Rules-based order under challenge

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds on board HMAS Sheean.

By Linda Reynolds, Minister for Defence

To underpin economic growth we need a peaceful, inclusive and stable Indo-Pacific. Over the past half-century, we have seen, and been part of, momentous change that has benefited our region. Importantly, these changes have been realised, not by chance, but as a result of government decisions to pursue national interests in a rules-based order.

This order has been built on the recognition of sovereign rights, freedom, and the fundamental principle that all nations are entitled to conduct their affairs without force or coercion.

That order is now under challenge. And our response to this new security environment will determine our future and, more importantly, the future that the next generation inherits.

Australia’s strategic environment has changed rapidly since the publication of the 2016 Defence White Paper. We see heightened US-China competition, rapid military modernisation, the emergence of potentially disruptive technologies, the continuing threat of terrorism, and other complex security challenges – including in the space and cyber domains.

We are building a world-leading defence industry here at home because local industry is fundamental for our strategic advantage.

There is no greater responsibility for a government than the defence and security of our nation.

As Minister for Defence, it is my responsibility to ensure that the Australian Defence Force is an agile and potent military that can respond to a widening range of contingencies and threats.

To achieve this capable force, the Liberal-National government is investing $200 billion in our Defence Force.

We are acquiring the best aircraft, ships, submarines, land vehicles, weapons and the supporting systems to serve our own unique national security circumstances. The military capabilities we are acquiring are world leading.

This endeavour is more complex than anything the Commonwealth has undertaken.

It is worth noting that we are not just investing in equipment.

We are building a world-leading defence industry here at home because local industry is fundamental for our strategic advantage and we want Australian business to lead the way in developing the technologies of the future.

Not only are we acquiring newer and more capable platforms, our Defence Force is busy than ever. Since becoming the Minister for Defence, I have observed the breadth of work that our ADF men and women do for our nation.

Over the past 12 months, Navy activity has peaked with 27 ships and up to 2600 people at sea on a single day, conducting in excess of 200 foreign port visits across 32 nations each year.

Army conducts more than 200 international engagement activities with more than 25 nations each year – with our service men and women training approximately 4500 international personnel.

And in 2019, the Royal Australian Air Force will participate in and support more than 200 exercises and deploy aircraft and personnel to over 40 overseas activities.

This high tempo of defence activity is how we strengthen our network of international military-military relationships to reinforce the rules-based order, one that is fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Through deeper cooperation with like-minded partners and a common sense of purpose we can actively shape the international order to the benefit of all.

Fundamental to this international order is the Australia-US Alliance. Our bond has been, and continues to be our most important defence relationship.

On my visit to Washington DC earlier this month – my first visit to the United States as Defence Minister – Defence Secretary Mark Esper and I reaffirmed our commitment to the alliance.

This relationship gives us access to some of the most advanced military capabilities in the world, and working together we make a strong contribution to regional and global security.

Closer to home Australia has a long-standing history and enduring commitment to working side-by-side with our Pacific neighbours to build a region that is strategically secure, economically stable and politically sovereign. This is evident in the government’s Pacific Step-up and increase in the ADF’s regional presence.

No matter the strategic challenges, I am committed to ensuring that Defence is well-positioned to respond to and shape the strategic environment as a key element of Australia’s national power.

This is made possible by the hard work and dedication of our men and women in the ADF and the APS, and the support of their families – as the ADF attends to its most solemn duty – the protection of our nation and its people.

This article was originally published in The Canberra Times.


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