Opening Remarks by Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson, Minister Bishop and Minister Payne at the 2017 AUSMIN Conference in Sydney, Australia

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Defence Marise Payne, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.


MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS JULIE BISHOP: Minister Marise Payne and I are delighted to welcome you to Sydney on this beautiful day for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial consultations.

And this is apparently the 27th AUSMIN meeting but we probably have more…a most important agenda to deal with today, one of the most important in many years.

And we meet a day after the shocking events in London, and I know that we've spoken to our counterpart, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, to express our deep condolences to the British people and the British government for yet another barbaric terrorist attack.

And the issue of countering terrorism will be high on our agenda today.  The global terrorist threat is ever evolving, we've seen brutal attacks in a number of European cities, we've thwarted attacks here in Australia, and so we want to discuss that with you, the links back into the Middle East, the role we're playing with you in Iraq and Syria, and also in Afghanistan.

We are united in our resolve to defeat ISIS, the Islamic State Terrorist organization and its ilk, and there are also significant challenges in our region that we want to discuss with you today and share perspectives and insights and ideas on how to deal with some of those challenges but of course there are also many opportunities.

We will no doubt focus on the North Koran threat and what we together can do to curb that behavior.

So we have a very broad agenda, a lot of matters to discuss today. Ours in a unique partnership, with a century of shared military history and we have one of the closest strategic and economic partnerships that any two countries could aspire to. So we are delighted to welcome you here for your first AUSMIN and I'll ask my colleague Senator Payne to add her words of welcome.

 

MINISTER FOR DEFENCE MARISE PAYNE: Thank you very much Julie and good morning gentlemen, welcome to my hometown! It's a pretty good way to start the morning, I said to Jim we tried to flip the switch on the weather and it seems to have gone well as a plan.

But on the beautiful grounds of this government house here in Sydney on the shores of Sydney harbor it’s a great pleasure to host you with Julie for this AUSMIN visit. Jim and I had the opportunity to catch up from time to time in the last few months, from Brussels to Copenhagen to Singapore to Sydney, in no short measure.

So we are working very hard to maintain and to grow what is already a strong defense partnership. Our alliance, our Australia-U.S. alliance, is and will continue to be the Australian government’s highest strategic priority and we made that very clear in our government's white paper in 2016. It's the cornerstone of a very strong bilateral relationship which is founded on our shared values, our shared interests and our very close friendship.

This year we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the battle of the coral sea, and we've literally commemorated it from one side of the world to the other, from New York harbor to Townsville in North Queensland and Adm. Swift joined us in North Townsville for that commemoration a month or so ago.

And next year of course, we acknowledge 100 years of (inaudible) as His Excellency the ambassador has cast in stone almost literally in Washington, 100 years of Australia and US forces sharing the battlefield in every major conflict since World War I.

And today we continue to share that effort in Iraq and in Afghanistan and now broader Middle East engagement to support those very important governments in the region to protect our shared interests for a safe and secure Middle East.

We look forward to continuing to work with the US government, with you both in our capacities as defense and foreign minister in that fight against Daesh, and the threats to the safety and security of our region more broadly.

For Australia, from our perspective today it's important that we do discuss ISIS's links in Southeast Asia, violent extremist organizations and the risk that returning foreign fighters who may endeavor to resume positions in their own countries might pose in this region. They'll come back with battlefield skills, they'll come back with hardened ideology, they'll come back angry, frustrated, and we need to be very aware of that.

So your visits today are a very important message to the strength of our engagement, we welcome you both and we look forward to a very productive discussion. 

 

SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON: Thank you so much Foreign Minister Bishop, Senator Payne, for hosting this year’s AUSMIN in a very beautiful surrounding and one which I think will really lend itself to the serious issues we have to discuss today. 

As you know this relationship between the U.S. and Australia, which now approaches a century and really formalized in the treaty of 1951, but it’s really built around the most fundamental values, our commitment to freedom, democracy, rules based order for the world and that has been cemented in these bonds of shared sacrifice over the two great wars of the last century and as you've pointed out, to continuing conflicts today, this common fight we share against the most heinous of actions we've seen most recently in London yet again. 

The shared sacrifice, the shared commitment, that is really what has sustained this relationship, and we have much to discuss in this session today both regionally, but as you've pointed out globally as well, as to how we promote those most fundamental values and secure the environment for people to pursue their own pathway towards freedom and democracy.

Australia has such an important role to play regionally in the Pac islands area to promote these same values and assist these emerging countries as they take their own walk, we hope towards a greater freedom and democracy and securing an environment in which they can do that, were very committed to working in our continued working relationship in that regard. 

Importantly also, our economic relationship, because that really undergirds our ability to carry out our security activities jointly, so we look forward to having further discussions around our economic and trade relations which are already quite healthy and strong, but we want to have further discussions around how we further strengthen that as well as strengthening the economic activity for the region, again to help these emerging countries secure their own pathway forward. 

So again, thank you very much for hosting today's talks.  I look forward to having very, very important in-depth discussions about how we can continue to work collaboratively, successfully as we have for so many years and continue that collaboration, so thank you.

 

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: Secretary Bishop, Minister, I would just endorse everything you said, we don't take this alliance for granted. 

It takes work, and that's what we're here to do, work with you, I would also note that we are united as I said in our resolve, even against an enemy that thinks that by hurting us, they can scare us.

Well, we don't scare. And so we're here to work together in a manner that protects the freedom and the values that we share together and we're committed to passing those freedoms onto the next generation intact.

I would also point out that relationships either get stronger or weaker - they don't stay the same, and we're here as a commitment that we are going to strengthen further a relationship that's in both our nation's best interest.

I would also add that in the U.S. military’s view, your military is,…as we look at it from Lone Pine, the Long Tan and certainly from the jungles to the deserts where we have fought together, we have enormous respect for that military, it is a great ally through good times and bad and I think it’s a leadership role of Australia is demonstrated by your military, whether it be the Solomons or other areas here in a part of the world that needs your stabilizing influence and we intend to be supportive of that. Thank you very much again for hosting and we look forward to working (inaudible).