Defence spending was quarantined from the cuts unveiled in the recent budget, and the country wants to eventually increase it to an amount equivalent to two per cent of GDP.
But a leading analyst has questioned Australia’s defence priorities against the backdrop of a deteriorating security situation in Asia, and in the lead up to the next defence white paper.
China is an emerging power eager to challenge the existing order and its sabre rattling has intensified in recent months. It isn’t surprising it wants to make its presence felt. But experts are surprised by how quickly the situation has changed.
Coupled with worsening relations between Asian nations more broadly, Australia is staring down the barrel of a tumultuous period in regional diplomacy.
China is facing off with Vietnam, and is also locked in a tussle with the Philippines and Japan, and these conflicts have threatened to spill into a military conflict. Relations between Japan and South Korea are also at their lowest point in recent history.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Mark Thomson says Australia needs to spend even more money, and to broaden its approach. He explained to the ABC:
“We need to consider two questions – we need to consider if we are spending enough and we need to consider if we are spending the money on the right sort of capabilities for the challenges that lie ahead.
“The things that we should be looking at in this current white paper are the sort of capabilities that give Australia options in what is fundamentally an air and maritime environment of the Asia-Pacific.
“So we are talking about submarines, we are talking about maritime patrol aircraft, we are talking about combat aircraft like the F-35 [Joint Strike Fighter]. The white paper will need to respond to the environment as it is changing around us.
“I think many things that we have put in the forefront of our defence planning in the past, like the ability to do defence stabilisation operations in the near region, they will remain. But we are going to have to add to that serious considerations for more serious developments.”
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