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Thursday, 2 April 1992
Page: 1822

(Question No. 1393)

Mr Connolly asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 4 March 1992:

  (1) Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the statement by Malaysia's Minister for Defence, Dato Sri Mohamed Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, in issue 7/91 of the Asian Defence Journal, that exclusive of Vietnam most south-east Asian states are under-armed.

  (2) Has the Australian Government made a similar assessment; if so, why; if not, why not.

Mr Bilney —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

  (1) Yes.

  (2) As Dato' Najib explained in his statement, many Southeast Asian states, such as Malaysia, have previously concentrated on internal rather than external security. With consistent economic growth and growing national resilience, such states are now able to focus more on their external defence and security requirements.

  All national governments have a responsibility to provide for the external security of their people. The appropriate level of defence spending and the size of armed forces are matters for individual countries to decide in the light of their overall national priorities. It is not for Australia to comment in this context on the appropriateness of the level of resources allocated to defence by regional states.