Opening remarks to Talisman Sabre participants

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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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30 July 2023

SUBJECTS: MRH-90 incident; Talisman Sabre 2023.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Can I also start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders past and present. Amongst the very many dignitaries and stars who are present here, can I particularly acknowledge my good friend, Lloyd Austin, the United States Secretary of Defense.

We gather in this moment knowing that the most serious and very real undertaking which is occurring right now between our nations is the search and rescue of the four aircrew who ditched on Friday night, in the MRH-90 Australian Army helicopter. There is a very real sense of poignancy and an anxiety associated with that accident. Our thoughts are very much with the aircrew and of course, their families. And this accident makes very real, what this exercise means – the dangers that are involved, the risks that inevitably come with it. And we also understand in the process, the very brave significance that comes when we put on the uniforms of our respective nations. As we have walked around today, and seen Exercise Talisman Sabre in action, the exercise that those four aircrew were participating in Friday night, what becomes manifestly clear, as Lloyd and I have said, is the sense of team and shared mission between the countries participating. And we see this happening at the highest end in terms of the complexity of the engagement, which is being undertaken. But as important as those skills are, and as important as the experiences that we gain from those activities, more important than all of that is the relationships which are being built and created and which will endure when this exercise comes to an end. There really is a sense that the partner nations, the 13 countries participating in Exercise Talisman Sabre, are building a connectedness with each other in the way in which we go about our work, which enhances the collective security of the Indo-Pacific region. And ultimately, that is what underpins why our defence forces exist in this part of the world.

So can I thank all of you for what you are doing during this exercise and beyond. The significance of it all, particularly given the events of Friday night, is made very plain and very clear. We owe all of you an enormous debt of gratitude, and we are deeply impressed and respectful of the skills that you bring to bear. Thank you.

LLOYD J AUSTIN III, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good morning, everyone. I'm really glad to be here in Townsville to see the important work that you're doing to support Exercise Talisman Sabre. You are magnificent. You are well-led, well-trained, focused, dedicated to interoperability. And we are grateful for everything that you’re doing.

First, let me say that my thoughts are with the four Australians who were involved in the helicopter crash yesterday. Our hearts go out to their loved ones during this terribly difficult time. The United States is supporting search and rescue efforts, and as I told the Deputy Prime Minister, the United States stands ready to provide any further assistance that we can.

You know, US and Australian service members have a long history of working together. In fact, we’ve fought alongside each other in nearly every war. And, as many of you know, I spent a little time wearing a uniform – about 41 years in uniform. And a good part of that time, or a significant portion of it, was in combat. Some of you I served with in combat, but during that time, I was never in combat when I didn't turn to my right or left and see an Australian soldier, sailor, airman, as well as many of the allies and partners that are represented here today. So this is what we're about. We're about interoperability, we're about working together, we're about promoting a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. And so we will continue to stand by our allies, and this exercise helps us strengthen our unbreakable Alliance, and our vision for that free and open Indo-Pacific.

I'm proud really proud that we have 14 countries participating in this year's exercise, who share that common vision. Together, you are bolstering deterrence by building capacity alongside our allies and partners, and you're participating – or you're practicing, logistics interoperability, under realistic conditions, so that we can improve combined capabilities as well as our responses to a range of potential contingencies. And together, you continue to build combat readiness.

So thank you all for being here. Thanks to all the leaders for what you're doing to provide challenging and realistic training scenarios, and thanks for doing what you're doing to take care of our troops as well. So I wish you the very best in the remaining time that you have. I look forward to learning or viewing the lessons learned from this tremendous exercise. Thank you very much.


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