Monday, 9 September 2019
Questions without Notice
International Maritime Security Construct
I thank the honourable Senator for that most important question. The government has been deeply concerned about security incidents involving shipping in the Middle East in recent months. This destabilising behaviour does threaten Australian interests in the region. Like many countries, Australia relies on the passage of ships through the Strait of Hormuz for a substantial proportion of our energy supplies—in fact, 40 per cent of fuel used in Australia transits through the Strait of Hormuz. Freedom of navigation through international waters, whether in the Middle East or in our more immediate region, is a fundamental right of all states under international law. It is in Australia's interests to work with international partners to uphold these fundamental rights. That's why the government has reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to safe passage and freedom of navigation by announcing that Australia will contribute to the International Maritime Security Construct. This commitment comes after very careful consideration of Australia's national interest and after close consultation with our allies and partners. Also, I thank the opposition—Senator Wong and Richard Marles—for their constructive engagement in this process.
Australia's contribution to this international effort has three main objectives: first, the preservation of the rules based order; second, upholding freedom of navigation for the flow of commercial vessels through international waters; and, third, to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East. Australia's contribution will be modest, will be meaningful and is strictly time limited. It includes three elements. The first element is the deployment to the Middle East of a P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, which will be deployed for one month prior to the end of this year. The second element is a frigate, HMAS Toowoomba, which will be deployed in January 2020 for a period of six months. I can confirm that a small number of ADF personnel have now been dispatched to the headquarters. (Time expired