Australia-New Zealand Defence Ministerial Talks

Don McKinnon Defence

The strengthening of Closer Defence Relations, the regional economic crisis, and Bougainville, were the focal points for the Australia-New Zealand Ministerial talks held in Auckland on 27 March. Ministers' discussions followed their visit to Exercise Matakiri, a major exercise involving Australian, New Zealand, French and Singaporean forces.

Ministers observed that defence cooperation between Australia and New Zealand reflected the ANZAC tradition of easy military association. The value of their defence forces ability to work together easily and effectively was illustrated again in Bougainville and Iraq. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of Closer Defence Relations to this interoperability. To this end, they have agreed a Joint Statement designed to give CDR new focus and purpose. Ministers expected the programme outlined in the Joint Statement to result in smoother and more timely responses to contingencies, more effective development and productive sharing of skills, and significant mutual savings and industry benefits from harmonisation of acquisition programmes.

Ministers said the programme envisaged in the joint Statement will include a target of some ten new exchange positions between the two defence forces in the coming financial year, covering key areas for interoperability. These areas are :

  • command and control
  • capability development
  • acquisition
  • doctrinal development; and
  • operational forces

A series of studies will be completed that will examine how our ability to mount combined operations can be improved. The Ministers also asked that an annual report be prepared, assessing progress on how effectively the two forces were operating together.

Military equipment purchase and support strategies would be jointly developed. Candidate projects may include:

  • Army Tactical communications
  • Armoured Vehicles
  • the C130 Hercules replacement project; and
  • elements of the P3 Orion upgrade

The Ministers also agreed that there be more consultation between the two forces in the development of their military assistance programmes.

Ministers noted the uncertainty and fluidity deriving from the current economic downturn in Asia. They agreed that it had the potential not only to undermine the economic advances made by important regional countries, but also to change domestic and international political balances. Ministers agreed that a stable Asia Pacific was vital for both countries and agreed on the value of regular high level strategic consultations among officials to ensure sound policy settings.

Ministers agreed that Australia and New Zealand would continue to work together in support of cooperative defence activities with regional countries, including training, exercising, and high level defence consultation. They considered that in the prevailing economic circumstances in Asia these activities were even more important to stability. The continuing commitment of both countries to the Five Power Defence Arrangements and the ASEAN Regional Forum recognises the importance of supporting arrangements that strengthen confidence and trust in the region.

Ministers welcomed the great progress of the peace process in Bougainville, and the commitment of all parties to it. They agreed that the Lincoln Agreement was an important milestone on the path to lasting peace, but that the process was far from complete and would need careful nurturing. There would continue to be an important role for Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces, supported by other members of the South Pacific community. In this regard, they welcomed the contribution made by Fiji and Vanuatu to the Truce Monitoring Group, describing it as an excellent example of a constructive regional response to a regional problem.

Auckland, 27 March 1998


  1. There is no strategic partnership in our region closer than that between Australia and New Zealand. Bound together by geography and history, by shared values, beliefs and interests, and by the close relationships between our peoples, we have a tradition of mutual commitment to each others security. This is the ANZAC spirit. The formal expression of our security partnership is found in the Canberra Pact and ANZUS Treaty.
  2. We each attach the highest importance to pursuing our national goals peacefully, constructively and collaboratively, free from the threat or use of armed force against us. Our respective strategic interests are strongly convergent. Our two nations are for all practical purposes a single strategic entity. Our defence forces must be able to work together effectively in combined and joint operations to protect the vital security interests of both countries and their off-shore territories and resources. This is a priority objective for both countries.
  3. Both Australia and New Zealand are conscious that their security is linked to the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region. This is demonstrated through our common membership in the Five Power Defence Arrangements and our active participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum.
  4. We will maintain forces able to combine readily and maintain and sustain the capacity for effective combined response to regional contingencies. Our collaboration on Bougainville is a current demonstration of the constructive role our Defence Forces play in maintaining and promoting regional security. We agree that such a capability provides a significant underpinning to the maintenance of regional strategic stability and security.
  5. We share compelling global security interests. We attach great importance to the principles of the United Nations Charter. We acknowledge our responsibility to be prepared to make a practical military contribution to protecting these interests, as illustrated by our joint contribution to the multinational coalition assembled to help ensure Iraq's compliance with its UN obligations.

Closer Defence Relations

  1. The ANZAC spirit is given contemporary substance through Closer Defence Relations (CDR). As natural security partners whose defence forces must be able to combine readily to protect and promote shared security interests, Australia and new Zealand have instituted a programme of cooperative activities designed to give their relationship enhanced practical effect. The programme will address the full spectrum of defence activities including strategic assessment and planning, capability development, combined and joint operations, command, control and communications, training, exercising, personnel development, support systems, and industry support. The programme will now include evaluation of the outcomes achieved.

Guiding Principles

  1. CDR enhances our capacity to influence developments in our strategic environment. In the further development of CDR, we will be guided by the following principles :
    • we are sovereign, independent states working together for our mutual security;
    • our defence and security partnership is for the long term, focussing on practical activities to achieve outcomes that are mutually beneficial'
    • the openness of our defence relationship will provide assurance that our objectives are clear;
    • equity in the defence partnership is measured in terms of the outcomes achieved, each country committing itself to resource the partnership in ways which ensure the effective achievement of these outcomes;
    • as the key to an effective defence capability, we will develop and exploit the skills of our people; and
    • we will also work together to achieve economic efficiently within the defence effort, and deliver capability in the most cost effective way.


  1. Interoperability is a key outcome of CDR. We must be able to put our forces together so that they are able to respond rapidly and effectively. With a view to improving our ability to operate together effectively, the two Defence organisations will put in place activities resulting in :
    • consultation in the development and formulation phases of national strategic policies;
    • enhanced proficiency in the planning and conduct of combined and joint operations through the refinement of consultative mechanisms and better understanding and exercising of national Command and Control arrangements;
    • an improved command support and communications structure that enables combined and joint operations;
    • improved dissemination of shared intelligence product to operational units;
    • better ways of harmonising national force structure development decisions and capability acquisition programmes for mutual economic benefit and improving the effectiveness of combined operations;
    • logistic support and sustainment arrangements which enhance operational effectiveness;
    • a common body of doctrine to support combined and joint operations;
    • a programme of exercises which realises agreed outcomes, in particular, the capacity for effective combined response in defence of regional and global security interests;
    • a coordinated approach to interoperability with potential coalition partners;
    • an expanded set of personnel exchanges, which enhance the ability to conduct combined operations; and
    • a coordinated approach to military assistance and defence cooperation programmes.
  1. Australia and New Zealand will maintain a close dialogue on security and defence issues meeting at least annually at the level of Ministers and of senior officers so as to review and evaluate outcomes and provide direction to future activities. Both sides are committed to achieving early practical results, particularly through personnel exchanges that will enhance combined command and control arrangements.

27 March 1998