Sunday 25 Feb 2018 | 10:50 | SYDNEY
Sunday 25 Feb 2018 | 10:50 | SYDNEY

What's to like about the Defence White Paper



6 May 2009 10:11

Thus far many commentators, including yours truly, have been represented as accentuating the negative about the Australian Defence White Paper. I guess that is the nature of media reporting. But a package this big contains something for everybody. Here are some of many bits to like, even if they sit oddly with others:

  • The acceptance, in theory at least, that realistic security policy needs to be about managing risk, not trying to eliminate it.
  • The recognition, implicit at least, that Australia need not fret about a military threat from Indonesia; that Canberra need no longer obsess about sustaining a combat capability overmatch against its Southeast Asian neighbours.
  • The acknowledgement that in the decades ahead Australian forces are likely to spend much more of their time dealing with non-state security challenges, including stabilisation missions, terrorism, piracy, natural disasters and climate change, than with conventional military threats from other countries.
  • The emphasis on the growing strategic importance of the Indian Ocean — for too long, Australian foreign and security policy all but ignored this region.
  • The enthusiasm for engaging India as a security partner and a contributor of public goods such as maritime security.
  • The lack of partisan bloody-mindedness, in accepting as beneficial the major projects initiated by the previous government — such as the Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs) and Super Hornets.
  • The recognition that Australia needs sealift ships of multiple sizes.
  • The refreshing plan to rationalise smaller vessels such as patrol boats, minesweepers and survey ships into a new class of ‘offshore combatant vessels’ — big enough to send beyond Australian waters, but small and flexible enough for littoral roles like anti-piracy and counter-terrorism as well as border protection and surveillance.
  • The creation of a genuine anti-submarine warfare capacity.
  • The expansion of (useable) helicopter forces on land and sea.
  • Plans for growing use of unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles — though with the pace of technology development 'Force 2030' could still end up looking conservative on this score.
  • The new priority to be given to countering cyber attacks.

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