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AUS: New Challenges for Australian Defence Policy

MEDIA RELEASE

THE HON. JOHN MOORE, MP Minister for Defence

Tuesday, 28 September 1999 MIN294/99

New Challenges for Australian Defence Policy

The Minister for Defence, John Moore, today confirmed that more than 3,000 Australian Defence Force personnel have already deployed to East Timor and that more were on the way.

Addressing the Australian Defence Studies Centre's Strategic Update '99 Conference, Mr Moore said over 550 other nationals are also presently in East Timor, with further contributions ready to depart for Dili from Darwin and Townsville.

"While Australian support for peacekeeping operations is not something new, the East Timor operation - multilateral in scope, strongly representing South East Asia, led by Australia and conducted under a United Nations peace enforcement mandate - is of a very different scale and nature," Mr Moore said.

"This is the first time Australia has been asked by the United Nations to build and lead a multinational force, and to provide the largest single component."

Mr Moore said that although no country anticipated the extent of the destruction after the consultation, the policies the Australian Government has adopted since it came to office in 1996 ensured Australia made some prudent preparations.

These preparations included:

* maintaining Defence spending at current levels; * building a more combat-capable ADF, increasing the number of combat troops in the Army, including raising another regular infantry battalion; * eliminating hollowness in Army units, so that all established units can deploy within shorter readiness times; * increasing the training and operational readiness of a brigade size force in Darwin; and * bringing the catamaran HMAS Jervis Bay into service.

"It is worth pondering how ready and able Australia would have been to respond to events in East Timor, had these reforms not been taken," said Mr Moore.

The Minister also said that he believed a successful, long term solution to East Timor's problems would require more than military assistance.

"Full restoration of peace and security in East Timor will depend on a comprehensive political settlement of differences between various sections of East Timorese opinion on the future of the territory." .../2 Mr Moore said another lesson from events in East Timor is clear: "We cannot pretend that what happens to our neighbours does not matter to Australian security.

"East Timor has made abundantly clear the point that a nation's diplomacy cannot be effective without the backing of a convincing level of defence capability.

"Events in East Timor reinforce the fact that the ADF must be able to give the Government the options it needs to protect Australia's interests and promote regional stability with our immediate neighbours.'

Mr Moore said the East Timor situation has also demonstrated that real, useable military capability is very expensive.

"As the Prime Minister foreshadowed in Parliament last week, recent events may require us to consider an increase in defence spending. However, that does not mean the Government will back away from the need for Defence as an organisation to carry through the internal reforms that it has started.

"In fact, any increase in the Defence budget only makes it more important to ensure that Defence spends its money wisely and in a manner that is fully accountable to Government.

"The immediate issue of funding Australia's East Timor commitment is the relatively straightforward part. No effort has been spared to give our troops all they need to do the job."

The final cost of the commitment is not yet known, but it is estimated that by the end of this financial year it will be at least $500 million, with more needed to sustain and to reconstitute our ground forces behind the INTERFET contribution.

The Minister said an important issue Australia must face is reconciling the need for forces required for operations of the peace-making and peacekeeping variety, and those that might be necessary for higher intensity warfighting operations.

"At the end of the day, the purpose of the ADF is to be able to defend this country against armed attack. This means that we cannot allow the task of peacekeeping - even of the robust Chapter VII kind - to detract from the higher end of the spectrum of military capabilities.

"In the long run - the next 10 to 15 years - Australia faces important choices about core military capabilities, as long-serving naval and air platforms come to the end of their life.

"All these issues will be covered in a major statement of Defence policy that I will issue next year, the Defence White Paper 2000.

"East Timor has reminded us of the importance of a credible and robust defence capability, able to respond effectively to what strategic developments might occur and do what national interests might require.

"I am confident that recent events will contribute to well informed, receptive and thoughtful consideration and understanding of these issues in the Australian community," Mr Moore said.

NEW CHALLENGES FOR AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE POLICY

The Hon John Moore MP Minister for Defence

Address to the Strategic Update '99 Conference

Australian Defence Studies Centre University College, Australian Defence Force Academy

Parliament House, Canberra 28 September 1999

EAST TIMOR

As I speak, over 3,000 Australian Defence Force personnel have already deployed to East Timor under the UN-mandated International Force East Timor or INTERFET, with more on the way.

Most importantly our people are joined by many other countries - Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Britain, Italy, Canada, South Korea, France, the United States and Brazil. Over 550 other nationals are presently in East Timor with more ready to depart from Darwin and Townsville.

Of course, Australian support for peacekeeping operations is not something new - Bougainville is but one ongoing example.

In the past we have also supported regional countries with contributions of troops to resist internal and external problems - Cambodia is another good example.

But the East Timor operation - multilateral in scope, strongly representing South East Asia, led by Australia and conducted under a United Nations Chapter VII or peace enforcement mandate - is of a very different scale and nature.

This is the first time that Australia has been asked by the United Nations to build and lead a multinational force and to provide the largest single component.

The UN authorises all necessary measures by INTERFET to fulfil its mandate. It is an essential part of this operation and an authority the United Nations does not lightly issue.

It is worth considering how unprecedented is this level of regional military commitment as well as the issues it forces Australia as a nation to confront.

CONFIRMATION OF GOVERNMENT'S POLICY

Although no country anticipated the extent of the destruction after the consultation, the policies this Government has adopted since it came to office in 1996 ensured Australia made some prudent preparations.

These preparations included:

* maintaining Defence spending at current levels,

* building a more combat capable ADF, increasing the number of combat troops in the Army including raising another regular infantry battalion,

* eliminating hollowness in Army units, so that all established units can deploy within shorter readiness times,

* increasing the training and operational readiness of a brigade size force in Darwin, and

* bringing the catamaran HMAS Jervis Bay into service.

In summary, making the Defence Force ready to meet regional contingencies.

It is worth pondering how ready and able Australia would have been to respond to events in East Timor had these reforms not been taken.

But the events in East Timor have also highlighted the need for the Government to continue in its stated policy to improve efficiency and free up resources for re-investment in combat capability and operational readiness.

This includes efforts to:

* bring into service the modified and refurbished amphibious transport vessels,

* rectify the JORN project to eventually provide continuous real time surveillance of Australia's northern approaches,

* further increase mobility and flexibility, by acquiring AEW&C aircraft, surveillance platforms, light tactical aircraft, new strategic transport aircraft, reconnaissance and ground support helicopters, improved command and control systems, new armoured vehicles and an improved amphibious capability, and

* to develop a modern acquisition process that can ensure the timely fielding of urgently need capabilities.

THE WIDER DEFENCE DEBATE

One of the broader consequences of the East Timor crisis has been to spark for the first time in well over a decade, a wider public debate in Australia about defence.

Let me just say that the Government welcomes this debate.

There has always been academic interest in the subject, the efforts of this conference is one such example.

But such debate has been largely confined to the small and specialised strategic community in this country, with general public interest being confined to the more sensational stories about project mismanagement or ADF accidents.

It is my hope that the recent events will constitute a watershed in public understanding of defence issues. But it must be a informed understanding.

Given the scale and nature of our commitment to East Timor it is hardly surprising that inaccurate and somewhat misguided reporting and analysis has been plentiful, so let me take the time to correct some of the more dubious assertions being made.

In doing so, I will refer to a few of the more important strategic questions which events in East Timor have forced on to the table.

AUSTRALIA-INDONESIA RELATIONS

Our involvement in the East Timor crisis is not motivated by any desire to cause difficulties in relations between Australia and Indonesia.

It is important to note that we are in East Timor at the request of the United Nations and with the agreement of the Indonesian Government.

It is in Australia's vital interests that Indonesia be a peaceful, stable and democratic state, economically prosperous and playing a leading and respected role in the region. It is also in Indonesia's own interests to ensure East Timor's transition is a peaceful and orderly one.

Australian efforts in building our relations with Indonesia are directed to that outcome.

We want a relationship based on mutual respect and an understanding of our shared mutual interests. And we remain committed to rebuilding the relationship in this cooperative spirit. They will be largely determined by the outcomes in East Timor and by the result of the next Presidential election and the make-up of the new Government in Jakarta.

We will need to wait on these events and the perspective that time will bring.

With respect to defence relations, it is in our own security interests to have links such as defence attache representation, high-level strategic talks, staff college courses, maritime surveillance and disaster relief exercises.

Such contacts are necessary to achieve our objectives in East Timor, and are desirable because defence links will be part of any effective long-term relationship with Indonesia.

That decision shows the challenges Jakarta and Canberra face in maintaining a working defence relationship that supports the long- term national and strategic interests of both countries.

THE FUTURE POSITION OF EAST TIMOR

Domestically

Full restoration of peace and security in East Timor will depend on a comprehensive political settlement of the differences between various sections of East Timorese opinion on the future of the territory.

Let me stress there is not a military solution to the East Timor problem.

The process of reconciliation will need to take as its starting point the clear judgement of the majority of East Timorese in favour of independence as expressed in the recent ballot.

But it must also pay proper attention to the aspirations and views of the minority.

Progress towards reconciliation will depend on the efforts of the United Nations but, ultimately, on the people of East Timor themselves.

This process will be slow and difficult, and may well take many years. We are working with the United Nations to start that work immediately.

We are working to ensure INTERFET will be replaced by a full United Nations peacekeeping operation as soon as possible. So we will do all we can in that time to provide a secure environment for the process of political reconciliation and humanitarian relief to go forward.

Regionally

Another, closely connected issue is the role in the region of an independent East Timor.

Before too long an independent government in Dili will have to address the question of its future relations with neighbouring countries.

Dili's future relationship with Indonesia will be particularly important.

The legacy of history will be difficult to handle. But it is essential that Dili and Jakarta manage an accommodation to keep their relations balanced and based on cooperation.

Once the UN's mandate has been achieved and international attention moves on, East Timor will have to seek its security in and with the region.

Naturally Australia will want to be a close friend of the independent East Timor. But we will work hard to prevent East Timor from being a problem in our longer-term strategic relationship with Indonesia.

THE US ALLIANCE

Our strategic relationship with the United States more than passed the test of East Timor.

I regard the respective roles of Australia and the United States in this crisis as entirely appropriate to the spirit of the alliance, and an example of the complementarity that we bring to our bilateral relationship. Let me place on record the Government's appreciation of the United States' support over the crisis.

The East Timor operation was never an ANZUS operation, but a United Nations-mandated one.

It was important and entirely appropriate for Australia to take the lead in restoring security, it was a regional problem that the region is taking the lead in managing. Indeed the US itself has recognised Australia's leadership on the East Timor issue.

Australia was willing and able to cooperate with other regional colleagues in restoring order on East Timor and allowing the United Nations process agreed with Indonesia to continue.

That being said, it would have been very difficult to carry it out without the diplomatic and practical support we draw from the US.

The alliance remains as relevant and useful to this nation as it does to the US.

This crisis has shown that the US is a reliable strategic partner for Australia. But it has also shown that Australia is a reliable strategic partner for the US

It also reminds us that Australia can carry its weight in the alliance, and that the alliance meets regional security needs.

But in doing so we meet our own national interests first and foremost.

As the Prime Minister stated yesterday, the Government does not see Australia as playing the role of deputy for the US or indeed any other country in the region.

Neither does the Government see the US playing a role as regional policeman, although continued US engagement in the region is vital to our security.

So how will events in East Timor affect Australia's role in the Asia-Pacific region?

AUSTRALIA IN THE REGION

Since this Government came to office we have adopted a more outward looking approach to defence.

During that time Australia has also seen a significant deterioration in our strategic environment.

That is why we increased the readiness of the brigade in Darwin for possible use in contingencies in our immediate neighbourhood.

That decision was based upon strategic assessment that saw potential crises in the inner arc of islands that cover the approaches to Australia.

These crises did not necessarily have to lead to direct threats to the Australian mainland.

But their potential impact on regional stability, on the capacities of countries to manage internal problems clearly impacts on the stability of the Asia-Pacific.

The lesson is clear: we cannot pretend that what happens to our neighbours does not matter to Australian security.

Our willingness and ability to lead the sort of international coalition that we now see will stand very much to Australia's credit. But we must understand why that is.

East Timor has made abundantly clear the obvious point that a nation's diplomacy cannot be effective without the backing of a convincing level of defence capability.

That is why Australia is in East Timor, leading and making the greatest contribution to INTERFET.

Events in East Timor reinforce the fact that the Defence Force must be able to give the Government the options it needs to protect Australia's interests and promote regional stability with our immediate neighbours.

This has implications for defence force preparedness, logistic sustainability, and our ability to manage possibly separate and concurrent operations.

SUSTAINABILITY

There has been much armchair analysis as to the sustainability of our deployment to East Timor by people who seem to think themselves qualified to second guess the assessments and planning of the Australian Defence Force.

So let me reaffirm the Government's position, once again.

Australia has sufficient forces available to deploy and maintain a contingent of up to 4,500 personnel for at least a year on East Timor. This includes sufficient forces to allow for a rotation of units.

I have been advised by the military that they are planning for units to spend no more than nine months on deployment, and if possible, somewhat less.

Our present force will also allow us at the same time to maintain significant forces to deal with other contingencies that may arise, and to ensure that we have the forces for critical national tasks such as counter-terrorism for the 2000 Olympics.

The Government hopes that within a year the situation in East Timor will have improved to the point that a formal United Nations peacekeeping operation can take over and allow for our forces to be significantly reduced.

But the Government recognises that there is a possibility that we may need to sustain such a deployment for longer than that.

The Government is therefore developing plans to provide the extra forces that would be needed to sustain a deployment of 4,500 personnel beyond the initial twelve months.

That would involve raising the readiness of a number of additional battalions. The Government will be taking decisions over the next few weeks about the ways in which this can best be done, to ensure that the preparation of these forces can begin early so that they will be well-prepared if they are needed.

At present, Reserves are not required to meet our main personnel needs for the deployment to East Timor, though we will seek reservists volunteer in some specialist areas, such as dental and engineering services as we often do for deployments of this nature. Over the next few weeks the Government will also consider the role of the Reserves in the event of a longer-term commitment.

The Government is working closely with the leadership of the ADF to ensure our deployment to East Timor is adequately resourced. That is the case at the moment and it will continue to be the case.

The Government is committed to ensuring that the Australian Defence Force is properly resourced.

DEFENCE RESOURCE AND CAPABILITY ISSUES

This brings me to the issue of the need for a larger defence budget.

It was not so long ago that there were voices doubting that Defence needed or deserved any increase in its budget.

More recently, serious opinion has conceded even before East Timor that changes in our strategic environment have compelled a rethink on defence issues.

In addition to making the need for a convincing level of defence capability abundantly clear, East Timor also serves to inform us that real, useable military capability is very expensive.

As the Prime Minister foreshadowed in the Parliament last week, recent events may require us to consider an increase in defence spending.

But that does not mean the Government will back away from the need for Defence as an organisation to carry through the internal reforms that it has started. In fact, any increase in defence budget only makes it more important to ensure that Defence spends its money wisely and in a manner fully accountable to Government.

Defence must meet the Government's requirement - and the community's expectation -- that it can spend its budget effectively and efficiently.

So if the Defence budget were to increase, what areas would have priority claim for extra funding?

The immediate issue of funding the East Timor commitment is the relatively straightforward part.

No effort has been spared to give our troops all they need to do the job.

The final cost of the commitment cannot be known, but we estimate that between now and the end of this financial year it will be at least $500 million, with more needed to sustain and to reconstitute our ground forces behind the INTERFET contribution.

INTERFET will be followed, hopefully soon, by another United Nations peacekeeping operation to see East Timor through to full independence.

We anticipate that this follow-on peace keeping force would operate in a more benign environment and would therefore be smaller.

Australia will not need to play such a leading role in this phase as in INTERFET, but we will continue to help to a significant degree.

But the demands of peacekeeping are only one possible claim on the budget.

HIGHER LEVEL CAPABILITIES

Another issue we must face is reconciling the need for forces required for operations of the peace-making and peacekeeping variety, and those that might be necessary for higher intensity warfighting operations.

At the end of the day, the purpose of the ADF is to be able to defend this country against armed attack.

This means that we cannot allow the task of peacekeeping - even of the robust Chapter VII kind -- to detract from the higher end of the spectrum of military capabilities.

In the long run - the next 10 to 15 years - Australia faces important choices about core military capabilities, as long-serving naval and air platforms come to the end of their life.

The decisions that will be required about those capabilities are not far away.

They include looking at options to find military capabilities that can replace our fast jet fighters and strike bombers and many units of our surface fleet.

It is in this context that a significant increase in our defence budget may become essential if we are to keep a capable and effective ADF, able to do the things government wants it to do.

Defence must work hard at maintaining its relevance and military capabilities, particularly as other countries in the region recover economically and develop in the longer term their own mature array of defence capabilities.

NEW DIRECTIONS

All these issues will be covered in a major statement of Defence policy that I will issue next year, the Defence White Paper 2000.

Specifically, the Government will:

* Update our strategic judgements and explain the implications of a deteriorating strategic environment;

* Clarify the circumstances in which the Government may need to use force to protect our interests;

* Define the sort of military tasks the ADF must be equipped to conduct;

* Explain which of a range of affordable force structure options is best suited to our circumstances, and outline its strategic benefit and resource cost; and

* Address how Australia is to harness the Revolution in Military Affairs to our benefit and to meet the challenge of interoperability with allies and friends.

This will be one of the most difficult and important Defence statements ever produced.

The challenges posed by our evolving strategic circumstances are immense.

East Timor has reminded us of the importance of a credible and robust defence capability, able to respond effectively to what strategic developments might occur and do what national interests might require.

Our allies and neighbours also need to understand the basis of our defence policy, and to regard Australia as a constructive and relevant player.

I am confident after recent events that there will be a more informed receptive and thoughtful discussion and understanding of these issues in the community.

Email: J.Moore.MP@aph.gov.au Website: www.defence.gov.au


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