Defence Issues Paper says US Alliance still central

The Minister for Defence, Senator Johnston, has released a Defence Issues Paper setting out issues that will be addressed in the Defence White Paper to come out in 2015. Of particular interest is the statement about the long-standing American Alliance, particularly in the context of rising Chinese influence.

The Government does not accept the view presented by some analysts that Australia faces a difficult strategic choice between promoting an alliance relationship with the United States or an economic relationship with China … Australia will continue to pursue close relationships with both; and the key policy question for the White Paper is how exactly this should be done.

Does Australia continue to need a defence alliance with the United States? The unequivocal answer of all Australian governments and a large majority of the population since the Second World War has been “yes.” Our Alliance with the United States is based on our shared values, support for democracy and the rule of law and many shared strategic perspectives. The Alliance brings with it tangible benefits. Without the US Alliance relationship it would not be possible for Australia to maintain the intelligence capabilities or the access to high technology defence equipment, which give such combat power to the ADF …

The Alliance with the United States is set to continue … This includes the enhanced cooperation with the US Marine Corps and US Air Force in the north of Australia; the possibility of enhanced Navy cooperation; and options for cooperation on defence technology areas, including cyber security, space, ballistic missile defence, anti-submarine warfare, special forces and aerospace. (pp. 16-17)

Elsewhere, the paper gives a succinct summary of the strategic role of the Australian Defence Force.

Today, Australia’s defence policies must deliver an ADF that can effectively protect Australia from direct attack, of whatever form, and is also able to secure and advance our interests. These include the protection of our trade routes and prevention of non-geographic threats, such as those from cyberspace, terrorism,
transnational crime, people smuggling, and illegal fishing. Our Alliance with the
United States remains integral to our defence and security arrangements and our changed strategic environment means that we now work more closely with a wider range of like-minded countries in our region. (p. 6)

This statement may be compared with one made by the Prime Minister earlier this year.

29 July 2014

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