HMAS Melbourne: 'Privilege to command 220 Australians'
A grey ship on a grey Sydney day, sporting the green growth, the rusty stains and the bushy beards of a long journey.
But the crew oh the HMAS Melbourne was all spruced up and familiar landmarks finally in sight after six months at sea.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Commander Marcus Buttler told 9News
“It’s a real privilege to command 220 great Australians.”
The cruise was undoubtedly part of Australia's push-back against growing Chinese influence in the Pacific and the construction of artificial islands.
“We are increasing our activities in south-east Asia in particular,” Christopher Pyne said.
HMAS Melbourne though sailed straight through the contentious region.
“As well as navigating through the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands, as part of our ongoing demonstration that we regard the South China Sea as International Waters,” Mr Pyne said.
“This highlights just how important it is for Australia to get involved in the region,” Commodore Chris Smith told 9News.
“Making sure the seaways are free for all people to utilise.”
Crew to crew, there was no friction when the Australian ship made a stop in China.
“The Chinese were fantastic as always, very welcoming… hosted us really well,” Commander Buttler said.
It was a goodwill visit with some sporting contests.
“We won the tug-of-war which is the most important thing.”
But putting aside the delicate diplomacy, today was all about a captain, and his crew, coming home.