Signing ceremony between the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), Canberra

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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21 October 2022

I also acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

As the Assistant Minister for Defence, I also pay my respects to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women who have served our nation in the past and continue to do so today.

My ministerial colleague, Tim Watts;

Director-General Arias;

Distinguished Guests;

Friends All,

At the outset, I’d like to lend my support to Tim’s words.

Australia condemns the use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances.

We are signatories and strong supporters of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

In this 25th anniversary year of the Convention, it is clear its intent and obligations are as important today as when it first came into force.

We maintain that every nation should abide by the Convention’s obligations.

And we support the vital work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

I am proud to extend my absolute support, on behalf of all Defence Ministers, to this Technical Agreement for biomedical samples.

Defence is rightly proud of the integrity and expertise of the Defence Science and Technology Group, DSTG.

I’d like to acknowledge the considerable amount of work undertaken by DSTG and its scientists to reach and maintain OPCW designated laboratory status.

It is testament to the expertise and hard work of the analytical and synthetic organic chemists within Defence.

As well as the scientists, I would also like to thank the many lawyers and policy officers who are here today, who spent many months drafting this Technical Agreement to provide the biomedical samples next year…

As well as the previous Agreement for the environmental proficiency tests earlier this year.

After the signing today, many of our scientists in Melbourne will don their lab coats...

And will spend the next couple of months co-ordinating with the OPCW on the composition, preparation and stability of the test samples to ensure that each sample provided is suitable for the proficiency tests.

DSTG also provides science and technology (S&T) support to improve protective measures for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). We hope that the ADF never has cause to use them.

However, Australia’s strategic circumstances are as complex as they have ever been since the end of the Second World War.

So Australia must be ready to shape, deter and respond to more challenging strategic circumstances.

In that context, Defence continues to enhance our strong credentials supporting the Government’s counter-proliferation efforts on all weapons of mass destruction materials and components:

This work is not just on chemical weapons, but also includes work to combat the illicit trade in biological, radiological and nuclear materials related to Weapons of Mass Destruction.

And support for a range of counter-proliferation initiatives and arms control regimes.

For example, Defence is leading Australia’s efforts to host the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Asia-Pacific Exercise next year, during the 20th anniversary of the PSI…

This will involve many of our regional partners, who share Australia’s commitment to deter and deny illicit shipments in WMD materials and technology.

Another example is export controls which are part of a comprehensive system that underpins Australia’s counter-proliferation efforts.

Defence’s export controls function facilitates Australia’s responsible trade in military and dual use goods and technologies.

While the vast majority of exports are approved, a small but important number of exports are not, including those that may be used in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Defence has many personnel working to protect Australians, and the international community against global security challenges, including those posed by chemical weapons.

I’m very pleased with the OPCW’s recognition of the quality of Defence employees who focus on chemical weapon matters, and who work to support the OPCW.

DSTG’s OPCW Designated Laboratory is a particularly important demonstration of Defence’s commitment to global and regional security.

It is currently the only one in the Southern Hemisphere with both biomedical and environmental designation, and one of only 15 laboratories globally.

It is a further demonstration of the Australian Government’s enduring commitment to support the Chemical Weapons Convention and the work of the OPCW.

And clearly shows Australia’s commitment to supporting global disarmament, non-proliferation and counter-proliferation efforts.

Thank you.



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