The report of the Inquiry into Defence relationships in the Pacific undertaken by Defence Sub-Committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade was tabled today. Chair of the Sub-Committee Andrew Wallace MP said that Defence and security challenges faced in the Pacific are now more prevalent and complex than ever before.
“It behoves all members of our Pacific family to be aware of emerging issues, and to face them together in an organised, collaborative, and coordinated manner. As a regional medium-power, Australia bears significant responsibility for creating the environment and providing the means to achieve this.” he said.
The inquiry report and its recommendations reflect the fact that there are several existing and proven defence initiatives and programs which contribute significantly to the Pacific Step-up. These include the long-standing Defence Cooperation Program and the Pacific Maritime Security Program. The report also indicates that there are ways to improve these initiatives, as well as new and innovative ways to forge, deepen and strengthen defence ties between members of the Pacific family. This is where the future of Australian defence relationships should be focussed.
“From fisheries management, protection and surveillance, to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, intelligence collection and sharing, climate change and the global pandemic, Australia’s defence organisation stands ready to play its part in the Pacific Step-up. There is, however, more to be done.” Mr Wallace said.
This Parliamentary inquiry examined Australia’s Defence relationships with Pacific Island nations in the context of the Pacific Step-up. The inquiry heard from a range of Academic, Government, and Non-Government Agencies over two days of public hearings in July 2020 and via a number of written submissions provided to the Sub-Committee from Government agencies, academia and individuals.
While the conduct of the inquiry was impacted by COVID-19, the submissions received, and evidence heard at public hearings was of the highest quality and the committee thanks all of those who contributed to it. This report and its recommendations reflect the committee’s belief that Australia’s defence relationships in the Pacific are extremely important, are becoming increasingly so, and that additional efforts can and should be made to ensure the security of our region in the years to come.