The UK and Australia will strengthen their long-standing relationship today with a new defence treaty to provide a framework for the many strands of co-operation between the 2 countries.
The treaty, to be signed in Perth today, Friday 18 January, with the Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith, will see the 2 countries working together in areas such as cyber security, defence reform, personnel exchange, equipment, and science and technology.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and the Foreign Secretary William Hague are in Perth attending the annual Australia/UK ministerial summit. Last year the corresponding event was held in London.
During their trip, in one of the first examples of the closer relationship, Mr Hammond visited the Australian Naval Base and BAE Systems shipyard in Perth where they discussed a range of issues relating to the sustainment and development of Australia’s submarine programme and future shipbuilding.
With both Britain and Australia due to build new frigates in the coming years, the Defence Secretary agreed with his Australian counterpart to explore the possibility of co-operation over mutual design work for the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Global Combat Ship - a design that could meet the needs of the Royal Australian Navy.
Mr Hammond said:
This government has made a concerted effort to renew and strengthen our relationship with one of our oldest allies. This defence treaty will drive forward closer co-operation on a wide range of issues, making our forces more interoperable and maximising our capabilities.
Areas of potential co-operation include future frigates, with the Royal Navy’s Type 26 design, a cutting-edge blueprint that could be the first of many opportunities for future collaboration. In times of budget pressures for all nations, it makes sense to maximise economies of scale and work with our friends to get the best value for money on all sides.
Australia is a close ally of the UK and NATO in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, and is a key partner in the Asia Pacific region. Many of today’s security challenges require a shared response, and the treaty therefore complements what we are doing in NATO.
During the visit, the Defence Secretary also visited the Australian HMAS Stirling Naval Base, the frigate HMAS Perth, the submarine HMAS Farncomb and the Henderson shipyard.