Morrison aligns defence policy with new reality (Michelle Grattan)

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update has given us the ‘defence pivot … designed to increase the military costs for an enemy thinking of attacking Australia, and to boost the ability to strike back at a distance if such an attack occurred’. But does the price tag amount to significant increase in Defence spending? Michelle Grattan observes that ‘the $270 billion ‘spend’ on hardware over a decade doesn’t actually represent a big increase from the 2016 figure of $195 billion’.

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Is Australia’s security policy an expensive failure? (Mark Beeson)

With the rise of “nontraditional threats”, people are actually feeling increasingly insecure. But “to keep our nation safe and protect our way of life for future generations” the Australian government is promising to spend $270 billion on defence. Even if we weren’t facing the prospect of plunging into the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, this sort of spending and the thinking that underpins it looks highly questionable and unlikely to achieve its central goals.

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Australian strategic policy: why we need a robust public debate

Only a select group of voices is heard most often and most loudly on the subject of Australia’s strategic policy. This creates a false sense of certainty around what is a speculative and inexact policy area. The policy choices, and the connection between strategic policy and force structure, deserve to be intensively examined and validated through public debate – not least of all because the opportunity cost of defence investment is huge.

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No longer a middle power: Australia’s strategy in the 21st century (Andrew Carr)

Published in September 2019 by the French Institute of International Relations, this article by the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre’s Andrew Carr has increased relevance given Australia’s recent 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the ramping up of its critical comments on China.

Andrew Carr punctures the pretensions that infuse Australia’s formal strategic and defence policy documents and found in a lot of political statements. He paints a realistic and sobering picture of the relative decline in military and economic influence facing Australia.

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AUSMIN 2020: confirmation of Australia’s abandonment of strategic autonomy?

Australians should not take comfort from recent government statements around the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations – claims that Australia makes its own decisions, its own judgments, in the Australian national interest, in order to uphold Australia’s security, prosperity and values. Reassuring words are the slippery province of diplomacy. Strategic policy is founded in force structure and force posture.

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A replay of the 1930s: Fact or fearmongering?

Announcing the strategic shift proposed by Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update, Prime Minister Morrison compares the current strategic environment to “the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s”.

Arguing from historical analogy is a dubious business. But if the Prime Minister believes current global circumstances are comparable to those that preceded the Second World War, the response in the Strategic Update is inadequate. If he doesn’t, his references amount to fear-mongering.

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Australia’s 2020 Defence Strategic Update: no talk of war here

There is little to quarrel with in Hugh White’s assessment of the uncertainties in East Asia. His counsel to the government on the way forward for strategic policy, on the other hand, is less satisfactory.

To embark on a major expansion of Australia’s military forces is not the way to protect Australia. On the contrary, it is hard to see where engaging in war against China can result in anything but seriously adverse outcomes for Australia.

The way forward is harder than buying rockets. Australia will need to find a way to live peacefully in the Chinese behemoth’s backyard.

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