June 6, 2012
MATT PEACOCK: , Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith Flew to China for talks in Beijing today to allay Chinese concerns that Australia plans to use submarines to cut supply lines to China in the event of a war between the two nations.
The Minister was questioned about media reports of secret plans for Australian submarines to cut supply lines to China in the event of a war; something Mr Smith categorically denied. He was also asked to explain why phones and laptops from his delegation were left in Hong Kong prior to arriving in the Chinese capital, for fear of cyber-spying there.
Outside a military intelligence think-tank known as the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, Mr Smith spoke to reporters, including our China correspondent Stephen McDonell,
STEPHEN SMITH: We're very positive and optimistic about Australia's defence-to-defence and military-to-military relationship with China, just as we are positive and optimistic about China's emergence in this, what we describe as, the century of the Asia-Pacific.
STEHPEN MCDONELL: China's obviously still pretty worried about the presence of US troops in the north of the country; do we have some convincing to do on that front?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well I was asked that question today at the Institute for Strategic Studies and my response is, as I've said publicly and privately previously, there's no inconsistency between Australia continuing an alliance with the United States and developing a comprehensive relationship with China.
STEHPEN MCDONELL: The question really is do we still have some convincing to do though because the question still keeps coming up no matter how many times we tell Chinese officials that that is Australia's attitude.
STEPHEN SMITH: The question may keep on coming but the analysis and the answer is exactly the same; we've had an alliance with the United States for over 60 years; we are simply enhancing those practical defence cooperation arrangements. There are no US military bases in Australia and we're not proposing to have them.
REPORTER: Minister could you explain to us why some of your entourage left some phones and other electronic equipment outside the mainland before coming to China and whether you've done this on other overseas trips before?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well it was a general proposition. Whether it's a defence minister or whether it's another ministerial travelling team there are different arrangements so far as security of communications from delegation to delegation and from country to country. And that is nothing novel, nor is it exceptional, nor is it surprising.
REPORTER: Have you done it before though?
STEPHEN SMITH: We place great store in the confidentiality of ministerial communications. It's not the first time I've gone to a country where arrangements have been made for security of confidential information to ministers.
STEHPEN MCDONELL: Is there some confusion over this white paper and whether or not there was a secret section involving a plan - a war plan for Australia and China?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well firstly there's no confusion in the minds of the Australian Government. The only confusion if any has been caused by inaccurate reporting. I've seen the reports in the last few days, it's not the first time we've seen those suggestions; they were inaccurate when they've been made in the past and they're inaccurate now and people shouldn't rely upon them.
REPORTER: So there's no section of that report which involves a war plan for Australia going to war with China?
STEPHEN SMITH: There is no so-called top secret chapter of the white paper which deals with those matters which have been erroneously asserted in public.
REPORTER: But there is a published and an unpublished version?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well any white paper has some classified materials which are used in the preparation of the white paper and that is not a surprise; that there are classified materials associated with the white paper is well known - that's been on the record for some time, indeed on the record since the publication of the white paper back in April/May 2009.
But the assertions that we've seen in recent days, either through extracts from books or from newspaper reporting, that somehow there is a top secret chapter of the white paper dealing with such matters is erroneous, it's wrong, it's misleading, it's inaccurate.
REPORTER: Are any of those things that have been talked about in the classified?
STEPHEN SMITH: Don't deal with any of the materials that have been erroneously asserted in recent days. Do not deal with any of the subject matter erroneously asserted in newspapers in recent days.
REPORTER: So that's completely categorical; there's no…?
STEPHEN SMITH: Do not deal, do not deal with those matters erroneously asserted in newspapers in recent days.
REPORTER: This is the associated classified material?
STEPHEN SMITH: Do not deal with the subject matter erroneously asserted recent days.
MATT PEACOCK: What was that again? That was Defence Minister Stephen Smith with our reporter Stephen McDonell.