Opening remarks, meeting with US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III

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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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1 November 2023

SUBJECTS: US-Australia Alliance; AUKUS; Accelerated delivery of Black Hawk helicopters.

LLOYD J. AUSTIN III, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Deputy Prime Minister Marles, welcome back to the Pentagon. It's great to see you again so soon after our highly successful AUSMIN in Brisbane back in July. And your Prime Minister's terrific trip to Washington last week. So we're going to remember 2023 as an historic year for our unbreakable Alliance. And the future of our relationship and especially our defence cooperation looks brighter than ever. We share a vision with our friends across the Indo-Pacific of a region that is free, open, and secure. And we're committed to making that vision a reality.

We're investing in each other whether through US support for Australia's guided weapons and explosive ordinance enterprise or by working together on AUKUS. And we're not letting up. In fact, we're speeding up. We're accelerating-- accelerating the delivery of Black Hawk helicopters that you ordered earlier this year. The first arrived in Australia just a few months ago and more are on the way and coming even faster. We're also delivering on major force posture initiatives, especially at key locations like Darwin and Tindal. And new locations like Royal Australian Air Force bases at Scherger and Curtin.

Richard, it's incredible to see Australia and Japan working so closely together and in historic ways. Minister Kihara was here just a few weeks ago and I told him how pleased I was to see F-35s from Japan operating in Australia for the first time. And F-35s from Australia operating in Japan as well. And it's this type of teamwork that makes this region-- makes a region safer and more secure. Now we still face major share challenges including the PRC's bullying and destabilising actions, as well a grave conflicts in Europe and now the Middle East. But I know that we're going to meet those challenges together.

Richard, thanks for your leadership and for all that you're doing to forge a free and open Indo-Pacific. Again, thanks for making the trip and I know that we're going to have a great conversation. Over to you, sir.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Well, Secretary Austin, it's an enormous pleasure and honor to be here again and so let me give my thanks on behalf of myself and the delegation who are here. I might just start with the Black Hawk helicopters. When you were in Brisbane for AUSMIN, which was a fantastic meeting in terms of the work that we got done and the agenda that we set forth, we also experienced the tragedy of the loss of an Australian crew in the Whitsundays on an MRH-90 and it was well, a very difficult moment for all of us. I felt, as I said to you, at a personal level that I was and being in your presence with somebody who understood what it means to lose men and women who wear our nation's uniform.

Since then we have grounded the MRH-90 fleet and so that has given rise to capability challenges in terms of our helicopter capability. So we are enormously grateful for the US in speeding up our acquisition of the Black Hawk helicopters which were always intended to replace the MRH-90s. But doing this on a shorter timeframe is something that we really appreciate and is, again, an example of America standing up in a moment when we really need it. Coming out of AUSMIN and coming out of the announcements of Australia's acquiring a nuclear-powered submarine capability through the help of both the United States and the United Kingdom under the banner of AUKUS. This is a really important visit in terms of progressing that, there's much to talk about in terms of the detail of that. But we're also acutely aware that legislation which will underpin that is making its way through the Congress as we speak and we really thank the administration and particularly, you, Secretary Austin, for the efforts that you've made to see that that progresses in the way that we need it to.

As you say, we-- very active together in the region, in East Asia. In recent weeks I've been to both Japan and Korea and our bilateral relationship with those countries is probably the strongest it's ever been. But a corner stone of that is that when we're talking with those countries, including the Philippines, we do so as allies of the United States and it is a core part of how we relay to each other that we are allies of the United States.

And you mentioned the F-35 deployment from Japan to Australia and that was then reciprocated by Australia flying F-35s back to Japan. It's a really significant moment in terms of our relationship with Japan. But underpinning it all is the alliance that both Japan and Australia have with the United States.

And what's playing out in the Middle East, and obviously will continue to play out in Ukraine, highlights the challenging world in which we live at the moment as we also look at the huge military build-up of China. Those challenges exist in the Indo-Pacific. It's moments like this that our relationship with America comes in (inaudible) our alliance has been the bedrock of our national security since the Second World War and it's never been more important than it is right now and we really look forward to the opportunity of talking about it today.


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