Australia’s Defence commitments are focussing on the Indo-Pacific region as part of the Morrison Government’s commitment to the 2020 Defence Strategic Update.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC said the Royal Australian Navy is more active in the Indo-Pacific region than it has been in decades.
“This year alone has seen Navy respond to the bushfire and COVID-19 crises, a five-ship deployment throughout South East Asia and the Pacific, a continued commitment to initiatives under the Pacific Step Up, and several highly successful activities with our regional partners,” Minister Reynolds said.
“We now face an increasingly challenging strategic environment which is placing greater demand on ADF resources closer to home.
“As a result, the Australian Defence Force will reduce its naval presence in the Middle East to enable more resources to be deployed in our region.”
The changes include ceasing the annual deployment of a Royal Australian Navy ship to the Middle East, and not extending Australia’s time-bound commitment to the International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) beyond December 2020.
Minister Reynolds said Australia is proud of its longstanding commitment to maritime security in the Middle East.
“For over 30 years we have supported freedom of navigation, maritime security and the free flow of commerce in the Middle East,” Minister Reynolds said.
“In cooperation with our partners, our commitments have been invaluable in disrupting global drugs trade, supporting the reduction of funding lines to terrorism activity and building the capacity of regional forces.
“I thank the Navy for their contribution in the Middle East over this period of operations. I also recognise the important role their families and friends played during these deployments – their support allows those in uniform to achieve the mission.”
Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton AO, CSC said these are historic changes for the Australian Defence Force.
“The outstanding contribution of Royal Australian Navy ships has been highly valued by our partners in the Middle East. We should all be proud of what the Royal Australian Navy has achieved over such a long period of sustained operations.”
The Australian Defence Force will maintain staff positions with the Combined Maritime Forces, the United States Naval Forces Central Command, and within Joint Task Force 633.
HMAS Toowoomba was the last Australian ship to deploy to the Middle East under Operation MANITOU. Toowoomba returned to Australia in June 2020.