regional cooperative mechanisms such as ASEAN, the Pacific Islands Forum, and the East Asia Summit, serves to enhance our collective understanding and perspectives. 

Importantly, this kind of cooperation between countries serves to reinforce the rules-based system for preserving lasting peace and security in the region.

It also presents a clear example to all of how competing economies can cooperate and demonstrate the importance of the region’s openness to the world.

Colleagues, in conclusion, I want to emphasise the importance of Australia’s engagement in the Indio-Pacific region to create a safe and prosperous community of nations.

A community that respects a free and open region and co-operates closely to achieve shared goals.

It is events such as the Chief of Army’s Land Forces Seminar today that contribute to a better understanding to this end, as well as help our militaries operate alongside each other in support of the rules-based order.

Collectively, we must deter influences that risk destabilisation, and work together through partnerships to create an Indo-Pacific region that serves our interests as a community of nations and help us all to move forward and embrace opportunities for greater peace and prosperity for our peoples.

Thank you.

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