Australia has had a long-standing interest in Maritime Domain Awareness and Protection. This is a vast area and numerous islands and jurisdictions, it is difficult to monitor and to police.
We've been asked this morning to look at ways that we can support and mobilise resources to address the challenges of maritime illegal activities.
I think the first thing is, no one country and no one entity, can meet this challenge on its own.
I think the biggest challenge that we face is coordinating and augmenting our existing institutions and programs to ensure that we enhance their effectiveness.
That means having the maturity to identify where the regional gaps are, where the overlaps are and where better synergy can occur to ensure that we make better use of the existing resources and the mechanisms that we have.
We have several regional and national arrangements that deal with illegal activities. So we are already sharing information and assessments, but I think the challenge is to do this more effectively and to do it comprehensively and in a timely manner.
Can I just acknowledge the work that the Foreign Fisheries Agency and the Regional Fisheries Surveillance Centre and the work that it's doing in terms of collection and dissemination of information on fishing and vessel movements.
Also, the information exchange by the Pacific Transnational Crime Network has resulted in a dramatic result increase in referrals and a better understanding of the transnational crime emerging in our region.
But for the future, it's really important that there be enhanced exchange and co-ordination between these two important organisations and others.
I am very proud of the Patrol Boat Program; it has certainly helped to better target maritime security threats.
The Niue Treaty Subsidiary Agreement, I believe, provides the necessary legal framework for strengthening cooperative fisheries surveillance and enforce capacities, and members can already use their patrol boats to meet reporting obligations and take advantage of the hot pursuit powers across each other's maritime zones.
We are keen to work with Forum Members to improve awareness.
Last year, with the Federated States of Micronesia, we co-hosted a very successful Maritime Domain Awareness workshop. There will be another workshop next year, but I think what it does come down to is much more effective long-term engagement.
Can I particularly recognise the work that the United States and France do.
The President gave us a very, very good example of where this led to a practical arrest – this was the biggest cocaine haul that was ever destined for Australia and it was picked up thanks to the work that was done by transnational crime authorities and the support from the French Navy.
This is the practical example. Just imagine those drugs landing in our different countries.
Now, Australia is a bigger country, but the effect of drugs on so many small island communities just is terrible to imagine the impact that it's going to have.
So I think that it does come down to – let's use the facilities that we do have, but in a more timely and more effective manner.
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7110
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555