Australia to Spend Big on Defence Amid Hostile Global Environment

Australia to Spend Big on Defence Amid Hostile Global Environment
A military helicopter is seen landing at the RAAF Base in East Sale, Victoria, Australia, on Jan. 2, 2020. (AAP Image/James Ross)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that the government will invest heavily in defence over the next decade to protect Australia and its interest in the changing global environment.

In a media release on July 1, the prime minister said the federal government would spend $270 billion over the next ten years to change Australia’s defence posture and pivot our priorities towards looking after the north-eastern Indian Ocean through maritime, and mainland South East Asia to Papua New Guinea and the South-West Pacific.

“My first priority is keeping Australians safe,” the prime minister said.

Speaking on the Nine’s’ Today Show on July 1 after the announcement, Morrison said that the competition between China and the United States has increased tensions globally and changed our regional environment.

“We haven’t seen a time of instability coming out of COVID-19 like this since the 1930s and early 1940s. And so we need to be conscious of that. We need to be prepared. We need to be working with other countries in the region,” said Morrison.

However, Morrison also made it clear that Australia would need a credible, focused defence force so that when “threats do emerge, we can take them further away from Australia.”

“We can’t afford not to have that,” he said.

Space Infrastructure and Long-Range Missiles Part of New Strategy

Outlining the specifics of the new strategy in the “2020 Force Structure Plan” (pdf), the Australian Defence Force (ADF) noted that one area Australia would start significantly investing in is sovereign space infrastructure to “directly contribute to warfighting outcomes in the space domain.”

“Australia holds a unique geographical position to contribute significantly to collective space domain awareness with our allies and partners,” the plan said.

The ADF will invest up to $7 billion on sovereign satellites and Australian-controlled land-based monitoring stations. The plan said this would enable Australia to counter “emerging space threats to Australia’s free use of the space domain and that assure our continued access to space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”

The ADF will also invest for the first time in an arsenal of long-range missile capabilities.

“Australia’s security environment is changing quickly, with militarisation, disruptive technological change and new grey zone threats making our region less safe,” said Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds.

“That’s why this Government will invest in more lethal and long-range capabilities to hold adversary forces and infrastructure at risk further from Australia, including longer-range strike weapons, offensive cyber capabilities and area denial capabilities,” said Reynolds.

“This will ensure we are able to shape our environment, deter actions against our interests and, if required, respond with military force,” she said.

Self-Reliance Key to Defence Force Capabilities

A key priority coming out of the “2020 Defence Strategic Update” is the strengthening of Australia’s sovereign defence industries.

Minister Reynolds said that the federal government will ensure the ADF has durable domestic supply chains, “to create more high-tech Australian jobs and enhance the ADF’s self-reliance.”

This will mean the federal government will be investing in the Australian defence industry opening up significant opportunities, with the plan assuring Australians that the “government is committed to maximising opportunities for Australian industry, including in regional areas, to participate in Defence projects.”

The ADF estimated that Australia’s defence industry has more than 4,000 businesses employing approximately 30,000 staff.

Currently, the plan outlines that the federal government has committed $3 billion into creating Australian-owned defence innovation, science, and technology over the next decade.

Reynolds and the Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price also announced in several media releases on July 1 that the ADF would be investing billions in defence redevelopment around Australia. According to Reynolds and Price, the ADF will invest $10 billion into the renewal of defence infrastructure in New South Wales, $2.5 billion in Western Australia, and $2.6 billion in South Australia over the next decade.
Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
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