Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Questions without Notice
Defence: Regional Cooperation
I particularly thank Senator Back for the question and for his interest in this area. I am very pleased to provide some information to the Senate, particularly given the quite dynamic changes in the Indo-Pacific region which we see now—the region becoming more complex, with economies growing considerably and global strategic weight continuing to shift towards the region.
We contribute to regional security and stability through our international defence engagement with both our neighbours and our partners right across the region. We conduct extensive programs of bilateral and multilateral defence cooperation in order to enhance the capacity of the ADF—in particular to work together with regional militaries in shared security challenges, often in humanitarian relief and in disaster assistance as well.
I recently had the opportunity to participate in a number of meetings with counterparts from across the Indo-Pacific region. That has enabled us to further enhance our defence cooperation. Most recently, at the beginning of this month I attended our third ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus in Kuala Lumpur. This meeting brings together defence ministers from 18 regional countries to discuss security and defence cooperation and issues.
Since it was established in 2010, the ADMM-Plus has successfully fostered very practical military cooperation across a range of fields, including counter-terrorism, maritime security and, as I mentioned, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The activities, the workshops and the exercises go to building trust and confidence between regional militaries, in particular. They also go to creating greater opportunities for us to improve the interoperability of our defence forces, particularly in the event of regional crises or incidents of that nature.
With Singapore we are the co-convenors of the Counter-Terrorism Working Group in the ADMM-Plus. That is a very useful opportunity for us. (Time expired)
Mr President, I thank the minister for her answer and I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister provide further details of how the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus in Malaysia is helping to improve defence cooperation to build peace and stability in the region?
I started to refer to the counter-terrorism expert working group as part of ADMM-Plus, which we co-chair with Singapore. That is a very valuable opportunity for us to engage and to exercise in the region. There will be a significant undertaking in that regard in May next year across all the ADMM-Plus working groups, including the Counter-Terrorism Working Group.
On the weekend I met with my colleagues from Japan and have more information in relation to their engagement with ADMM-Plus. What this gives us is a really practical engagement and a very useful, local, regional approach to these issues, which otherwise would not be readily available.
Apart from the opportunity to show the defence minister, Minister Nakatani, the very impressive HMAS Canberra in Sydney on Sunday, it was a great opportunity to develop our defence relationship with Japan even further.
Of course, there are shared strategic interests and common alliances between Australia, Japan and the United States, in particular. Just last week, on 19 November, I met with the Singaporean defence minister, Dr Ng. The Singaporean Minister for Defence had visited Australia to observe some of the Singaporean troops taking part in an exercise in Northern Australia. We had already made comprehensive progress in strengthening our defence relationship when a strategic partnership was signed by prime ministers in June last year. This was a useful opportunity to follow that up and have that conversation.
The Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, who I understand the Attorney-General also met with, General Panjaitan, was also in Australia last week— (Time expired)