Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 3 2014 Contents Defence
The Acting Assistant Secretary of the
Major Powers Branch, Alex Kelton,
says the agreement reaffirms both
countries’ commitment to work towards
full implementation of the Force Posture
Initiatives, including the rotational
deployments of US Marines through Darwin,
and provides a robust legal, financial and
policy framework to take the initiatives
“It’s been characterised as our most
important security agreement with the US
since we signed the Pine Gap Treaty,” Alex
Against a backdrop of the recent
developments in Iraq and the downing of
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, this year’s
discussions acknowledged the high level
of cooperation between the two countries
and their importance in countering shared
threats, not only in the Asia-Pacific and
Indian Ocean regions, but across the globe.
“We’ve had 10 years of operations together
in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we now enjoy
high levels of interoperability. It is important
that we maintain and enhance this link,” Alex
“The US alliance is our most important
security relationship, and having this annual
opportunity to sit down with the Secretary of
State and Secretary of Defense is unique,”
“It’s something we’re both very committed
to, and there’s a heavy investment in this
meeting from both the Australian and US
This year’s AUSMIN Communiqué reaffirmed
both countries’ commitment to supporting
the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific and the
Force Posture Initiatives, and to exploring
opportunities for enhanced cooperation on
issues such as ballistic missile defence and
defence industry collaboration.
On the surface, it’s a high-profile, extremely
successful bilateral meeting. What’s less
obvious is the mammoth logistical effort
behind the scenes. Months of planning and
hard work go into the day-long consultations
and associated bilateral program of
meetings. The enormous task fell largely
to Sophia and her small team in charge of
Sophia and her team were responsible for
everything from negotiations with the US
Secretary of Defense’s advance team and
their counterparts at the Department of
Foreign Affairs and Trade on the program
for the US principals, to coordinating
accommodation for senior Defence staff,
vehicles in motorcades, purchasing wreaths,
selecting food menus, right down to sourcing
miniature Australian and US flags and the
right pens and paper for the meeting.
“You’re really thinking about the big picture,
what we’re trying to achieve from the
program, and then you’re trying to drill down
into the details of everything that’s involved
in each of those,” Sophia says.
From thinking big picture to capturing
the picture of the day, Lauren Larking, of
Defence Multimedia, faced her own huge
task as the official whole-of-government
photographer for AUSMIN.
“I was a little daunted,” Lauren admits.
“I just told myself: ‘You’re going to be fine,
you know how to take photos, so you’ve got
nothing to worry about’,” she says.
Lauren’s no stranger to shooting high-profile
events. She has photographed everything
from the Chiefs of Defence Staff meetings
to Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Canberra. What
struck her about photographing AUSMIN
was the principals’ interaction with one
“It didn’t feel forced, it didn’t feel like they
were doing it for the cameras; it felt genuine,
it just seemed natural,” Lauren says.
Alex says that is a reflection of the close
relationship that has been formed between
the Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs
and the two US Secretaries.
“The relationship is extremely warm and
friendly and the discussions are free-flowing
and frank,” Alex says.
For those involved in AUSMIN, there’s a real
buzz about the experience.
For Lauren, the highlight was waiting on the
tarmac for the arrival of the US Secretary
of Defense “with all the police presence
there and the US Secret Service, and the
helicopters in the sky, and being told ‘Don’t
get in the way’.” It marked the start of a
whirlwind 48 hours.
For the Major Powers Branch, particularly
the US Alliance Policy section, the hard work
“We’re looking towards the 2015 Marine
rotation and what that means. Obviously
2015 will be a very busy year as well, with
Exercise Talisman Sabre, so it’s onwards and
upwards,” Alex says.
Lauren Larking and Travis
Longmore at work during
the official party’s cruise
on Sydney Harbour.
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