Good morning. This is my first visit to Singapore as the Australian Minister for Defence and I am very pleased at the opportunity to be here this evening to address this distinguished gathering. I have been asked to talk to you about the Australian perspective on regional security and the role Australia can play in the region to enhance this.
The Global Environment Â I would like to begin by briefly discussing the global strategic environment. Â The most significant factor in our security environment has been the end of the strategic competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. Â While the risk of global nuclear war has all but disappeared with the Cold War the strategic challenges for countries like Australia and Singapore have become more complex and unpredictable. Uncertainty and fluidity exists at both the global and regional levels. Â The collapse of the Soviet Union saw the emergence of many new nation states. It also saw the tragic resurgence of long repressed tensions between cultural, ethnic and religious groups, such as in Yugoslavia. Â The huge uncertainty created by a Russia still grappling with the political, economic and social consequences of the break-up of the Soviet Union remains a serious security concern. The ongoing consequences of the Gulf War are continuing to challenge the world community. Â The concern over Iraq is part of the growing international concern over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including increasingly easy access to nuclear, chemical and biological technologies and materials. Â The solutions to the long standing and bitter problems of post-colonial Africa and the Middle East continue to elude us. Â And all these factors seem to coalesce in the scourge of terrorism. All this against a backdrop where defence forces will not receive anything near the resources they received during the Cold War: Â - at a time when the cost of procuring advanced weapons systems is continually increasing, and Â - defence forces are called upon to perform a increasing range of tasks, especially in humanitarian assistance.
The Asia-Pacific Region Â The Asia-Pacific region is no longer relatively immune from the major security challenges and shocks affecting the rest of the world. Â The regional financial crisis has undermined our complacency about being the region of the fastest growing economies in the world. It is clear that the assumption of continuous and growing prosperity had helped reinforce stability and security in the region. Now the financial crisis has had a profound effect on the political and social dynamics of a number of countries, as well as their economies : Â -It has precipitated serious economic unrest in several countries, Â -It has resulted in important political change, notably in Indonesia, Â -It has accelerated reform in many areas, including in the military organisations. Â -Across the region it has impacted on the military capabilities and force modernisation plans, widening the capability gap between some states adding to residual tension. Â This has occurred at a time when other developments were making the Asia-Pacific security environment more complex and unpredictable. The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan have brought the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to our doorstep.
Â -A matter of serious concern to the Australian Government. Similarly, the testing by North Korea of a medium-range ballistic missile in August last year emphasised the continuing volatility of the situation on the Korean peninsula.
Â -In the longer term, nothing less than significant reform in the North will alleviate the situation. In this atmosphere of change and uncertainty, Australia realises that more than ever before its security and prosperity is dependent on that of the wider Asia-Pacific region. Â -This is made clear in the Governmentâ€™s Strategic Policy.
Â Events in Northeast Asia, South Asia or East Asia will increasingly impact on the security and stability of our nearer neighbourhood and, ultimately, on Australia itself. Â I must emphasise that Australia does not feel less secure than it did before the crisis. Â - It is just much more difficult to divine the future.
Regional Bilateral Relations Â In addition to our strong support for US strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and for our alliance relationship with the United States. Australia recognises that our strategic interests are well served by a robust framework of bilateral and multilateral relationships within the region. Â Through that framework or network of relationships, Australia seeks to develop and support a sense of shared strategic objectives with as many countries in the Asia-Pacific region as possible. Â It is a central assumption of ours that no regional country can consider its security in isolation. Â Australia has long-standing bilateral defence relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. In addition, we believe in the value of multilateral security organisations. Â This is behind our commitment to the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Â -The increased involvement of regional defence organisations in ARF is a move in the right direction. Â In recent times we have looked to enhance our relations with Northeast Asia, notably Japan, the Republic of Korea, China and Russia. Strategic level dialogue with these countries provides us with an important opportunity to contribute to the regional security agenda. Â Certainly, we are particularly pleased at the positive way in which our defence relationship with China has progressed over the past year in particular. Â We recently hosted, for example, a very successful visit to Australia by the commander of the Peoplesâ€™ Liberation Army. In return, I have accepted the invitation of my Chinese counterpart to visit China later this year.
Southeast Asia Â Our policy of regional engagement in Southeast Asia and the strengthening of our network of bilateral defence relations is particularly relevant in the context of the regional financial crisis. Â One of the least welcome aspects of the financial crisis, from a strategic and security viewpoint, has been the dramatic and sudden reduction in military budgets across Southeast Asia. Â We consider that it is essential for the security of the region that it has well trained and equipped military forces, with high levels of professionalism and of a size appropriate to their legitimate roles. Â This is an essential element in fostering an environment in which regional countries can confidently enter into appropriate dialogues on strategic matters and evolve effective security structures. I note that a broad program of military training, education and exchanges underpins our strategic bilateral relationships. Â It is when neighbours begin to see a significant and growing disparity between the relative budgets, and therefore military capabilities that there can emerge a loss of confidence. Â -If this leads to withdrawal and breakdown in communication between militaries, it can end in suspicion and miscalculation. Â Australia, whose military budget has to date escaped relatively unscathed from the financial crisis, carries a special responsibility to be understanding and proactive in encouraging and facilitating regional dialogues on security and military issues. Â Australia, for its part, has over the past decade had extensive experience with Defence reform. Â -We have faced the challenge of maintaining or increasing military capability while real costs increased and budgets remained fixed or reduced. We still have some considerable way to go in optimising the amount of combat capability we can extract from the Defence dollar. Â But we have developed some tools and learned some lessons that may be of assistance to regional militaries. As they struggle with reduced budgets and plan for the eventual restoration of their funding and resumption of their modernisation programs.
Five Power Defence Arrangements (Fpda) Â My comments would not be complete without some reference to FPDA and Indonesia. Â Australia has a long standing and concrete commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements. Â Naturally we are disappointed that the program of multilateral exercises planned for 1998 were unable to be completed and that some uncertainty has emerged over this yearâ€™s activities. Â -This uncertainty imposes a cost on Australia as these exercises are substantial and have long planning cycles and require the identification and commitment of significant assets. Â We can only hope that Malaysia and Singapore are able to quickly resolve the issues between them. Â Since its inception in 1971, FPDA has achieved important benefits for its members, both individually and collectively, and it continues to offer significant benefits. Â -FPDA promotes cooperation, transparency and trust building in the region and promotes a shared sense of strategic purpose among its members. The arrangements are the regionâ€™s only example of a multilateral military agreement that includes an operational element. Â It will be important, however, to keep FPDA relevant and for the members to focus on the future challenges and not the historical origins. Â Once of the key issues will be the ability of FPDA to position itself as a constructive contributor to the evolving regional security environment, benefiting both member and neighbouring non-member states. Â - Its structures complement the regional security dialogue architecture that is emerging in the region, notably under the aegis of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Success in this will help ensure that FPDA is regarded in positive terms and does not, in itself, become a source of tension within the region. It will also ensure that FPDA continues to support other multilateral regional security institutions.
Â I view the FPDA Ministers meeting in 2000 as an excellent opportunity to pursue this objective.
Indonesia Â Because of its geographic location, size and great potential, Indonesia will always be of considerable strategic importance to Australia. Â It is very important to Australia and to the region as a whole that Indonesia successfully manages its current economic and political challenges, and that Indonesia plays a confident and constructive role in regional security. Â Whatever Indonesiaâ€™s current circumstances, Australiaâ€™s and the regionâ€™s strategic interests in Indonesia are enduring. Â However, the difficulties confronting Indonesia are enormous. Â Reform of the armed forces, the transitions from Suharto to a multi-party democracy, and from crony capitalism to a modern market economy, would be major challenges for any government. Â But they are made immeasurably more difficult by the ethnic and religious frictions, the economic crisis, and the internal security situation. Â The Indonesian economy is still under enormous pressure, generating real potential for further social and political unrest. Â More broadly, there are understandable regional concerns that the question of independence for East Timor be managed in a manner that does not add to the problems in the region. Â The Australian Government has made its view clear on this matter. We hope that the future of East Timor can be settled amicably and that there is a peaceful and smooth transition to autonomy or independence. Â While such developments pose no particular threat to Australia, we clearly have a vested interest in the future development, integrity and stability of our largest neighbour. Â A key focus of the defence relationship is to secure a stable long-term future for Indonesia in which the Indonesian Armed Forces play an appropriate role, that is characterised by professionalism and respect for the rule of law. Â Although ABRI is currently undergoing significant re-evaluation of its role in national life, it remains and will continue to be a key institution of the Indonesian government, and a critical factor in the success of Indonesiaâ€™s transition. Â Cooperative defence activities between the ADF and ABRI have developed and diversified strongly in recent years, and have continued despite the economic hardships Indonesia has experienced. Â Our close and relatively frank relationship also allows us to discuss potentially sensitive issues with ABRI, such as reform, human rights concerns and the future of East Timor. Â I was struck during my visit to Indonesia late last year by the level of commitment in ABRI to pursuing reform in all areas. Â I certainly do not underestimate the task before them, it is formidable. But I am pleased that in some small way we may be able to assist them in their endeavours.
Relationship With Singapore Â There is not much I need to tell this audience about the strength and depth of our bilateral relationship. Â Both countries, I believe, share common strategic interests in contributing to a stable and secure regional environment, and in developing self-reliant capabilities. Â Our bilateral defence relationship includes a comprehensive range of defence activities, including: Â -senior level visits and policy discussions; Â -individual training, exchanges and study visits; Â -combined exercises, both bilaterally and under FPDA, Â -aircraft deployments and ship visits; Â -defence science and technology cooperative activities; and Â -Singaporeâ€™s unilateral use of ADF facilities and training areas. Cooperation in the use of advanced technology in military training offers promise. With the ADF and the SAF both being small, technology-focused forces, there is considerable scope for sharing information and approaches on training methods and technologies. Â In addition to FPDA exercises, Singapore Armed Forces units have also participated regularly in major ADF exercises involving other regional forces, and Royal Singapore Air Force aircraft take part each year in Exercise Pitch Black, along with Australian and US forces. Â A feature of the relationship between Australia and Singapore is the access each country has to defence facilities in the other country. Australia provides the SAF with access to ADF facilities and training areas for a range of unilateral training activities.
Australiaâ€™s Strategic Policy Â These are just some of the issues that will impact on the Australian Governmentâ€™s update of its strategic policy. Â Australia's Strategic Policy (ASP97) is the most recent public articulation of Australia's strategic circumstances. Â It focuses on our planning 10 to 15 years in to the future by identifying our key strategic interests and articulating an effective strategy for how we should best use the Australian Defence Force to promote and protect those interests. Â With that approach, ASP97 identified a clear set of priorities for the development of the Defence Force's capabilities and reaffirmed the two central and enduring aspects of our strategic policy: Â -The highest priority is ensuring that Australia's armed forces continue to have the capability to defend our territory and interests from armed attack. Â -The second priority is to work to keep the Asia-Pacific region peaceful and secure. Â The Review identified a maritime focus for Australian Defence and set four priority areas for development: Â -The knowledge edge Â -Defeating threats in our maritime approaches Â -Strike; and Â -Defeating hostile land forces on Australian territory. Recognising the dynamic nature of Australia's security environment the Government sees value in reviewing our strategic circumstances more frequently in order to adjust our defence planning targets on a continuing basis. Â Work is currently underway in Defence on the first Strategic Assessment 1998/99. Â It is reviewing changes in Australia's area of strategic interest since ASP97 was produced and will provide advice on any adjustments to the structure and activities of the ADF that may need to be considered as a result. Â This will then provide advice to the Government on whether adjustments are required to ADF force structure, capabilities and preparedness. Â We believe the key strategic judgements of ASP97 are still valid. For that reason, it is unlikely that any radically different conclusions will emerge from this latest assessment. Â Rather, it will allow us to 'fine-tune' the plans articulated in last years Strategic Review as part of the continuing process of developing and adapting Australia's strategic policy. Â I expect the first strategic assessment to be submitted to me before the middle of the year. Comprehensive reviews of our strategic policy, such as Australia's Strategic Policy (1997), will continue to be undertaken every three years or so. Â This first Strategic Assessment will form an important part in the initial thinking behind the Governmentâ€™s development of a new Defence White Paper, one which relates the development of high level of Defence capability and preparedness with our current and forecast strategic environment.
Conclusion Â In Conclusion, it is evident that the next decade or so promises to be a time of immense change and complexity for Australia, and for the Asia-Pacific region.
Â Australia is firmly part of the Asia Pacific region and has a stake in its security. Australia has much to offer the region, including a strong set of regional defence relationships and an alliance with the most powerful country in the world. Â Together, I believe that Australia and Singapore have shared interests: Â -in promoting regional stability; Â -in the continuance of regional multilateral arrangements, including the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Five Power Defence Arrangement; and Â -in providing strong support for continued US engagement in our region. Â As Singapore and Australia continue to build our successful bilateral relationship, I am confident that pursuit of these shared interests will be of enduring benefit to both our countries. Â That concludes my address and I would now be pleased to take any questions Australia And Regional Security Speech by John Moore, MP, Australian Minister of Defence,to the Temasek Society