Sunda Strait exhibition opening
Good morning. Itake this opportunity to acknowledge the Indonesian Ambassador, theConsul-Generals from the United States, from Indonesia, and Japan. Rear Admiral, thank you for your re-telling of theextraordinary story of the Battle of the Sunda Strait, distinguished guests,all.
A few moments ago Iwas visiting the International Defence Exposition over here at the conventioncentre and we were showcasing the most contemporary and modern capability thatis available for warfare today, and there was a great emphasis oninter-operability between Australia and the United States defence forces.
I'm reminded that next year marks the 100thanniversary of military engagement between Australia and the United States. In1918 at the Battle of Hamel, Australian infantry, the US Infantry combined intoa force that was led by Australia's great GeneralJohn Monash. I believe that was the first and only time that a United Statesinfantry force has been led by a foreign commander. We have fought side-by-sidewith the United States in every major military conflict since that time and ourrelationship was deepened during the darkest days of World War II. The Battleof the Sunda Strait is a reminder of the proximity of World War II to Australiaand a reminder of how Australian and US forces again stood side-by-side. WorldWar II had a dramatic impact on our region including Indonesia and of coursethe United States and Australia. My dad was in Darwin during World War II and Ihave been back there with him as we commemorate the battle for Darwin, thebattle for Australia, which occurred in February of 1942. But the sinking ofHMAS Perth and USS Houston on the 28th of February and the 1st of March in 1942 had a pretty devastating impact onthe psyche of both our nations at that time.
The wreck site is atomb for the brave servicemen, all 1,071 from our two cruisers, who were killedduring that battle. I join with others in paying tribute to the two remainingsurvivors from HMAS Perth, Frank McGovern and David Manning. It is an absolutedelight to see you both here - two young boys at 94 and 98 - wonderful to seeyou here and I was so touched to hear your stories of how you survived and howyou survived your time as a POW. Remarkable men representing an extraordinarygeneration, thank you for your service.
In February of thisyear during Indonesian President Widodo's visit toAustralia he reflected on their 75th Anniversary of the Battle ofSunda Strait and together with Prime Minister Turnbull, President Widodo committedIndonesia – and Prime Minister Turnbullcommitted Australia – to greater sharedcooperation to preserve our maritime, cultural heritage. At the same time andduring the same visit Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and I signed aJoint Declaration on Maritime Cooperation.
A recent exerciseby Australia and Indonesia underscores this commitment to greater cooperation.Australia and Indonesia carried out a survey dive on the wreck site of HMASPerth and this exercise undertaken by the Australian Maritime Museum, ournational maritime museum, and also the Indonesian National Centre forArchaeology. I congratulate all the officials and representatives of those twoorganisations who carried out this survey. Unfortunately the results of thesurvey come as somewhat of a shock and we find that only 40 per cent of HMASPerth remains - less than half of the wreck remains - because it has been significantlydamaged by illegal salvaging. I find this –as apatriotic Australian – to be quite adisturbing outcome. So we are now working very closely with the IndonesianGovernment to ensure that we can preserve the wreck site, the remains, andensure that this illegal salvaging is stopped, prevented from occurring. Thissurvey will be presented by the Indonesian National Centre for Archaeology tothe relevant Indonesian ministries and Australia stands ready to work closelywith Indonesia to ensure that we can preserve the remains of HMAS Perth. We oweit to the servicemen who were killed in March 1942 aboard that ship. We alsounderstand that the wreck site has now been marked as a marine conservationarea and I deeply appreciate the support of the Indonesian government for thisis a first step along a path to more formal recognition and legislation and wewill certainly do what we can to support that act.
I am honoured to open this exhibition for theBattle of the Sunda Strait. I know it will be travelling around the country, I'mlooking forward to it coming to Perth in Western Australia. I pay tribute toall those who have put together this magnificent exhibition so that we neverforget our history. We treasure the memory of those who served to keep Australiasafe and we acknowledge the extraordinary efforts of the American andAustralian servicemen and women who to this day serve our nations to keepfreedom, democracy, our vales as nations alive and thriving. It is with a greatdeal of pleasure and with great humility that I declare open this exhibition atAustralia's National Maritime Museum, the Guardians of the Sunda Strait.