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Britain, Australia boost defence links

Australia on Friday signed a defence treaty with former colonial power Britain designed to further boost cooperation on military and security issues.

Australia's Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the treaty was designed "to underpin the ongoing strategic and practical cooperation" between the nations, as well as to reflect their historical relationship.

It will see the two countries share information, technology, policy and personnel in a bid to minimise costs, as well as strengthening ties in the fields of cyber security, defence reform, equipment, and science and technology.

Smith said the idea for the accord had arisen during Australia-UK ministerial talks two years ago, to ensure all "practical cooperation measures, arrangements, protocols, and memorandums of understanding that we have... be put under a broad strategic framework".

He described the Defence and Security Cooperation Treaty as "deeply significant", adding that the relationship between the two countries "has always been first class".

"It reflects not just our history, but also our closeness and our desire to work even more closely in a practical cooperation sense, whether that's on strategic matters or procurement and acquisition matters, into the future," Smith said.

British Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the treaty gave the allies a framework on which to build on their existing high level of co-operation.

"As we draw down from Afghanistan... we need to think about how we maintain levels of interoperability with each other," he said.

"Secondly, we all face budgetary challenges over the coming months and years, and looking at how we manage our fleets of vehicles, aircraft and ships and how we procure our equipment, we need to get the maximum leverage from our dollars and pounds."

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