Australia will invest heavily in defence amid growing global tensions, building a more aggressive military as Prime Minister Scott Morrison warns of a “dangerous” post-coronavirus world.
Moving to a more hawkish footing, Australia will spend $270 billion over the next decade to make sure the defence force is able to deter foreign threats and respond with credible military force.
Long-range missiles amount to part of the spend, while the prime minister looks to add 800 people to the Australian Defence Force’s operations.
Mr Morrison also wants the Australian Defence Force to focus its efforts on the Indo-Pacific and Australia's immediate region.
The move comes as relations with China, a nation which has focused heavily on its defence over the last decade, continue to rapidly deteriorate.
‘We need to be prepared’: PM wary of China and US tensions
Tensions between China and the US also continue to grow, with Mr Morrison wary of developing conflict.
“The big competition between China and the United States mean tensions are much higher,” he told Channel Nine’s Today show on Wednesday morning.
“We need to be prepared. We need to be working with other countries in the region and all of our Defence Force and Defence strategy is built on the alliance, also as a foundation with the United States.”
Mr Morrison will release the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the new Force Structure Plan with a speech in Canberra on Wednesday.
"The simple truth is this: even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly," he will say, according to a draft of his speech.
There are other tensions rising in the region – underscored by recent border skirmishes between China and India and South China Sea tensions – and the trends identified in the 2016 Defence white paper have only accelerated.
Earlier this month, Australia strengthened its defence ties with India – a move Chinese state-media scrutinised at the time.
This strategic environment and heightened risk from any miscalculation make it vital that Australia is able to respond with credible military force if it needs to, Mr Morrison will say.
PM hopes move will deter attack on Australia
It also needs stronger deterrence capabilities to "influence their calculus of costs involved in threatening Australian interests".
"Capabilities that can hold potential adversaries' forces and critical infrastructure at risk from a distance, thereby deterring an attack on Australia and helping to prevent war," Mr Morrison will say.
To this end, the government is promising to give Defence $270 billion over the next decade - up from the $195 billion promised in 2016.
It will look at new long-range weapons that could strike ships or land from thousands of kilometres away, test long-range hypersonic weapons, boost cyber capacity and surveillance, and build a network of satellites so Australia has an independent communications network.
‘We must invest in our own security’
The shift in Defence objectives matches Mr Morrison's foreign policy focus on Australia's region, including the Pacific Step-Up to create stronger ties with our closest neighbours.
It comes as the US under Donald Trump has become more inward-looking.
Mr Morrison says Australia remains prepared to make military contributions outside of the Indo-Pacific region, including backing US-led coalitions.
"But we cannot allow consideration of such contingencies to drive our force structure to the detriment of ensuring we have credible capability to respond to any challenge in our immediate region," he will say.
"If we are to be a better and more effective ally, we must be prepared to invest in our own security."
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