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Speech at the launch of the Defence White Paper, Sydney.
Speech 02 May 2009
Speech at the launch of the Defence White Paper
This is a good day for the Australian Defence Force, this is a good day also for the Australian nation. It is a good day for the men and women who serve our nation in uniform.
The first responsibility of any Government is to provide for the national security of Australia. And for this Government there is no higher priority. Our defence force lies at the absolute core of our national security framework. Without a strong defence force, the rest of the framework would be weak, it would be hollow and it would be ineffective. With a strong defence force, our national security framework has strength at its core.
Australia’s national security will face increasing challenges in the coming years as our security environment changes and the Australian Government must remain vigilant in responding to those challenges and to those changes. As the Minister said before, it is almost a decade since Australia conducted a thorough review of its national defence. That is why we have fulfilled our commitment to deliver a comprehensive Defence White Paper once we came to Government.
The decisions I set out today are designed to make Australia ready for the range of challenges that are likely to emerge.
Today this Government releases the Defence White Paper to build Force 2030. - the defence force Australia will need for the next generation to meet the national security challenges of the future. Today therefore is an important preparation day for the challenges that lie ahead, an important day also therefore for the nation itself.
Before discussing the kind of defence force we will need in the future, we must first assess our strategic operating environment. We launch this White Paper today in a strategic environment different from that described by the last White Paper almost a decade ago.
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Some trends that emerged that had emerged before then, such as the increasing pace of globalisation and state fragility in our near neighbourhood, continue. But other trends such as the rise of terrorism, the realignment of global and regional power realities and emerging threats such as border protection, climate change and resource security represent newer dynamics that will also affect our strategic and security environment for the future.
The key features of Australia’s future security environment are as follows. First it is our clear conclusion that the United States will remain the most powerful and influential actor out to 2030. No other power, no other power will have the military, economic or strategic capacity to challenge US primacy over the period covered by this White Paper.
Furthermore our alliance with the United States will remain the bedrock on which Australia’s national security is built. It is an alliance that has prospered under 13 United States Presidents and 13 Australian Prime Ministers and it continues with that strength for the future. This alliance is enduring and remains vital to Australia’s future defence.
Within the Asia-Pacific Region economic growth should help foster stability and security but there are likely to be tensions between the major powers where the interests of the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia intersect.
While the chance of direct confrontation between any of these major powers is small, there is always the possibility of miscalculation.
China will continue to be a key driver of economic activity both globally and in the region in the period out to 2030. It will also be Asia’s strongest military power by a wide margin, and China is likely to develop a significant military capability commensurate with its size. The management of the relationship
between the United States and China will be critical for stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Within Southeast Asia and Indonesia, economic and social development will continue. The evolution of Indonesia as a stable democratic state with strong social cohesion is important to our strategic interests and provides it with a strong platform for long-term stability and prosperity. The success of Indonesia’s democratic transformation under President Yudhoyono and under his leadership is an important contribution to our longer-term regional
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In the South Pacific and East Timor, economic, social and political instability will continue to present challenges to our strategic interests. This may create conditions in which Australia might be required to respond with security and humanitarian assistance, as we have done in the past. Coalition operations in support of our wider interests will also remain critical. And as I stated this past Tuesday on our enhanced contribution to Afghanistan, we must not allow Afghanistan to once again become the unimpeded training ground and operating base for global terrorist activity.
Within this environment that sees shifts in the alignment of global power, regional uncertainty and the continuing threat of terrorism, we also see new challenges that will face our defence force out to 2030. Most significantly, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is of serious concern. There is a risk that the number of states with a ‘break-out’ capability to produce WMD will increase due to the proliferation of dual-use infrastructure and the continued operation of WMD proliferation networks.
And we see new security risks also emerging over the potential impact of climate change and resource security. These trends are likely to exacerbate existing problems in governance and population in developing countries.
The environment I have just described will present our defence forces with challenges of a new and different order to those we have faced before. We must have a flexible and effective force to deal with a wider range of contingencies. Contingencies that range from stabilisation operations and humanitarian and disaster relief to the more remote possibility of direct conflict.
In shaping Force 2030 we don’t just need to know our strategic environment, we also need to know the primary tasks that our Defence Force will need to be able to perform. Australia’s defence policy is based on the core principle of self reliance in the direct defence of Australia. This means that we must have the ability to conduct independent military operations in the defence of Australia by controlling our air and sea approaches and denying any potential adversary the ability to operate in our immediate neighbourhood.
There is no more important task for the Australian Defence Force than the defence of Australia and it is around this task that our force is shaped. But we
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also need to do conduct other tasks when it is in our interests to do so. This means we need to have the capacity to act independently where we have unique interests at stake and do not wish to be reliant on the combat forces of others, lead military coalitions where we have shared strategic interests at stake with others and make tailored contributions to military coalitions where we share wider strategic interests with others.
These objectives shape the priority tasks that our defence forces will be required to undertake in the strategic environment out to 2030. These tasks are: deterring and defeating attacks on Australia by controlling our air and sea approaches against credible adversaries, contributing to Stability and Security in the South Pacific and East Timor by assisting our neighbours in dealing with humanitarian and disaster relief, and on occasion stabilisation interventions as we have done in the past.
Further, contributing to military contingencies in the wider Asia-Pacific Region including by way of assisting our Southeast Asian partners to meet external challenges and contributing to military contingencies in support of global security by supporting the efforts of the international community in upholding a rules-based global order, where our interests align and where we have the capacity to do so.
In order to undertake these tasks in an increasingly demanding strategic environment, we will need a force that is capable of confronting a wide range of contingencies both now and into the future. Making that happen will require significant long term investment but that investment is in our long term national interest and will help secure our nation and our people for decades to come. That is why we have decided to acquire Force 2030.
One of the great mistakes of military strategy throughout history has been to prepare to fight the last war. The Australian Government is determined not to repeat that error. We need to ensure that our defence forces are shaped in the geo-political realities of the century ahead. That is why this defence paper looks forward to 2030 and seeks to determine what our defence forces will need over the next 20 years.
Force 2030 represents the most powerful, integrated and sophisticated set of military capabilities that our nation has ever acquired in order to plan effectively for our nation’s future national security needs. It is a force that provides us with the reach, weight and flexibility to undertake the principal
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tasks for the Australian Defence Force.
Force 2030 represents a long-term investment in Australia’s security, and the White Paper describes the key capability elements that comprise the force. These capabilities include increasing our major naval assets by one third, doubling the size of our submarine fleet and transforming our surface fleet from light to heavy Frigates and destroyers.
Force 2030 will include therefore the following: