Remarks to Talisman Sabre opening ceremony

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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21 July 2023

Can I begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to elders past and present. Governor Beazley; Secretary Del Toro; Minister Pat Conroy; Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell; Secretary of the Department of Defence, Greg Moriarty; my good friend – I feel like introducing you as former Prime Minister, but I should introduce you as Ambassador Kevin Rudd, but obviously Kevin was the Prime Minister of this country. And indeed, I think for me, if you'll indulge me for a moment, I came into Parliament in 2007, in what we affectionately call the ‘Rudd-slide’. So Kevin was my first boss, and it is really a delight to see Kevin serving our country, again, in the role that he now is as our Ambassador. And it's fantastic to see you here. And Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, who is, as the Chief of Joint Operations, the person who is responsible for Exercise Talisman Sabre, and to all the senior military personnel who are here, welcome, it is wonderful to have you in this opening ceremony for Talisman Sabre.

Talisman Sabre is, of course, the biennial event, which is really at the heart of the Australian Defence Force being match fit. This is the moment where Defence Force men and women across all of our service domains have the opportunity to demonstrate their skill and their capacity, and have their capabilities certified to ensure that as a Defence Force we are match fit. And so in that sense, this is an incredibly serious few weeks to demonstrate the capability of the Australian Defence Force. And we're going to see, in addition to what we have now – I don't know that it gets better than having a military band playing in the middle of a Navy ship, it certainly gets my blood going, but over the next few weeks, we're going to be having live firing at Shoalwater Bay tomorrow, a transportable wharf, which will be deployed, which comes from the United States at Bowen, over which there will be 800 vehicles moving. This is going to be the largest transportable wharf which is deployed in Australia since the end of the Second World War. There are going to be a number of amphibious landings largely along the Central Queensland coast, and North Queensland coast, which is all going to be fantastic. But it is, in fact a really serious event by virtue of what this means in terms of the certification of our serving men and women. And so I know that for them, an enormous amount of work is going to culminate, as they are examined, really, in the course of the next few weeks.

But it says something about how we see the world and how we see the task of the Australian Defence Force today, that that activity for us happens in the context of working so closely with the 12 other nations who are represented here today, and here in Exercise Talisman Sabre, And so I particularly want to use this opportunity to welcome all the representatives of those countries and those countries defence forces who are here right now.

What this is, is an incredible opportunity to build the high-end war fighting capability of our nations as we take this opportunity to familiarize each other with the way in which we work, and to become much more coordinated in the way in which we engage in what we do. And the Defence Strategic Review, which we had down in May, re-tasked our Defence Force for the first time in 35 years. And one of the key tasks – one of the five tasks, in fact – that we articulated for our Defence Force is to provide for the collective security of the region in which we live, the Indo-Pacific. And that is done by working closely with our friends and partners and allies, which is what of course we are practicing over the next few weeks.

So it is a really important opportunity to demonstrate that coordination in that capacity with our friends. In all that occurs over the course of the next few weeks, it's an enormous privilege for me and Pat I know to be able to get to witness this firsthand, I wish more Australians had the opportunity to do that. But what comes through loud and clear to me is just how proud every Australian has a right to feel when we look at the way in which our men and women who wear our uniform perform their work with such dedication. And actually that at the end of the day, is the message which is at the heart of Exercise Talisman Sabre.

Welcome, we really look forward to what we're about to see over the next few weeks and I hope in the midst of all of that those of you who are here also get an opportunity to enjoy everything that this country has to offer.

Thank you.

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