Broinowski, Richard: “How to Defend Australia” is an important wake-up call

Richard Broinowski

“How to Defend Australia” is an important wake-up call‘, Australian Outlook, 14 July 2019 updated

Hugh White’s latest book How to Defend Australia is reviewed by former senior diplomat, Richard Broinowski AO. ‘Hugh White should be praised’, says Broinowski, ‘for getting Australians to think the unthinkable and alerting them to our deteriorating strategic situation, questions about the reliability of US security assistance and the need to get on better with our neighbours’.

Broinowski summarises White’s analysis of where Australia stands and White’s shopping list of the defence spending he says we need to make ourselves safer. Broinowski points out, however, what White is reticent about: the threat to our non-proliferation credentials contained in White’s scenario; the difficulties of obtaining the sophisticated (including nuclear) kit needed; the risk of our becoming a nuclear target in our own right (even more than we are now).

Leaving aside the nuclear option [Broinowski goes on], could Australia do all that we need for credible independent defence? White says we could. We have the technology, the wealth and the population, although a bigger economy would help. But it would all cost. To acquire the 200 fighter aircraft and 24 submarines necessary for credible air and sea denial we would have to increase our annual defence expenditure from just under 2 percent to around 3.5 percent of GDP. Nor should we try to make weapons ourselves. We can never become the major weapons-exporting country former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull notoriously claimed we could, and buying proven technology off-the-shelf from other countries would be far more timely and cost-effective.

Other reviews of White’s book: Sam Roggeveen for the Lowy Institute; Allan Patience in Pearls and Irritations. Former Defence senior officer, Paddy Gourley, and others deprecate ‘defence spending per $ of GDP’ targets. Some material on Australia’s ambitions to export weapons. Hugh White talks to Richard McGregor at the Lowy Institute. White summarises his arguments in ASPI’s The Strategist. Edited extract in The Australian. Nine Newspapers interview with White. Review in Pearls and Irritations from Andrew Farran.

Richard Broinowski has written for Honest History: review of Brendan Taylor, The Four Flashpoints; How Asia goes to War; review of Elizabeth Tynan, Atomic Thunder: The Maralinga Story; reflection on the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan. For other material on related subjects, use our Search engine with search terms ‘defence’ and ‘foreign policy’ or go to the tagged list ‘Getting on with the world‘.

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