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Thursday, 10 November 2016
Page: 2492

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Defence) (14:36): I wish to speak further to the motion moved by Senator Di Natale before we continue on with question time. I do want to advert to a number of Senator Roberts's observations in relation to the foreign minister. It is important to emphasise that the Prime Minister, the foreign minister and I, in any engagement in relation to the United States election, have been consistently very clear that the outcome that the people of the United States chose would be the outcome with which Australia worked. I emphasise that again today. I emphasise that by reiterating my words and my first response to Senator Di Natale, that the depth of the US-Australia alliance is our most important strategic defence relationship. It is central to our strategic and our security arrangements.

This is an alliance that is underpinned by the deepest levels of cooperation between our two nations, across an extraordinarily broad spectrum—perhaps unappreciated by many who do not have an opportunity to study it regularly. But in the very practical sense of our training, our exercises, our operations, our intelligence and our capability development, which enables both alliance partners to meet contemporary and emerging challenges, it is fundamental to how we go about business in our security environment.

The Attorney-General referred in his remarks to the importance of the ANZUS Treaty, signed in 1951, which is the formal basis for our relationship. It has historically recognised that an armed attack in the Pacific area on Australia or the United States would be dangerous to both countries, and it obliges each country to act to meet the common danger. That is the strongest possible commitment. We are committed, and will continue to be so, to meeting our obligations under the ANZUS Treaty. We have invoked it in the relatively recent past, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A number of its indications and its history are adverted to in the 2016 defence white paper, which sets out in some detail the importance of the depth of our relationship with the United States.

What do we say, for example, in the Defence white paper—our forward-looking white paper for the next two decades—about the presence of the US military, our engagement with them in ensuring security across the Indo-Pacific?

The global strategic and economic weight of the United States will be essential to the continued stability of the rules-based global order …

I quoted there briefly from the Defence white paper.

The great breadth of what we do in our capability development, in some of the key acquisitions which we are now pursuing as a nation—whether it is our future submarine development and its combat system or other strategic capabilities—is inextricably linked with the extraordinary work that we are able to use from the United States and the partnership that we are able to enjoy. That gives us an opportunity to maintain interoperability, which is essential to strengthening the ADF and maintaining its strength in what it does. These are vital aspects of the relationship and it is, I think, more than unfortunate for the Australian Greens to have chosen to traduce them in the way that they have today. We could not develop these high-end capabilities without the alliance. We could not engage at the levels that we do in terms of interoperability, we could not integrate when we work together on operations, we could not protect our own forces with the strength that we need without that valuable relationship which has been formed with the United States.

Our information security, our intelligence cooperation—as the Attorney-General said—make a real difference every single day to how effective we can be on our operations. I, for one, express my enormous respect for the men and women of the United States military, who work every day with the men and women of the Australian ADF to ensure that we are playing the international roles we need to play. We are participating together in the international coalition in the Middle East right now: in the counter-Daesh coalition and in operations moving to retake Mosul and Raqqa. They are critical to our fight against Daesh in the Middle East. Our relationship with the United States as part of that international coalition is critical to that process. I reinforce what I said in relation to these matters when Senator Di Natale first asked me this question and indicate, as the Attorney-General did, that the strength and depth of this alliance is at the core of our security, the core of our defence. (Time expired)