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Transcript of interview with Paul Henry: Channel 10 Breakfast: 4 April 2012: US Marines in Darwin

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Minister for Defence - Interview with Paul Henry, Channel 10 Breakfast

4 April 2012



DATE: 4 APRIL 2012

TOPICS: US Marines in Darwin.

PAUL HENRY : Stephen Smith joins us now. Minister, great to have you with us.

STEPHEN SMITH: Pleasure Paul.

PAUL HENRY : How significant is the arrival of this first contingent, is this new relationship a

stronger bond?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I think it’s an historic moment. By the time we finish what we

announced when President Obama visited in November, we’ll have about 2500 US Marines

here, greater access to our Northern Territory air bases and greater access to HMAS Stirling,

our Indian Ocean port. So whilst on the one hand it’s an extension of the alliance relationship

that we’ve seen for over sixty years, it will see the greatest practical cooperation on the

ground since the end of World War II and that’s in my view an unambiguously good thing

because we are living through the world moving to our part of the world, the rise of China,

the rise of India, the rise of the ASEAN economies combined. So it makes sense from our

national interest perspective, it also makes sense for our region’s stability and security.

PAUL HENRY : Let’s talk about the rise of some of those super powers and arguably super

powers yet to be. Let’s talk about China for a moment. The rise of China of course is tied in

with our economic development in Australia, indeed it’s a very big part of our economic

future, is there any concern on your part that this might send a message that might for want

of a better term annoy the Chinese?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well we have a very strong economic relationship with China, indeed these

days we have a comprehensive bilateral relationship, including a relationship which sees

exercises that we do, Australian Defence Force personnel with Chinese Defence Force

personnel on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. So we’ve got a comprehensive

relationship with China. There’s nothing inconsistent with that and with what we do with the

United States and we’re very strongly of the view that the United States has been a force for

peace and stability in the Asia Pacific since the end of World War II. But most importantly the

key bilateral relationship in this century will be the bilateral relationship between China and

the United States and we very strongly encourage both those countries to have a positive and

comprehensive relationship. That will be in some respects the test of this century but we are

optimistic about that and we encourage both China and the United States to make sure that

the most important bilateral relationship in this century is a good one.

PAUL HENRY : All right so just in a nut shell you don’t see that there’s anything in this

relationship and the message that it sends that will frighten off anyone or bring any negatives

for Australia?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well the message we send is that we see the world moving to the Asia

Pacific. It’s not just the rise of China, it’s the rise of India, the rise of the ASEAN economies

and we need to ensure that as the world changes the international community can manage

that and what we’re doing we believe makes a very positive contribution to that. And our

relationship with China, our relationship with India, our relationship with the United States,

we very strongly believe assists that. We encourage all of those key powers to be positive

and constructive about their relationships with others and to build peace and security and

stability and prosperity in our region.

PAUL HENRY : And this is all about us playing a role in that desire. Let’s talk but very quickly

if we can because it’s so boring about logistics, important but desperately boring. Two-thousand-five-hundred American Marines, ultimately that’s the number we’re talking about,

logistically how is that going to work? They’re going to be bringing machinery with them,

vehicles with them and it’s going to be very expensive.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well we’re starting with 200 to 250 and we believe that will be

accommodated quite easily without any adverse impact on Darwin. We’ll review each rotation

at the end of each year. We’re building up over a five or six year period to 2500 and we

believe that our own facilities; Robertson Barracks and our training grounds in the Northern

Territory can cope with that but we’re also doing together with the Northern Territory

Government a social impact study to make sure that there are no adverse consequences for


So we’re dealing with it very methodically, very carefully and taking it step by step but we

very strongly believe that in the end we’ll be able to see benefits economically flow to Darwin

and the Northern Territory but also those benefits in terms of peace and stability and security

that I referred to earlier.

PAUL HENRY : Absolutely. Stephen if I could just quote Chief Minister Paul Henderson to you.

He said this: “the Marines would be a welcome addition to Darwin’s culturally vibrant

community”. I wonder if I could ask you to ask the cameraman just to pull back the shot a

little bit and let’s have a look at Darwin’s vibrant community. Could you ask him to pull back?

STEPHEN SMITH: Cameraman, they want you to pull back the shot to see Darwin’s vibrant

community and I think they’ll see a car park.

PAUL HENRY : Now this is what we’re looking at here. So these Marines are coming to

experience this vibrant community, is there any concern that they may not be seeing

Australia at its best?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I’m not sure we’re going to be showing them the back of Channel 10

Darwin as one of the highlights. I noticed in the press overnight here that the local pubs are

considering very strongly stocking up the bars with Budweiser. But look I’m very confident

the United States are taking the attitude and the role of the Marines who come here very

seriously. I’m sure that they will not just make an economic contribution to Darwin but also a

social contribution. It’s not as if the Northern Territory and Darwin aren’t used to dealing with

either Australian Defence Force personnel or US personnel, and the Marines are going to get

a very warm welcome from the people of Darwin and I’m sure that this is going to be a win-win for all concerned.

PAUL HENRY : Brilliant. Stephen I thank you very much for joining us.