Senator Marise Payne says Australia opposes intimidation in the South China Sea

THE Turnbull Government is maintaining a hard line against China and other nations making illegal claims to territory and waters in the South China Sea.

7th Oct 2015


Senator Marise Payne says Australia opposes intimidation in the South China Sea

 

THE Turnbull Government is maintaining a hard line against China and other nations making illegal claims to territory and waters in the South China Sea.

New Defence Minister Marise Payne told a high-powered audience of Navy brass and defence company executives that tensions were becoming more acute in the Indo-Pacific region.

Speaking at the Pacific 2015 conference in Sydney on Wednesday, Senator Payne warned 18 navy chiefs from around the globe, including China’s deputy navy chief Vice Admiral Tian Zhong, that Australia strongly opposed intimidation.

Reflecting the strong message issued by US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Scott Swift the previous day she said Australia was concerned about the destabilising impact of land reclamation activities around the Spratly Islands.

China and Taiwan have built sand islands to create territory in one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints and Vietnam and the Philippines have made claims to rocky shoals in one of the world’s busiest seaways.

“Australia continues to strongly oppose the use of intimidation, of aggression or coercion to advance any country’s claims to unilaterally alter the status quo,’’ Senator Payne said.

The minister said the US alliance would remain fundamental to Australia’s security as the world became more uncertain out to 2035.

She also signalled a shift in emphasis for Australian defence policy saying that the government would strengthen defence relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

This would include closer engagement through training and exercises and greater aerial patrols of island nation’s economic zones.

“The prosperity of the region depends on maritime security,” she said.

To that end the government is embarking on an $89 billion program of modernisation for the navy that will include new submarines, frigates and large offshore patrol vessels.

The full plan will be laid out in the 2015 Defence White Paper due out this month that will include a fully costed 10-year shopping list and a new industry plan.

Economic growth and modernisation will be a key driver of security policy in the years ahead and while Senator Payne regarded it as a positive she said there would be challenges as half the world’s economic activity would occur in the Indo-Pacific region by 2050.

“Military modernisation does have the potential to increase strategic competition as states seek military advantages over their neighbours.”

More than 300 companies have been showing their wares at the three-day Seapower expo.

Head of the troubled $9 billion Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) Alliance Rod Equid told the convention that the first of the navy’s most powerful ships, HMAS Hobart, would conduct sea trials in September 2016 and be delivered to the navy in June 2017.

That is about 30-months behind schedule and $1.2 billion over budget.

The second AWD will be handed to the navy in September 2018 and the final ship in March 2020.

About 2800 people were working on the complex project being run by Defence, ASC and Raytheon Australia.

Mr Equid said there was a long list of cost drivers including schedule, first of class, engineering and reworking.

For example the large piping on ship one had been changed out five times during the build.

He said the problems would have been avoided with continuous build, a realistic plan, a non-transactional relationship with the designer and a recognition that the AWD was a genuine ‘first of class’ ship.

 

 

 

APDR at a glance