A review commissioned by the Government has warned Australia’s defence force is “not fit for purpose” and needs to be reshaped to adapt to modern threats and be prepared for war.
The review specifically suggests Australia needs to be ready to deter and defend an attack from China, including a missile attack or a cyber attack.
The Government has accepted the recommendations of the review.
What did the review say?
The Government announced the review last year. It was prepared by retired Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston and former Labor Defence Minister Stephen Smith.
The review’s authors were asked to suggest a ‘roadmap’ for how to modernise the Australian Defence Force and ensure Australia is prepared for war.
What are the threats to Australia?
The review suggests Australia faces genuine threats in its region, specifically because of China’s military build-up, which the review says is the largest build-up by any country since the end of the Second World War.
It argues the likelihood of the Australian continent being physically invaded is “remote” but there are risks of missile strikes, cyber attacks and threats to our ocean territory and trade routes.
Is Australia prepared for war?
The review argues Australia is not currently prepared to defend itself against ‘higher-level’ threats such as a missile attack or a cyber attack without relying on the U.S. or other allies.
The authors say the structure of Australia’s military is built around the idea of “balanced” land, air and navy forces but this reflects a “bygone era”.
What are the recommendations?
The review calls for better missiles, including missiles made in Australia, to arm our ships, submarines and northern land bases.
In order to be prepared for war, it suggests the army should be better prepared for shore-based activities. It also calls for more investment in both cyber and space capability, which it suggests should be seen alongside air, land and sea as the five “domains” of our defence operations.
How has the Government responded?
The Government has accepted the findings of the review. In the short-term, it plans to cut defence projects that don’t align with this shift in focus and to spend instead in areas that prepare Australia for war. The cost of implementing the recommendations will be about $19 billion, although Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said “much of that is already provided for in the Budget”.
Over the longer term, the Government says it expects defence spending to increase significantly.
In a statement, Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie criticised the Government for failing to provide more short-term funding.
“Army capability is being cannibalised… this indicates a fundamental lack of seriousness about the strategic challenge facing this nation.”
Greens Defence Spokesperson Senator David Shoebridge called the review “deeply distressing” and accused the Government of “marching to war… [which] is not in our national interest and does not make us safer.”