Radio Interview, ABC Capricornia with Paul Culliver

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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11 October 2023

SUBJECTS: Exercise Wallaby 2023; Shoalwater Bay Training Area; Australia-Singapore relationship.

PAUL CULLIVER, HOST: So, Exercise Wallaby, apparently it's a major military activity happening right now in Rockhampton and the Shoalwater Bay area and it's been conducted by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. Matt Thistlethwaite, Assistant Minister for Defence, who's speaking here with ABC reporter Rachel McGhee about the exercise and what it means for the local community.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Exercise Wallaby is an annual training exercise for the Singaporean Defence Force. It's been going for more than 30 years and this year we've had 4000 Singaporean personnel exercising at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. So, they've been using that wonderful facility to improve their capability and their preparedness for combat. And that's the great thing about Shoalwater Bay, it's such a diverse space and it's an important partnership for the Australian Defence Force that's only going to grow into the future.

RACHEL MCGHEE, JOURNALIST: And how long does this exercise go for?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: It goes for about five weeks, and over the course of the five weeks the 4000-odd troops are being trained in combat scenarios. There's a mock urban scape there that they can train on to do raids and things like that, and of course littoral manoeuvres, as well as air flight simulations and things like that. So, it's a wonderful opportunity for the Singaporean Defence Force to utilise this vast space for their training opportunities.

MCGHEE: And why is it important, I guess, for these types of training opportunities between the two armies?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, we know Singapore is quite a small country and they simply don't have the land to be able to train with that capacity. Australia offers that through areas like Shoalwater Bay, which is probably the closest that you can get to a real life combat scenario. And this has been a partnership that's been in existence for over 30 years and it's an opportunity for us to improve interoperability between our two defence forces. The Singaporeans were recently involved in Exercise Talisman Sabre, as well as a large number of other nations, and it's about importantly improving interoperability between our defence forces. So, if we ever are in a combat scenario where we need to defend our nation and our region, we've trained for that situation. We know how our different defence forces operate and how we can work together to ultimately defend peace and freedom within our region.

MCGHEE: And we've had a listener message in, I guess, worried a bit about the action out of the Rocky airport with military aircraft in terms of how many military aircrafts are kind of taking off in that space, is that something you have to be careful of, how many flights, I guess, are taking off, or is there any restrictions around that that has to be met?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, that is an issue and we're deeply conscious with the Defence Force that we are working within communities and that we want to be a good neighbour. So, Defence established a working group to manage issues associated with neighbouring landowners, particularly in the Capricornia region and they had their first face to face meetings with landowners in August of this year. And that will be an ongoing working group that will look to ensure that we're catering for the needs of local landowners and that we're not trying to disrupt the local community too much. I will say that with these sort of exercises you get a large number of people coming into a place like Rockhampton and they're obviously interacting with the local community and importantly they're spending in the local community as well. So, I went to a dinner last night that was attended by a number of local civic leaders, mayors and councillors and business owners and they were quite positive about the effect that Exercise Wallaby has on the local economy because you've got 4000 people coming in and they're spending in the local community and supporting local jobs.

CULLIVER: Yeah, well that explains that, Matt Thistlethwaite, the Assistant Minister for Defence having a chat there with Rachel McGhee about Exercise Wallaby.


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