Chapter 1

Securing our Region and Building Prosperity

Photo of Royal Malaysian Navy officers visit HMAS Arunta at the port of Kemaman

Royal Malaysian Navy officers visit HMAS Arunta at the port of Kemaman, Malaysia, 2015.

Defence and security cooperation between Australia and Malaysia has been a cornerstone of the bilateral relationship. Before our 60 years of formal engagement, during World War II, we fought side-by-side in the Malayan Campaign and suffered together under Japanese occupation. For both Australia and Malaya, the years 1941 to 1945—followed by the Malayan Emergency and Konfrontasi in the 1950s and 1960s—defined our history of defence cooperation. Shared national interests, formalised under the Australia, New Zealand and Malaya (ANZAM) arrangement in 1949 and the Anglo-Malayan Defence Agreement (AMDA) in 1957, and later the still current Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) in 1971, highlighted the priority of regional peace and security for both governments.

In the twenty-first century, together, we face new challenges. Australia's Defence White Paper 2013 noted that the 'significant bilateral defence relationship with Malaysia is based on mutual interests and a shared history of operational deployments'.1 While that history of operational deployment was first framed by the traditional concerns of defending territory, our contemporary interests respond to a more complex security environment. Non-traditional security concerns now encompass threats such as terrorism, transnational crime, natural disasters, cyber security, climate change, and public health epidemics.2 Australia and Malaysia work closely together—on both a bilateral and multilateral basis—on all of these issues.