MINDEF addresses National Security & Strategy Workshop 2011

Midway through last November I had the opportunity to attend the 3rd Annual Curtin University National Security & Strategy Workshop. The keynote speaker was the Minister for Defence, the Hon. Stephen Smith MP. He spoke at length on a number of upcoming challenges to the Australian security environment during his presentation, including the AUS-US alliance, and the ADF’s future force posture. I have included the full text of his speech as an online record. Many thanks to Dr Alexey Muraviev for providing me with the transcript. 



Thank you Dr Alexey Muraviev for that introduction.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to be at the 2011 National Security & Strategy Workshop, the third such annual Workshop held by Curtin University.

This annual strategic series now plays an important role in providing a dedicated forum for government, business, academia, and the wider Western Australian community to discuss and debate issues of strategic significance for Australia and our region.  It is fitting that this is done under the banner of the University that bears John Curtin’s name.

Remembrance Day

Firstly, today is Remembrance Day, the 93rd anniversary of the end of the First World War at 11am on 11 November 1918.

Since 1919 Australia has honoured its servicemen and women with a period of silence at 11am on 11 November.

It is an opportunity to remember all those who have died serving our country.

It is also an opportunity to remember the men and women in the Australian Defence Force today who continue the tradition and sacrifice of those who have gone before them.

Most recently, Captain Bryce Duffy, Corporal Ashley Birt and Lance Corporal Luke Gavin made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan on 29 October in tragic circumstances.  Captain Duffy has been laid to rest today in Brisbane.

My remarks today will focus on the strategic importance of the Australia-United States Alliance, and some key Alliance issues for Australia.

I will also talk of the important work underway on the Australian Defence Force Posture Review and the United States Global Force Posture Review.

Growth and Development of the United States Alliance

In its 60th year, the Australia-United States Alliance is the indispensable, enduring feature of Australia’s strategic and security arrangements.

Since the first formative meeting of Australia’s great World War Two Prime Minister – John Curtin – and the United State’s great World War Two President – Franklin Roosevelt – in South Carolina on Anzac Day 25 April 1944, the Alliance has been supported and developed by both major political parties on both sides of the Pacific: Labor and Liberal, Democrat and Republican.

Since the Battle of Hamel on Independence Day 4 July 1918 – the first occasion on which Australia and United States forces fought together and on that day under the command of Australia’s greatest General John Monash – Australia has stood side by side with the United States in every major war the United States has fought in the past century, including the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Iraq and now Afghanistan.

That is a unique record.

The formal Alliance that has underpinned our unique record of shared commitments has changed but the commitment remains unflinching.

With the Asia-Pacific region going through a period of significant geopolitical change, it is important to ensure that our Alliance continues to grow and develop to meet the strategic and security challenges we face.

Curtin laid the ground work for such an approach in his Call to America speech in December 1941, when he encouraged Australia to think through problems itself and to apply an independent and creative approach to international challenges.

He articulated a clear-eyed vision of Australia’s place in the world, supporting a new global order based on international law and setting the stage for our Alliance relationship with the United States.

Curtin was pragmatic, hard-headed and far-sighted when it came to protecting and defending Australia’s national security interests.

He forged a close and essential relationship with the United States, one that has matured into the friendship and the Alliance that we see today.

He also forged a practical new framework for Australia’s security in the face of the terrible challenges of World War Two.

In doing so Curtin negotiated the parallel demands of Australia’s history and Australia’s strategic imperatives through a process of invention and innovation.

This year’s Australia-United States Ministerial consultations, AUSMIN, marked the 60th anniversary of our Alliance, an Alliance between Australia and the United States which was forged in the battle for Australia, the battle in the Pacific, in the Second World War.

To mark this historical occasion during my AUSMIN visit to the United States, I laid a wreath at the USS San Francisco Memorial in honour of the United States role in the Battle for Australia. This followed the commemoration in Australia on 7 September of the Battle for Australia Day.

Based on cooperation forged in that battle for the Pacific in the Second World War, in 1951 came our formal Alliance with the United States.

It is also fitting that the 60th anniversary of our Alliance is being marked by next week’s visit to Australia by President Barack Obama to Australia.  The President will visit Canberra and address Parliament, as well as visiting Darwin, a fitting place to honour the origins of the Alliance in the Battle for the Pacific during World War Two.

Our predecessors who signed the Alliance in 1951 would not have envisaged that 10 years ago, the Alliance would be invoked formally for the first occasion in the face of international terrorism in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The Alliance was invoked against a non-state actor, rather than a nation-state.

Our predecessors would not have envisaged that 60 years on we would formally resolve that a cyber attack on the United States or a cyber attack against Australia could itself invoke the Treaty. This demonstrates the ongoing relevance of the ANZUS Treaty and its responsiveness to new and emerging security challenges.

Force Posture

Consistent with this historical approach and in the best spirit of our relationship, then United States Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and I agreed at AUSMIN in Melbourne last year to establish a joint Working Group to identify options flowing out of the US Global Force Posture Review to align Australian and United States force postures in ways that are of benefit to both our countries’ national security.

The US Global Force Posture Review was established to ensure the US could respond to current and likely future changes in the international security environment.  It seeks a politically sustainable, operationally resilient, and geographically dispersed US force posture.

The US considers its engagement in Southeast Asia to be an increasingly important strategic priority in the Asia-Pacific given the region’s location between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, its proximity to vital strategic sea lanes, and increased great power interest in the area.  One of the key Force Posture Review priorities for the United States is to increase engagement with Australia and other partners in Southeast Asia, to strengthen regional confidence in US engagement and underscore the United States’ continued commitment to the region.

The strategic focus of our discussions with the United States is to the north of Australia, and to the strategically important arc running from the Indian Ocean through to the Asia Pacific region.

At AUSMIN in San Francisco this year, Secretary Panetta and I noted that our officials had refined and assessed a range of potential cooperative initiatives, including:

  • options for increased United States access to Australian training, exercise and test ranges;
  • the prepositioning of United States equipment in Australia;
  • options for greater use by the United States of Australian facilities and ports; and
  • options for joint and combined activities in the region.

For Australia, such initiatives could support our long-held strategic interests in maintaining and expanding US engagement in our region, and could provide tangible benefits to Australia through enhanced ADF training opportunities and improvements in interoperability with United States’ forces.

These discussions have acknowledged that our respective military forces must be postured to respond in a timely and effective way to the range of contingencies that may arise in our region, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Such initiatives would represent an important practical enhancement of ongoing Alliance cooperation.  They would increase the Australian Defence Force’s interaction with United States forces and extend existing joint activities with the United States in Australia.

What we are looking at with the United States is the potential for enhancing and expanding the visits and the training and exercising that we already do.  This is what I colloquially or anecdotally describe as more ships in and out, more planes in and out, and more troops in and out on training and exercises, extending existing joint activities with the United States in Australia.

This would potentially see more ship visits, more visiting aircraft and more training and exercising through northern Australia.

The Evolution of a Long Tradition

Our work together on Force Posture continues a long tradition of our militaries working together, whether on the battlefields of the Western Front, Guadalcanal or in Afghanistan, or on the training range of Shoalwater Bay, or the Pacific Waters of Hawaii.

Australian and United States troops have long trained and exercised together and it is something that is of benefit to us both.

On any given day, there are up to 200 United States defence personnel posted to Australia with an average of a further 250 personnel visiting per month for discussions about strategy, or capability and materiel such as the Joint Strike Fighter or the latest developments in cyber security.

Training and Exercising

On the training and exercise front, Exercise TALISMAN SABRE is the largest combined Australian and United States military exercise, and Australia’s largest combined exercise.

Agreed in 2002, Talisman Sabre is a biennial military exercise that trains Australian and U.S. forces to plan and conduct combined task force operations to improve combat readiness and interoperability on a variety of missions.

The exercise was first conducted in 2005 and it has been held every two years since, in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011 was conducted from 11-29 July and featured 14,000 U.S. and 8,500 Australian personnel exercising across a number of defence training areas in Queensland and the Northern Territory. Maritime forces exercised in the Coral, Timor and Arafura Seas.

In addition to the 22,500 troops, Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011 involved an estimated 18 sea vessels, 25 aircraft and 1,500 road vehicles.

Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2011 was a US led Australian supported exercise to improve combat training, readiness and interoperability, across the spectrum of military operations from conventional conflict to peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance efforts.

The exercise forms part of the Australia Defence Forces’ extensive training program. The exercise also contributes to the ability of Australian and US military forces to work together efficiently and safely.

Strict biosecurity protocols ensure US equipment and materiel brought into Australia comply with our quarantine arrangements.

For all aspects of the exercise, extensive consultation takes place between the ADF, US Forces and Australian government environmental agencies to identify and minimise potential adverse environmental impacts through the development of TALISMAN SABRE 2011 Environmental Management Plan.

Exercise PITCH BLACK commenced in 1990 and is a biennial multilateral air defence exercise held in northern Australia and hosted by the RAAF.  The aim of the exercise is to train in air attack and air defence in a simulated war environment.

PITCH BLACK 2008 was the most recent major US deployment in this particular exercise program with approximately 400 US personnel participating, based both at RAAF Tindal and RAAF Darwin.  US aircraft participating included US Navy F/A-18, US Air Force F‑15s and US Marine Corps KC-130 refuelers.

Exercise GOLD EAGLE commenced in the mid-1990s and is an annual reciprocal, company level exchange between the US Marine Corps and the Australian Army.  It develops interoperability and focuses on infantry and armoured capability.

GOLD EAGLE 2011 occurred from 13 August to 12 September and involved a US Marine Corps Artillery Battery of nearly 100 personnel working with 8/12 Medium Regiment in Darwin.

The second part of GOLD EAGLE 2011 is taking place from 14 October to 18 November and involves an Australian Artillery Battery of over 110 personnel from 8/12 Medium Regiment visiting the US Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California.

US Naval Visits

Australia is a frequent host of visiting US Naval vessels, whether for rest, recreation, and recuperation or for training and exercises.

US Navy vessels visited Australian ports 11 times during 2010 and between January and October 2011, US Navy vessels visited Australian ports on 30 occasions.

Crew numbers varied from the tens to over 1000, with the longest stay being 16 days.

Major visits included the Amphibious Assault Ship USS Peleliu which visited Darwin from 27 June to 2 July 2010 with a crew of over 1000 personnel. The Hospital Ship USNS Mercy visited Darwin from 5 to 9 August 2010 with a crew of nearly 1000.  The Amphibious Transport Dock USS Cleveland visited Darwin from 7 to 17 June 2011 with a crew of over 1000.

US Air Visits

Australia has hosted US strategic bombers since the early 1940s.  A detachment of US B-52s spent a significant period of time in Darwin in the 1980s and US aircraft have visited Australia frequently since that time.

A Statement of Principles on US Strategic Bomber Training in Australia was signed in 2005 and governs US bomber activities in Australia.  These activities contribute significantly to ADF training and exercises.  Importantly the activities comply with Australian environmental rules, and only munitions approved for use on the relevant ranges can be released.

Australia has also hosted US Air Force Global Hawk aircraft on multiple occasions.  The Global Hawk first deployed to Australia for a six week period in 2001.

The Joint Facilities

There are no United States bases in Australia and no proposal for such bases.

We have joint facilities with the United States.

The Joint Facility Pine Gap was established by mutual agreement with the United States in 1966.  The facility is an essential part of our national defence and of our Alliance with the United States.  All activities at Pine Gap are managed to ensure they are consistent with Australian interests.  The activities take place with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Australian Government.

Pine Gap contributes to the intelligence collection capabilities of both countries, providing Australia with information on priority intelligence such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and military and weapons developments.  The Pine Gap facility also supports monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements, and underpins global strategic stability by providing ballistic missile early wanring information to the United States.

The Naval Communications Station Harold E Holt in Exmouth was commissioned in 1967 and became a Joint Facility in 1974.  Since 1999, Australia has operated the facility and the United States has retained full access.  The facility provides sub-surface, Very Low Frequency communications for Australian and United States submarines.

I have said that while our work on the US Global Force Posture Review is on the one hand an extension of existing training and exercises with the United States military forces in Australia, it would be the most important practical development in our Alliance since the agreement of the Joint Facilities in the 1980s.

That agreement in the 1980s was and is a most important development in the relationship because it consolidated the establishment in the early 1970s of the principle of Australian full knowledge and concurrence of United States activities on Australian soil.

Full knowledge and concurrence is an expression of sovereignty, of a fundamental right to know what activities are conducted in Australia.  It is through this principle that Australia ensures that our sovereignty is honoured and that we retain complete visibility of US capabilities on Australian soil. 

Next Steps

At the AUSMIN talks in San Francisco in September coinciding with the 60th Anniversary of our Alliance, Secretary Panetta and I expressed our satisfaction with the progress that has been made and directed officials that the options be further developed for consideration by our respective Governments.

While there has been a great deal of speculation on this in recent weeks, any decisions on these options would be made and announced jointly.

We are taking these discussions very deliberatively. While we have not rushed to judgement, our starting point is that it would be an unambiguously good thing to extend such practical cooperation arrangements.

As such I am looking forward to the visit of President Obama to Canberra and Darwin to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Alliance.

I am confident that the President’s visit and our work on Force Posture will continue to ensure that the Alliance strengthens security and stability for Australia and the United States and our region well into the future.

ADF Force Posture

It is also essential that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is correctly geographically positioned to meet future security and strategic challenges.

That is why I announced the Australian Defence Force Posture Review in June of this year.

The Review will address the range of present and emerging global, regional and national strategic and security factors which require careful consideration for the future, including:

  • the rise of the Asia-Pacific as a region of global strategic significance;
  • the rise of the Indian Ocean rim as a region of global strategic significance;
  • the growth of military power projection capabilities of countries in the Asia Pacific;
  • the growing need for the provision of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief following extreme events in the Asia Pacific region; and
  • energy security and security issues associated with expanding offshore resource exploitation in our North West and Northern approaches.

The last time we did something of this significance was in the 1980s when Professor Dibb and Robert Cooksey did some work for one of my predecessors, Kim Beazley that informed the 1987 White Paper and its outcomes.

Those reviews resulted in the establishment of some of our so-called bare bases, RAAF Scherger in Queensland for example and also saw the move of some of our naval assets and submarines to HMAS Stirling in Western Australia.

The need for an ADF Posture Review is driven by our strategic circumstances.

Australia’s strategic interests are overwhelmingly positioned to the north, the north west and north east, and West to the Indian Ocean Rim.

A ‘Brisbane Line’ disposition of Navy, Army or Air Force assets does not reflect the reality of where the Australian Defence Force must operate, whether for military operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or other contingencies.

As a recent Policy Analysis by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute noted:

The ADF’s current force posture is the result of a series of decisions made when the world was quite different from today. It’s therefore appropriate to have another look at the match of resources to strategic need.”

It is appropriate to consider whether the ADF is appropriately geographically positioned to respond in a timely way to Australia’s strategic and security demands.

The Force Posture Review will assess the impact on the ADF’s Force Posture of these considerations and will make recommendations in relation to the basing options across Australia.

Two of our leading national security experts, Allan Hawke, a former Secretary of the Department of Defence, and Ric Smith, also a former Secretary of the Department of Defence, will oversee Defence’s work on the Force Posture Review.

The Defence Force Posture Review will report during the first quarter of 2012 and will form part of the security and strategic considerations for the 2014 White Paper.

This work will complement the joint work we are undertaking with the United States on the US Global Force Posture Review.

New Areas of Focus– Cyber, Space and Missile Defence

In keeping with our Alliance’s history of innovation, Australia and the United States have committed to working together to advance our shared interests in space, cyber and missile defence.

Building upon a long history of defence space cooperation, AUSMIN this year affirmed our support for efforts to develop a United States Australia Combined Communications Partnership, building on the Military Satellite Communications Partnership Statement of Principles signed at AUSMIN in 2008.

We also agreed to expand our close cooperation on space situational awareness and the development of transparency and confidence-building measures following the signature of the Space Situational Awareness Partnership Statement of Principles at AUSMIN 2010.

Our bilateral consultations on cyber continue to grow and deepen. At this year’s AUSMIN we recognised that cyberspace is an increasingly important medium in ensuring economic well-being and national security and agreed to promote a secure, resilient, and trusted cyberspace that ensures safe and reliable access for all nations.

Importantly, we agreed that in the event of a cyber attack that threatens the territorial integrity, political independence or security of either of our nations, Australia and the United States would consult together and determine appropriate options to address the threat.

Our Governments remain committed to furthering our national and mutual interests in cyberspace, collaborating with the international community to address the challenges of cyberspace, and working together to ensure the common benefits of cyberspace are accessible to all peoples and nations.

The 2009 Defence White Paper recognised that the threats posed by ballistic missiles and their proliferation, particularly by states of concern such as North Korea, constitute a potential strategic challenge for Australia. Such threats include potential direct threats to Australia, threats to deployed Australian forces (particularly in East Asia and the Middle East), and other threats to regional security and stability.

At the AUSMIN consultations in Melbourne last year, Australia welcomed the February 2010 US Ballistic Missile Defence Review (BMD Review), which focused US missile defence efforts on regional strategies to meet the more immediate challenge of missile threats from certain states, in particular the DPRK and Iran.

Australia noted the United States’ focus on sustaining and enhancing the US military’s ability to defend the US homeland against attack by a small number of long-range ballistic missiles.

Australia and the United States confirmed that these regional missile defence strategies would not undermine the deterrent effect of the strategic balance between the major nuclear powers.

At this year’s AUSMIN consultations in San Francisco, Australia noted and will continue to consult with the United States as it develops the phased adaptive approach to BMD outlined in the US BMD Review, which will allow missile defence to be adapted to the threats unique to the Asia-Pacific.

Australia and the United States are continuing our cooperation to build a more detailed understanding of regional ballistic missile threats; cooperative research on systems to counter such threats; and options for practical cooperation in this area.


The Asia-Pacific is a region in strategic flux.  The changes in our immediate region present a number of strategic challenges for Australia, but also enormous opportunities in the years ahead.

Australia sees the continued and enhanced presence of the United States as fundamental to ensuring the continuation of the security and stability in our region that has underpinned the economic growth and prosperity in the post World War Two period.

Australia will continue to play a role in ensuring the security and stability of the region, including with our Alliance partner the United States.

John Curtin, living in a very different time and looking out to a very different region, would not have foreseen the detail of these developments both in the Asia Pacific region and in the Australia United States Alliance.

But he would nevertheless recognise the judgments about national and national-security interests that lie behind them.

He would recognise the innovation that continues to see the Australia-United States Alliance continue to grow and develop to meet the challenges of the Asia Pacific Century.

And he would also recognise that Australia is an Ally that adds value.

We are not a consumer of United States security who imposes tough choices on the United States military and United States public policy.

We value add and we do so from a vantage point of respect not dependency.

Thank you.

Photo: Minister Smith in Kabul, courtesy of Department of Defence.  


  1. John Sanders · · Reply

    Good to have this on the public record

  2. Lisbeth · · Reply

    Thanks again for the current info. Were there any responses given to this speech?

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