Address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia

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The Hon Peter Dutton MP

Minister for Defence

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8 September 2021

AmCham really has done outstanding work.

Through the events it hosts, through contributions to policy discussions, and through the bilateral relationships it nurtures between the public and private sectors.

April, you had a starring role on the Sky series recently, which I think was well received here in Australia. So thank you to you. Thank you to Brendan Nelson, to the General Managers, to the Board of Directors and most importantly today – because they are making it work – the Chamber staff.

I understand we have a diverse audience online, many friends, representatives from business, defence industry, and many other sectors – so thank you so much for joining us.

I think it speaks volumes about the depth and breadth of the Australia-United States bilateral relationship and in mid-July I had the privilege of watching a firepower demonstration in the north east of our country, just north of Brisbane, in Exercise Talisman Sabre.

It’s in its ninth iteration and it is our largest military exercise with the United States, having been conducted across the north of our country biennially since 2005.

It was over 18 days, our forces improved their ability to operate as a joint and combined force. To say it was impressive was a complete understatement.

The coordination. The interoperability. The integration across the land, sea, air, cyber, and space domains really was quite unbelievable.

Our troops moved together as one team, and the comradery between them was clear for all to see and this to me, is the spirit and the value that embodies our Alliance. 

The Australian people have in recent weeks seen the strength and closeness of the alliance on dramatic display as ADF personnel worked tirelessly with their US and British counterparts to carry out the evacuation of Kabul.

We got 4,100 people out. We could not have evacuated one person without the support of the 4,000 United States troops on the ground. We are incredibly grateful for that.

Our partnership continues to grow. It has gone through two world wars, a cold war, and recent conflicts in the Middle East and everywhere in between.

Our friendship has deepened in times of crises, and importantly in times of peace.

And of course as has been remarked, this month has marked the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS treaty – formalising that incredible Alliance.

It also sees the 20th anniversary of 9/11, where, within days of those appalling terrorist attacks, ANZUS was invoked for the first time.

In the months ahead, we will reflect on what Australia and the United States have achieved together, in those times of war and in those times of peace.

As we look toward the future, it becomes clear that our Alliance is absolutely more important than ever.

We are grappling with a regional environment far-more complex and far-less predictable than at any time since the Second World War.

The times in which we live have echoes of the 1930s, but they also present their own unique contemporary challenges.

We can see this in the rhetoric of CCP spokespersons – which has become increasingly bellicose over recent years.

We can see it in the activities of the CCP which have become increasingly coercive, driven by a zero-sum mentality.

Their activities undermine the sovereignty of other nations and grate against the rules-based international order.

An order from which they have happily benefited for decades.

In my remarks today, I want to reflect on the Alliance today, the opportunities for the future collaboration, and the crucial importance of industry and business in supporting defence objectives.

Our region is the global epicentre of increased strategic competition.

Whatever transpires in the Indo-Pacific will not purely affect the nations of our region.  The ripples as we know will be felt by others globally. 

That is why all nations have an interest in ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains stable and prosperous, open and inclusive and that of course includes China.

Australia wants a positive and constructive relationship with China, but the onus is now on the CCP to demonstrate – through words and deeds – that China will contribute to the Indo-Pacific’s stability, not to continue to undermine it.

Of course the presence of the United States and its military forces in our region has underpinned regional peace and prosperity for decades.

The United States recognises its enduring role in this regard, having identified the Indo-Pacific as its ‘priority theatre’ and through the Alliance, we are building a network of partnerships.

Countries who have shared interests.

Countries who want to ensure our region is safe and secure.

Countries who are committed to preserving an absolutely necessary peace.

A peace which has driven, and continues to drive, humanity forward for the benefit of all.

In this endeavour, like-minded countries are increasingly working together at the bilateral and multilateral levels.

For example, the Quad partnership – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – has committed to expanding safe, affordable, and effective vaccine production, and its equitable access across the Indo-Pacific.

The Five Eyes remains a fundamental intelligence-sharing relationship.  One which has immense value in the broader national security and policy realm.

The Pacific Step-up is Australia’s enduring commitment to supporting our near neighbours in a range of areas – like capacity building, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response.

We also want to work with Indonesia, with Singapore, and other partners in Southeast Asia – building on our already strong relationships.

And in so doing, supporting ASEAN’s centrality in our regional security architecture.

So I am focused on ensuring Australia’s military activities contribute to stability and to peace.

To protecting the maritime trade corridors upon which we all rely and prosper.

To maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and to deterring the most egregious forms of coercion and aggression.

That is why we are working with the United States and our like-minded friends.

It is why I am eager to level-up our defence engagement and our joint training initiatives.

The Australian Defence Force regularly undertakes bi-lateral and multilateral defence training activities and deployments.

Like joint and trilateral passage exercise in the region.

Like Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Like the biennial Exercise Rim of the Pacific – hosted by the US and which last year involved 10 nations, including seven from the Indo-Pacific.

Or like Exercise Malabar – hosted by India but also involving Japan and United States.

The appetite for – indeed the necessity of – these defence activities is increasing.

A core component of our collaboration is the US Force Posture Initiatives.

Since 2012, we have hosted US marines in Darwin as part of a rotational force.

The number of marines has grown from 200 to over 2,000 – I want to see that number increase further.

Another initiative is enhanced air cooperation between our air forces, now in its fourth year.

Given Australia’s geographic location – our strategic position in the Indo-Pacific – and our defence infrastructure in the Northern Territory and Queensland, I think there is a clear opportunity to strengthen the US Force Posture Initiatives.

At the same time, there are clear opportunities to deepen our two nations’ industrial base collaboration.

We can work even closer together on defence capabilities, on infrastructure, on science and on technology.

The emergence of new and disruptive technologies are altering the nature of warfare.

The boundaries between conflict and competition are becoming increasingly blurred. 

The cyber realm, economics, trade, resources, and digital media are but some areas being used as coercive battering rams – or indeed, being weaponised in new ways.

So consequently, the arenas of tension have expanded, making the prospect of military conflict sadly less remote than in the past – especially as a result of miscalculation or indeed misunderstanding.

And we need to pool our know-how and resources in ways that sustain our capability edge.

That means maintaining investment in our core military capabilities – like submarines, frigates and fighter jets.

While continuing to develop capabilities to hold a potential adversary’s forces and infrastructure at risk from a greater distance.

Capabilities which send a clear deterrent message to any adversary: that the cost they would incur in threatening our interests outweighs the benefits of so doing.

These include new long-range strike weapons, offensive and defensive cyber, and area denial systems.

And capabilities which can be produced in bulk, more quickly and cheaply, and where their loss would be more tolerable, without significantly impacting our force posture.

Here, I am referring to assets like autonomous craft and remotely piloted drones.

Assets which can undertake multifaceted missions, be used in a swarm capacity, or teamed with traditional manned capabilities for force multiplier effects.

The unmanned Loyal Wingman is I think the most impressive military combat aircraft that we have seen recently and to be designed in Australia for more than half a century. It’s a partnership between the Royal Australian Air Force and Boeing Australia.

This aircraft – and the underlying ecosystem of Australian industry – is an insight into the potential of future capabilities and what can be achieved in partnership.

Our Government’s investment in Australia’s defence capabilities is not only an investment in our national defence.  It is an investment in the security of the region, and that of our friends and neighbours.

Investing in deterrence is an important way to ensure countries in our region choose diplomacy and negotiation to advance their strategic goals, rather than coercion or conflict.

So ladies and gentlemen, Australia is fortunate to be included in the US National Technology and Industrial Base.

My message to industry and business is simple: for Australia and the United States to achieve our force posture and defence capability objectives, we need to work even more closely together.

That must include giving greater practical effect to Australia’s inclusion in the US National Technology and Industrial Base.

It means both our governments and defence industry sectors working to reduce barriers to collaboration and integration. 

Our respective national industries and small businesses have unique skills.

They are at the forefront of innovation in certain fields and they lead technological developments in distinct areas.

Through cooperation, we can surge ahead, creating a whole that is far greater than the sum of our parts.

We can share ideas and resources, reduce risks, and accelerate outcomes.

Australian industry has a lot to offer in support of US supply chain diversification and resilience.

As part of the Australian Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy, around $1.5 billion dollars is being invested to scale up our manufacturing – to make it more competitive and resilient.

Greater bilateral industrial cooperation will have mutual economic and security benefits.

It will see new jobs created for both our nations across an array of sectors and importantly it will encourage more small businesses to enter the defence marketplace, affording opportunities to work with prime companies on high-value and high-tech defence projects.

There is a real opportunity to build on existing success in several areas.

For example, more than 50 Australian companies are contributing to the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, supporting US assets.

These companies have shared in more than $2.7 billion dollars’ worth in contracts associated with the fighter’s production and sustainment.

Through joint capability projects, the economic benefits can swing both ways.

We are also strengthening defence infrastructure collaboration.

We are advancing plans from last year’s Australia-US Ministerial Consultations to establish a US funded and commercially operated strategic military fuel reserve in Darwin.

We are buttressing mutual supply chain security, for example in critical minerals and rare earths, which have become a staple of sophisticated military platforms. 

We know that supply chains for a number of critical minerals are limited. Indeed, downstream processing is concentrated almost entirely in China.

We are making good progress with an outcome from AUSMIN – a plan of action to improve the security of critical minerals.

So Australia and the United States are undertaking research and development of new capabilities in mutual priority areas – like space, cyber, artificial intelligence, hypersonics and directed energy weapons.

Australia has more than 100 science and technology arrangements in place with the United States, and 50 currently being negotiated.

There are many opportunities to bolster our collaboration.

But let me conclude by highlighting one in particular:

Australia’s $1 billion investment into Sovereign Guided Weapons and Explosive Ordnance Enterprise.

This initiative will do several things:

Certainly it improves our self-reliance, it develops our sovereign capacity to manufacture, to test, and maintain sovereign guided weapons.

Assure our stocks of critical precision guided munitions and components.

Bolster global supply chain resilience.

Further establish interoperability with our Alliance partner.

And allow the Australian Defence Force to act with greater independence.

Importantly, bilateral industry support for the enterprise will be a practical demonstration of the strength of our inclusion in the US National Technology and Industrial Base.

Shortly, I will travel with Foreign Minister Payne to the United States for the 31st Australia-US Ministerial Consultations.

This will be the first AUSMIN with the Biden Administration and our first face-to-face meeting with our counterparts, Secretary of State Blinken and Defense Secretary Austin.

I am confident that this year’s AUSMIN will see our Alliance level-up, so we are even better positioned to confront whatever challenges our nations may face.

One thing is clear – Australia and the United States are stronger together and it is a necessary precondition to continuing peace in our region.

So thank you all very much for your attention. Most importantly thank you very much to the Chamber today for the invitation and for the work that you do in advancing the relationship between the United States and Australia.


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