Remarks - Handover of Guardian-class Patrol Boat to Kingdom of Tonga - Perth, WA

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The Hon Alex Hawke MP

Assistant Defence Minister

Minister for International Development and the Pacific

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21 June 2019

Good morning everyone and thank you for that warm welcome. It's a privilege to be here today. I want to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land, the Whadjuk Noongar people, their elders past and present, and of course acknowledging His Royal Highness, Tupouto'a 'Ulukalala. Thank you for being here for your first visit to Western Australia. It's a real privilege to be here with you today for this special handover ceremony. I also want to acknowledge, of course, the remarks that you made there, David. And look, it's not in our contractual arrangements that you have with Commonwealth but it is good that you volunteer to lead a choir at every one of these handover ceremonies and you're going to sing for us. And it's a nice touch. Maybe that's why we have an arrangement with you. [Indistinct] I'm going to enjoy each one of these. A remaining 15 choir performances for you there? That'll be lovely.

I also want to thank all of the guests that we do have here today. We've got some very special guests and I want to take a moment just to acknowledge some people who are here with us. Mr Curtis Leonard Tuihalangingie, the Acting High Commissioner of Tonga to Australia; Adrian Morrison, the Australian High Commissioner to Tonga who is here; Lieutenant Colonel Matt Quinn, Australia's Defence Attaché in Tonga; of course, all of the Australian Defence leaders, service personnel that we have here with us today; the workforce here; and also the people who have put together this magnificent boat, everyone who's had a role in the design and construction; and of course, all of these dignitaries that have come specifically to see this handover, especially the community from Western Australia. I want to very much acknowledge my colleague, Melissa Price, who's the Defence Industry Minister, the great work that she does as a colleague; my colleagues in the opposition - we've got, I think, Josh and of course Senator Pratt here.

The interesting thing about today, and I think we haven't even had a chance to acknowledge, is that the Government has a program not just to deliver these to all of our countries in the Pacific but to of course partner with them in the making and sustainment, supply, the ongoing relationship that Australian has with all of our Pacific partners. And I want to take you back a few years to start with today, back to 2013, in our harbour in Sydney where the Royal Australian Navy celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was a great day. It was a beautiful day on the Sydney Harbour - and coming from Sydney, being a little biased, that's the best harbour in the entire world, and when you see hundreds of the ships in line enter Sydney Harbour for that anniversary, of course, it's a special sight. And on that day about six years ago, we had a very special visit from the VOEA Savea, who of course has been in service now about 30 years, who was in the front row of that line, of the ships that entered the harbour in Sydney that day, and it highlights of course the great relationship between Tonga and Australia over so many years. It was the very patrol boat in 1991 that we gave to assist in maintaining maritime sovereignty and I think, six years later to be here today, with the successor here, to hand this over to the people of Tonga, it's very special for me. I think in Western Australia we've got a great workforce, we've got a great tradition, of boat building and ship manufacturing here, and you can see that displayed all around you in the confidence of people like David and the professionals here on this space who build and construct these beautiful and magnificent ships that we see behind us. And these historic links that we do have with Tonga - over a long period of time now - only enhanced by the technological advances, by the great leaps forward that we're making in shipbuilding and design and construction. And I'm just so impressed at the specs that this ship has. I mean, when you look at it, now of course, the 3000 kilometre nautical mile range; I mean, it wasn't mentioned, but the crane that is on the back of this boat, a 1500 kilo crane - that is going to help us in our relationship when Tonga takes possession. The disaster relief capability to help when we have such unexpected and immense disasters will be a huge enhancement and addition that we see in this class of boat.

And of course, Australia is doing all of this because we are good neighbours, we are good friends with the Pacific, but as Prime Minister Scott Morrison says, on regular occasion, we are also family and we take our family obligations very seriously because the Pacific is our shared region. We all have our interests here - we have our security interest; we have a shared economic interest, but we also have our personal interest between us. We have so much history. We have so much shared future together as well. And so, whenever Australia can deliver this kind of capability to our Pacific friends, our neighbours, our partners and our family, we're very proud to do so and we're very proud to assist in the ongoing maintenance and assistance.

So, I also want to thank the crew, not just for the beautiful hymn that you gave us this morning but for the way you've conducted yourselves, as David said; the training that you've undertaken, the serious professionalism that you've shown, and you must be pretty excited to take this away today. It's like getting a new car out of the lot. Be careful.


Don't hit anything.


I did that when I got my first car and took it out of the lot. The first thing I did was hit it into something. So I don't want to see that today. But look, it's really fabulous to be here for this current occasion. I think we have under our enhanced Maritime Security Program so much to achieve together and I know, your Royal Highness, we are going to do so much together. I'm looking forward to catching up with you again in Canberra, and I really do apologise for the weather in Canberra while I'm here. And nothing, I think, says family more than our shared people links and experiences together. And this Saturday, we've heard about the rugby - I'm not a rugby man, I'm more of a rugby league man - this Saturday, there'll be 25 million Australian-Tongans cheering on Tonga to beat our other family members, New Zealand.


Believe me. The whole country wants to see you beat New Zealand, your Royal Highness, just like you did in 2017. The first time a tier two team beat a tier one team in the NRL. It was a fabulous day and I really, really can't wait to watch that on TV. I know you're looking forward to it as well.

Friends, it is a great opportunity to be here today with all of you. I think you can see the great work that the Australian Government is doing here with our partners in the Pacific. We're looking forward to rolling out so many of these replacement boats in coming years. We're looking forward to seeing them in service across the Pacific, the work that they are doing protecting our shared economic interests. But as the Minister for International Development and the Pacific and the Assistant Defence Minister, I'm very much looking forward to our enhanced cooperation in coming years to ensure we have strong economic prosperity, that we have security links, but also that as family members, we continue to work together and have a shared destiny together, and have a shared prosperity together.

Thank you so much.

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