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Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Page: 1406

Herbert Electorate: Defence

Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (14:34): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I remind the Foreign Minister that Townsville is the home to 3rd Brigade, Australia's largest army base, as well as RAAF Base Townsville. I also note that the Foreign Minister has just returned from ministerial consultations with the United States. Foreign Minister, how is the government strengthening Australia's alliance with the United States and how will this benefit my electorate?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (CurtinMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:35): I thank the member for Herbert for his question. I recognise the role that he plays in supporting his local defence community and for the strong advocacy that he demonstrates in pursuing their interests. I congratulate him for that work.

First, I would like to acknowledge the role that Queensland and Townsville play in defence planning and in supporting our alliance with the United States. The member has referred to the RAAF base in Townsville. That is the primary staging base for the deployment of the ADF overseas and foreign units as well. The member also referred to Australian soldiers in 3rd Brigade, again based around Townsville. These soldiers are deployed all around the world, including alongside our American allies in Afghanistan. It is worth noting that Queensland and Townsville have also been host to the largest joint exercise that the US and Australia undertake—in fact, that the US undertakes—Talisman Saber, which involves about 28,000 personnel. The last joint exercise was conducted in July-August this year.

The coalition has made a very strong and early start in reaffirming our commitment to the US alliance. The Minister for Defence and I attended the AUSMIN conference, which is the highest level bilateral dialogue that we have with the United States. We were in Washington on 20 November. Senator Johnston and I met with our counterparts, Secretary of State Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. We discussed a whole range of issues to enhance our joint cooperation in the area of defence and security. In particular, we affirmed our commitment to the joint force posture initiatives that were announced by President Obama in November 2011, on which there is bipartisan support—

Mr Perrett interjecting

Ms JULIE BISHOP: If that rude member would just let me finish. We also took the opportunity to sign a statement of principles which underscores the arrangements that will see this joint vision come to fruition. The Minister for Defence also signed a memorandum of understanding for the relocation of a US space telescope to my state of Western Australia. So we get a look in, as well, member for Herbert.

Over the last few weeks since coming to government we have made sure that Australia's commitment to the US alliance, forged in the Second World War and formally signed under the Menzies government in 1951, remains the bedrock of our national defence and security.