Australia has inherited a proud legacy from Sir Douglas Mawson and the generations of Australian Antarctic expeditioners who have followed in his footsteps — a legacy of heroism, scientific endeavour and environmental stewardship.

Mawson’s legacy has forged, for all Australians, a profound and significant connection with Antarctica. The Australian Antarctic Territory occupies a unique place in our national identity.

Australia’s Antarctic science program is one of our most iconic and enduring national endeavours. Antarctica is of great importance to Australians, and Antarctic science will continue to be one of our national priorities.

Antarctica is an extreme and hostile environment. Modern and effective Antarctic operations and logistics capabilities are the lifeline of Australia’s activities and presence in Antarctica.

Providing new operational funding and the modernisation of our Australian Antarctic program is critical to enabling Australia to continue our strong support for the Antarctic Treaty system, deliver world-class science, and run our Antarctic operations safely and efficiently.

The Government will bring Australia’s Antarctic presence and science into the next generation through the acquisition of a new world-class icebreaker, restoration of our inland traverse capability, preliminary work to develop year-round aviation access and revitalising Antarctic science infrastructure.

The icebreaker represents the biggest single investment by an Australian Government in the Australian Antarctic program. Reliable access to Antarctica and a modern, sophisticated and multidisciplinary science platform in the Southern Ocean is essential to Australia’s scientific research and leadership in Antarctica. The efficient and effective use of the new icebreaker will be maximised by the delivery of associated infrastructure in Antarctica.

Delivery of an overland traverse capability with associated ice core drilling and mobile research station infrastructure will enable Australia to take a lead role in major research projects including the search for a million year ice core.

Significant progress has already been made by the Government on improving aviation access to Antarctica. We have undertaken C-17A trial flights to provide an option for a new heavy-lift cargo capability. Work will continue across Government to further build support for the Australian Antarctic program.

The Government’s investment in Antarctic capability, in support of Antarctic science, represents a step change in our Antarctic program and will equip us to be a partner of choice in East Antarctica and to work even more closely with other countries within the Antarctic Treaty system.

A strong and effective Antarctic Treaty system is in Australia’s national interest. The Government will use our international engagement to build and maintain strong and effective relationships with other nations in support of the Antarctic Treaty system.

Our proximity to Antarctica provides valuable opportunities. Tasmania boasts one of the world’s leading Antarctic gateway sectors for science and logistics and hosts the world’s largest and most vibrant concentration of Antarctic and Southern Ocean expertise, drawing in research and logistical capabilities from around the world. This inspires world-leading innovation and technological development. Through ongoing work between the Commonwealth and State Governments and industry, Tasmania’s status as an Antarctic Gateway and research hub will be further enhanced.

The Government is delivering a new era of Australian Antarctic endeavour. It is timely to reaffirm our national Antarctic interests, and to set out a plan to protect and promote them.

This Australian Antarctic Strategy and its accompanying Action Plan will guide Australia’s Antarctic engagement into the future and build on our past century of leadership. It will ensure that Antarctica remains valued, protected and understood.

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia