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NZ and Australian Defence Ministers meet

22 August 2008

New Zealand and Australian Defence Ministers meet in Wellington

The main focus of a meeting in Wellington today between the New Zealand Defence Minister Phil Goff and his Australian counterpart Joel Fitzgibbon was a review of the closer defence partnership to ensure it continued to be prepared for, and responsive to, contemporary security challenges, Mr Goff said.

While the two defence forces have always been close, successive deployments on combined and coalition operations have accelerated efforts to deepen interoperability. The Ministers agreed on the mutual benefits of sustaining this strong momentum.

The meeting in New Zealand was the first formal annual meeting between the Ministers though they have met previously on two occasions in Australia to discuss defence issues. Mr Goff and Mr Fitzgibbon welcomed the close working relationship between the two countries and agreed that today's complex security environment demanded the closest possible collaboration between the two defence forces at all levels.

The Ministers reaffirmed their mutual commitment to working together to promote and support stability in the Pacific and in Timor-Leste. They noted that Australia and New Zealand were working effectively in defence and across a wide array of other agencies to support security, stabilisation and development in the region. Australia and New Zealand's ongoing efforts to augment national resilience in Timor-Leste demonstrated collective resolve and commitment in this regard.

The Ministers underlined the necessity of Australia and New Zealand continuing their commitment to RAMSI's work and welcomed its contribution to restoring security and stability in that country. As the Solomon Islands Government and RAMSI progress a Partnership Framework to agree future priorities, they agreed it will be important to maintain support but with a greater emphasis on capacity building. They noted that RAMSI's security presence and the stability it provides have enabled donors to re-engage in support of social and economic development activities, thereby improving the lives of ordinary Solomon Islanders.

The Ministers acknowledged that the situation in Timor Leste was now more stable, but still fragile. They agreed that the effectiveness of Australia and New Zealand's combined operational efforts in the Pacific and Timor-Leste reflected the high levels of interoperability that the two defence forces had now achieved.

Global security issues were also on their agenda. Ministers discussed the security situation in Afghanistan, where both countries' Defence forces were actively engaged in supporting international efforts to stabilise and provide development assistance to avert the possibility of Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists and to guarantee a future for the Afghan people.

The Ministers noted that the range of security tasks overseas necessitated by state fragility and trans-national challenges continued to generate a very high operational tempo, which was placing strains on both Defence forces. This made the synergies derived from working very closely together even more important.

The Ministers also reviewed their national capability development programmes, agreeing that the investment by both countries was essential for their mutual security and prosperity.

Mr Fitzgibbon briefed Mr Goff on the status of Australia's new Defence White Paper, remarking that it would reaffirm the necessity for strong defence ties between our two countries.

The Ministers noted recent progress in and their support for the Six-Party Talks reflecting both countries' longstanding commitment to peace on the Korean Peninsula. They signalled their support for, and commitment to, growing regional cooperation in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. The Ministers also underlined their commitment to cooperate in response to transnational threats including terrorism.

During their meeting the Ministers agreed to update the 2003 Joint Statement on closer defence relations. The new statement, attached to this release, reflects changes in the security environment over the past five years and reiterates both Ministers' commitment to meeting them.


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