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Defence Secretary visits Australia

Defence Secretary Dr Liam Fox and Foreign Secretary William Hague are currently visiting Australia accompanied by Sir Peter Ricketts, the National Security Adviser, and General Sir David Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff.

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The centrepiece of the visit was an AUKMIN (Australia-UK Ministerial Meeting) day of discussions yesterday led on the Australian side by the Honourable Kevin Rudd MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Honourable Stephen Smith MP, Minister for Defence.

AUKMIN consultations were previously held in the UK in 2006 and 2008.

The discussions yesterday covered a range of international political and security issues and highlighted the importance and strength of the deep and long-standing bilateral relationship between Australia and the UK and its capacity to address contemporary global and regional challenges.

Australia and the UK reaffirmed their commitment to working with the International Security Assistance Force to bring security and stability to Afghanistan.

The Joint Communique from the discussions also stated that Australia and the UK are committed to working together to promote global stability and prosperity and advance common interests related to bilateral strategic, defence, foreign and intelligence policy matters.

Australia and the UK welcomed reinvigoration of the bilateral strategic and defence relationship in response to the new challenges and threats generated by the changing international environment.

Both countries acknowledged that Australian and UK foreign, defence and security agencies needed to continue evolving to respond to contemporary challenges, and continue advancing our shared strategic interests.

While globalisation and interconnectedness bring new opportunities for growth and development, both countries recognised that new threats to the security of their citizens and their interests are also emerging.

Australia and the UK acknowledged the value of co-operating with other countries in assessing and addressing strategic and security challenges.

The communique also stated that Australia and the UK are committed to working together in concrete and practical ways to shape a more secure environment and advance common interests with respect to outer space and cyber security.

Intelligence co-operation between Australia and the UK is long-established and of high value. Exchanges on counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism are notably important at present, given their transnational character. Both countries agreed to maintain and build on the intelligence partnership.

To read the communique in full see Related Links.

Following yesterday’s discussions the Australian Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard, hosted a dinner for the British delegation.

Today, Mr Hague and Mr Rudd will lay wreaths at a war memorial in Sydney to commemorate the British and Australian service people who have lost their lives defending Britain and Australia against aggression. They will have further discussions on international issues.

Dr Fox is spending today in Adelaide, where he will continue his discussions with Mr Smith and spend time with key players in the Australian and British defence industry. Dr Fox and Mr Smith will also lay wreaths to commemorate British and Australian service people. Dr Fox said:

I am delighted to make my first visit to Australia to re-energise the UK-Australia defence and security relationship. Our Armed Forces have a long tradition of close partnership and are fighting terrorism side by side in Afghanistan today.

I am pleased that we are exploring greater defence, industrial and technology co-operation that will benefit both our nations, and strengthen still further our bond of friendship.

Published 19 January 2011