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2nd International Defence and Security Dialogue
Australia’s Immediate Neighbourhood:
The Strategic Outlook and its Defence and Security Implications

Media Room

Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales
MEDIA RELEASE - 1 March 2013

Sydney, (1-Mar-2013):

"Economic growth has enabled substantial military modernisation programmes in Asia. This is especially the case with China, but is also a feature of most of the other countries of the region," according to John McKinnon, Executive Director of the Asia New Zealand Foundation.

As former Secretary and Chief Executive of the New Zealand Ministry of Defence, and New Zealand's Ambassador to China from 2001 to 2004, he suggested that one result was, for the first time in many years, growth in Asian defence spending is outpacing Europe.

The global financial crisis did not dent these trends.

"Indeed, given the effects of the GFC on defence spending elsewhere, it even may have enhanced them."

Mr McKinnon was addressing nearly 200 local and overseas delegates at an international defence and security dialogue held by the Royal United Services Institute of NSW in Sydney on February 26. The theme of the dialogue was: Australia's Immediate Neighbourhood, the Strategic Outlook and its Defence and Security Implications. It focussed on Melanesia.

Mr McKinnon said countries everywhere were sensitive to matters which impinged on national sovereignty, and the Asia-Pacific region was no exception.

"The situation is dynamic. The action by one country in the South China Sea elicits another. The rapidity of China's growth is now being followed in South-East Asia and South Asia. Whatever distribution of power exists at any one time will change."

"Scenarios premised on the containment of China are very unlikely to pass. It is equally the case that scenarios premised on the US not being present in the region are also flawed. The US has significant security, political and economic interests in the region. We must recognise and accept that the relationship between China and the US will be a major factor in the strategic shape of the region for the foreseeable future."

On the other hand, he said, there was a dense network of trade and investment in the region and regional organisations and arrangements had proliferated in recent decades.

He added that the world "is full of opportunity but also challenges and risks. These may not directly impinge on our national security. It is much more about the benefits we gain from a peaceful and stable world, and the obligations we, as a country in the region, have to support that."

He said: "My own judgement is that the increased presence of external powers that we have seen in recent years will continue, but that is less likely to translate into strategic competition or to have strong military dimensions."

Royal United Services Institute of NSW

Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales
MEDIA RELEASE - 27 February 2013

Sydney, Feb 27.

Timor-Leste has two national development imperatives: internal stability and regional security, according to Prof Damien Kingsbury, Director, Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights, Deakin University.

"The first and most pressing focus is to ensure that the new state remains internally calm and politically stable. The second focus is to ensure that the country and its people find security with its regional neighbours, not from them, and increasingly participates as a good international citizen."

Prof Kingsbury was address an international defence and security dialogue held by the Royal United Services Institute of NSW at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney, on February 26.

As for stability, he told the audience of about 200 that the state had "invested in its democratic processes, the activity of its civil society groups and its embrace of political and social pluralism.

"While Timor-Leste remains a society dependent on agriculture for livelihoods, it does need and intends to transition to other forms of wealth and employment creation, including industrial development and an improved tourism sector. In particular, it is well positioned to take advantage of its oil and gas natural resources to help establish a petro-chemical industry," he said.

He added that the nation enjoyed good relations with the South-West Pacific but saw itself firmly within Asia and as an Asian state in terms of its "primary external orientation and identification."

It enjoyed "warm and close" relations with its immediate neighbour, Indonesia.

The positive relationship between Timor-Leste and Indonesia has, in particular, been built up, from the Indonesian side under the leadership of Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. As a result, the outcome of Indonesia's 2014 elections is expected to continue to influence and perhaps shape Timor-Leste-Indonesian relations into the medium to long term," he said.

He said the nation also enjoyed strong and developing relations with China which had helped Timor-Leste build infrastructure critical to its institutional capability, including the foreign affairs building, the presidential palace and army headquarters.

Commenting on the reaction to the address, the President of the Royal United Services Institute of NSW, Group Captain Doug Roser (Ret'd), said attendees were pleased to hear that internal security challenges in Timor-Leste were easing considerably and there seemed to be a strong awareness of a secure, peaceful and stable future for the state.

Royal United Services Institute of NSW

Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales
MEDIA RELEASE - 18 February 2013

Sydney, February 18:

Regional security cooperation across the Pacific Islands, particularly in intelligence sharing, is "fractured and ineffective and requires immediate attention," according to Professor Richard Herr, OAM, Honorary Director of the Centre for International and Regional Affairs at the University of Fiji.

"The shared outlook that previously made Australia's security relationship with our immediate neighbours ‘mutual’ has been lost. An easy acceptance of an identity of interests no longer applies as much as it did 20 years ago.

The lack of effective coordination undermines Australian security objectives and complicates the role of its major regional allies – the United States and France.

The geo-politics of the Asia-Pacific region have become very dynamic over the last decade, especially with regard to Melanesia. There is a real need to improve engagement with this sub-region on regional security," he said.

Professor Herr will deliver the keynote address, "The Strategic Outlook for Melanesia", at an international defence and security dialogue to be held by the Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales at the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney, on February 26.

"Melanesia is not only the nearest and most substantial part of the Pacific Islands region to Australia, it also faces the most serious challenges in pursuing effective statehood."

Professor Herr said that the Melanesian states in recent years have adopted foreign policies of "looking north", particularly towards China. They have also moved towards closer relations with the non-aligned movement, weakening their ‘traditional’ ties with Australia.

"Australia needs to relate more effectively with the Melanesian Spearhead Group and, crucially, we need to repair our relationship with Fiji," he added.

Professor Herr taught at the University of Tasmania for 38 years and has advised governments of the Pacific Islands region on a range of governance and administrative issues for nearly three decades. He was awarded a Medal in the Order of Australia in 2007; and received an AusAID Peacebuilder Award in 2002 for his work in the Solomon Islands.

Other presenters at the dialogue will include: Professor Damien Kingsbury, Deakin University; Dr Ronald May, Australian National University; Major General Sitiveni Rabuka (Ret'd), Fiji; Mr John McKinnon, New Zealand; Ms Jenny Hayward-Jones, Lowy Institute for International Policy; Mr Brendan Sargeant, Deputy Secretary of Defence, Australia; Dr Alan Ryan, Australian Civil-Military Centre; and Rear Admiral Tim Barrett, Commander Australian Fleet.

The dialogue is open to the public but bookings are essential. There is a charge for attendance. It will begin at 8.30 am and conclude at 5 pm.

Issued on behalf of the Royal United Services Institute of New South Wales by Group Captain Doug Roser (Ret’d), President.

All MEDIA ENQUIRIES: To Group Captain Doug Roser, Tel: +612 9817 1759.

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