The Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, today met with his New Zealand counterpart, the Hon. Dr Wayne Mapp in Sydney to discuss a range of shared defence interests and security challenges.

While our two defence forces have always been close, successive deployments on combined and coalition operations have highlighted the importance of maximising our joint operational capabilities, interoperability and integration. These imperatives were reflected in the joint statement made by Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers on 20 August 2009.

Today the Ministers agreed that giving the ANZAC spirit greater contemporary relevance across the spectrum of our two defence organisations was a priority for both nations and have announced a series of new ANZAC initiatives to further strengthen Closer Defence Relations. The ADF and NZDF will form a Pacific-focused Rapid Reaction Force to respond to regional contingencies including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The force will regularly train and exercise together and be able to deploy at short notice.

To help facilitate this initiative we will look to revitalise our airlift agreement to effect an efficient ANZAC airlift capability. Furthermore, the enhancement of our trans-Tasman information communication technology will be given priority over the next 12 months as a means to facilitate joint contingency planning and closer operational cooperation.

The development of this capability is an important demonstration of our mutual commitment to work together to promote security, stability and development in the Pacific region and will, over the next six months, be given impetus through joint ADF – NZDF contingency planning for potential regional events.

Senator Faulkner said that the ANZAC spirit has served our two nations well over the course of the last century and with continued impetus I am confident that our capacity to meet common security challenges will continue to grow.

Dr Mapp said the Australia-New Zealand relationship is important for both our countries and is underpinned by the ANZAC legacy. We welcome the opportunity to develop this regional capacity in support of Closer Defence Relations and Pacific regional security.

Dr Mapp also announced today that New Zealand will fill the Deputy Director position at the Asia Pacific Civil Military Centre of Excellence at Queanbeyan, NSW. The Centre aims to support the development of regional civil-military capabilities to prevent, prepare for and respond more effectively to conflicts and disasters overseas. Dr Jim Rolfe, currently a principal adviser in the Ministry of Defence, will take up the position from November this year and provide a link in with Australia’s Deployable Civilian Capacity program.

The Ministers also reaffirmed their resolve and commitment to our near neighbours through enhancing regional security capabilities, and discussed the necessity for continuing to support security and stability in East Timor and Solomon Islands. They reaffirmed the crucial role that the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was continuing to play in transitioning security responsibilities and highlighted the effectiveness of the International Stabilisation Force in East Timor.

They spoke about a range of global security issues, particularly Afghanistan, where both countries are supporting vital security and reconstruction efforts. It was agreed that returning stability to Afghanistan would remain a very important objective for our two countries.

The Ministers reviewed their national capability development programs, with a view to coordinating ANZAC acquisition processes wherever possible.

The Ministers agreed that it would be important to continue acquiring capabilities that complement each other’s defence assets.

Dr Mapp also took the opportunity to brief Senator Faulkner on the status of the New Zealand Defence Review. The Ministers agreed that the timing of our respective defence review processes constituted a timely opportunity to strengthen our already strong ANZAC ties, both at the strategic and tactical levels.

The Ministers were also updated on the current Samoan earthquake and tsunami event and both countries’ response to it during the meeting.