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Australian and New Zealand Defence Ministers hold first meeting in Sydney.

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Friday, 7 March 2008 015/2008

Australian and New Zealand Defence Ministers hold first meeting in Sydney

The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon, met with his New Zealand counterpart, the Hon. Phil Goff, in Sydney today to discuss our strong shared interests on defence.

The meeting - the first for the two Ministers - provided a timely opportunity to review the two nations’ defence commitments, particularly in our common theatres of operation - Timor-Leste, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan - and review regional and global security challenges.

Discussions reaffirmed the practical value of the alliance, particularly in the context of the security and stability challenges confronting many countries in our shared Pacific neighbourhood. Ministers highlighted the excellent interoperability between the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces, forged through successive regional deployments and regular combined exercises, such as those which took place off Townsville in February. Ministers discussed the importance of continuing efforts to work closely together to ensure the two nations are well placed to perform effectively and professionally into the future.

In the wake of the deeply concerning attacks on Timor-Leste’s leaders on 11 February, Ministers discussed the urgent need to work with the Government of Timor-Leste and the United Nations to provide a stable and secure environment for all East Timorese. Ministers discussed the vital role played by Australian and New Zealand personnel serving with the International Stabilisation Force in helping Timor-Leste through this challenging period. Ministers also committed to strengthening Australia and New Zealand’s joint efforts to support reformed capacity-building in Timor-Leste’s security sector.

Ministers reinforced their firm commitment to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), which continues to underpin security and provide the necessary support to enable government institutions to run effectively. Ministers drew special attention to the exemplary role played by Australian and New Zealand troops and their Pacific island nation counterparts in supporting a peaceful transition of government in Solomon Islands in December 2007.

Ministers also discussed mutual global security concerns, with a particular focus on Afghanistan, where both countries’ defence forces are currently deployed to support vital security and reconstruction efforts.

Media contacts: Christian Taubenschlag (Joel Fitzgibbon)02 6277 7800 or 0438 595 567 Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664