29 July 2020

AUSMIN is the single most important opportunity to express Australia’s interests within our alliance with the United States.

There is strong bipartisan support for Australia’s alliance with the United States – our principal security partner and close friend.

Labor has consistently said Australia should work within the alliance to maximise constructive US engagement in the region and the world.

And beyond the alliance, Labor has made clear that Australia needs to work more closely with aligned nations – that’s part of being more self-reliant and ambitious in protecting and promoting Australia’s national interests.

That’s how Australia can shape the region we want: a region that not only respects sovereignty but is also politically stable and prosperous.

So Labor welcomes Foreign Minister Payne’s acknowledgement that Australia needs “new groupings” of nations with aligned interests, and looks forward to her plan to deliver on this core national priority.

Consistent US leadership is critical for our region’s stability, supporting the recovery from the dual health and economic challenges COVID-19 presents.

That includes the need for an effective World Health Organization and a coordinated effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine.

Labor has been calling for Australia to play a leadership role in Indo-Pacific health, so we welcome the strengthened cooperation in this area.

Preventing future infectious disease outbreaks is in everyone’s interest.

This can’t just be another announcement - the Morrison Government must now ensure it delivers on this commitment.

Labor notes that Australia and the United States have signed a classified Statement of Principles on Alliance Defense Cooperation and Force Posture Priorities in the Indo-Pacific.

We note the Statement of Principles establishes a bilateral Force Posture Working Group to develop recommendations that will advance force-posture cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Labor will seek a briefing on the Statement of Principles.

We also note the discussions at AUSMIN have once again reiterated the importance of the Marine Rotational Force - Darwin (MRF-D), which is a key element of the Force Posture Initiatives. We note and welcome the discussions about potentially expanding MRF-D joint training exercises to include other partners.

The Force Posture Initiatives are a proud Gillard Labor Government legacy and we are pleased to see that there is potential for their further enhancement.

Labor considers the pursuit of increased regularised maritime cooperation to be appropriate and we welcome and encourage the pursuit of opportunities for cooperation in coordination with other likeminded and regional partners.

Labor acknowledges that in a step toward strengthening supply chains, the United States and Australia intend to establish a US funded commercially operated strategic military fuel reserve in Darwin.

Whilst Labor welcomes this step, there is still a clear need for a domestic fuel security policy, which stores fuel in Australia and meets our own international obligations.

It was concerning to hear Defence Minister Reynolds this morning dismiss concerns about the impact of the phase one trade deal on Australian agriculture as just “an issue between the United States and China.”

It would appear from her comments Ministers failed to use this meeting to ensure Australian farmers, exporters and jobs are not collateral in any trade deals made by President Trump.


Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.