29 August 2022
CHRISTINE LAMBRECHT, GERMAN FEDERAL MINISTER OF DEFENCE (THROUGH INTERPRETER): Minister Marles, Richard, thank you very much for coming to visit us at the Bendlerblock and Ministry of Defence in Berlin. It is a great honour for us that your first visit to Europe is a visit to Germany and that is especially true in these times where personal meetings and exchange are ever more important.
Our countries may be geographically distant, but we have many issues and challenges in common. There’s a great overlap here. An atrocious war is being waged in Europe right now, a war waged by Russia against Ukraine, and, of course, therefore we are currently focused on the support to Ukraine and to our eastern allies. But these conflicts cannot be viewed in isolation because they have great consequences that affect the entire world. So, it is important that we, as partners, coordinate and respond to this kind of aggression. So, again a very warm welcome to you.
The developments and stability of the Indo–Pacific region are also of utmost importance to us and to Europe as a whole. You all know, and we know, that our Air Force has deployed six Eurofighters to Australia right now and, in addition to that, several tanker and cargo aircraft. We are exercising with many partners from the region, and we are displaying unity and visibility for a rules-based open and multilateral world. I talked to the personnel deployed to Australia and I know that this is a herculean task. It is a stress test in terms of those personnel and materiel, but I think that it demonstrated that we are operationally ready quickly and globally in addition to what we do when we contribute to the NATO Response Force and to NATO’s eastern flag, and we will keep up these important contributions.
Right now, our Eurofighters are participating in the Air Force Exercise Pitch Black in Darwin. And, Minister Marles, Richard, you visited our troops just a few days ago, and that was a display of unity and recognition, and I would like to thank you for that. We don’t want our activities in the Indo–Pacific regions to be short-lived. It is my clear goal that we will continue our presence in the region for the next few years and that we will further deepen our ties, and this is why I am particularly pleased that we decided that our Army troops would participate in a land forces exercise in Australia in 2023. So, this is a very specific project that we are planning.
Minister Marles, Richard, I’m looking forward to talking to you today.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Danke schön. Well, firstly, can I thank Minister Lambrecht, Christine, for having me here and the generosity that’s been shown to both myself and our delegation, particularly in the review that we were able to undertake. It was very impressive. It makes us feel very special being here today.
The world is under a lot of pressure right now. The conflict that we see in Ukraine stands as an aberration as Russia has engaged in an appalling invasion of a neighbour and not by reference to international law but by reference to power and might, and that is a proposition which cannot stand. And so, Australia stands with Ukraine, and stands with Germany and stands with Europe and the world in seeking to support Ukraine against this completely unjustified aggression.
The rules-based order which has been built over the last 70 years is now under pressure, not just in Europe but in the Indo–Pacific as well. And we welcome Germany’s interest in the Indo–Pacific and interest in speaking out in support of that rules-based order. At this moment, it is important that nations which support a rules-based order and support values in the world are standing together. And it was so good to see members of the German Luftwaffe in Darwin last week as I visited on Friday as they participated in Exercise Pitch Black. This follows the visit of the frigate Bayern, and the wonderful announcement that the Minister has just made that Germany will be participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre in Australia next year.
So, standing for a rules-based order, Germany is also doing that by having a presence in the Indo–Pacific, which we greatly appreciate. And from Australia’s point of view, we see our relationship as a relationship which is founded upon shared values. The relationship between Australia and Germany is one that we see as growing very significantly. We see this in defence industry with German companies Lürssen and Rheinmetall now participating significantly in helping Australia build our own defence capabilities. We are very excited about the prospect of Rheinmetall building Boxers for the German Army in Brisbane, which is a prospect that we seek to advance with Rheinmetall and with the German Government.
And beyond defence, we look to work with Germany in the production and export of green hydrogen; the supply of rare earths; of building our economies; and of ultimately, we hope, concluding a free trade agreement with the European Union. And all of this speaks to a depth in our relationship which we have never seen before and which we are very keen to build, which is why it was so important for me to be here today and why I am so proud on behalf of the Australian Government to be with my delegation here in Berlin today. We really look forward to the discussions we’re about to have with the Minister. Thank you for having us.
JOURNALIST (THROUGH INTERPRETER): Question to Minister Lambrecht. Is this really the right time for participation in such a large-scale exercise in the Indo–Pacific and at a time where we are seeing our national – the question has asked whether our national and collective defence is adequate where we need 100 billion Euros for that? And additionally, couldn’t this participation provoke China with a view to Taiwan?
MINISTER LAMBRECHT (THROUGH INTERPRETER): This exercise is an exercise in which we participate with our partners who share our values, partners who support the rules-based order and openness and multilateralism. And this wasn’t a short-term decision; this exercise had been planned for a long time and it is important for our interoperability. So I believe it was the right choice to participate here.
We are very much aware that this participation was a massive challenge, but we’ve shown that we are able to participate there while fulfilling our NATO obligations and supporting our allies at the same time. We are operationally ready to do both and that is an important signal.
JOURNALIST (THROUGH INTERPRETER): First question to Minister Lambrecht. Chancellor Scholz just a few hours ago announced that Germany is planning to build an air defence system together with its European neighbours, and that further investment in defence would be necessary for that. Could you elaborate?
And my question for Minister Marles: do you wish for greater and increased Australian–German cooperation?
MINISTER LAMBRECHT (THROUGH INTERPRETER): This Russian war has shown how important it is to stand closely together, to cooperate with our NATO partners within the EU and with other partners on defence. And this is why it is important to coordinate and bundle our resources, and I believe the area of defence is an area where we can do that. So, this was an important signal. We already have very good cooperation projects, for example, with the Netherlands where we cooperate on air defence; in Slovakia with Patriot systems, with personnel, and it remains important to show that NATO and the EU and together with our partners we stand united, and we need to use all our resources to keep that unity up.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: In answer to your question, we do, because now is a time where friends need to stand together, and Australia and Germany have shared beliefs. We’re both democracies. We both support a global rules-based order. And we deeply believe that by working more closely with Germany, by building interoperability with Germany, we create a more peaceful world, both in Europe and in the Indo–Pacific. So, we are very pleased at the increasing engagement between our two defence forces, and we do hope that that cooperation grows in the future.
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