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New Zealand and Australian Defence Ministers meet

23 July 2004

New Zealand and Australian Defence Ministers meet

Today’s meeting in Taupo between Defence Ministers Mark Burton and Robert Hill is the third between the two Ministers on strengthening Closer Defence Relations between New Zealand and Australia. Along with discussions on regional and global security issues of mutual interest, Ministers discussed those practical bilateral activities that support the close Australia–New Zealand defence relationship including capability development, command, control and communications for combined operations, training, exercising, personnel development and logistics cooperation.

The Ministers discussed the campaign against terrorism and agreed to encourage regional cooperation in countering terrorist activities. They also agreed to work together in addressing weapons of mass destruction proliferation in the region. They also focussed on the new security challenges confronting the South Pacific, which underlined the importance of timely, coordinated and effective responses on the part of the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces. They agreed on the importance of close consultation at both policy and operational levels on defence assistance to their South Pacific neighbours with a view to enhancing its effectiveness.

The Ministers agreed that the first phase of the police-led Regional Assistance Mission in Solomon Islands (RAMSI) had been a success. Working together with other Pacific nations, it had been possible to support Solomon Islands in the restoration of security – a considerable achievement in just 12 months. Over 700 suspected criminals had been arrested and more than 3,700 weapons recovered. Solomon Islanders are now able to go about their normal business, free from intimidation and fear. They agreed, however, that a reduced security presence was still required to enable the Mission to continue with its work of rebuilding the Police Force and the country’s public institutions.

In recognition of the regional significance of this Mission, the Ministers will be travelling to Honiara from Taupo immediately following their meeting, to take part in ceremonies marking the Mission’s first anniversary.

Like the East Timor peacekeeping operation before it, RAMSI had highlighted the growing proficiency of the two forces in undertaking combined operations in our own region.

In their meeting last year, the two Ministers agreed a new joint statement on Closer Defence Relations (CDR) that recalled the longstanding and close links between the two countries and their Defence Forces and set officials an agenda to give greater substance to a programme of cooperative activities to achieve the following outcomes:

A mutual understanding of our respective national security policies; Our national force development decisions take into account our need to operate together; We are proficient in combined and joint operations, particularly in our region; Our logistic support and sustainment arrangements will enhance mutual operational effectiveness; and Our approaches to defence assistance in the region are coordinated and complementary.

The Ministers’ discussions noted the excellent progress made in each of these areas over the past twelve months.

They recalled their own recent meetings at the Five Power Defence Ministers’ meeting, and on the margins of the International Institute of Strategic Studies Asia Security Conference in Singapore in June. A series of high level visits and meetings involving their officials also advanced understanding of the two nations’ security policies.

Significant cooperation has occurred in a number of areas of capability development including Orion maritime surveillance aircraft projects, the development of Army equipment, and ANZAC frigate upgrades. The recent placement of NZDF officers in Australian Army and Navy Project Offices will assist the process of exploring opportunities for collaboration.

The two Defence Forces were in close touch on their respective programmes for replacement troop lift helicopters, and there is potential for operational collaboration once the New Zealand Navy’s new patrol vessels and multi-role vessel are brought into service.

Mark Burton noted that a new bilateral exercise, known as Predators Gallop was under way in Australia, which was providing a valuable training opportunity for the New Zealand Army’s Light Armoured Vehicles. The Ministers considered such activities were important to maintaining and deepening combined operational proficiency.

They discussed planning for Exercise Joint Kiwi to be held in New Zealand early in 2005. This major exercise will test a combined task force in non-combat evacuation operations and peace enforcement. The Ministers agreed this activity would play an important role in the further development of operational planning, command and control, and interoperability between Australia and New Zealand.

Ministers welcomed the work being done to develop the command, control and communications systems necessary for combined operations and to build in interoperability in the development stage of new systems.

Effective logistic support is fundamental to effective operations. The Ministers noted that Implementing Arrangements for the provision of strategic airlift and sealift between the ADF and NZDF during exercises and operations were being finalised. These would build on the highly successful arrangements put in place for logistic support to operations in Solomon Islands, Bougainville and East Timor.

Ministers noted that, over the next 12 months, there will be a continued focus on collaboration in capability development, particularly ANZAC frigate upgrades, replacement of utility helicopters and a range of land capabilities. At the same time, collaboration will be pursued in other areas such as Australia–New Zealand satellite communications and improvements to our bilateral secure communications systems.

The Defence Ministers also noted that the current high tempo of operations by the ADF and NZDF has at times limited ability to participate in the full range of planned bilateral exercises. As a result, joint exercises, combined operations and collective training in which both countries participate will be reviewed, to ensure that advantage is taken of every opportunity that arises.

Ministers agreed that considerable progress had been made over the past twelve months to help achieve Closer Defence Relations Outcomes and tasked officials to continue to build on this progress. Defence Ministers expect to meet again in Australia in mid-2005.

ENDS

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