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Debates

Defence White Paper 2013

2 May 2013 10:05

The media is reporting that the Defence White Paper will be released tomorrow. The document itself will presumably appear here first, and in the hours and days after the launch, we will have commentary from a range of experts both here and on Twitter (look for the #ausdef13 hashtag).

In the meantime, here's some suggested Lowy Institute reading, starting with the long debate we ran last year on Australia's Defence Challenges. You'll find contributions there from James Brown, Hugh White, James Goldrick, Christopher Joye, Tom Hyland, Jim Molan, Rory Medcalf, David Morrison, Mike Green, Paul Dibb and more. And here's a small selection of longer papers:

John Angevine, Dangerous Luxuries:

COMMENTS

3 May 2013 08:59

The Defence White Paper is due to be released within the hour. Luke Maynard, a graduate of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, writes:

Hugh White was right – this white paper probably should have been shelved. Today's release of Defence White Paper 2013 will enter a hostile political setting of fiscal limitations, competing policy priorities and severe criticism from the Opposition, former bureaucrats, and commentators alike.

Positioned between the operational necessity of the military and the policy direction and priorities of the political realm, the creation of a white paper is always an exercise in management; of budgets, forces, and expectations. This will be no exception.

The challenges of the domestic political sphere in particular undermine the viability of this paper, with a genuine risk it could be rendered obsolete with a potential change in government in September.

COMMENTS

3 May 2013 12:21

Herewith my initial thoughts on the Defence White Paper 2013, with the usual caveat that this is the result of a first quick read and thus subject to revision.

All the talk about this White Paper is that it takes a softer line on China, and although Minister Stephen Smith says the Government has been consistent, David Wroe's language comparison of the 2009 and 2013 White Papers in the SMH tells its own story. More broadly, there's a strong emphasis in this White Paper on defence diplomacy, reinforcing the idea that we must seek our security in the region, rather than defending ourselves from it.

The other big theme is money: major projects are being cut or delayed because of the Government simply cannot afford them.

What's missing from this White Paper, as far as I can see, is any acknowledgment that the second big theme is actually driving the first. Because we cannot afford all the insurance we would like in the form of weapons systems, we have to take on slightly more risk and, to some extent, we compensate by substituting diplomacy.

COMMENTS

3 May 2013 15:19

The Australian Government was right not to set up grand expectations for its 2013 Defence White Paper released today. This is a less ambitious and in some ways more sophisticated document than the 2009 plan released by Kevin Rudd. Here are a few initial impressions.

The Government is to be commended for its unequivocal redefinition of Australia's region of security concern as the Indo-Pacific rather than the Asia Pacific. This recognises the arc of trade routes, energy flows and strategic connections between the Indian and Pacific oceans, arising especially from the rise of China and India as outward-looking economic and military powers with growing maritime interests and ambitions.

It's a welcome shift. It's wrong to claim the Indo-Pacific is too big to be a meaningful construct: this does not mean that Canberra can or should act on every security contingency from Mozambique to the Marshall Islands. Rather, this is a region with Asia at its core: the White Paper rightly defines Southeast Asia as the key part of the Indo-Pacific for Australia to be engaged in.

COMMENTS

3 May 2013 16:21

There's lots to like in the 2013 Defence White Paper. And there's lots of detail missing too. Let's examine the White Paper on its own terms.

The first thing this White Paper needed to do was to resolve the defence funding dilemma caused, so the Government suggested, by the lingering and unexpectedly corrosive impact of the 2009 global financial crisis. Secondly, the White Paper aimed to make sense of the strategic change in Australia's region since 2009.

COMMENTS

6 May 2013 09:44

Michael Green served on the US National Security Council staff from 2001-2005 and is now Senior Vice President for Asia at CSIS and a non-resident fellow at the Lowy Institute.

Australia's new Defence White Paper has its flaws, but the first thing that struck me about it was the hope that the Pentagon could produce as coherent a strategic document with the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). 

COMMENTS

6 May 2013 17:16

Andrew O'Neil is Professor in the School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University.

The most striking feature of the 2013 Defence White Paper is the growing gap between Australia's strategic policy aspirations and the crunch in defence spending.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the ambitious rhetoric over the strategic construct of the 'Indo-Pacific', where Australia's grand plans to play an active role in promoting a stable environment coexist uncomfortably with the fact that defence expenditure as a proportion of GDP is at its lowest point since 1938. Like the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, DWP 2013 paints a grandiose picture of Australia's regional ambitions, but fails to deliver on the means to achieve it.

Of equal concern is the tone of the White Paper and surrounding commentary concerning China. A lot has been made of the more 'balanced' rhetoric in the latest DWP compared with what many characterised as the confrontational rhetoric of the 2009 version.

COMMENTS

9 May 2013 08:56

Major Gen (Retd) Jim Molan is author of Running the War in Iraq.

The Defence White Paper (DWP2013) has pretty well negated defence as a political issue. From the point of view of the Government, that means it's a roaring success. Beginning with an American style launch and ending with a shambolic interview by the Minister on Australian Agenda on Sunday morning, the DWP2013 did not even make it, as an issue, far past the Sunday morning talk shows.

COMMENTS

21 May 2013 16:16

The Australian Defence White Paper 2013 was not the only such document to be released recently: France's 2013 White Paper on Defence and National Security appeared the same week. But, as far as strategic perceptions of France in our region are concerned, there the symmetry ends.

I looked at the last French and Australian DWPs in 2008 and 2009 respectively, observing that each was remarkable for the lack of reference to France's South Pacific presence, notwithstanding the fact that France rules three Pacific territories, with its largest and wealthiest, New Caledonia, just two hours flying time from Brisbane.

This time, France has redressed the omission, perhaps overly so, attributing specific strategic value to its South Pacific territories.

COMMENTS