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Keynote address by the Minister for Defence to the Joint Future Warfighting Conference National Convention Centre, Canberra: 20 April 2005



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SPEECH

SENATOR THE HON ROBERT HILL Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

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KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Joint Future Warfighting Conference National Convention Centre, Canberra

9.15am 20 April 2005

Thank you for the invitation to open this conference on Joint

Future Warfighting.

I’d like to welcome our overseas warfighters. I hope they find

their visits both worthwhile and enjoyable.

I see this conference as primarily for the professionals - to allow

an exchange of knowledge and experience, to an increasingly

complex strategic background.

I recognize that Australians have earned a proud reputation in

war. And from my experience, in witnessing operations in

Afghanistan and Iraq, today’s warfighters are as capable and

professional as those of previous generations.

As Minister for Defence I don’t often get to speak about

warfighting - or the application of organized force in combat. The

warfighting I engage in is more a war of words. Warfighting in

terms of lethal force is better left to military professionals.

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However in my executive responsibility I do have a say in when

our warfighters are asked to go to war. I do have a responsibility

to ensure that they have been properly trained. I must ensure

that they are as well equipped as the nation can afford. I also

accept a responsibility to ensure that their families are well

supported.

There is no more important or difficult decision for a government

than deciding whether to commit forces to military operations. It

requires a clear understanding of the national interests, in the

strategic circumstances of the day, that demand the use of force -

with all its inherent risks.

These are decisions that are only made after the most careful

consideration and the elimination of all other options.

There is no doubt that we are living in a time where there has

been a blurring between traditional military “warfighting” and

broader national security issues.

Today’s threats primarily relate to terrorism and extremism, the

proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missile systems and

other unconventional and asymmetric capabilities, transnational

crime, piracy and illegality including people smuggling, resource

extraction, money transfers and biological threats.

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Warfighting capabilities are one of the assets we can use to

combat these threats - but more often than not the response will

also require other resources.

Thus the warfighter is seen as a part of the solution but not the

whole. This is not to down play the importance of the war fighter.

Defeating terrorism required us to send special forces to

Afghanistan to take on the enemy at source - to destroy its

command, training camps and weapon caches but it also required

a multi agency, multi functioned and multi national response to

build capability in friendly states closer to home in South East

Asia.

In tackling the issue of weapons of mass destruction in the hands

of those who use them both as a threat and in war we sent

military forces to Iraq. Our warfighters helped bring down the

regime of Saddam Hussein and remove that perceived threat, but

we recognize that to remove the broader threats associated with

WMD requires much more than a military response.

Similarly with peacekeeping, nation building or nation salvaging

and border protection, warfighting skills and particularly the

training and discipline that lie behind them are part of the

solution. And the ADF has had much experience and

considerable success in all these tasks in recent years. And I

don’t think the demand is about to change.

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But there is also always the possibility of conventional threat.

Whilst we don’t see a conventional threat to Australia or

Australian interests now or in the foreseeable future, today’s

strategic environment is one of uncertainty and unpredictability.

Herein lies the distinction. Whilst there is an important role for

the warfighter in helping defeat the threats we do face today it is

only the warfighter that can effectively respond to a conventional

threat.

And we know that a strong military capability takes years to

build. In fact our warfighting capability lies in the legacy of the

generations that have gone before (to which I earlier referred) to

the doctrine and culture that has stood the test of time, to a

willingness to adapt and meet new military challenges, and a

constant upgrading of military capability.

So we don’t develop a war fighting capacity in order to provide

humanitarian relief. But we do know that well trained

warfighters can respond in ways no other agency can. We saw it

in the first response to the recent tsunami - the speed of

deployment, the command structure, the logistics support, the

appropriate platforms in the air and the sea, the discipline - and

in the case of the ADF, the goodwill as well. All contributed to a

remarkable response and considerable success.

So whilst we expect calls upon the ADF to be other than a

response to a conventional military threat, we still see our first

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responsibility to be to continue to build the warfighting capability

of a nation. That is the capability which can’t be substituted.

That’s why we are committed to new generations of aircraft,

ships, tanks and other fighting platforms. That is why the

primary focus of our training will remain war fighting. That is

why we choose commanders and not managers.

And in doctrine, training and equipment we accept that military

capacity everywhere is on the rise. Globalization is having an

equalizing effect. It is much harder to maintain a technological

edge than it once was.

We recognize that jointness within the force has a multiplier

effect. For maximum output the force must be seen as a whole.

And as we’ve seen, most warfighting of the future will be in

coalitions. So we must be interoperable - in form and in practice.

And this does not just apply to high end warfighting - our

response in Bougainville, in East Timor, in the Solomon Islands,

to the tsunami were all in collaboration with friends and allies. I

have no doubt that this situation will continue.

I wanted to conclude these opening remarks by reflecting on last

Sunday, when in Darwin, we farewelled our warfighters who are

off to Al Mathana province in Iraq. They have been trained to

fight. The are equipped to fight. But their job is to defend and

provide training. In the former case, if called upon to defend they

can apply significant military force. They will do that in the

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capable, disciplined and professional way of the war fighter. In

training the Iraqi Security Forces they will also instill military

values and responsibility. In their contribution to nation building

they might encounter criminals, insurgents or even Jihad. Their

training will allow them deal with all such threats and like

previous generations of warfighters they will do Australia proud.

This conference is a timely reminder of the unique profession of

the warfighter - I hope the warfighters engaged in debate today

find it both stimulating and worthwhile.

I wish you well in your deliberations and look forward to the

outcomes.

ENDS