Questions from Greg Sheridan on 8 June:
I’m seeking a response from the Defence Minister to these questions.
I believe the Force Structure Review, a secret document developed in conjunction with the 2009 Defence White Paper, did contain the material about China which David Uren outlines in his book – plans for using submarines to blockade ports, cut off mineral exports and questions over whether China would attack Pine Gap.
I also believe it contained plans to intervene militarily in Fiji and in Papua New Guinea, as well as plans for responding to a number of other contingencies.
This I regard as normal military contingency planning. However my question to the minister is whether this is true and would he like to make any comment about it for a story I’m writing for tomorrow.
Response provided to Greg Sheridan on 8 June:
From a spokesperson for the Minister for Defence:
As you would expect for any major national security policy process, including the Defence White Paper, a considerable amount of classified analysis was undertaken which underpinned the White Paper’s judgements.
However, this never took the form of a ‘Top Secret section’ to the Defence White Paper 2009 regarding China - or any other country.
As the 2009 White Paper itself states, the preparation of the White Paper involved: "a comprehensive suite of intelligence assessments, and an assessment of the threats and risks that matter most for defence planning purposes.
It also examined Australia's strategic interests, as well as the role played by our alliances and international defence relationships in enhancing our security."
These assessments included the results of a comprehensive force structure review, which evaluated the ability of the force structure to achieve the strategic tasks required of it and presented options to address any force structure imbalances.
The force structure review, a classified document considered by Government and developed in support of the 2009 White Paper, did not focus on China.
On his return to Australia the Minister again consulted with the senior officials who prepared the force structure review who again advise that the assertions made by Uren in his book which have been the subject of newspaper reporting since last Saturday are not correct and erroneous and are not contained in the force posture review as presented to, or considered by, Government.
As would be expected, the classified analysis underpinning the force structure review examined a range of plausible defence planning scenarios, notably in our region.
As the 2009 Defence White Paper itself states:
"8.1 In order to determine the nature, size and structure of the armed forces we will need in the future to undertake the tasks which were spelled out in the previous Chapter, the Government commissioned a force structure review. This was a comprehensive review of the current and projected force, evaluated against the strategic framework laid out in the previous Chapters.
8.2 The force structure review examined plausible defence planning contingencies, the capabilities required for successful operations in those contingencies, and the systems and equipment that would deliver the necessary capabilities. From that analysis, the review identified gaps in our current and projected force structure and presented options to remedy these gaps for the Government's consideration.
8.3 The Government is confident that this White Paper is informed by the most comprehensive force structure analysis ever undertaken in support of a White Paper. It provides the basis for pursuing the future development of the ADF in a strategic manner, which both creates the future force we need and remediates the most important gaps and deficiencies in the current and projected force."
Again, the senior officials who prepared the force structure review advise that this does not include matters asserted by Uren in his book and the subject of newspaper reporting since last Saturday.
In relation to China, the 2009 Defence White Paper states:
"4.23 Barring major setbacks, China by 2030 will become a major driver of economic activity both in the region and globally, and will have strategic influence beyond East Asia. By some measures, China has the potential to overtake the United States as the world's largest economy around 2020. However, economic strength is also a function of trade, aid and financial flows, and by those market-exchange based measures, the US economy is likely to remain paramount.
4.24 The crucial relationship in the region, but also globally, will be that between the United States and China. The management of the relationship between Washington and Beijing will be of paramount importance for strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Taiwan will remain a source of potential strategic miscalculation, and all parties will need to work hard to ensure that developments in relation to Taiwan over the years ahead are peaceful ones. The Government reaffirms Australia's longstanding 'One China' policy.
4.25 China has a significant opportunity in the decades ahead to take its place as a leading stakeholder in the development and stability of the global economic and political system. In coming years, China will develop an even deeper stake in the global economic system, and other major powers will have deep stakes in China's economic success. China's political leadership is likely to continue to appreciate the need for it to make a strong contribution to strengthening the regional security environment and the global rules-based order.
4.26 China will also be the strongest Asian military power, by a considerable margin. Its military modernisation will be increasingly characterised by the development of power projection capabilities. A major power of China's stature can be expected to develop a globally significant military capability befitting its size. But the pace, scope and structure of China's military modernisation have the potential to give its neighbours cause for concern if not carefully explained, and if China does not reach out to others to build confidence regarding its military plans.
4.27 China has begun to do this in recent years, but needs to do more. If it does not, there is likely to be a question in the minds of regional states about the long-term strategic purpose of its force development plans, particularly as the modernisation appears potentially to be beyond the scope of what would be required for a conflict over Taiwan."