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No peace divided for Australia

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Australians must understand that they cannot pocket a "peace dividend" as a result of the end of the Cold War, Shadow

Minister for Defence Alexander Downer said today.

Speaking to the Wannon/Corangamite Conference of the Liberal Party in Victoria today, Mr Downer said it was alarming how many Australians thought the end of the Cold war meant Australia was able to dispense with a serious defence force

and spend the money on other things.

"The truth is, we are moving into a new and uncertain era in the Asia-Pacific region and we will have to make a solid contribution to the stability and security of that region as it becomes increasingly multi-polar.

"Since the end of the second world War, our part of the world has been able to rest comfortably knowing that the beneficence of the United States will guarantee its security.

"The end of the Cold War has changed all that.

1 The United States, while still committed to the region, will inevitably play a smaller role in underwriting its security as America downsizes its military presence. The United States is finalising its withdrawal from the Philippines and at home is

significantly cutting its defence budget.

"It is going too far to say the downgrading of America's presence will create a power vacuum but what is clear is that other nations will play a growing part in the security affairs of the region.

"Australia needs to make sure it plays its part in ensuring political differences in the region are resolved in a peaceful way.

"Although very few Australians would be aware of this fact, Australia is by far the most significant military power in the South East Asian and South West Pacific region thanks to purchases by former Coalition governments of equipment such as F/A 18s and the redoubtable Fills. I say without any hint of apology that that is a good thing.

C C K ih lU f i vVtAi, i l l I Parliament House, Canberra, A C T 2600 PA RLIA M EN TA R Y L IB R A R Y Telephone (06) 277 4145 Facsimile (06) 277 2143 __________________________ After Hours Telephone: (08) 339 5152 or (0 6 )2 8 6 1 5 0 4

"As a nation, we believe passionately in the resolution of differences by peaceful means and the very fact that we are militarily significant actually helps to achieve that objective just as, for the past 45 years, the very presence of

the US in the region has, in the main, discouraged any hot­ headed rush to military solutions to difficult problems".

Mr Downer said it was important countries like Australia which were closely aligned with the United States continued to encourage the US to remain involved with the region.

"The Coalition's defence policy, to be announced soon, will not only contain a solid commitment to the consolidation of the ANZUS Alliance.

"But whether we like it or not, we cannot in the years ahead just assume the American public will be willing to underwrite the security of our region without we ourselves making our own solid contribution.

"Under Labor, Australia has not clearly understood this regional perspective. Defence policy has revolved around the almost childlike proposition that we should spend $10 billion a year to prepare for so-called low level contingencies. That is a fancy way of saying Australia's defence effort is about preparing for attacks on northern Australia by groups of

foreign commandos in rubber boats throwing hand grenades at remote homesteads and communities.

"in the highly unlikely event of such contingencies occurring, we obviously have to be able to deal with them.

"But we do need a broader vision than that and we do need to try through building defence ties with our neighbours to make a solid contribution to region security.

"If we just turned our backs on defence then we would turn our backs on the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

"The Coalition has no intention of doing that".

30 August 1992

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