Thank you very much Uncle Ray for your very warm welcome to country. And together we all honour your elders past and present in future.
Your Excellency’s, my ministerial colleagues, leaders of our Defence Force, Chief of the Army, Chief of the Navy, Fleet Commander, Fleet Commander of the Spanish Armada is with us as well in recognition of the partnership with Navantia, Captain Stavridis and the crew of the new ship Hobart about to become the ships company of HMAS Hobart, distinguished guests, members of our Defence Force, ladies and gentlemen - Lucy and I are honoured to be here with you today.
A great day for our Navy, a great day for Australia.
We are an island nation and a trading nation. Our maritime forces deployed around the world in support of the rules-based global order which has delivered to Australia and Australians safety and prosperity for 70 years.
We live in times of great opportunity but also of great risk. The strategic environment in our region indeed around the world is more uncertain than it has been for many years.
It is vital that we have a Navy fit for service in the 21st century. A Navy which can project itself into the region and protect our interests both now and well into the future.
In the Defence White Paper that the Minister for Defence, Senator Marise Payne, and I released in 2016, my government set out the most ambitious plan to renew the Royal Australian Navy since the Second World War.
My Government will build the Navy of the future in Australia and in so doing create a sovereign naval shipbuilding industry – a national enterprise – to ensure that the men and women of the Royal Australian Navy, who go into harm’s way, have the best capabilities they need to complete their mission and return home safely to their families.
Ours is an ambitious plan – we have already committed to building 54 ships in Australian shipyards, approving 30 of them in the past year alone – including future submarines, future frigates, offshore patrol vessels and new pacific patrol boats for our region.
I have absolute faith that Defence and our local defence industry will deliver on this plan.
It is a nation building plan.
Securing our future, securing the future of our economic strength because it builds the industries of the 21st century. The cutting edge, the most advanced, the most technologically advanced industries of the future are here to be found in building this ship and the ships and submarines that will follow.
Now as Prime Minister, it is my job to ensure that our law enforcement, defence and national security agencies have everything they need to keep Australians safe.
There is no greater, no more solemn responsibility of government.
Our region faces a serious and growing threat of terrorism.
Returned ISIL fighters and their supporters have taken a foothold in the southern Philippines, overrunning the city of Marawi and launching a lethal assault on the Filipino authorities and armed forces.
We cannot, and we must not, allow Marawi to become the Raqqa of South East Asia. The insurgency is a wake up call to the whole region, and it must be defeated.
That’s why we are supporting the Philippines Government in their efforts to root out these terrorists. Our Orion aircraft are providing vital intelligence which is being used to stay a step ahead of the threat.
Further north the actions of the rogue leader of North Korea have threatened to upend the peace and stability of the whole region, indeed of the world. Kim Jong-un’s brinkmanship and standover tactics pose an unacceptable risk to us all.
Australia will continue to play a leading role in ensuring that the world takes action peacefully to bring this reckless regime to its senses. The continued ratcheting up of economic sanctions by the global community including china is our best prospect of curbing North Korea’s reckless conduct without conflict.
Now, in these uncertain times, a strong and well equipped Australian Defence Force is absolutely critical.
Our investment and the commissioning of HMAS Hobart today provide the clear evidence of our determination to keep Australians safe, and ensure that we are ready and able to meet the challenges that come our way in the years ahead.
As I have said many times, there can be no “set and forget” in national security.
The defence of our nation is critical – it is the supreme, the preeminent responsibility of government. But this is about action not words. It’s about days like today - landmark moments in which we demonstrate our commitment to keeping Australians safe.
So from today, the Hobart and its crew are recognised as having all the rights and responsibilities of an Australian warship, as well as having the privilege under domestic and international law as being representatives of our nation, of our nation’s sovereignty.
She and her crew can exercise coercive powers under domestic and international law in furtherance of our nation’s interest, and can use force to defend Australia and our interests.
Wherever she may travel around the world she will serve our nation and take action in Australia’s name.
I want to pay tribute to the Defence Minister, Marise Payne, whose daily role is to keep our nation secure and lead the Australian Defence Force and Defence Department – she’s doing an outstanding job and she is an inspiration to all of us, and particularly for young Australian women.
Similarly, Christopher Pyne, our first ever Defence Industry Cabinet Minister, is developing our sovereign defence sector right here in Australia and ensuring we have the workforce and the infrastructure we need to build the capabilities of the future of this national enterprise.
I would like to now directly address Hobart’s Commanding Officer, Captain Stavridis, and the men and women of the crew of new ship Hobart — shortly as I said to become the ships company of HMAS Hobart. Thank you for your efforts in getting Hobart ready for today.
The voyages that take you far from home and family, for many months at a time, demand the utmost courage, resilience and sacrifice by you and by your families. Your families also serve, as I’ve said to you on many occasions, in this time of centenaries, we best honour the diggers of a century ago by supporting the servicemen and women, the veterans and their families of today. That is my government’s objective and our commitment.
Now we heard about the history of the Hobart, the two HMAS Hobart’s that came before and Rear Admiral Mayer talked about the HMAS Hobart (II) that served in the Vietnam War.
HMAS Hobart (I) won many battle honours in the Second World War but perhaps none more crucial in terms of the history of our nation and the world than that in the Battle of the Coral Sea. We commemorated the Battle of the Coral Sea in New York recently on the Aircraft Carrier Intrepid with President Trump.
And we were joined there by veterans of that battle, Australians and Americans, and from the Hobart Gordon Johnson, Bill White and Derek Holyoake. They’d been boys really when they served 75 years ago.
That battle was in a year that Churchill described as the ‘Hinge of Fate’, 1942.
It was one of those points when the tide of history could have gone either way and the Battle of the Coral Sea would not have been won without HMAS Hobart, without the Australian warships lead by Rear Admiral Crace.
It was a combined Australia and US Navy operation. It turned back a Japanese invasion of New Guinea which would had it been successful cut Australia off from our ally, the United States for the rest of the war. It also took out of action Japanese carriers and warships which, had they not been so damaged and sunk, would have been present at the Battle of Midway and that battle too could have gone the other way.
Hobart was there on the hinge of fate, determining through the courage, the professionalism of its crew the destiny of our nation.
So it is a great heritage that Hobart inherits today and will lead on for a generation to come.
So, I want to say to the all who have worked to bring Hobart to this point and all who will serve on her, I want to say as Prime Minister, thank you on behalf of a grateful nation that knows our freedoms were hard won and hard held by you and your fellow servicemen and women, today as they have been for the generations that came before you and will be by the generations that succeed you on frontlines far from home and family.
As the Defence Minister said always in our hearts, always in our minds.
Australia thanks you and salutes you for your service.