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Global Security in the New Millennium

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Speaker: Secretary, Dr Ashton Calvert to the Royal United Service Institute International Seminar



Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to be here today and I welcome the opportunity to
address this seminar on "Global Security in the New Millennium".

The Royal United Services Institute has a long and impressive record promoting
the discussion of defence and security issues.

This current seminar sits very comfortably within that proud tradition.

I congratulate the organisers for bringing together this valuable forum
for exchanging views on the evolving international security environment.

Let me also say that I appreciate the opportunity to address an organisation
with such a strong connection to our defence and armed forces community.

The last few years - through the war on terror, the military campaign in
Iraq and more recently in the Solomons - have seen the already strong cooperation
between the foreign policy and defence communities reach new levels of effectiveness
and mutual confidence.

In my remarks today I should like to do three things:

Outline some of the key characteristics of the current global and regional
strategic environments;

Discuss three of the main challenges to international security within that
environment; and

Outline some of the ways Australia is seeking to tackle these challenges,
both on the global and regional levels.

Global and regional strategic environment

Quite reasonably and necessarily, a lot of the discussion at this seminar
is focusing on the twin threats of international terrorism and the spread
of weapons of mass destruction.

I too want to talk about those subjects, and describe the important place
they occupy in Australia's international security policy.

Before doing that, however, I should like to highlight some other basic
features of our strategic environment which I believe should not be lost
sight of, and which I believe are positive in their overall impact.

The first of these features is the economic and military pre-eminence of
the United States in world affairs.

This, I suggest, should be taken as a key strategic reference point for
our times.

The United States accounts for around one-third of global output; its defence
budget exceeds that of the next nine countries combined; and there is nothing
to suggest that it will lose its technological edge any time soon.

Given the prospect that the pre-eminent position of the United States is
likely to hold for a long while into the future, it is not surprising that
the outlook for strategic relations between the United States and other major
powers is relatively stable and favourable.

In the foreseeable future, no other country or group of countries will be
able to challenge the United States in its capacity to shape the global environment.

There is still scope, of course, for serious diplomatic disputes and tension
between the United States and other major powers.

We saw that earlier this year in the serious disagreement between the United
States and the United Kingdom, on the one side, and France, Germany and Russia,
on the other, over the question of how to deal with the challenge posed by

But what distinguishes our times from the periods of strategic confrontation
that characterised the Cold War is a relatively stable and favourable outlook
for relations between the United States and other major powers at the basic

And this situation offers scope - so long as the United States and other
major powers are in general agreement - of finding effective ways of responding
to the threats of international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass

Another key characteristic of our times that I should like to flag is globalisation
of the world economy.

The process continues apace and has a profound bearing on the choices available
to each country - developed and developing alike.

Globalisation brings major benefits to those countries whose open policies
and sound institutions allow them to participate successfully in the global

And its disciplines of competition impose penalties and disadvantages on
those countries which do not have those attributes.

Australia has undoubtedly benefited from this process.

Since the early 1980s when Australia began seriously internationalising
its economy, we have seen significant improvements in income, employment
and living standards.

In 2001-02 Australians were around 55 per cent better off than in 1979-80.

In that time real GDP per capita increased to A$36,000 from around A$23,000
in 2001-02 dollars.

But globalisation has also helped to reduce the gap between the developed
and developing world.

World Bank research has found that over the past two decades rapid growth
and stable or improving income distribution has combined to reduce poverty
in developing countries that lowered their barriers to trade.

By contrast, the World Bank has found poverty growing in those developing
countries that have remained relatively closed to world trade and investment.

The strategic impact of globalisation is an interesting and complex question
which deserves perhaps more analysis than it receives.

Let me offer one or two tentative observations.

Firstly, globalisation generates an increasing level of economic interdependence
and information connectedness around the world.

While this process of itself will not spare us from future military threats
and the risk of major confrontation it does increase the shared stake in
international stability and mutual engagement.

The overall effect of this process on the political dimension of international
relations is generally a positive and stabilising one.

But alongside its overall economic and political benefits, globalisation
- in a perverse and ironic way - also increases our vulnerability to terrorism.

Terrorists have found that they too can exploit the openness, ease of transportation
and greatly enhanced international communications that are characteristics
of this era of globalisation.

A third characteristic of our times I should like to highlight is China's
growing economic, political and strategic weight.

This has been rightly described as the single most important strategic trend
in the Asia-Pacific region.

And, again for Australia, this is clearly a positive development.

China's accession to the WTO, its support for the war on terrorism and
its key role in the North Korea six-party talks are all positive signs that
it takes seriously its international responsibilities as a major power.

China also recognises that a constructive relationship and economic engagement
with the United States are vital to its efforts to build its economy and
international influence.

While China competes with the economies of South-East Asia for foreign direct
investment, it is also becoming an increasingly important market for their

At the same time, China is becoming increasingly important as an export
market for both Japan and South Korea.

On current trends, China will, in the new few years, overtake Japan as the
world's third largest trading nation.

Certainly the current, relatively favourable outlook for US-China relations
provides an optimum context for the advancement of Australian interests in
East Asia.

Some commentators have suggested that the United States and China are merely
undergoing a pause in their strategic competition.

Time will tell whether competition will resume in a serious way, but for
my part I have been impressed over the past two years or so by the commitment
of both Washington and Beijing to manage their relationship responsibly and
constructively, including with regard to the difficult issue of Taiwan.

Threats to international and regional security

Notwithstanding these underlying positive trends in the current global strategic
environment, that environment is clearly far from benign.

Let me focus on three challenges which are central to the Australian Government's
current concerns: terrorism; the proliferation of WMD and the threats posed
by weak and unstable states.

September 11 gave the fight against terrorism an urgency and prominence
that it long deserved, but did not receive in the past - to our great and
common misfortune.

And the Bali terrorist attack in October last year removed any residual
complacency that we or our region might somehow escape this threat.

There is now firmer international resolve to wage war on terrorism.

One of the major achievements of the post September 11 environment has been
the development of a broadly based coalition against terrorism.

The resolve demonstrated by this alliance is seeing real results.

Globally, Al-Qaeda has been disrupted and diminished, but not yet defeated.

It still has the capacity to finance, plan and launch attacks, either on
its own or in support of surrogates.

In two years, over 3000 Al-Qaeda suspects have been detained in 90
countries, and in excess of USD140 million in terrorist assets have been

In our own region cooperation with our neighbours has seen terror attacks
prevented, terror networks disrupted and terrorists arrested - including
many of those responsible for the Bali bombings.

But even though we have achieved this important progress, victory in the
war against terrorism is going to require a sustained effort over a number
of years.

And notwithstanding our regional successes, there is no doubt thata serious
problem still exists in South-East Asia, as the bombing of the Mariott hotel
in Jakarta last August illustrated.

Disrupting the activities of regional terrorist groups like Jema'ah
Islamiyyah will be a long and difficult process.

Efforts by terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction have also given
the cause of non-proliferation a new urgency.

The detonation of even a relatively crude chemical weapon or a so-called
dirty radiological bomb in a large city would have disastrous consequences.

We know that terrorists have sought and are continuing to seek such weapons.

And, despite the best efforts of non-proliferation and export control regimes,
there remains a real risk that these weapons or associated materials might
find their way into terrorist hands.

Recently the Iraq Survey Group announced its discovery of documents that
appear to show a high-level dialogue between Iraq and North Korea over the
transfer of technology for a 1300km range missile system.

Fortunately the transfer does not appear to have gone ahead.

But this serves as yet another reminder that illicit trade and cooperation
between certain states - and indeed the potential for that trade to extend
to non-state actors - is a serious challenge to international security.

Efforts by states like North Korea and Iran to acquire weapons of mass destruction
also remain a major concern in and of itself.

The strategic implications of a nuclear-armed North Korea for the stability
of our region would be profound - illustrated by the urgency with which all
key regional players including, importantly, China, are focused on achieving
a nuclear weapons-free Korean peninsula.

Finally, since September 11 2001 the world has come to understand a lot
better the impact that failed and failing states have on global security.

Afghanistan illustrated the central role that such states play in providing
shelter and support for terrorist networks.

But terrorists are not the only groups that find a home in failed or failing

The smuggling of people, the laundering of money, the trafficking of drugs
and weapons - including in some cases WMD materials - are all made easier
in states whose legal and political systems have ceased to operate.

And even in cases where states are not on the verge of failure, weak governance
and institutions have an impact on global security.

In a world where security is increasingly indivisible, the international
community is strengthened by all its members having, for example, a robust
capacity to detect and disrupt terrorists or trans-national criminals.

Australia's role

Australia has, and will, continue to seek effective responses to these global
and regional security challenges.

Sometimes this will involve using the existing international security architecture,
including the United Nations and other traditional mechanisms of multilateral

Sometimes it will mean using other mechanisms, such as coalitions of the
willing, or regional arrangements.

This in part reflects the Government's belief that the UN must do more
to adapt to an evolving international security environment - a belief it
shares with many in the UN system, including the Secretary General.

But in greater part it reflects a Government approach focused on delivering
outcomes; of using those means which are best suited and most effective for
tackling particular security challenges we face.

In a world of increasingly unconventional threats we need to be creative
and flexible in how we chose to respond to them.

Thus the major global disarmament and non-proliferation treaties, such as
the NPT, the CWC and the BWC remain critical to setting international norms.

But they need to be reinforced by effective action to counter proliferation
wherever it occurs.

Australia is a strong supporter of all these norms.

We also play a pivotal part in international efforts to prevent the proliferation
of chemical and biological weapons through our chairmanship of the Australia
Group, which aims to minimise the risk of proliferation by strengthening
national export controls.

As a part of these efforts, Australia is participating in the Proliferation
Security Initiative,intended as a practical means of impeding the trafficking
of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials.

The PSI both recognises and reinforces the existing framework of national
laws, export controls, multilateral treaties and other tools.

States must work together, within the parameters of international law, to
uphold these non-proliferation norms.

We must respond effectively to the threat to international peace and security
posed by the proliferation of WMD and the transfer of WMD-related materials
outside of internationally agreed frameworks.

It is against this background that Australia joined the coalition to disarm

Notwithstanding the inevitably difficult process of stabilisation and nation-building,
that campaign has already made a significant contribution to global non-proliferation.

The Iraq Survey Group is only beginning to understand the extent and nature
of Iraq's WMD programs.

A focus on "smoking guns" should not distract us from the fact
that the ISG has found further significant evidence that the former Iraqi
regime had neither abandoned its WMD programs nor its thorough-going efforts
at concealment.

This is, of course, entirely consistent with a pattern of Iraqi behaviour
firmly established by UN weapons inspectors and in breach of UN Security
Council Resolutions for over twelve years.

Beyond the issue of Iraq, international efforts to stop the spread of these
weapons will continue and will take various forms.

With respect to North Korea and Iran, the international community will need
to find effective and perhaps creative means for resolving these problems
- from the use of existing multilateral institutions and organisations such
as the International Atomic Energy Agency to regional mechanisms such as
the six-party talks.

Australia will play an appropriate role in support of these efforts.

We have reinforced to North Korea - including through direct discussions
- that the six-party processis an important opportunity for it to eliminate
its nuclear weapons program and to re-engage constructively with the international

With respect to Iran, we have urged them to resolve outstanding safeguards
issues, sign a safeguards-strengthening Additional Protocol without delay
or preconditions, and halt development of sensitive nuclear technology.

As a member of the IAEA Board of Governors, we played a leading role in
the adoption of a strong resolution calling on Iran to cooperate fully and
transparently in resolving concerns about its nuclear program.

Australia will continue to contribute to these and other efforts to strengthen
global security where we believe we can make a difference.

But, at the same time, we will continue to focus most of our efforts on
building security in our own region in cooperation with regional partners
- something which in itself contributes to global security.

Working closely with our neighbours, we are helping to defeat terrorism
in South-East Asia.

We have put in place a network of bilateral counter-terrorism arrangements
that have strengthened practical cooperation with our key regional partners
including Indonesia,Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, India
and Fiji.

A key component of our effort to fight terror in the region has been to
strengthen the counter-terrorism capacity of regional security and law enforcement

We currently have a 4-year, $10 million assistance package with Indonesia
and a 3-year, $5 million package with the Philippines.

We are also helping improve the ability of regional governments to conduct
a multi-faceted campaign against terrorism.

We have co-hosted a number of workshops and meetings to strengthen defences
against terrorism and improve responses to terrorist attacks.

We have, for example, helped Indonesia to draft anti-terrorist financing
legislation and to establish a financial investigation unit to track money
used to fund terrorist activities and trans-national crime.

This cooperation with Indonesia continues the tradition that has been established
of working closely together to address emerging regional threats.

The latest example of this is the recent announcement that Indonesia and
Australia will co-host a major regional conference on counter-terrorism in
Bali next February.

We have also, of course, played a leading role in efforts to address the
prospect of state-failure and institutional weakness in our region.

The most prominent example of this has been our leading role in the Regional
Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

The Mission has already made excellent progress in restoring stability and
law and order to the Solomon Islands.

Over 3500 weapons have been handed in or otherwise secured.

And a total of 166 arrests on 234 charges have been made through RAMSI police
operations and RAMSI/RSIP joint operations since 24 July.

In Honiara, work is underway to strengthen the Finance Ministry, police,
judiciary, prison service and other key institutions.

This early progress is welcome, though we do not underestimate the difficulty
of the task ahead.

RAMSI is a large-scale and costly undertaking for Australia.

But it is a job that needed to be done, and we are prepared to make the
long-term commitment that it involves.

RAMSI - together with our new approach to PNG - marks a significant shift
in Australia's dealings with the South Pacific.

We are now prepared to get more directly involved, in cases where we believe
this will have a positive impact.

The Way Ahead

I trust these remarks have conveyed a sense of the various ways in which
Australia is helping respond to the various global and regional security
challenges that now confront us.

In conclusion, let me draw together five or six areas which I am confident
will continue as priority areas of action in Australia's international
security policy.

Firstly, continued engagement and cooperation with the United States will
remain a key priority.

We benefit greatly from our close alliance with the United States, and in
the period ahead the Government will be working to strengthen the effectiveness
of the alliance and increase its value to both parties.

In parallel with this process, we are also working to build a closer economic
and business relationship with the United States through the negotiation
of a free trade agreement.

Secondly, as a continuation of the longstanding priority given to non-proliferation
in Australia's international security policy, we aim to make an active
contribution towards stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction at
both the global and regional levels.

Thirdly, Australian efforts to foster and contribute to effective international
collaboration against terrorism - especially in our immediate region - will
remain a major priority.

We have a number of powerful reasons to engage closely with Indonesia and
other neighbours in South-East Asia.

The shared interest in working together to defeat the scourge of terrorism
in our region is a new and compelling incentive for engagement.

It was entirely fitting that RUSI was able to welcome Indonesia's Co-ordinating
Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Lt.Gen Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
as a key-note speaker this morning.

Fourthly, in North Asia, it is likely that the strategic and security dimensions
of our relationships with Japan and China - though different in details -
will become more important in the period ahead.

We welcome the responsible and more active contribution Japan is making
to international security, especially in East Timor and in the war on terrorism
and prospectively in Iraq.

With China, there is scope for a more developed strategic dialogue and defence

As indicated earlier, we welcome warmly the constructive role China has
been playing this year in contributing to a resolution of the DPRK nuclear

Finally, in the South-West Pacific, the Government's recent decision
to lead the Regional Assistant Mission to the Solomon Islands demonstrates
our willingness to intervene decisively - when asked to do so - to strengthen
governance and institutions when they are seen to falter.

The stake that Australia has in the stability and economic viability of
our near neighbours in Melanesia is self-evident.

Thank you for this opportunity to address your important conference.

Last Updated: 19 September 2014
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