Thank you Davyd Thomas (Austal), for your warm welcome.
I acknowledge and thank Austal as sponsor of this event.
I acknowledge Mr Stephen Loosley, Chairman of the Council of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and Mr Peter Jennings, Executive Director of ASPI.
I also acknowledge the Secretary of the Department of Defence, Duncan Lewis, the Chief Executive Officer of the Defence Materiel Organisation, Warren King and Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of Navy.
I also acknowledge former Defence Minister Robert Hill.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for inviting me to speak to ASPI.
ASPI plays an important role by informing public debate and encouraging discussion on important national and international strategic and security affairs.
National security and economic security are the two highest priorities of any Commonwealth Government.
Protecting and defending our national security interests involves making complex strategic judgments about short-term and long-term risks and opportunities in relation to the international strategic environment. This includes judgments about Defence posture and operations, Defence capability and Defence funding.
This periodically requires Australia to methodically review the international strategic environment and our own strategic settings and posture to ensure they are appropriate to Australia’s changing strategic circumstances.
The gap in Defence White Papers between 2001 and 2009 was far too long a one to enable such consideration.
That is why the Government committed in 2009 to Defence White Papers not more than 5 years apart and why the Prime Minister and I announced in May that the Government would deliver a new Defence White Paper in the first half of 2013.
The 2013 White Paper will address the range of significant international and domestic developments since the 2009 White Paper, which influence Australia’s national security and Defence settings, including their impact on force posture, future force structure, budget and finances.
2009 White Paper
The May 2009 White Paper underlined that Australia's most basic strategic interest remained the defence of Australia against direct armed attack.
This includes not just armed attacks by other states but, in the modern world, by non-state actors.
The 2009 Defence White Paper also had as a strategic priority the security, stability and cohesion of our immediate neighbourhood which we share with Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, New Zealand and the South Pacific island states.
Beyond our immediate neighbourhood, the 2009 White Paper found that Australia has an enduring strategic interest in the stability of the wider Asia-Pacific region, from North Asia to the Indian Ocean.
These three enduring strategic interests remain.
Our most basic strategic interest must continue to be the defence of Australia against direct armed attack.
Australia as well has a deep stake in the maintenance of an Asia-Pacific security environment, including in our immediate neighbourhood, which is both conducive to stability and the peaceful resolution of problems between countries and which can absorb the rise in strategic influence and military power of emerging major players.
As part of this, Australia has a deep stake in the security of South- East Asia, which covers our northern approaches, through which hostile forces would have to operate in order to sustainably project force against Australia.
Beyond South-East Asia and the Asia Pacific region, Australia has a strategic interest in preserving an international order that restrains aggression by States against each other, and which can effectively manage risks and threats, including from the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), terrorism, fragile and failed states and intra-state conflict.
The 2009 White Paper underlined that Australia's national security and defence policy had to be founded on the principle of self-reliance in the direct defence of Australia and its strategic interests.
This also envisages the maintenance of regional and international defence relationships which enhance our national security and which provide us with the interoperability required to work with others when we need to pool our resources as part of a regional or international community response.
The 2009 White Paper identified the following tasks for the Australian Defence Force (ADF):
- The principal task for the ADF is to deter and defeat armed attacks on Australia by conducting independent military operations without relying on the combat or combat support forces of other countries.
- The second priority task for the ADF is to contribute to stability and security in the South Pacific and East Timor. This involves conducting military operations, with others as required, including in relation to protecting Australian nationals, providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance and, on occasion, stabilisation intervention.
- The next most important priority task for the ADF is to contribute to military contingencies in the Asia-Pacific region, including in relation to assisting our South-East Asian partners to meet external challenges, and to meet our Alliance obligations to the United States.
- Finally, the 2009 White Paper stated that the ADF has to be prepared, where our national interest aligns and where we have the capacity to do so, to contribute to military contingencies in the rest of the world, in support of efforts by the international community to uphold global security and a rules-based international order.
These tasks remain current and I expect them to be reflected in the 2013 White Paper.
As a result of these priorities, the 2009 Defence White Paper envisaged a future ADF which would be more capable in certain areas, particularly undersea warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface maritime warfare, air superiority, strategic strike, special forces, Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), and cyber security.
As a consequence, the 2009 Defence White Paper outlined an ambitious program of capability enhancements for the ADF, with a number of core capabilities, including:
- twelve future submarines;
- three Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs);
- two Landing Helicopter Dock amphibious ships (LHDs);
- twenty four naval combat helicopters
- replacements for the Caribou aircraft
- new maritime patrol aircraft
- the Joint Strike Fighter
- a fleet of new combat and logistic vehicles for Army
- seven new CH-47F Chinook helicopters.
In total, there were some 180 capability projects in the 2009 Defence Capability Plan associated with the 2009 Defence White Paper.
The vast majority of those remain in the DCP today, with about ten removed, largely as a result of being overtaken by other projects.
Since the 2009 White Paper, Government has approved over 100 first pass, second pass and other approvals with a total value of around $13.5 billion.
This includes a record 49 approvals of capability projects in 2011. The previous record was 36 in 2006.
And we continue to progress our core capabilities, including the future submarines, the AWDs, the LHDs, the naval combat helicopters, the Joint Strike Fighter, the Caribou replacements, vehicles for Army, Chinooks and maritime patrol.
Why bring forward the next White Paper?
The Government is committed to delivering the core capabilities identified in the 2009 White Paper and to delivering one of the most capable defence forces in our region, with the people and equipment needed for the task. The Government remains committed to the enhanced strategic planning process outlined in the 2009 Defence White Paper, which involves a new White Paper at intervals no greater than five years.
On a five year timetable, the next paper would be due in the first half of 2014.
However, because of the significant developments internationally and domestically since the 2009 White Paper, the Government has brought forward this schedule to the first half of 2013.
These changing strategic circumstances, which influence Australia’s defence posture, future force structure and defence budget, include:
- The ongoing strategic shift to our region, the Indo-Pacific and Asia Pacific, particularly the shift of economic weight to our region;
- The ADF’s operational drawdown from Afghanistan, East Timor and Solomon Islands;
- The United States’ (US) re-balance to the Asia Pacific and Australia’s enhanced practical cooperation with the US pursuant to our Alliance relationship;
- Australia’s own Force Posture Review – the first in a quarter of a century;
- Bearing in mind the 2009 White Paper judgment that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) was the most fundamental economic challenge facing Australia, the ongoing adverse effects of this crisis, which have continued to have a significant deleterious impact on the global economy.
Strategic change in our region
The strategic change described in the 2009 White Paper has continued.
In recent years, changes in Australia’s strategic circumstances and the global security and economic environment have been significant.
Australia’s current and future strategic interests are overwhelmingly positioned to the north, the north west and north east, and to the Indian Ocean Rim.
The 2013 Defence White Paper will address these changing strategic circumstances and interests, including:
- the shift towards the Asia-Pacific as a region of global strategic significance;
- the rise of the Indian Ocean rim as a region of global strategic significance;
- the growth of military power projection capabilities of countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean; and
- the ongoing presence and role of the US.
Shift towards the Indo-Pacific
In this century, the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean Rim, what some now refer to as the Indo-Pacific, will become the world’s strategic centre of gravity.
The rise of China is a defining element in this, but it is far from the only or whole story.
The rise of India is still under-appreciated, as is the rise of the ASEAN economies combined.
The major and enduring economic strengths of Japan and South Korea also need to be acknowledged.
So must the great individual potential of Indonesia – as it emerges from a regional to a global influence so important to Australia.
As well, the US re-balance to the Asia-Pacific will see greater US military, economic and political engagement in our region.
India and the Indian Ocean
The critical strategic importance of the Indian Ocean continues to be substantially under-appreciated.
The countries of the Indian Ocean Rim are home to more than 2.6 billion people, almost 40 per cent of the world’s population.
The security of its waters goes to the heart of global, regional and Australian strategic interests.
The proportion of world energy supplies passing through critical transport choke points, including the Straits of Malacca, the Straits of Hormuz and the Suez Canal will increase in the coming years.
The Indian Ocean already ranks among the busiest routes for global trade. It will become a crucial global trading thoroughfare in the future.
Crucial trading routes, the presence of large and growing naval capabilities, as well as transnational security issues such as piracy, drive Australia to ultimately put the Indian Ocean alongside the Pacific Ocean at the heart of our maritime strategic and defence planning.
In recognition of this imperative, Australia has joined the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, an initiative of the Indian Navy.
Australia will host the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium Conclave of Chiefs in Perth in 2014.
India and Australia are also leading the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, a Ministerial level forum with membership ranging across the entire Indian Ocean region.
The growth of military power in the Indo Pacific
The ongoing shift in influence towards our region is, however, not just about economics or demographics.
Military and strategic influence is also moving to our part of the world.
Economic growth has underpinned military modernisation and military capability growth across the region.
The Indo-Pacific will be home to three of the world’s superpowers – the United States, China and India – and is home to four of the world’s largest militaries – the United States, Russia, China, and North Korea.
The Indo-Pacific is also home to the world’s largest navies, including the navies of the United States, China, India and Russia.
The implications of the historic shift continue to unfold.
No one can say with precision or certainty what the new international or regional order will look like.
The regional and international community response to these challenges will be critical and will in many ways help determine the outcome.
These changes of strategic circumstance, the changes in economic, political and military weight, do require adjustments and the United States, China, India and Australia and our region are adjusting to that.
How we manage that adjustment to ensure continued stability and prosperity is the most important objective we have and the central challenge that we have in the coming decades.
The level of economic integration between Australia and China sets an important benchmark for our political, strategic and defence to defence and military to military engagement.
The challenge is to raise our level of political and strategic engagement to the same level as our economic engagement.
The same is true of the US-China relationship, and even more importantly so.
The bilateral relationship between the US and China is and will be the most important bilateral relationship we will see in the course of the first half of this century.
In the fullness of time the bilateral relationships between the US and India and between China and India will grow to the same level of importance.
We have already seen deep economic integration between the US and China.
The US and China now need to grow their political and strategic relationship to the same level.
Australia now encourages enhanced defence to defence and military to military engagement between the US and China.
That is why we have welcomed the progress made by US Secretary for Defense Panetta and Chinese Minister for National Defence Liang at their recent ministerial meeting in Washington, and why we welcome the forthcoming visit by Secretary Panetta to Beijing.
The ongoing role of the United States
Some assume that the economic and strategic influence of the United States, the world’s largest economy and superpower, will be rapidly eclipsed overnight as a result of this new distribution of strategic influence in the Indo Pacific.
That is not Australia’s view.
By the second half of this Century, the Indo Pacific will be home to three super powers and the strategic environment will be defined as I have said not just by the relationship between Washington and Beijing but also by the relationships between Washington and New Delhi and New Delhi and Beijing.
The US, China and India will be the great strategic powers of our region and the international community.
The emergence of three great strategic powers in the region will see an adjustment in the balance of power across the region and around the globe.
In Australia’s view, the United States has underwritten stability in the Asia-Pacific for the past half century and will continue to be the single most important strategic actor in our region for the foreseeable future, both in its own right and through its network of Alliances and security relationships, including with Australia.
A continued, indeed enhanced, United States’ presence in the Asia Pacific is essential to peace and stability in our region. Australia welcomes the United States enhanced engagement, its rebalance to our region.
Amidst these strategic shifts, some have posited, indeed even suggested to the US itself, a substantial decline in or a withdrawal from our region.
I do not see it this way.
The US is not going away and is re-balancing towards the Indo-Pacific, as President Obama underlined in his speech to the House of Representatives in November last year.
President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary for Defense Panetta have all reinforced that the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean rim is of vital importance to the US.
We are seeing a shift in focus by the US to our region, from US Central Command focus on the Middle East to the US Pacific Command, characterised when I was recently in Hawaii as having responsibility “from Hollywood to Bollywood”, from the West Coast of the United States to India and the Subcontinent.
Substantially enhanced practical cooperation between Australia and the US is an essential part of Australia’s contribution to regional peace and stability.
In November last year, the Prime Minister and President Obama announced during the President’s visit to Australia new force posture initiatives that significantly enhance practical defence cooperation between Australia and the US.
Coming on the 60th anniversary of the ANZUS Alliance, these initiatives strengthen an already robust partnership that has been an influence for stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region.
It represents an evolution of existing exercises and activities that the US already conducts with the ADF in Australia.
The first rotation of around 200 US Marine Corps personnel arrived in Darwin in April.
The initial rotation is a US Marine Corps infantry company.
Over a six month period, this initial US Marine Corps rotation will undertake bilateral training in Australia with the ADF and conduct unilateral training in Australia.
The US Marines have so far spent the majority of that time in Northern Territory ADF training areas and ranges including the Mount Bundey and Kangaroo Flats Training Areas.
The intent in the coming years is to establish a rotational presence of up to a 2,500 personnel Marine Air Ground Task Force, rotating into Northern Australia in the northern dry season.
Australia and the US have also agreed to closer cooperation between the Royal Australian Air Force and the US Air Force that will result in increased rotations of US aircraft through northern Australia.
This will also enhance bilateral collaboration and offer greater opportunities for combined training and exercises.
The details of such enhanced aerial access is yet to be the subject of detailed discussion between the Australian Government and the US Administration.
Down the track, it is also proposed to examine the possibility of increased US naval access to Australia’s Indian Ocean port, HMAS Stirling.
For Australia, this presence will support our long-held strategic interests in maintaining and expanding US engagement in our region.
US force posture initiatives are an extension of our existing defence cooperation and defence arrangements.
Australia already hosts military exercises involving large numbers of US military personnel.
But the US does not have permanent military bases on Australian territory and this will not change. The activities will take place in Australian facilities.
This initiative will also provide tangible benefits by increasing the number, variety and complexity of training opportunities for the ADF.
This will further develop our interoperability with US forces and helping the ADF develop its ship to shore capability which will be important as the LHDs come on line.
Our respective military forces must be postured to respond in a timely and effective way to the range of contingencies that may arise in our region, in particular humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
We expect that this deepening practical cooperation with the US will also reinforce existing relationships and provide opportunities to enhance cooperation with our partners in the region.
Australia is exploring these possibilities with both the US and our regional partners.
For example, Australia, Indonesia and the United States are planning to hold a trilateral Australia-Indonesia-United States humanitarian assistance and disaster relief desk top exercise in 2012 and a full scale exercise in 2013, under the general auspices of the East Asia Summit humanitarian assistance and disaster relief framework.
Indonesian President Yudhoyono has said on a number of occasions that he sees the prospect of China observing such exercises and in the longer term he sees the potential for Australia, the US and China doing exercises themselves, which Australia welcomes.
Australia also welcomes Brunei’s proposal to host a humanitarian assistance and military medicine exercise in conjunction with its Chairing of the 2013 meeting of the ASEAN plus Defence Ministers Meeting.
In addition to the enhanced practical cooperation between Australia and the US under the force posture initiatives announced by the Prime Minister and the President in November 2011, the US has signaled its intent to significantly enhance its military, economic and political engagement in the region more generally.
The United States is enhancing its relationships with Singapore and the Philippines.
The US has sought to enhance its economic engagement with the region through the negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
The region has welcomed the enhanced US political commitment to the region through its membership of the East Asia Summit and its active role in the ASEAN plus Defence Ministers meeting.
The ADF’s operational drawdown
The Australian Defence Force has been engaged in land based expeditionary operations in Afghanistan then Iraq and then Afghanistan since 2001.
Australia’s military contribution in Afghanistan now focuses on:
- Training and mentoring the Afghan National Army 4th Brigade in Uruzgan Province to allow transition of lead security responsibility for the Province to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF); and
- Operations to disrupt insurgent operations and supply routes utilising the Special Operations Task Group.
Australia’s military contribution is an annual average of 1,550 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed within Afghanistan.
Approximately 800 personnel provide support from locations within the broader Middle East Area of Operations, including our maritime commitment.
Australia has committed to long-term support for Afghanistan, but our training and mentoring forces in Afghanistan will drawn down and return to Australia in line with the International Security Assistance Force transition strategy, as determined in Lisbon and Chicago.
On 17 July, transition to Afghan-led security responsibility in Uruzgan province formally commenced, where the majority of Australian military personnel in Afghanistan are based.
The formal start of transition in Uruzgan reflects the progress made by Afghan, Australian and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) military and civilian teams in training and mentoring the ANSF and strengthening security and development.
This was a welcome sign transition in Uruzgan is on track for completion over the next 12 to 18 month period.
In East Timor, the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force (ISF), currently consisting of Navy, Army and Air Force personnel from Australia and New Zealand, commenced in 2006.
The ISF operates at the invitation of the Government of East Timor, and in support of the United Nations (UN), to maintain stability and provide a secure environment for the ongoing development of East Timor.
The ISF includes nearly 400 ADF personnel, including infantry, aviation and support elements.
Following the success of the East Timor elections, the ISF will potentially start to draw down during 2013.
In the Solomon Islands, the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) was formed in 2003.
RAMSI's mission is to assist the Government of Solomon Islands in the maintenance of security, law and justice, economic governance and improving the machinery of government.
RAMSI is shifting in focus to a law and order mission and with this shift the conditions will be favourable for a potential draw down of our military contribution during 2013.
These transitions from long standing ADF operational commitments will involve a major readjustment to ADF posture and Australia’s defence priorities.
The Government needs to carefully work through what impact this drawdown will have on the ADF and how to ensure we maintain ADF operational capability and readiness.
The lack of such planning for the period following the withdrawal of the ADF from Vietnam had adverse impacts on ADF capability and readiness in the subsequent period.
After ten years of working side by side, day by day with our Alliance partner the US, careful thought needs to be given to how the ADF can, for example, maintain and continue to develop its interoperability with the US.
Many people cite the close and productive working relationships of our Special Forces and intelligence organisations. Less well known is the work of our embedded staff officers in Headquarters from Tampa to Brussels to Kabul.
Australian Force Posture
The ADF’s geographic positioning, or force posture, in response to these current and emerging strategic challenges has been an area of Defence planning which has not received enough attention.
The last time a major review of ADF geographic positioning was effected was in March 1986 when Professor Dibb did some work for one of my predecessors, Kim Beazley, that informed the 1987 White Paper and its outcomes.
This resulted in the establishment of some of our so-called bare bases, RAAF Learmonth and RAAF Curtin in Western Australia and RAAF Scherger in Queensland.
These bare bases are well located to deliver critical air power capabilities, including air combat and strike operations in our Northern approaches.
This review also saw the move of some of our fleet assets and submarines to HMAS Stirling (Fleet Base West) in Western Australia.
HMAS Stirling is well-located for maritime operations in Australia’s Western and Northern approaches, and has excellent access to industry support and a maritime exercise area. HMAS Stirling will continue to be a highly effective homeport for submarines and frigates and will grow in importance as India rises.
But this, the last such Force Posture Review, was some 25 years ago.
With some obvious exceptions, these days what we still might term a World War Two style ‘Brisbane Line’ disposition of Navy, Army or Air Force assets does not reflect the reality of where the ADF must operate, whether for military operations or humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, or other contingencies.
The ADF needs to be positioned to meet current and future strategic circumstances.
These are overwhelmingly to our north and northern and western approaches.
While securing north western and northern Australia presents challenges because of the size, distance and its relatively underdeveloped infrastructure, the rapid growth and scale of minerals and petroleum resources development in these parts of Australia need to be a addressed in future force posture considerations.
And there are significant weaknesses and risks to our current force posture which will become even more significant in coming years.
These risks relate to the capacity of ADF bases and facilities to support current and future capabilities in Australia’s North and West, and our ability to sustain high tempo operations in Northern Australia and our approaches, our immediate neighbourhood, South-East Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
That is why I announced the Force Posture Review in June last year – to review our current force posture in light of such challenges and opportunities.
The Force Posture Review considered all of the factors I have outlined and made recommendations about the future security and strategic environment and challenges Australia needs to be positioned to respond to and the future force posture of the ADF.
As its starting point, the Review drew on the security, strategic and capability judgements outlined in the 2009 Defence White Paper, as well as the Defence Planning Guidance.
The Force Posture Review also considered:
- the implications for Australian Defence Force posture of the need for energy security, including security issues associated with expanding offshore resource exploitation in our North West and Northern approaches;
- how the future Australian Defence Force posture will support Australia’s ability to respond to a range of activities, including overseas missions;
- the impact on the Australian Defence Force’s posture of a range of domestic, demographic and economic issues; and
- the potential strategic and security role of Australia’s offshore territories, particularly Cocos and Christmas Islands, for Force Posture requirements.
The Review also examined logistics support requirements, training areas for large-scale and joint training exercises, demographic and economic factors and engagement with industry, particularly the minerals and petroleum resources industries in Australia’s North and West.
Defence’s work on the Force Posture Review was overseen by an Expert Panel comprising two of our leading national security experts, Allan Hawke and Ric Smith, both former Secretaries of the Department of Defence.
In May, the Prime Minister and I released the final FPR Report.
The Report found that as a general proposition, our changing strategic environment does not necessarily require widespread changes in the physical location of our Defence Force bases, but that adjustments should be made to meet future needs.
It confirmed that there are some risks associated with the capacity of Australian Defence Force bases and training areas as well as our ability to sustain high-tempo operations in Northern Australia and our neighbourhood and region.
The FPR also identifies the demands arising from Australia’s expanding maritime capabilities as significantly influencing Australia’s future force posture.
The Review found that Navy’s future capability and sustainment plans pose some of the greatest challenges for Australian Defence Force posture and basing.
The Review examined possible basing options in the North and North West of Australia and the possibility of arrangements that enhance access to commercial ports.
This includes the potential for greater wharf capacity and support facilities at HMAS Stirling to support major surface combatant capability and operations.
The Review also found that while Air Force bases are well-located, many currently lack the capacity to fully support new platforms, and some air bases in Northern Australia face significant logistics constraints.
The Review found that Defence should upgrade bases at Edinburgh, Learmonth, Pearce, Tindal and Townsville to enable unrestricted operations by KC-30 air to air refueling aircraft and and P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft.
In relation to Army, the Review found that Army’s current posture does not require significant changes.
The Review concluded that the Australian Defence Force needs a force posture that can support operations in Australia’s Northern and Western approaches, as well as operations with our partners in the wider Asia Pacific region and the Indian Ocean Rim.
This will be a particularly important focus as the Australian Defence Force approaches transition and subsequent drawdown in Afghanistan, East Timor and Solomon Islands.
The ongoing effects of the Global Financial Crisis
Financial and fiscal circumstances clearly present a real challenge for the 2013 White Paper.
The 2009 Defence White Paper noted that the GFC was the most serious global economic and financial crisis in decades, and th