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Australia's National Security: Defence Update 2005

Minister for Defence Media Mail List

Thursday 15 December, 2005
201/2005

Australia's National Security: Defence Update 2005

A major review of Australia's National security has been released today outlining current threats and challenges facing Australia and the measures the Howard Government is taking to keep Australia secure.

Prime Minister John Howard today joined Defence Minister Robert Hill and Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston to launch the report, Australia's National Security: Defence Update 2005, at Victoria Barracks in Sydney.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said Defence is better prepared than ever before to respond to any threats, both in Australia and overseas.

"This update outlines how the Government has shaped the ADF to increase Australia's capacity to meet the heavy demands of recent years, and the measures being taken to ensure the ADF is a force capable of meeting future military challenges," Senator Hill said.

"Defeating the threat of terrorism, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and supporting regional states in difficulty remain the Government's highest priorities.

"The Update builds on the previously released Defence White Paper and Defence Update 2003 and highlights the longer-term trends associated with the impacts of globalisation and changing relationships between the major powers of our region."

The report's key conclusions are:

* Terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the consequences of state fragility and failure remain the most immediate strategic challenges for Australia.

* The ADF needs to confront current international security issues such as terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan whilst helping build capabilities in South East Asia.

* The ADF will continue to be called on to provide humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, civil emergency response, offshore evacuation and peacekeeping capabilities on an ongoing and often short-notice basis.

* Continuing strategic complexity and uncertainty means that we need to build a balanced Defence Force that is versatile, robust, joint and integrated.

* Defence industry is critical to meeting the ADF's capability needs and the Government is committed to policies that will build an internationally competitive Defence industry to support, sustain and upgrade Defence assets.

"The current high demands placed on the ADF in responding to the present threats and meeting other responsibilities are likely to continue, and our military forces can expect to conduct concurrent deployments domestically, regionally and internationally in support of Australia's interests," Senator Hill said.

"This creates the need for high levels of preparedness, sustainability and endurance within our military forces.

"In the years ahead, we might also find ourselves facing challenges that cannot be anticipated or predicted easily. This puts a focus on forces that are versatile, robust, joint and integrated."

New initiatives include:

* Considering options for heavy airlift capabilities to supplement the medium lift C-130 J Hercules aircraft.

* Increasing the size and capability of the Australian Army through the 10-year plan for the Hardened and Networked Army (HNA).

* Reinforcing Australia's counter-terrorism efforts with changes to the Defence Act which strengthen the ADF's powers to help civil authorities during periods of national emergency.

* Further tightening export controls to ensure that Australian materials and technologies do not contribute to WMD proliferation.

* Engaging private sector partners for Defence to increase efficiencies in logistic support to operations.

"With the Hardened and Networked Army plan, the Government will provide the Army with greater mobility, combat weight and network capabilities to be able to conduct a wide range of tasks," Senator Hill said.

"The Government will increase the size of the force, increase fire support and flexibility and provide a new force structure based on combined arms battle groups.

"The Army is being delivered an impressive array of equipment over the next ten years, including new helicopters, tanks, trucks, weapons systems and combat equipment. The Hardened and Networked Army plan will optimise the use of the new equipment by updating Army structures, training and procedures.

"The Army will also become more capable of sustaining its deployed forces with plans for about 1500 additional new personnel, as well as re-focusing the Reserves to provide high readiness forces which will support operations.

"The Army will re-role the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, from a parachute battalion based in Sydney, to create a second mechanised battalion based in Adelaide from 2011.

"The Australian Defence Force is a national asset we should all be very proud of. The ever-changing environment our men and women of the armed forces operate in is dangerous with the proliferation of lethal weapons and complex environments.

"We can be confident that this update further prepares the ADF to defend Australia and its interests now and in the future."

ENDS

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