Address to the Exercise Wallaby appreciation Dinner

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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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11 October 2023

I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Darumbal people, and pay my respects to their elders, past, present and emerging.

As the Assistant Minister for Defence and the Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, 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.

And I acknowledge the presence here this evening of Uncle George James, Chairman of Darumbal People Aboriginal Corporation and Darumbal Elder Aunty Nhaya Nicky Hatfield.

Welcome back to Australia, Minister Zaqy.

I also acknowledge Singapore’s Deputy High Commissioner and Counsellor, Mr Winston Yien.

Federal Member for Capricornia, the Honourable Michelle Landry MP.

Mayors and Councillors from the Rockhampton, Livingston and Gladstone Councils.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to join you tonight for this Exercise Wallaby 2023 Appreciation dinner.

For 19 years, Australia’s Lowy Institute has conducted an annual poll on how Australians see the world and their place in it.

Singapore is ranked in the top five countries that Australians feel warmly about, a feeling that has remained remarkably consistent over time.

The warmth, respect and longstanding friendship between our two nations is the anchor of our bilateral relationship.

And it underpins the genuine and longstanding community support for Singapore’s military training in Australia.

Especially here in Central Queensland.

You could see it in the plane-spotters who brought along their chairs and picnic rugs to witness the landing of the giant Antonov AN-124 at Bundaberg airport, with its cargo of Singaporean Apaches.

And you could read it in the public letter from Tony Williams, the Mayor of Rockhampton, who used the occasion of the Avalon Air Show to tell the world of his community’s commitment to Defence and their pride in hosting the Singapore Armed Forces for these military training exercises.  

I was recently at Shoalwater Bay for the firepower demonstration during Exercise Talisman Sabre.

It is a first-class military training area, designed to thoroughly test personnel, equipment and enabling logistics, and I’m sure, Minister, that your forces have put it to good use during this year’s Exercise. 

The Government expect the works at Shoalwater Bay Training Area to be completed by the end of next year.

This will enable a substantial increase in the scale of Singapore’s force generation training here - and that is warmly welcomed by Australia.

Today we face a more complex strategic environment in our Indo-Pacific region.

And Singapore and Australia are working more closely together than ever before in support of regional security, stability and prosperity.

We share a commitment to maintaining a secure and prosperous region with ASEAN at its core. 

Our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership - which we look forward to marking the tenth anniversary of in 2025 - will underpin closer cooperation.

We work in close partnership through the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

And at the last Singapore-Australia Joint Ministerial Committee meeting in May this year, our countries committed to increase the complexity of our bilateral exercises, to make it even easier for our militaries to work together, including by deepening our cooperation on logistics, cyber, science and technology.

This is a remarkable commitment, and it’s based on the strong foundation of decades working together.

From operations in Timor-Leste and the Middle East through to Singapore’s very welcome and valued support for Australia during flood and bushfire emergencies.

This year marks the 33rd anniversary of Exercise Wallaby.

I hope it has been your best yet.

On behalf of the Australian Government, I hope that all members of the Singaporean Armed Forces who’ve been part of Exercise Wallaby have found the experience to be personally and professionally rewarding.

Australia is proud that we have hosted rotational training of Singapore Armed Forces personnel for over 30 years.

And we look forward to welcoming you back next year.


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