Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Questions without Notice
My question as to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government is working with international partners during our comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic to keep Australians safe?
I thank the honourable member for her question and for her great support of the Australian Defence Force. Of course, this government has been able to manage our budget successfully over a number of years, which has put us in a good position to deal with the response to COVID-19 and the comeback that is underway. But we've also been able to increase our investment in the Australian Defence Force. It is now above two per cent of GDP, and that is incredibly important, because we do know that we are in the midst of the most significant strategic realignment since the Second World War. The Morrison government is safeguarding our COVID-19 comeback at this critical time by ensuring the Indo-Pacific remains secure.
As many Australians would be aware, Australia participated in maritime exercise Malabar this month. We did so with our close partners India, Japan and the United States. I should acknowledge the former ambassador—Australia's greatest ever ambassador to the United States—Joe Hockey, who is up in the gallery today. There's bipartisan support of that statement, no doubt! Malabar occurred over two phases, and it showcased the deep trust between major Indo-Pacific democracies and their will to work together on common security interests. We have taken very significant steps to strengthen the Australia-Japan bilateral defence relationship. We are very special strategic partners. We work incredibly closely together on trade, security and defence, and our involvement in Malabar was just one demonstration of that.
While in Tokyo, Prime Minister Morrison met with Prime Minister Suga in releasing a statement reaffirming the importance of enhancing regular bilateral and multilateral cooperative activities to maintain a free, open, secure, inclusive and prosperous region. As we know, the Prime Minister is in isolation, with only a couple of days to go, but it was an absolute priority for him, for our government and for our country that he go to Tokyo to meet with Prime Minister Suga. It really reinforced the relationship. Obviously, the Prime Minister has announced that agreement in principle on a landmark defence treaty: the reciprocal access agreement. The agreement paves the way for a new chapter of advanced defence cooperation between our two nations. The RAA will facilitate more complex practical engagement and enhance our interoperability and cooperation in support of a stable Indo-Pacific. The Morrison government is committed to building strong regional partnerships that will ensure that our region continues to be secure and prosperous and that both large and small nations have their sovereignty respected.