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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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22 July 2023

SUBJECTS: USS Canberra, Talisman Sabre.

JAYNIE SEAL: Alright, combat ship USS Canberra is being commissioned in a ceremony in Sydney today. It will be the first time an American Navy ship has been commissioned outside the US and in an allied country. Joining me live now is Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, the Honourable Richard Marles, on board USS Canberra. Thank you so much for joining us. A big day. And yes, the first time the US has commissioned a vessel outside Australia. Is this purely a recognition of the strong Australia-US relationship or is there more to it? Is this messaging for a potential regional opponent, perhaps?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, I think it is a very strong statement about the alliance, but you're right, it is a very historic moment. The first time the United States has commissioned a new warship outside of America. This ship has a very deep historic connection with Australia. It's the second USS Canberra. And the first USS Canberra was named by President Roosevelt after HMAS Canberra was lost on the 9th August in 1942 with a loss of 84 lives. And that was when Australians were fighting alongside Americans in Solomon Islands during the Battle of Savo Island. What's really exciting about this ship is that it has a whole lot of Australian DNA in it. It was designed and built by an Australian company, Austal. So, this ship that I'm standing on right now is actually designed in Fremantle. And so, amongst everything else, it is a wonderful day for Australian defence industry and certainly Austal should feel very proud today.

SEAL: Yes, indeed. And what does it mean for inter-operability with US forces in the event of a regional conflict in which Australia is involved?

MARLES: Well, today is the second day of exercise, Talisman Sabre, which is the biggest exercise that the Australian Defence Force does. We do it every two years and it is an exercise which is planned as a bilateral exercise between ourselves and the United States. There are another eleven other countries who will be participating as well this year. I think what that does is give us an enormous familiarity in terms of working with other countries and particularly with the United States. And certainly, that occurs at the level of the Navy. And no doubt USS Canberra will have in its future a future of working closely with Australia as well.

SEAL: China's keeping an eye on the games. Have they done this before? How concerned are you?

MARLES: We're not concerned and it's business as usual. I've been attending Talisman Sabre now for a number of years and China always watches this exercise and that's fine. It's always done in accordance with the international law of the sea. We are very focused on making sure that this exercise does what it needs to do, and that is certify Australia's defence capability. You can't have an effective defence force unless it's match fit and you can't be match fit unless you train, and that's what these exercises do. And for us, of course, part of the task of our defence force is to contribute to the collective security of the region in which we live. And that means working and training with our partners and our allies, which is why it's so important that there are the countries that are involved in this exercises that there are.

SEAL: And since the USS Canberra has already been launched, since it sailed from Alabama to Sydney, presumably the traditional breaking the bottle of champagne over the bow won't be happening when it's commissioned today. Or will it? What's going to happen?

MARLES: Good question. I'm not sure that that part of the ceremony happens, but it is a really big moment. We're at Garden Island at Fleet Base East. You can't see it on the shot, but we're in the shadow of HMAS Canberra, which is right next to it. And as I say, these two ships are inextricably linked because the first USS Canberra was, of course, named after the first HMAS Canberra. And I think this is a real symbol of the significance of the alliance, not just to Australia, but the standing of Australia in terms of the way in which America sees the world. The motto of this ship is, 'Can Do Kangaroo', which has been the motto of the USS Canberra, the first USS Canberra from 1943. So, it's going to be a really exciting day and it is a day which very much speaks to the alliance and the bonds between Australia and the United States.

SEAL: Yeah, absolutely. And as you said, the manufacturer, Austal, US-based subsidiary of Austal Australia. So, the ties there as well. It looks like a great day for you there. Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, the Honourable Richard Marles, thank you so much for your time.

MARLES: Thanks for having me.


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