Vice Admiral Tim Barrett
A major change in Australia’s security situation is the growing prosperity of the Indo?Pacific region. This offers great potential to improve Australia’s security position: Not only will there be a greater number of navies with which the Royal Australian Navy can partner to pursue good order and security at sea, but there will be a greater number of nations that will depend on maritime trade for their security, prosperity, and way of life. This is apparent in the growth of intra-regional bulk and containerized trades in areas like the Indian Ocean, as well as among the established global trading nations. The continuing growth of critical national infrastructure in the maritime environment for water, food, and energy will place greater demands on naval services to actively engage and cooperate in the great global commons.
The challenge will be to ensure the changing balance of different national capabilities and interests is managed in an orderly way. Groups like the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus and the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific Naval Symposia, as well as multinational exercises such as RIMPAC, Milan, and Bersama Lima, go a long way to help manage the balance from a professional naval perspective. Ensuring substantial engagement in these activities is an important responsibility for all naval service chiefs as it helps build habits of cooperation that mitigate the risk of conflict.
For the Royal Australian Navy, the evolution in the Indo-Pacific region reinforces the need to continue to engage with neighbors, partners, and allies and to continue to do what navies do well: provide practical and pragmatic options for cooperation. The new platforms entering service in Australia, such as the recently commissioned amphibious vessel HMAS Canberra, will certainly give us new and expanded capabilities to engage, and I am looking forward for opportunities to do so.