CHINESE SHIPS SPARK REVIEW
Federal Defence Minister Linda Reynolds says Australia is reviewing how it handles the entry of foreign ships into Australian waters after the unexpected arrival of Chinese warships into Sydney Harbour last week.
“There is nothing unusual about naval vessels from other nations seeking to make port visits,” Senator Reynolds said.
“However, given some of the media surrounding these visits we are reviewing how we publicise and deal with those visits.”
Two Chinese warships entered Sydney Harbour last week in a visit that even surprised NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
It sparked public outrage that the ships were allowed to moor on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
In an interview yesterday, Senator Reynolds, right, said she would continue to support WA jobs and the local defence industry by seeking to make her home State a hub for defence projects, including the possibility of basing the future submarine fleet entirely in WA.
The newly appointed Cabinet minister hinted at WA getting more of a share of defence work after South Australia was seen to be favoured during her predecessor Christopher Pyne’s tenure as minister.
“I have been a very, very strong advocate for Western Australia and national shipbuilding and other defence capabilities,” she said.
“WA has an important part to play in our national defence industry. WA is ideally placed to do a lot of (the sustainment and maintenance) work and that is something we are working very closely with (WA Defence Issues Minister) Paul Papalia on.”
Senator Reynolds said she was “totally committed to ensuring we build up indigenous Australian defence capability right across the board”.
She said Australia was also “committed to the fight against Daesh (Islamic State)”. But in response to questions about New Zealand’s decision to pull its troops from Iraq next year, Senator Reynolds would only say Australia “keeps reviewing all our commitments overseas”.
“We remain totally committed to the fight against Daesh and our resolve has in no way wavered,” she said. “Australian policy has not changed but of course we keep reviewing all our commitments overseas as our allies do.” Senator Reynolds, who came through the ranks of the Australian Army to reach the rank of brigadier, said she would be able to hold her own and apply fiscal prudence when Defence chiefs came knocking. “Absolutely I will be able to push back,” she said.
She also talked up the credentials of fellow West Australian Melissa Price, who was demoted from Cabinet to the outer ministry in Senator Reynolds’ old portfolio of Defence Industry. “She has a great commercial background and I very much look forward to working with her,” she said.
And the revolving door of Defence ministers — five in the past five years — would be something she was seeking to stop. “One of many wonderful qualities Australians responded so well to in the Prime Minister is that he is a very calm pair of hands,” Senator Reynolds said.
“He understands the value in this portfolio of calmness and determination, but also continuity.”