Senate debates

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Questions without Notice

Defence Exercises

2:37 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Payne. Can the minister advise the Senate of the ADF's recent activities and close work with our allies and partners right across the Indo-Pacific?

2:38 pm

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Reynolds very much for her question. As she is well aware, Australia is very strongly committed to strengthening our ability to work with both our regional partners and allies to ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. Currently, for example, the Royal Australian Air Force's Exercise Pitch Black is underway in the Northern Territory. That exercise brings more than 4,000 personnel and 140 aircraft from 17 nations from around the Indo-Pacific and further afield. There was a fabulous open day in Darwin last weekend, as I'm sure Senator Scullion was aware, which was attended by thousands and thousands of visitors. It is our largest and most complex air exercise, and it's a very important opportunity for us to improve our ability to work with those partners, allies and neighbours.

Like Pitch Black, Exercise Kakadu will also be held in the Top End, beginning at the end of this month. It will bring together 27 nations from our region and beyond. Importantly, Exercise Kakadu will include a number of smaller nations from the Pacific, including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, as well as larger allies and partners from across the region.

These are exercises which build mutual understanding, cooperation and interoperability in the region through training exercises and dialogue. They follow on from our very successful recent participation as the second-largest participant in the US-led RIMPAC exercises in Hawaii, which I know Senator Reynolds and others in the chamber and in the other place attended, in which over 1,600 ADF personnel participated with four ships, a submarine and a P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft.

And, of course, the Indo-Pacific Endeavour task force 2018, which participated in RIMPAC, is now heading back into the Pacific to the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and a number of other locations. This demonstrates our ability to work very effectively with our regional partners and neighbours. (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Reynolds, a supplementary question.

2:40 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the minister for her response. Can the minister also outline how we are strengthening our ability to work with our key allies and our partners?

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

In the last few weeks, the annual Australia-United Kingdom Ministerial Consultations were held in Edinburgh, to further strengthen and consolidate our strategic, our defence and our security relationships. With the selection of the BAE global combat ship as the basis for our new Hunter class frigates, which I spoke about in this place yesterday, the Australia-UK defence relationship is in fact beginning a new chapter. I was very pleased to join my counterpart, the Rt Hon. Gavin Williamson, at the Govan shipyards in Glasgow to see the progress on the UK's Type 26 frigate, to walk the floor of the shipyards—

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Good unionists, building the ships!

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

and to meet the workers and the apprentices, none of whom knew Senator Cameron, happily for them. We welcome global vision, and we look forward to working more closely with the United Kingdom in future years as they increase their activity in our region.

2:41 pm

Photo of Linda ReynoldsLinda Reynolds (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Can the minister also advise the Senate on what other steps the government has recently taken to further our international defence relationships?

Photo of Marise PayneMarise Payne (NSW, Liberal Party, Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I can, because the annual Australia-United States ministerial meeting directly followed upon the UK meeting I just referred to. It was held in Palo Alto. On the occasion of that AUSMIN, the Secretary of Defense, Secretary Mattis, and I signed a memorandum of understanding to deepen our cybersecurity cooperation so that we're able to jointly develop both the tools and the software that we need to both protect and defend against cyberthreats. This is a great example of how we continue to evolve the Australia-US relationship so that we're best placed to respond to those new and emerging threats.

Both Australia and the US are strongly committed to working with our allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific to ensure that this is a region that remains open, inclusive, stable and secure. During those AUSMIN meetings, which were held for the first time on the west coast of the United States, we agreed that we will further our cooperation to promote the security, the stability and the resilience of our Pacific island neighbours as well—very important engagements for both countries.