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Gillard's National Security Strategy

24 Jan 2013 12:00

Robert Ayson is Director of Victoria University’s Centre for Strategic Studies in New Zealand.

It's time for me to fess up. I used to be one of those sometimes annoying people who thought it was a good idea for governments to produce a formal national security strategy. I wanted them to show me how various pieces of the national security puzzle fitted together and I wanted them to do so in a publicly released document. But I am now less sure this is a good idea, and the Gillard Government's newly released National Security Strategy has confirmed my unease. It does so for a number of reasons.

The first is the illusion of coherence. The National Security Strategy talks about Australia's approach to national security as representing a 'unified system'. That's an immensely challenging ambition, and with so many national security issues involved, this can quickly turn into a listing process which describes all the things being done rather than quite how they fit together, let alone how choices might be made between them.

COMMENTS

24 Jan 2013 16:15

It may seem odd that Prime Minister Julia Gillard would use the occasion of the launch of the nation's first ever formal national security strategy to endorse the view that the 'national security decade' is over. 

This begins to make sense, though, when you note the strategy's conclusion that the nation's biggest security challenges in the new era will come not from terrorists or fragile-state anarchy but from the actions of powerful states. If the national security or 9/11 decade is indeed at an end, then a new age – the international strategy decade — is just beginning. 

COMMENTS

25 Jan 2013 10:03

After 29 months of government, Wednesday's launch of the National Security Strategy was welcome yet well overdue. Although the strategy has been widely panned as disappointing and unfunded, the strategic framework and development process look sound, and certainly a great improvement on the 2008 National Security Statement.

A recent US Strategic Studies Institute report (link was down at time of writing) found that Australia's bureaucrats coordinate much better on strategic policy than their peers elsewhere. This document's clear structure, logic, and writing show the fruits of that coordination. But ultimately, the Government gets to decide what to do with all that hard bureaucratic work. And yesterday, it decided to subordinate it all to domestic politics.

COMMENTS

30 Jan 2013 13:07

Senator David Fawcett (Liberal) is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

The National Security Strategy announced last week by Prime Minister Gillard overlooks the important lessons from Australia's 1999 intervention in East Timor.

The Australian public wanted to protect the East Timorese people from violence. The Government assumed the ADF could easily protect the East Timorese from a militia. Most of us would probably make the same assumption today. How quickly we forget that in 1999 we only just succeeded. The realisation that Australia was ill equipped to project and sustain a relatively small force in a neighbouring country such as East Timor was recently described as a 'strategic shock' by Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison. 

COMMENTS