MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
STEPHEN SMITH, MP
TRANSCRIPT: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS UHLMANN, ABC 24
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 8 NOVEMBER 2010
CHRIS UHLMANN: Stephen Smith, theres a lot in that communiqué, can we break it down
piece by piece? Theres a force review by the United States of America. What does that mean
STEPHEN SMITH: The United States is doing what they describe as a Force Posture Review.
They havent completed that, but essentially theyre looking at how they allocate their forces
not just around our region, the Asia-Pacific, but around the world.
That will have implications for Australia potentially, so weve agreed to make sure we work
closely together. Once theyve finished their review, well sit down and see what
implications, if any, that has for Australia.
We welcome very much suggestions that the United States will enhance its engagement even
further in our region. We cooperate very fully with the United States. We have joint facilities,
they have access to our ports and the like. Theres a prospect that may be enhanced in terms
of further and greater access. Thats a good thing. But time will tell the precise detail.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Okay, we dont have the details yet, but is it likely in the long run well
see more American troops stationed on Australian bases.
STEPHEN SMITH: Not so much stationed on Australian bases. We have no American bases
in Australia and thats not proposed. We have joint facilities Pine Gap is the obvious
American forces have access to our ports our airports, our sea ports and also their troops
come in and out for use of facilities and the like. There is a prospect that that will be
enhanced. But that is very much in the nature of doing more than we currently do.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Could they pre-position some of their kit here for deployment?
STEPHEN SMITH: Thats the other thing that we have under consideration, much more
though a pre-positioning of equipment and stores for disaster relief and management.
We know that we live in an area where Australia wants to be a good citizen and help when
there is a disaster, whether its a tsunami or an earthquake. The United States wants to do the
same. It has interests in the Pacific and in Asia. So that is a possibility, its one of the things
that were looking at.
CHRIS UHLMANN: The Statement of Principles on Space Situational Awareness. Does that
mean that Americans might use some of our facilities or enhance some of our facilities so that
you can do space mapping?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well again, weve got to take it step by step. We know we have a
particular problem in terms of space one is space debris or space junk and that needs to, in
a sense, be regulated but secondly, as our White Paper in 2009 showed, space is now a
strategic issue, its not possible for Australia to do it by ourselves, so obviously there is
advantage in us partnering with the United States on space awareness, space surveillance and
space issues. So were going to work very closely on that.
There is, as the communiqué and the materials released today indicate, a prospect that we
could agree with the United States for some additional facilities which could assist in space
awareness, or debris and the like. But again, we take it step by step. But were not
envisaging, certainly not envisaging a new stand alone facility.
CHRIS UHLMANN: But the Americans might use one of our bases or have access to it
whereby they would put in some more equipment
STEPHEN SMITH: That is a possibility, but again, well take it step by step. If in the event
thats what we agree, then obviously we would make that public and that would
CHRIS UHLMANN: But its more than just space junk, isnt it? Cause youre concerned
about an arms race in space?
STEPHEN SMITH: As I say, there are two issues, theres the space debris, or space junk but
as I say, our White Paper last year made it clear that space, space surveillance, is now a
So yes, we are very conscious of the use of space for strategic and military purposes. Were
not in a position ourselves for the obvious technological reasons to do it by ourselves so we
do need a partner, and thats what were doing.
CHRIS UHLMANN: And in cyber space, thats the other area of agreement, now how might
that manifest itself?
STEPHEN SMITH: Again, we know that attacks on networks, cyber attacks on networks is a
problem. Its a problem not just for nations, its a problem not just in defence or military
areas, but its a problem for companies, its a problem in the commercial area as well.
So again, were working closely with America, seeing what we can do to try and develop
international norms on the use of cyber space and attacks in cyber space.
So were trying to see whether we can, together with the United States, bring our own
expertise to try and develop some international practices and international norms that will
serve nations well, but also serve individuals and companies well.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Is it just defensive, or would you be looking at weapons for cyber
STEPHEN SMITH: Were looking at very much the defensive, to use the jargon, a defensive
CHRIS UHLMANN: And if you were looking at weapons you probably wouldnt tell me?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, I would certainly respond appropriately to any such question, but
were looking at this as a defensive posture.
CHRIS UHLMANN: What about the major threats? Iran clearly came up. The American
President has said they are leaving open every option, which I assume is up to and including
STEPHEN SMITH: We had an exhaustive conversation about all of the strategic issues from
Afghanistan to our region, but also some of the potential nuclear threats - North Korean and
Iran. And Secretary Gates and Secretary Clinton made it clear that so far as the United States
is concerned, all options are on the table for the President in the effort to stop Iran getting a
But their very strong preference and their starting point and we hope the end point, is to use
economic and other sanctions and persuade with diplomatic efforts to have Iran desist from
moving further forward on its nuclear program in defiance of the International Atomic Energy
Agency resolutions and also in defiance of international law.
CHRIS UHLMANN: And finally Stephen Smith, how would you characterise the world
were in at the moment? Are we seeing a big strategic shift in power now from West to East?
Not necessarily saying we have to come into conflict with China, but there is a reality that
China is growing economically and following that well see a rise in its military power?
STEPHEN SMITH: Australia has been saying for the last three years that this will be the
century of the Asia Pacific. Its not just the rise of power political, economic, military
strategic influence is moving to our part of the world the Asia-Pacific.
Yes, its the rise of China, its also the rise of India, it is also the ongoing presence and
existence of the United States. Some people think that just because China is on the rise,
somehow the United States is going away. Well, to use an American expression, the United
States aint going anywhere.
So those developments, the ongoing superpower status of the United States, the rise of India,
the rise of China, inextricably sees a shift from the Atlantic to the Asia Pacific. And Australia,
the United States, our region and the world has to adjust to that. And thats why weve spent
so much time on trying to get the so called regional architecture right.
The United States coming into the East Asia Summit is a very good development, both the
United States and Russia. I have just come, in the last few weeks, together with Bob Gates
from the ASEAN Plus Defence Ministers Meeting which is the same configuration for
Defence Ministers. That essentially puts, in strategic terms, Australia in the same room, both
on economic prosperity issues and also on strategic and defence and military issues, with the
United States, with Japan, with China, with India with Indonesia, with the Republic of Korea.
So essentially, all of the key players in North Asia and South Asia are in the room at the same
time, having the strategic conversation to manage the adjustment of the world to essentially a
shift in global emphasis and global power.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Stephen Smith, thank you.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much.