On Monday, Australia’s Defence Strategic Review was issued, and Prime Minister Antony Albanese said the country “cannot fall back on previous assumptions.”
In August of 2022, Australia’s federal government announced that it would be conducting a review of the country’s military capabilities. The evaluation was carried out by Sir Angus Houston, who had retired as Air Chief Marshal, and Stephen Smith, who had previously held the position of Defence Minister.
National security is any administration’s top priority, so Australia commissioned the Defence Strategic Review to bolster Australia’s defences, as Albanese put it.
Albanese referred to the text as the “most significant work done” since World War II and warned that Australia could not rely on outdated beliefs.
At least nine times, the text references China, with which Canberra has lately strengthened relations, including by resuming military engagement.
Canberra is preparing significant modifications to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) infrastructure, including upgrades to the country’s long-range missile capabilities.
According to the report, the likelihood of a land invasion by a foreign power is low. However, it claimed that China’s regional military expansion was the “most ambitious of any government since the 1940s.”
The survey findings, which were reported on by a local news outlet called SBS News, Australia considers China’s military buildup in the region to be “unparalleled” since the end of World War II and felt “a significant feeling of urgency to respond.”
According to the review, the nation’s northern bases will become a focal point for deterring adversaries and protecting commerce routes and communications.
According to the document, Australia considers the rivalry between China and the United States the “defining feature of our region and our time.” The global rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific is threatened by China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, which could have a negative effect on Australia’s national interests.
The review stated that the United States was no longer the “unipolar leader of the Indo-Pacific,” that intense competition between the U.S. and China defined the region and that the competition between the main powers had “conflict potential.”
A solid relationship with Beijing would be beneficial to all sides, Defence Minister Richard Marles admitted.
At a news conference he co-hosted with Albanese, he said that Australia would work with China “where it can,” disagree “where it must,” handle disagreements “wisely,” and, above all, actively seek the country’s national interest.
The document also warned of a “serious possibility of nuclear escalation” and called for “an immediate” five-fold increase in missile range to 1,000 kilometres (621 miles). Australia should develop a precision missile strike capability to attack long-range targets in the air, on land, and at sea, per the recommendation. It was added that these missiles should be manufactured in Australia, thereby reducing Australia’s reliance on the United States. According to the review, long-range precision missiles have diminished Australia’s ability to rely on its geographical advantages.
The deal to purchase 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, better known as HIMARS, was signed by Australia. The purchase is expected to be completed by 2026. Officials in Australia have stated that the HIMARS system has a range of approximately 300 kilometres. In addition, Canberra is collaborating with Lockheed Martin to develop an entirely new generation of missiles capable of travelling up to 500 kilometres in a single burst.
The document warned of “economic pressure and threats to Australian trade channels” and called cyber warfare a threat “not restricted by geography.”
The statement also calls for a shift in Australia’s reaction to climate change, with military force recommended only as a last resort.
As per the document, efforts by all levels of government to tackle climate change, including a military transition to sustainable energy, will strengthen Australia’s resilience to catastrophic disasters. And the Australian Defence Force should only be sent to help with local calamities if absolutely necessary. In all except the direst of circumstances, the defence sector should be the backstop for the civilian community.
Other recommendations include enhancing the Australian Defence Force’s capability to operate from northern bases, promoting the growth and retention of a highly skilled defence workforce, enhancing Australia’s capacity to rapidly translate disruptive new technologies into ADF capability in close collaboration with Australian industry, and strengthening diplomatic and defence partnerships with key partners in the Indo-Pacific.