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The spirit of ANZAC: the Trans-Tasman Strategic Relationship; address to the UNISYS Executive Forum, James Cook Centra Hotel, Wellington, New Zealand, 25 March 1998



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The Spirit of ANZAC:

The Trans-Tasman Strategic Relationship

 

The Hon Ian McLachlan, AO, MP

Minister for Defence

Commonwealth of Australia

 

Address to the UNISYS Executive Forum

James Cook Centra Hotel

Wellington, New Zealand

 

25 March 1998

 

Eighty-thre e years ago next month Australian and New Zealand soldiers changed the meaning of the word ANZAC.

 

From a code-word in signallers' note-books, ANZAC came to mean valour and sacrifice of the highest order.

 

Since Gallipoli, the word ANZAC has also symbolised Australia and New Zealand's continuing co-operation in defence and security.

 

The most recent example took place last month, when our governments' came to the same conclusion about Iraq and just before that in Bougainville.

 

Our concerns for non-proliferation, regional stability and the authority of the UN led us to the view that we were willing to use force if that was the only way to make Iraq honour its international obligations.

 

So, we joined a coalition led by the United States, and we also agreed to combine our troops into an ANZAC force.

 

This wasn't just being nostalgic. It made political and military sense.

 

Separateness and co-operation

 

But the legacy of ANZAC is also about how we have made our separate ways in the world.

 

One of the fascinating aspects of the ANZAC tradition is that the experience of our soldiers at Gallipoli spurred the development of distinct national identities in both countries.

 

This sense of distinctiveness -- of Australia and New Zealand being different at the same time as we co-operate closely together -- is one of the themes in the history of our relations.

 

Although we have a common strategic region, there are examples where our governments have had different views about defence and security.

 

One case -- interestingly enough -- was the pre-First World War debate about forming an Australasian fleet to patrol Pacific waters.

 

New Zealand Liberal Prime Minister Joseph Ward rejected the idea of an Australasian fleet, saying in Parliament in 1909 that New Zealand's destiny was "as distinct from that of Australia as is daylight from dark."

 

There is a modern echo of this in your 1997 Defence White Paper -- in its discussion about the number of frigates the New Zealand Navy needs to keep a credible defence capability.

 

The op tion of maintaining a two-frigate force is rejected by the White Paper because, to quote the document:

 

...the only practical way a two frigate force could be supported would be if it was operated as an integral part of the Australian fleet. Therefore, thr ee are in practice the minimum required for a self sustaining combat force.

 

Australia takes a similar view about the need to have a sustainable, independent military capability.

 

Self-reliance in defence

 

We put a lot of effort into making our Defence Forces as self-reliant as possible.

 

Self-reliance does not mean being completely self-sufficient in all Defence areas -- that would be unaffordable for Australia.

 

It does mean we want to be able to use the ADF to defend our territory without relying on the combat forces of other countries.

 

That level of military self-reliance is essential to being a sovereign and independent nation.

 

New Zealand's defence policy also aims to build that level of independent military capability into its forces.

 

In that context, we welcome the announcement made two days ago that New Zealand will upgrade the Army's armoured vehicles, and communications equipment and update avionics systems for the Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.

 

Our defence co-operation is designed to benefit the armed forces of both countries, and indeed to enhance the capabilities that each country has to maintain independent, militarily useful forces.

 

This level of military capability does not come cheap.

 

Nor can complex military equipment be acquired at short notice, or personnel trained overnight in the skills of modern warfare.

 

But having capable defence forces is still the best way to minimise the chances that they will have to be used in anger.

 

Both Australia and New Zealand regularly review our security outlook and the necessary roles, structure and missions of the defence forces.

 

Strategic Reviews

 

We have both done reviews recently: Australia's Strategic Policy in our case and your White Paper The Shape of New Zealand's Defence .

 

The Australian review identified our key strategic interests as:

 

* Avoiding destabilising strategic competition among the region's major powers.

* Preventing the emergence of a region dominated by any power or powers who might wish to damage Australia's interests.

* Keeping Southeast Asia - especially maritime Southeast Asia - free from destabilising disputes.

* Working with neighbours to strengthen their security, thereby preventing the intrusion of foreign military forces which might attack Australia, and

* Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

 

With the growing influence of the major countries in north Asia, the rapid shift in power relativities and the impact of the current economic instability, the Asia-Pacific is rapidly changing in strategic terms.

 

It is therefore directly in our interests for Australia and New Zealand to play our full part in helping to maintain peace and security in the region.

 

Our strategic review sets out a maritime focus for defending Australia and its vital interests.

 

It stresses that we must have a powerful capacity to defend Australia by focussing on our maritime approaches.

 

Our assessment also makes it clear that Australia cannot be secure in an insecure region.

 

Given the extent of our strategic, trade, investment and other connections with the Asia-Pacific, it would be wrong to think our interests extend no further than the beaches around Broome.

 

Indeed, Australia would have already suffered a major strategic blow if it ever became necessary to fight an attacker on our own soil.

 

So, we concluded that the Australian Defence Force -- the ADF -- must be able to contribute to maintaining regional security at the same time as it keeps its focus on the defence of our territory.

 

In reality, there is no clear dividing line between regional security and the defence of Australia.

 

Shared strategic perceptions

 

There is a substantial overlap where our security interests can be affected by regional events.

 

New Zealand's White Paper makes some similar judgements.

 

Our geographic location suggests that this could hardly be otherwise. I have in mind in particular:

 

* the importance placed on New Zealand's maritime setting and approaches; and

* the conclusion that New Zealand's stake in a secure and stable Asia Pacific is greater than ever before.

 

Importance of maritime capabilities

 

The maritime nature of Australian and New Zealand security is obvious.

 

To quote Andre Siegfried -- one of the most sharp-eyed observers of New Zealand -- writing in 1914:

 

North, south, east and west stretches the infinity of the ocean, the eternity of those great southern s wells which follow one another in a majestic rhythm, without ever meeting an obstacle.

 

In perhaps less majestic prose, your Defence White Paper says much the same, adding that New Zealand is three times as dependent on external trade for its income as is Japan.

 

Clearly, a capacity to operate military forces on, over and across these seas is of immense importance to New Zealand.

 

The decision, therefore, in the White Paper to reduce New Zealand's naval combat force from four frigates to three, was disappointing to us.

 

We have made no secret of that, and have said as much to the New Zealand government in public and private forums

 

It is a feature of our defence relationship that we are able to talk with each other in an open and direct way.

 

But this is u ltimately a matter for New Zealand alone to resolve.

 

Australian perspective on naval capabilities

 

Let me offer an Australian perspective on two questions about maritime capabilities. The first is whether it is important to have a surface Navy based on ships the size of frigates.

 

The second issue is whether those frigates should be ANZAC frigates.

 

In Australia, we find that the greatest value of a surface ship like a frigate is the flexibility it has to be used in different ways.

 

Our experience of apprehending alleged illegal fishing vessels around our sub-antarctic islands is a case in point.

 

We took the decision last October to send the Navy to the Heard and McDonald Islands the extent of illegal fishing grew.

 

Thus far we have arrested three alleged poachers, whose cases are currently going through the courts.

 

Our Navy was operating more t han 4,000 kilometres from home-port for extended periods in sub-antarctic waters.

 

We would not have been able to do this with ships smaller than frigates.

 

The need for range, endurance, seakeeping, speed, manoeuvrability, the capacity to carry helicopters for boarding operations in bad weather conditions and complex sensors all show the key role of large vessels.

 

Our ships are constantly visiting and exercising with our friends and allies around the Pacific.

 

They demonstrate our capacity and willingness to contribute to regional peace and stability.

 

The fact is that, in military conflict, a frigate is about the smallest size of ship which can usefully be integrated into coalition operations.

 

ANZAC frigates

 

The Australian Government hopes you will elect to build with us a third ANZAC frigate. I say this for several reasons.

 

First, it would create more efficiencies in terms of having a common platform for maintenance and logistic support.

 

Second, because we would be operating the same type of ship, it would make it easier for the Navies of both countries to work together in exercises and combined operations.

 

Third, the ANZACs are of a new design, specifically engineered so that we can make major changes in weapons systems and sensors if our strategic circumstances change.

 

Last, both countries have seen significant employment benefits and industry and technology enhancements because of the project. It makes economic sense to keep these benefits going.

 

Bilateral defence co-operation

 

Obviously, we eac h take a keen interest in the development of the other's defence forces.

 

In the extreme case of a direct military threat to either country we know we will respond collectively.

 

Because we are allies we both attach priority to forces that can easily combine to operate together.

 

Closer Defence Relations, CDR, is a program intended to foster the ability of our forces to work more closely.

 

Making armed forces 'interoperable' -- as the military professionals put it -- is a difficult task.

 

Seemingly minor differences in practices and procedures, in chains of command, in equipment, in doctrine and communications standards can present big difficulties when two military systems work together.

 

Both our defence organisations must adapt to changes in the strategic environment, to technological change and to demands for the greatest financial efficiency.

 

All of these things present new challenges to interoperability.

 

There is no substitute for regular testing of the capacity to mount combined operations - to minimise surprises when real dangers arise.

 

In the case of Australia and New Zealand, a number of factors influence the ability of our forces to work together.

 

One of these is the different scale of our Defence Forces which puts some limiting factors on combined operations.

 

The Revolution in Military Affairs

 

There is an increasingly serious issue about different levels of technology between our forces.

 

The growth in information and communications technology complicates the business of how Defence Forces co-operate in the field.

 

Making use of what is called the Revolution in Military Affairs - the RMA - will require sweeping changes in how armed forces are organised, deployed and employed.

 

Our strategic review said that Australia must stay ahead in key high-technology areas and in particular, to maintain a 'knowledge edge'.

 

We are conscious of the challenge this poses for interoperability between Australian and United States forces, with whom there is an increasing gap with all allies. The challenge will be even more stark for interoperability between the ADF and the NZDF.

 

Funding for Defence policy

 

Another defence issue for both our countries is that modern military operations of any kind are incredibly expensive.

 

Our experience in Bougainville and our contributions to the coalition on Iraq, shows how costly military operations can be.

 

I understand that, for New Zealand, the costs of maintaining their commitment to the Bougainville peace process have also been very high.

 

There were doubts as to how well we could operate together up there. I want to say it has been a resounding success and I congratulate New Zealand ministers on their foresight and early attention to the matter.

 

However, matching the capabilities of the ADF and the NZDF has become harder in this budget context.

 

The program of extra spending outlined in New Zealand's Wh ite Paper will help to prevent a decline in NZDF capabilities. This will start with the important Army and Air Force upgrades announced a few days ago.

 

The relentless pressure on resources will also make capitalising on our uniquely close relations even more attractive in the future.

 

I have in mind seeing how far we can go in pooling efforts in such areas as training, education, logistics and industry support while still retaining completely separate forces.

 

Efficiency, getting the most defence for each tax dollar, is a basic responsibility. But these efforts can do only so much.

 

Per capita spending

 

On a per-capita basis, New Zealand has always spend considerably less on defence than Australia.

 

According to figures produced by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, the gap is growing.

 

In 1985, in US dollars, Australia spent $472 per head on defence, and New Zealand $271 -- 57 per cent of the Australian figure.

 

In 1996, Australia spent $455 per head and New Zealand $205 -- 45 per cent of the Australian figure.

 

By comparison the US per capita figure was $1,473 in 1985 and $1,001 in 1986.

 

For both our countries, that is a tough budget context in which to plan our defence policy

 

In the final analysis, there is no substitute for a making a careful estimate of what defence capabilities we each need.

 

None of these issues changes Australia's key defence objective with respect to New Zealand.

 

Interoperability between the ADF and NZDF

 

We must have the closest possible level of co-operation between our armed forces.

 

The easiest part of the ANZAC relationship has always been the way our people get on - at the soldier to soldier level.

 

At the political and senior military level, no alliance relationship is easier to conduct.

 

The challenge for this relationship is to build on the ANZAC tradition in ways which keep the alliance modern, militarily capable and relevant to our combined strategic needs.

 

On Friday, Max Bradford and I will release a joint statement on Closer Defence Relations giving the program new scope and direction.

 

This statement will re-invigorate our efforts to enhance co-operation between the forces and to work together easily and effectively, in the ANZAC tradition.