Monday, 19 June 2017
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator Fawcett for his question. Both the Prime Minister and I participated in the region's pre-eminent defence dialogue recently, the Shangri-La Dialogue, which was held in Singapore slightly earlier this month. It is true to say that as a region we have experienced an unprecedented period of stability and in fact rising prosperity, but neither stability nor prosperity have come about by chance; they are the result of concerted efforts to set and to live by rules that govern our economic integration and also our security cooperation. The region's rules based order has been the cornerstone of equity, stability and transparent decision-making, which protects us from actions that might destabilise that security and prosperity. These were the focuses of much of the discussions, both in the dialogue's plenary sessions, which both the Prime Minister and I addressed, and in bilateral meetings with our counterparts. Our regional security partners, it is fair to say, share many of our security concerns, including—most self-evidently in recent weeks—the growing threat posed by returning foreign fighters seeking to create disturbances within the region; North Korea's unlawful, reckless and dangerous conduct; and, indeed, continued territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Upholding the rule of law is the best way to ensure that stability prevails.
Australia is working closely with our regional partners and our allies to support regional security architecture, particularly the East Asia Summit, APEC, the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus and also the South Pacific Defence Ministers' Meeting. We will continue to do our part to address security concerns, including through enhancing international defence engagement, as the 2016 Defence white paper sets out. Our Defence Cooperation Program is being enhanced to build the capability and capacity of our regional partners, from Papua New Guinea to Timor Leste, Tonga, Samoa, Indonesia and Malaysia. (Time expired)
The effectiveness of our regional cooperation is absolutely vital to addressing the threat of foreign fighters returning to our region. We are seeing the impact that, in part, is being made by such individuals in Marawi, in the Philippines, at the moment. We have built strong counterterrorism relationships with our regional partners. The ADF undertakes an extensive program of counterterrorism engagement and capacity-building activities, including special forces training with Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India, to name some.
Whilst at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Five Power Defence Arrangements group came together to discuss this very dynamic security environment. Since 1971 the FPDA has fostered practical defence cooperation and interoperability between Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK. The FPDA made a significant change to our focus during that meeting, with an agreement and an intention to work together more closely on terrorism related issues that affect Singapore and Malaysia. (Time expired)
Multilateral agreements most often underpin our regional stability and prosperity because they foster cooperation, formalise security commitments and build trust. But, as well as the regional arrangements I have already mentioned, there are a number of bilateral and trilateral defence relationships that are also very important. We have been working hard on strengthening our trilateral defence cooperation with Japan and the United States. They both share our commitment to the rules based order and strengthening of our regional security architecture that underpin our region's stability and prosperity. In fact, during the dialogue I met with the US Secretary of Defense and Japan's Minister of Defense, Ms Inada. We reiterated our close commitment to coordination and cooperation in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and maritime security—of which we received a timely reminder on the weekend, with the very shocking collision between a freighter and the US Navy ship USS Fitzgerald. We extend our condolences to those members of the US Navy on that ship, their families and the US Navy itself. (Time expired)