Australia — Force posture initiatives

Min­is­ter for Defence Materiel Jason Clare — Tran­script — Inter­view with SKY News, Can­ber­ra
KIERAN GILBERT:        The big announce­ment of this vis­it by the US Pres­i­dent has been the increase in the mil­i­tary engage­ment start­ing with the com­pa­ny of 250 marines, next year increas­ing to a peak of 2500 by 2016/17. With us to dis­cuss that we have the Min­is­ter for Defence Materiel Jason Clare.  Jason Clare thanks for being here.  The num­bers aren’t enor­mous by Amer­i­can stan­dards but very sig­nif­i­cant for Aus­tralia.  How do you see this in terms of the alliance, where does it take it and how does it change it?

JASON CLARE:      We all know we’re strong allies and good friends — as the Pres­i­dent said last night we don’t always speak the same lan­guage but we under­stand each oth­er and this is about expand­ing what we’re already doing. 

You’re right, Amer­i­ca has about 60,000 Marines and oth­er per­son­nel in South Korea and Japan so by those stan­dards it’s quite small.  But it is impor­tant in the work that we do togeth­er.  We already do a lot of train­ing togeth­er.  Every two years we’ll have 14,000 marines and oth­er US per­son­nel train­ing as part of Tal­is­man Sabre.  But this makes it more reg­u­lar.  It means that it’s every six months dur­ing the dry sea­son in the north. 

And for the Aus­tralian Army which is now mov­ing to oper­at­ing amphibi­ous craft with the Aus­tralian Navy and that means these big ships, big­ger than our last air­craft car­ri­er that can car­ry 1000 troops as well as 100 vehi­cles, they’re the sort of ships that are on the spot when there’s a human­i­tar­i­an emer­gency and nat­ur­al dis­as­ter in our region.  We need to know how to use them, how to oper­ate them.  We haven’t done it at that scale before.  The Amer­i­cans have been doing it for decades and they’ll be very help­ful in help­ing us skill up.

DAVID SPEERS:           But this isn’t just about human­i­tar­i­an and dis­as­ter relief oper­a­tions, it’s about com­bat as well.  I mean when we get to the ques­tion of why we’re doing this, we’re here from gov­ern­ments both sides, I think this is about the shift­ing strate­gic pow­er in this region, let’s be blunt, is it about Chi­na?

JASON CLARE:            It’s not just about Chi­na.  It’s about all of Asia.  It’s becom­ing — Asia’s becom­ing the eco­nom­ic cen­tre of the uni­verse.  We talk about this being the Asian cen­tu­ry.  What we announced yes­ter­day and what I sus­pect the Pres­i­dent will say in his speech to Par­lia­ment today shows that he gets that too.  He under­stands it.  You know we are talk­ing David about in the next decade the world — the biggest mid­dle class the world’s ever seen on our doorstep, it means half a bil­lion peo­ple ripped out of pover­ty in the region but it also means jobs.  It means jobs for Aus­tralians and it means jobs for Amer­i­cans.  That’s why it’s in our inter­est.  And the point I would make is that as the world changes, so it’s nat­ur­al that America’s force pos­ture will change.

DAVID SPEERS:           But we have seen the Chi­nese being a bit more assertive, a bit more aggres­sive in their claims on ter­ri­to­r­i­al waters in the region, this has been seen as a response to that by the Unit­ed States and the reac­tion from Chi­na that this announce­ment has been pret­ty neg­a­tive.  They’re say­ing this may not be in the inter­est of coun­tries in the region.  Are they wrong to be wor­ried about this?

JASON CLARE:            Well I guess what I would say to that is it should come as no sur­prise that Aus­tralia and the Unit­ed States are allies.  We’ve been at it now for 60 years, friends even longer and this is an expan­sion of what we already do.  Amer­i­can — let’s be , it’s been America’s pres­ence in our region that has under­pinned the secu­ri­ty of this part of the word now for at least 40 years and the point I would make is as Asia becomes more impor­tant, as it becomes more impor­tant to eco­nom­ic growth, so it’s impor­tant that America’s pres­ence increas­es rather than reduces because that’s what will under­pin all of the oppor­tu­ni­ties that we’re talk­ing about from the growth of Asia.

KIERAN GILBERT:        What about the oth­er argu­ment that’s being made, I sup­pose in the con­text of the ura­ni­um debate but more gen­er­al­ly about the need to engage more with Deli and that’s what the Unit­ed States had argued for, for Aus­tralia to build those links up as a counter bal­ance to Chi­na.

JASON CLARE:            Well I think the Pres­i­dent made it very clear in answer to a ques­tion yes­ter­day, it was a deci­sion that the Prime Min­is­ter has made to take for­ward to the Labor Party’s Nation­al Con­fer­ence because we think it is in the nation­al inter­est of Aus­tralia.  We need to work close­ly with all of the coun­tries of our region.  Work close­ly with Chi­na, work close­ly with India, because of the eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties that it pro­vides us with.

And I should make the point Kier­an that not only are we increas­ing mil­i­tary exer­cis­es and train­ing with the Unit­ed States but at the same time we’re doing the same sort of thing with Chi­na.  We had a very senior gen­er­al from the Chi­nese PLA out here last week as part of a series of talks. 

This year — no sor­ry last year — we held the first of the live fire exer­cis­es between our two navies and when the Prime Min­is­ter was in Chi­na ear­ly this year she invit­ed the Chi­nese to have more ship vis­its from the Chi­nese Navy.

So this is all about work­ing more close­ly togeth­er.  You’ll see a lot more of that over the com­ing days of the East Asia Sum­mit which for the first time the Unit­ed States will be part and unlike APEC

KIERAN GILBERT:    So China’s got noth­ing to wor­ry about?

JASON CLARE:            Well unlike APEC we’re talk­ing about grow­ing the econ­o­my of the region.  This is about mak­ing sure that we get the secu­ri­ty right and that’s going to require Chi­na and the Unit­ed States and the rest of us work­ing close­ly togeth­er.  If we get that bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship between Chi­na and the Unit­ed States right, then all of us stand to gain from it; Chi­na, the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia.

DAVID SPEERS:           The Min­is­ter for Defence Materiel Jason Clare, thank you for join­ing us.

JASON CLARE:          Not at all.  Thanks David, thanks Kier­an.

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia

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