Remarks at the opening of the Australia Pacific Security College at ANU

  • Speech, check against delivery

ALEX HAWKE: Well, thank you so much Brian for that kind introduction. Obviously, I'd love to start by acknowledging you and the wonderful ANU, the institution that you lead. The ANU is something that has played a special role in Australian and world history. And every time I visited overseas, leading a delegation, working with our foreign counterparts in the region, whether they be in business or whether they be in government or in NGO sectors, you find people who have come through the ANU, people who've learned from the schools of thought you have here on this campus. And we've really got a remarkable record of engagement with people in this region. So I praise you for the work and for the commitment that you've just shown to this initiative and the commitment and promise that you've made in front of all of us. The Government will certainly hold you to that promise.


And I'd also like to welcome all of the dignitaries that are here. We've got so many friends and important people from so many parts of our Government and our Pacific family, everyone from our Pacific family here, and I'd really start by acknowledging and welcoming Dame Meg, of course. And Dame Meg, I'll cover for you and say you're late because you were in a meeting with me. We had a great meeting before and obviously we've gotten to know each other very well in the last six months and Dame Meg does a fabulous job at the Pacific Islands Forum. We had a fantastic, obviously, Pacific Islands Forum there in Tuvalu this year. There was some great outcomes and some great dialogue. So thank you for being here for this occasion, Dame Meg.

I'd also like to acknowledge Air Chief Marshal Binskin, former CDF, who's here, and will serve as the inaugural chair of the advisory board for the Australia Pacific Security College and we thank him for doing that and his service, his ongoing service to the region. And I welcome his enthusiasm to get out into the region, to join me and visit many of our neighbours as he has in the past, making sure that this is working as intended. I also want to acknowledge the secretary of my department, obviously, Frances Adamson, who's here tonight. A wonderful Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and doing a great job for Australia around the world. Head of the Office of the Pacific, Ewen McDonald. I haven't seen him. He might be on a trip. That's not unusual. I never see Ewen. He's always in motion somewhere, moving around, so I'm not surprised he isn't here so far.

But I'd also like to take a moment to acknowledge the members of the Indigenous Diplomacy Elders Program who are here in Canberra and here with us, I think, today. They're Pacific secondees to the Fusion Centre that is going on just down the road and that is absolutely fabulous. Dame Meg told me she was super impressed with the Pacific secondees and the work they're doing there at the Fusion Centre. So congratulations on everything you're learning and demonstrating there.

And of course, all of the members of the Diplomatic Corps who are here. I think I heard you as I approached from outside. You're a noisy bunch, but a welcome bunch as well. Of course, I'd also like to add my respect and consideration to the elders past, present and emerging and thank them for that introduction earlier.

Tonight, of course, we're here to launch the Australia Pacific Security College and it's a great privilege to be a Minister in this portfolio and launching this initiative. It's quite typical of the step up that Australia has put forward in the last few years that we're thinking ahead about the needs of the region. We're thinking about what we can do to collaborate with institutions like the ANU and the institutions in the Pacific to build a better region.

And this evening I just want to say a few words briefly about Australia's ambitions and aspirations for this college, for the Pacific, and how some of the elements of the step up work together with what we're doing here today and what you'll see out of this college and the collaboration the Government has with the ANU and the Pacific. I think you know, as part of our Pacific family, Australia shares the responsibilities and the challenges that we all face together as a region, but we know that our family in the Pacific, our communities, our history, our future, is intertwined. And it's certainly something that the Australian people take seriously and now our Government takes seriously through the step up.

And just last night, I gave a speech outlining everything that the step up had brought forward just in the last year or two to the Sydney Institute. And what I found very difficult about that speech, it's the speech that they give you 30 minutes to speak about, which in 2019, 30 minutes is an interminably long period of time for someone to speak for. But I found I didn't have enough time to outline what it is we've been doing, how much activity has been going on, how much collaboration there's been, and how much partnership we have achieved in just a year or two of the step up. It's a real challenge of communication. But I do my best and I certainly went through the work that is going on and I think you will share with me a great joy that Australia and all the countries of the Pacific, New Zealand, all of the countries in the region, are now working together in partnership in so many ways, in a way that we haven't seen for many decades. And through, I guess, all of those decades of sustained engagement, we've seen great partnerships formed and great friendships formed and we're building on those through our security partnerships.

The Pacific Step Up builds, I think, in many ways a response to the region's priorities and it certainly responds to the Australian people's priorities. But it strengthens capacity in the Pacific and that's partly what today is all about, strengthening capacity throughout the Pacific. Australia, of course, will make its highest ever dollar contribution to the Pacific this year through our development budget. That will be $1.4 billion out of our $4.3 billion budget. But really, I think our greater contribution is in our people's contribution through NGOs, through their churches, through businesses, through the familial relationships, through the diaspora here in Australia, through the day to day travel, the tourism, the contact, the love of the Pacific, the love of Pacific sports players in our country. There's so much that the step up means, and it isn't just Government policy and it isn't just a Government approach.

As many of you know, the Government completed our Foreign Policy White Paper in 2017, which reinforced the reasons why we're here today for this launch. It's the centrality of the Pacific within the broader Indo-Pacific region for Australia, for Australia's security, for our regional security and ensuring the Pacific remains strong, stable and sovereign is one of the first priorities of the Morrison Government and the Australian Government and the reason we're launching initiatives such as the Australia Pacific Security College.

In 2018, when we signed the Boe Declaration on Regional Security, we did so knowing that the Pacific security concerns were our security concerns, including in the areas of climate, including in the areas of cyber, transnational crime and human security.

Australia does understand that the security challenges come in many forms, all of these forms that I've just mentioned, and in the vast Blue Pacific that we've heard about just before they're far more likely from non-traditional sources than I mentioned, than from in a state conflict or interstate conflict. With this in mind we are establishing today the Australian Pacific Security College, it's to support our Pacific partners to develop more comprehensive, collaborative and effective responses to their own security challenges and the security challenges that we think will emerge in years to come. The College has been designed to respect, directly respond to Pacific needs, the priorities that we hear from our partner countries an approach genuinely focused on sustainable and institutional strengthening throughout the Pacific. We're very much looking forward to seeing what you come up with them and how this institution works closely with those institutions in the Pacific to build that capacity.

I know the leadership team here with us tonight has already visited several Pacific countries and will visit more before the end of the year. I said last night we have seen, just this calendar year, over 50 visits from our senior officials and ministers to the Pacific just this year. I have visited nine countries since coming into the portfolio and of course, when you think about 50 ministerial or senior official visits from Australia to the region it gives truth to the fact of the commitment from the Government and the Prime minister that the Pacific is indeed our first priority.

The consultations will go on next year and they go on on an ongoing basis because it's what we've directed people to do. If we're not good listeners, we're not able to be good helpers. And certainly we've heard from all the wisdom of our Indigenous people over many years of listening, the importance of listening and valuing different approaches and it's certainly an approach this College will take.

Through the engagement the College will work with each country to identify their particular security priorities, seek to provide policy support to those priorities, and deliver training to ensure those officials are able to competently and confidently manage implementing those priorities, and build the networks to ensure that agencies are joined up with governments and across the region.

And just earlier this year I attended the first inaugural Australia Heads of Pacific Security Meeting in Brisbane, and that was great collaboration as well. And of course it's quite scary to have 16 police commissioners in a room and the heads of militaries, and heads of other security services talking about policing issues [Laughter]. But I think they've found that a very valuable engagement, and we're going to see more collaboration of this nature. There is so much to be learned from the shared experiences, so much to collaborate on and we'll certainly be providing support to make that happen in the future.

The college will also compliment a number of other measures that the Government is implementing to strengthen Pacific security including my other Department, the Department of Defence, the measures that have come out of it. Australia is committed to supporting the priorities agreed by Pacific Island Forum Leaders at Tuvalu at the Securing our Future in the Pacific at the 2019 heads meeting and we're certainly going to be committing more money.

We're investing over $500 million from our existing funds from 2020 to help Pacific nations invest in things like renewable energy which enhances their self-reliability, climate and disaster resilience, and other important infrastructure. I've mentioned it, but in careful consultation with our regional partners we continue to develop the Pacific Fusion Centre and this fusion centre is a very important initiative that will see greater cooperation and partnership on very important areas and deliver greater security.

As I said the secondees are here we have our interim centre set up here in Australia, disseminating analytical products weekly and building capability. We're going to have a permanent establishment in a Pacific Island country next year and I'll certainly disappoint all the Heads of Mission by not announcing that tonight.


Look, I want to again just mention briefly the secondees from the eight Pacific countries that are here tonight. Their three-month program of training that they're undertaking right now in the Centre is really important, we're going to have more cohorts coming through and undertaking that training. As you can see our Government is centrally committed to supporting that training and capacity building for people in new areas like the fusion centre.

The Australian Defence Force is also stepping up their engagement to support an open, free and secure Pacific. We're seeing more people training here in Australia, more cadets coming through our excellent, fine military colleges. We're certainly going to see more partnerships and cooperation in defence programs in the region. And we have our new Pacific Support Team which will enable a mobile training team approach to strengthen capacity, resilience, and interoperability with military forces across the Pacific.

The Royal Australian Navy is deploying more often to the Pacific. We have so many visits this year conducting maritime training and exercises, and joining in with all of our neighbours and partners of member navies in the region. And the initiatives there will allow Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to take advantage of the new Guardian-class patrol boats. You've heard our Government talk about them before, but those 21 new Guardian-class patrol boats, their enhanced ranges and capabilities, really will help the region with important security issues such as policing and protecting from illegal fishing which is still a scourge in the region that we're going to take very seriously.

Our Federal Police have established a course of Pacific Faculty of Policing at the Australian Institute of Police Management, and we're establishing a Pacific Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation also to enhance regional policing capability.

Demonstrating the whole of Government joined up approach that we have in Australia, I understand that the AIPM is also a partner of the Australia Pacific Security College and of course that's important that this College collaborate with those other fine institutions there - I think it'd be interesting to see where that collaboration leads.

We're also strengthening our community ties and people to people links right across the broad Pacific and that includes a diplomatic presence in every single Pacific Island Forum member country. Five new posts are being established over the next two years, in the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, Palau and Niue. They're in addition to our new post in Funafuti which I happened to visit this year in Tuvalu, and Dame Meg saw as well, and the delivery of that great Pacific Islands Forum that we had this year.

I think finally, ladies and gentleman, and that's the danger of getting, talking about the step up for me - I could certainly go for 30 minutes…


…I could speak without notes for 30 minutes about the work that we're doing - it's because it's our most important priority. But tonight of course we're about launching the Australia Pacific Security College.

I think when you consider the quality of the institution of the Australian National University, the depth of experience and the breadth of experience that you have in Mark Binskin and the leadership of this College, you can see Australia is investing heavily in ensuring the right people, the right institutions, and the right approach to building capacity, to ensure that the Pacific remains strong, stable, secure and sovereign. It's an investment we take seriously.

It's a commitment we make to the region that we will always do everything we can to invest in strength and stability, the sovereignty of [indistinct] Pacific country.

You'll see that from this college, you'll see that from the leadership, you'll see that from the high quality research, and development, capacity building that'll occur here. I commend it to you. I think security is so important to us when you think of all the different challenges that we'll face in coming years whether they be environmental, whether they be in terms of illegal fishing, whether they be transnational crime we will work together as a family, together as a neighbourhood to help ensure our shared security is there for all of us and well looked after by our excellent agencies.

So I'm very proud today to say on behalf of the Australian Government and the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, that we officially launched the Australia Pacific Security College. We wish you well. We wish the ANU well, and we commend you for the excellent work you do, and I commend you all for collaborating and working with us in partnership to achieve regional security.


Media enquiries

  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555