Opinion Piece, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 30 August 2022

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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4 September 2022

At this time of the year, the wide blue skies over Northern Australia are so clear you can see for miles.

The conditions are perfect for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) to exercise alongside our military partners from across the world, working together as a combined force against a range of realistic, simulated threats.

We call it Exercise Pitch Black, and it brings together 17 nations in one of the world’s largest airspace training areas.

This year is Germany’s first time participating in Pitch Black.

As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, I visited RAAF Base Darwin to personally welcome the German Eurofighter Typhoons and Luftwaffe personnel to Australia. The Luftwaffe‘s achievement in reaching the Indo-Pacific within 24 hours is a remarkable one.

Their deployment demonstrates the growing resolve of Australia and Germany to work together to foster security in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Germany is an important, close and likeminded friend of Australia.

We are both liberal democracies and we share a strong commitment to a world in which all countries adhere to international rules and norms.

We work together to support multilateralism, human rights, trade liberalisation and the resilience and stability of our regions.

Our bilateral relationship is more important than ever because the world faces the most serious strategic tensions for generations. 

We see intensifying strategic and geo-economic contest, starkly evident in the return of war in Europe, growing climate risks, and enduring pandemic impacts, all of which are driving inflation, supply chain shocks and de-globalisation.

Australia condemns Russia’s illegal, brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine. It is a tragic reminder for all that peace and prosperity cannot be taken for granted.

We must work together to safeguard the sovereignty of all states and make sure rule of law, not raw power, governs conduct between states.

That is why we stand with Germany in supporting Ukraine to defend itself, with Australia providing nearly 270 million euros in military assistance to Ukraine.

We deplore Russia’s unprincipled use of energy to attempt to coerce Germany, another demonstration that we cannot rely on economic interdependence to deter conflict.

In Australia’s region, the Indo-Pacific, we see worrying developments that threaten the futures of all countries. Military build-up is occurring at a rate unseen since World War II, and the largest investment in new military capability is China’s.

Tensions are rising. State sponsored provocation is growing, actors are blurring the line between peace and conflict, and the use of force or coercion to advance territorial claims is increasing.

Australia wants to see peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and we want the sovereignty of all nations, large and small, to be respected. We know Germany wants that too.

This is not a time for going it alone.

Now is the time for increasing cooperation between friends and partners – like Germany and Australia – who share a respect for fundamental principles of sovereignty and the rule of law.

Australia values our defence and security partnership with Germany. We appreciate the visit by the frigate Bayern to the Indo-Pacific in 2021 and by the Luftwaffe now.

We look forward to welcoming German forces in September for our maritime Exercise Kakadu, and we have invited Germany to participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre in 2023. 

We also value our wider partnership with new and exciting opportunities to pursue. 

Australia aims to be a renewable energy superpower. We have solar and wind resources that are among the best in the world. Through Green Hydrogen derivatives like ammonia, these energy sources can form part of Germany’s Energiewende and Zeitenwende. 

We have many of the critical minerals that will be crucial to decarbonising our economies, creating secure and reliable supply chains for Germany’s great manufacturing and high-tech industries. 

We are partners in free trade, and want to underline that commitment by concluding a trade agreement with the EU.

And Australia’s new government - with its new and ambitious climate change targets - will be a partner for Germany in global action to avoid climate disaster.

As both our planet and the international systems that sustain our way of life are under intense pressure, nations like Australia and Germany must stand together like never before.

We may be geographically distant, but our values are the same.

We cherish the rules based order that has allowed peace to be the norm and economies to thrive. And we are united in taking resolute action on climate change.

That’s why I have come to Germany so early in our new government’s term, barely three months since our election.

As our pilots work together over the skies of northern Australia, I will work with Germany’s leaders to forge a new partnership responding to the great challenges of our time. 

This piece was first published in the German paper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday, 30 August 2022.

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