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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7071


Mr STEPHEN SMITH (PerthMinister for Defence and Deputy Leader of the House) (09:40): by leave—I thank the Speaker and the House.

In June 1984, then Prime Minister Hawke made the first ministerial statement to the parliament on 'the general purpose and functions of the defence facilities we operate jointly with our American ally', delivering on an undertaking given to the Australian people in the run-up to the 1983 election.

Since that time, successive governments have continued to make known to the Australian public the general purpose and functions of these facilities, any change to these general purposes and the principles on which these facilities operate, namely full knowledge and concurrence.

Subsequent statements have been made to parliament, including under the previous government by then Defence Minister Brendan Nelson in September 2007.

This statement today updates the parliament and the Australian people on the joint facilities and the policy of full knowledge and concurrence which governs the operation of the joint facilities.

A Strong Alliance

This Labor government takes pride in the fact that the foundations of the Australia-United States Alliance were laid by war-time Labor Prime Minister John Curtin, when our country faced its greatest threat in 1941.

Successive Australian governments, like this one, have strongly supported the Australia-United States Alliance. Our relationship remains one of common ideals and shared values.

Our alliance with the United States provides Australia significant access to advanced defence technologies, communications systems, intelligence, research and development, and professional skills and development.

For our direct security, it means that associated capability, intelligence and technological partnerships are available to support our strategic capability advantage in our immediate neighbourhood and beyond.

The Australia-United States Alliance relationship has never been stronger, following on successive years of military operations together in Afghanistan, expanded practical cooperation in our own region and cooperation in the modern areas of cyber, satellite communications and space.

Our increased practical military-to-military cooperation under the United States global force posture initiatives has occurred as the United States has placed greater emphasis on an enhanced engagement in the Indo-Pacific.

In November 2010 at the annual Australia-United States ministerial consultations, or AUSMIN, in Melbourne, then United States Secretary of Defense Gates and I established a joint working group on force posture to consider opportunities for enhanced practical defence cooperation between our two countries.

In November 2011 in Canberra, Prime Minister Gillard and President Obama announced two agreed force posture initiatives: six month rotational deployments of United States Marine Corps personnel to northern Australia and subsequently increased rotations of United States Air Force aircraft through northern Australia.

In April 2012, Australia welcomed the first rotation of 200 marines to Darwin for a six month deployment to northern Australia and South-East Asia. The second such rotation started in April this year. Recently, the government announced that in 2014 the six-month rotational deployment would increase to 1,150 personnel.

Over subsequent years, the intent is to increase this rotational presence to a marine air ground task force of around 2,500 personnel.

In November 2012 at the annual AUSMIN consultations in Perth, Australia and the United States agreed to undertake a study into potential opportunities for additional naval cooperation at a range of locations, including HMAS Stirling.

In February 2008 at the annual AUSMIN consultations in Canberra, Australia and the United States agreed to a military satellite communications partnership and signed a joint statement of principles to guide bilateral cooperation in this area.

In November 2010 at the annual AUSMIN consultations in Melbourne, Australia and the United States agreed to a space situational awareness partnership and signed a joint statement of principles to guide bilateral cooperation in this area.

In September 2011 at the annual AUSMIN consultations in San Francisco, Australia and the United States agreed that a cyber attack on either country would trigger the mechanisms of the ANZUS Treaty. We announced jointly that:

… our Governments share the view that, in the event of a cyber attack that threatens the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of our nations, Australia and the United States would consult together and determine appropriate options to address the threat.

In November 2012 at the annual AUSMIN consultations in Perth, then US Defense Secretary Panetta and I signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the establishment of a jointly operated C-band radar space surveillance installation at the Harold E Holt naval communication facility in Exmouth, Western Australia.

Secretary Panetta and I also agreed that Australia and the United States would work together to progress a proposal to transfer a highly advanced space surveillance telescope to Australia.

The relocation and joint operation of these assets is a demonstration of our commitment to closer space cooperation, and builds upon the Space Situational Awareness Partnership established between Australia and the United States at AUSMIN in Melbourne in 2010.

In November 2012 at the annual AUSMIN consultations in Perth, Secretary Panetta and I also agreed that our two countries would discuss the possible establishment of a combined communications gateway in Western Australia, which would provide both Australia and the United States greater access to the wideband global satellite communications constellation in which we are partners.

These discussions follow on from the signing of the Military Satellite Communications Partnership Statement of Principles in February 2008 at the annual AUSMIN consultations in Canberra.

Given the importance of our Alliance with the United States, and in light of this increased cooperation and engagement in recent times, it is appropriate to take this opportunity to articulate the principles which underpin our engagement with the United States, particularly when it occurs in Australian facilities on Australian territory.

The joint facilities

Australia and the United States established joint facilities at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory, Nurrungar at Woomera and the North West Cape in Western Australia in the 1960s. Pine Gap was commissioned in 1967 and officially became known as the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap in 1988. Nurrungar was commissioned in 1969 and decommissioned in 1999.

The naval communication station, Harold E. Holt, on the North West Cape of Western Australia was originally commissioned as a United States base in 1967.

It became a joint facility in 1974 at the instigation of the then Whitlam government and an Australian facility in 1993 at the instigation of the then Hawke government. In July 2008 a treaty was signed for United States access to and use of the Australian facility for a period of 25 years.

Australia currently hosts two joint facilities with the United States: the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap and the Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station, originally established in 1955. Both are located near Alice Springs. The Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap collects intelligence data which supports the national security interests of both Australia and the United States, and provides ballistic missile early warning information.

The Joint Geological and Geophysical Research Station is a seismic monitoring station originally established to monitor nuclear explosions during the Cold War. It continues to monitor such explosions as part of the international monitoring system of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It also monitors earthquakes. It is jointly operated by Geoscience Australia and the US Air Force.

Australian Defence facilities to which the United States has access to include, in particular:

the Naval Communication Station, Harold E Holt, on the North West Cape of Western Australia, which provides communications facilities for US and Australian submarines;

the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) located at the Australian Defence Satellite Communication Station near Geraldton, which provides satellite communications; and

the Extended High Accuracy Network Determination System (Ext-HANDS) research installation in Learmonth in Western Australia comprising optical research sensors which collect data for space situational awareness research.

In 1984, the Hawke government acknowledged that the joint facilities directly contributed to Australia’s national security, the benefits of which we enjoy every day. The Hawke government also acknowledged, for the first time, some of the functions performed at the joint facilities, their contribution to deterrence, and the monitoring and verification of arms control agreements.

A key focus of Prime Minister Hawke’s June 1984 statement to parliament was the contribution joint facilities made to maintaining stability during the Cold War. At that time it was important to support stability in the strategic relationship between the superpowers. Australia’s cooperation with the United States in the joint facilities did this. It also means that, for so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are able to rely on the nuclear forces of the United States to deter nuclear attack on Australia. This was a point made by Prime Minister Hawke in 1984 when he stated that Australia could not claim the full protection of deterrence without being willing to make some contributions to its effectiveness. Australian Defence policy under successive Australian governments has acknowledged the value to Australia of the protection afforded by extended nuclear deterrence under the United States alliance.

In November 1988, Prime Minister Hawke updated parliament on changes that had been made to maintain and strengthen the partnership at the joint facilities, and to ensure that the facilities continued to operate in ways that best served Australia’s interests and those of the United States. New arrangements at Pine Gap were announced, which included the appointment of Australian Defence officials into senior management positions, including the then newly created position of deputy chief of facility. These changes confirmed the Hawke government’s conviction that the joint facilities served Australia’s national interest and reflected the depth and substance of our bilateral, strategic, alliance relationship with the United States.

On the 40th anniversary of the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap in September 2007, then Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, in a ministerial statement to parliament reinforced the contribution made by the Pine Gap joint facility to defence and national security. Dr Nelson acknowledged that all activities at Pine Gap 'take place with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Australian government'. This had not been the case prior to the Hawke government’s period in office. Dr Nelson emphasised that the then government remained satisfied with the arrangements that governed the use of the facilities and welcomed the continued involvement of the United States.

The joint facilities hosted by Australia continue to make a significant contribution to our alliance with the United States, an alliance which remains the cornerstone of our security, strategic and defence arrangements. The joint facilities reflect the depth of our strategic cooperation with the United States. For almost half a century Australia has made a significant contribution to United States’ national security and global strategic stability by hosting and supporting some of the most sensitive and critical strategic capabilities. These include systems related to intelligence collection, ballistic missile early warning, submarine communications and satellite based communications.

The evolving role of Pine Gap

Pine Gap is an Australia-United States joint facility. The Pine Gap Treaty was originally signed in 1966 and was last extended in 1998. The treaty remains in force until terminated by either government. Pine Gap has evolved from its Cold War origins to meet new demands and take advantage of new technologies. The facility supports monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements and provides ballistic missile early warning information. Pine Gap is a central element of Australia’s security and intelligence relationship with the United States. It makes a vital contribution to the security interests of both countries and reaffirms the very high level of cooperation that has been achieved in Australia’s closest defence relationship.

Through the information gathered at this joint facility, Australia is able to access intelligence and early warning that would be unavailable from any other means and is unique in our region. Pine Gap delivers information on intelligence priorities such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and military and weapons developments.

The ballistic missile early warning function is performed remotely through the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) Relay Ground Station at Pine Gap. The SBIRS program is designed to provide key capabilities in the areas of missile warning and battlespace characterisation. Intelligence collected at Pine Gap contributes to the verification of arms control and disarmament agreements.

The existence of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War. The Cold War has ended but nuclear weapons still exist. The threat of a global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of the use of nuclear weapons continues. Regrettably, more nations have acquired weapons, testing has continued, and terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one.

As a nation that prides itself on playing an active role in the counterproliferation of nuclear weapons, the value of the data obtained from Pine Gap cannot be underestimated. Australia’s hosting of this capability supports the government’s longstanding and comprehensive policy supporting counterproliferation.

In addition to the intelligence benefits, the facility at Pine Gap provides Australia a worldclass capability which we could not independently develop. The capabilities present at Pine Gap will continue to meet the demands and take advantage of new technologies. Pine Gap will remain a central element of Australia’s security relationship with the United States for the foreseeable future

Full knowledge and concurrence

As Dr Nelson stated in 2007, all activities at Pine Gap take place with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Australian government. Full knowledge and concurrence is an expression of sovereignty, of Australia’s fundamental right to know what activities foreign governments conduct in, through or from Australian territory or national assets.

In July 2008, then Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon and then US Secretary of Defense Gates signed the Harold E Holt Treaty, which sets out the terms and conditions for United States access to and use of the Harold E Holt Communications Station by Australia and the United States for the next 25 years. The treaty includes a requirement that US use of the station be in accordance with the Australian government’s policy of full knowledge and concurrence.

In November 2010, at the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations, Dr Gates and I exchanged letters detailing the full knowledge and concurrence arrangements relating to the Harold E Holt facility. Completing the exchange of letters enabled the treaty to be ratified, bringing it into effect.

Full knowledge and concurrence is a longstanding Australian government policy and is our underpinning principle for the joint defence facility at Pine Gap and United States access to and use of the Harold E Holt Naval Communications Station. 'Full knowledge' equates to Australia having a full and detailed understanding of any capability or activity with a presence on Australian territory or making use of Australian assets. 'Concurrence' means Australia approves the presence of a capability or function in Australia in support of its mutually agreed goals. Concurrence does not mean that Australia approves every activity or tasking undertaken. Some of the ways by which we develop and maintain full and detailed understanding are by having Australian involvement in operations; having access to products; and through provision of briefs or reviews of activities when they occur, or on a regular basis.

In May 2010, then Defence Minister Faulkner endorsed an explanation of the full knowledge and concurrence policy to ensure clarity of understanding of this longstanding policy. The requirement for full and detailed understanding may include:

The capabilities of the facility, asset or system, such as bandwidth, data rates and information collected by the system while operating in, through or from Australian territory.

The type and function of communications transmitted through the facility, asset or system, including the general nature of traffic.

Any proposed changes to the use of the facility, asset or system that may affect any aspect of its operation.

An understanding of the facility, asset or system in its totality and the uses to which it may be put.

The details and the implementation of the full knowledge and concurrence policy has evolved over time. The detail and implementation has been adapted to suit changing technological requirements. The principles however have not changed.

Australian and United States officials aim to continuously improve processes at the joint facilities and to ensure that the policy is working at a practical level and across other relevant areas, including through the annual full knowledge and concurrence audit.

The activities conducted at the joint facilities will continue to be undertaken on the basis of our full knowledge and concurrence, and provide capability benefits for Australia. It is now part of our normal processes to consider full knowledge and concurrence principles for any new agreements with the United States. Full knowledge and concurrence will apply, for example, to the new capabilities that we have recently agreed with the United States, including the location of a C-Band radar and space surveillance telescope to Australia and the establishment of a satellite communications ground station at Geraldton.

Our joint facilities with the United States will continue to contribute to the intelligence collection capabilities of both countries, support multilateral agreements to monitor compliance with arms control and disarmament, and underpin global strategic stability. There is enduring value in our joint facilities and our other facilities that the United States has access to under the principle of full knowledge and concurrence. The contribution of these facilities to global United States’ capabilities strengthens our alliance, enhances Australia’s own capabilities and makes a significant contribution to both Australia’s national security interests and to global security.

I thank the House and present a copy of my ministerial statement.

I ask leave of the House to move a motion to enable the member for Fadden to speak for 19 minutes.

Leave granted.

Mr STEPHEN SMITH: I move:

That so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent Mr Robert speaking for a period not exceeding 19 minutes.

Question agreed to.