Related ministers and contacts
Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Defence
- Henry Budd (Minister Payne’s office) 0429 531 143
- Defence Media (02) 6127 1999
28 February 2016
Doorstop interview, Garden Island, Sydney
Sunday 28 February 2016
Subjects: HMAS Melbourne, White Paper, tax reform
Ladies and gentleman thank you very much for joining us at Fleet Base East with the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, to welcome home HMAS Melbourne after 203 days at sea after coming back into Sydney this morning.
You have seen the welcome behind me from friends and family. It’s a pretty amazing experience I have to say. It’s overwhelming I think on both sides of that equation. HMAS Melbourne has done an extraordinary job on behalf of Australia in the 203 days that she has been away in terms of narcotic seizures, boardings and contributing to the combined maritime taskforce in the Middle East. She has really done Australia proud and I am very pleased to be hear this morning to welcome her crew to welcome her CO Bill Walters and his team and we should be particularly proud of what they have done.
Of course the Melbourne is a frigate, which was commissioned in 1992 if I’m not mistaken, asking Vice Admiral Barrett there? That gives you an indication of some the decisions we have taken and announced in last week’s White Paper particularly around naval capability. You would know that that included the announcement of the construction of the Future Frigates, a $30 billion program to get underway in Adelaide with steel being cut in 2020.
Those are the sort of key decisions which will make the difference for, not just the Navy now, but the Navy of the future and for the young men and women who have been participating in this particular deployment for us in the Middle East.
Now I’m very happy to answer any questions and I’m sure you have some questions around capability and I might seek the Chief’s support around that if necessary.
She’s been described as the best ship in the Navy. What makes her so good?
She’s just won the Gloucester Cup I think, so that’s a good start, but I’ll ask the Chief to explain that because it is a very prestigious award.
CHIEF OF NAVY:
As the Minister has said, she has just been awarded the Gloucester Cup which within Navy demonstrates the ship that has best performed among all others in terms of the operations, training, everything else in support. So she has got, quite rightly, the ability to say she is the best ship in the Navy. If you look on her Bridge Wing she has a gold star which indicates that that is the ship for period and it reflects the effort she has made in her deployment recently.
This was her eighth deployment?
Yes, her eight rotation into the Middle East, yes.
CHIEF OF NAVY:
Look I’ve just been advised, Minister, that we’ve been onboard having a look as she’s arrived back in country. She’s in the best material state that she has been in for a very long time. That’s down to this crew and the work that’s been done ashore as well. It’s means she has got years left in her. So whilst we are looking at the Future Frigate, there’s plenty of work that this ship Melbourne can do for us.
Can you tell us a little bit about the operations in regards to the drug seizures and what sort of dent it has made in the illicit trade?
CHIEF OF NAVY:
Well over the last three or four years we have had a number of ships that are up there. Every time they board and seize illicit drugs of the sorts of numbers we are talking about – this ship nearly a tonne of heroin, other ships up to five tonnes each time they have been through - each of those contribute to removing vast amount of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, from a trade that is using drug money to buy arms and to use them in terrorist activity in the Middle East. So every time we do it, it is a significant dent into those operations.
What does the Navy do with the people they find on these boats with drugs? Where do they go?
CHIEF OF NAVY:
Usually the contraband is confiscated and those who have been carrying it are left to continue at sea, but without their contraband. That’s the nature of how the operation is working at the moment amongst the coalition forces, it’s an agreed position.
Why are they not detained?
CHIEF OF NAVY:
Very difficult to detain at sea under the provision of the various conventions that we have. But at the moment what is seen to be best and appropriate means is to destroy the contraband at sea.
The interruption it makes to the global drugs supply is a very considerable one. We are working in a participatory environment with other members of the coalition and if you think about taking off the streets almost a 1000 [kilograms] you are really making a very significant difference to amount of material that is out of the way.
Can I ask you about a different topic? Is Malcolm loosing control of the tax reform debate?
I think the debate that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are engaging in with members of the Coalition and through the tax reform process is a very, very significant one for Australia and I think it would be fruitless to try to pretend that you can have that discussion without engagement and different views. I think the Prime Minister is leading in an exemplary fashion and I’m very proud to take part in it.
How damaging is it that Tony Abbott and John Howard are criticising Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership?
Well I’ve heard very positive things out of both of our former Prime Ministers and I’m always interested in hearing their contributions.
Thank you very much.
Henry Budd (Minister Payne's office) 0429 531 143
Defence Media (02) 6127 1999
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