February 24, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles, And Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong Before the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations

Secretary Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defense Richard Marles, And Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong Before the Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MARLES:  Tony and Lloyd, welcome.  On behalf of Penny and I, it is fantastic to have you here at this meeting of AUSMIN following up on our last meeting together in December in Washington.

We obviously do meet this morning with heavy hearts with the news of the accident of the Australian Army helicopter, the MRH90 overnight, with four air crew on board.  Firstly, I really want to thank the assistance of the United States in the efforts in respect of the search and rescue.  Right now there are American personnel who are playing a critical role in the search and rescue effort, and it says something about the relationship of our country that at this moment in time we are working so closely together.

And Penny and I both reflected that, particularly for you, Lloyd, this is an experience that you’ve had to deal with on many occasions.  For us, this is something which is newer.  But we really are reminded as our two countries are exercising together in Talisman Sabre that this is serious work, it is risky work, but it’s work between two countries which have been side by side for more than a century in engaging in conflict and in our defense forces working together.

And in that sense, we have no better friend than the United States.  And the gravity of all of that seems to sit above this meeting today as we consider issues in a world which is more complex, more volatile, in many ways more threatening, and I think this highlights just how significant are our conversations today around how we meet that world together.

I think in moments like this, the instinct is to be – or want to be – with friends and family.  I think for Penny and I, we definitely feel like that is where we’re at sitting around this table today.  And so we are really grateful to be able to meet with you today and to follow up the initiatives that we started talking about last December, but to do so knowing that ours is an unbreakable bond.

Tony.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Richard, Penny, Lloyd, friends:  We, like you, are thinking of your four servicemembers.  We’re thinking of them and we’re thinking of their family, their friends, their comrades.  We are so grateful to them for their dedication, for their service, for everything that they have been doing to stand up for the freedom that we share, and that is what unites us more than anything else.

And to the extent we can continue to be of assistance, of course we will be, but mostly our thoughts are with them, our thoughts are with you.  And we are – it only underscores, I think, the gratitude that we have for the fact that we stand together here and around the world in support of freedom, of openness, of progress for our people and for people around the world.  We have work to do with AUSMIN.  I have to say that our own alliance, our own partnership, is stronger than it’s ever been, and for that as well the United States has tremendous gratitude.  Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER WONG:  Thank you, Tony, Lloyd.  Welcome to Queensland.  Thank you for being here.  As Richard said, we do meet with heavy hearts today.  And while I wanted to – what I was reminded of this morning was it’s – it is this stark reminder of the risk that the men and women who serve us take and the courage that they show every day in the service of their country.  And our thoughts are with the personnel and with their families and with all of our men and women who serve in the ADF.  And again, thank you for your assistance.

The alliance, our partnership, is a part of our history.  It’s a part of who we are.  It’s a demonstration of our friendship, our shared interests, our shared values.  And in today’s world it is more important than ever, and not as an historic institution but as a living, breathing articulation of how we together shape our region, our destinies, and the sort of world we want to live in.  That’s how we see it.

And we’ve been in government now just over a year, and can I say I think this is the second time we’ve met in eight months.  Antony, you and I seem to meet often in different parts of the world, and we are as active as we can be.  Diplomatically and militarily we are – and strategically we are closely aligned, and we are working together to ensure that these – in these times of great challenges we can do all we can together to ensure the stable, prosperous, and peaceful region that both our nations seek.  Thank you for being here and thank you for the work we do together every day.

SECRETARY AUSTIN:  Deputy Prime Minister Marles, Foreign Minister, it’s a real pleasure to be here with you today.  I want to thank you for the warm welcome that you’ve provided us throughout and the great work that we’ve done together.  Our teams are, in fact, inseparable.  They continue to communicate in ways that strengthen our relationship.  We – you and I, I think, DPM, have met some nine times now in the period that you’ve been in office, which speaks to the strength of our relationship.

I offer my words of support as well.  These are – it’s always tough when you have – when you have accidents in training.  But to Penny’s point, the reason that we train to such high standards is so that we can be successful and we can protect lives when we are called to answer any kind of crisis.  Our guys tend to make this look easy, and they make it look easy because they are so well exercised and rehearsed and trained, and this is unfortunately part of that with what it takes to get them to where we need to be.

This is about – in terms of our relationship, this is about values.  We share common values.  We share a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and that vision continues to bring us closer and closer together.  We’re working on some important things that I think will create opportunities for us for the foreseeable future, for generations.  And I want to thank you and the foreign minister for your incredible professionalism and, again, the warm welcome that you’ve shown us since we’ve been here.  This is a special place, and thanks for sharing it with us.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MARLES:  Thank you.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-secretary-of-defense-lloyd-j-austin-iii-australian-deputy-prime-minister-and-minister-for-defense-richard-marles-and-australian-foreign-minister-penny-wong-before-the-a/