The Defence Strategic Review: The insiders will just tinker around the edges

Sep 9, 2022
Chess Kings painted in the colours of the UK, Australia and the US to represent AUKUS
image: iStock

The Defence Strategic Review will tinker around the edges, but will not push back on negative game changers such as AUKUS and all it represents in casting China as the enemy.

On 3 August, 2022, the new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, announced a Defence Strategic Review.

This followed cancellation of a $90 billion French submarine contract, at short notice, in September 2021, by the then Prime Minister, Morrison. It also followed talk of a new defence arrangement between the US, UK and Australia, AUKUS, to facilitate the construction of eight nuclear submarines by either or both the UK and the US, with talk also of construction in Australia. The time of delivery was speculated at 20 to 30 years from the date of the announcement. Issues relating to the transfer of nuclear technology and compliance with the NPT were identified for resolution.

Additionally, the outgoing Defence Minister, Peter Dutton, declared China the main threat to Australian security, centred on a future military occupation of the autonomous province of Taiwan. Against the background of a carefully orchestrated build up of tension toward China by the US military/industrial complex over the past seven years, Australia had undertaken the purchase and ordering of new defence equipment, some of which did not fit with projections relating to Australian ‘strategic’ requirements, such as 135, MII Abrams tanks. There were fighters, such as the F35, which failed to meet expectations and the British, Hunter class frigate which because of Australian imposed design specifications were no longer fit for purpose.

As a result of the nuclear submarine debacle, experts with experience began advocating for the purchase or construction of conventional submarines, in many ways better suited to Australian needs and with far shorter delivery times.

However, in all of the swirl and hyperactivity of the so-called defence debate and difficult to understand procurement, the enemy Australia was priming itself to fight was not identified. Planning and expenditure have been carried out in a seeming vacuum. The enemy, whose name we apparently cannot speak, is China. The United States has identified China as the enemy and as a staunch and loyal ally of America, Australia it seems has adopted China as the enemy. We have been herded down that track by ASPI, ONI, MSM hysteria and ignorance of China. To get the mob running the US threw in AUKUS, rightly calculating that Morrison and Dutton, both open to US flattery and without the intellectual capacity or character to balance the blandishments, would agree to AUKUS. The inclusion of the United Kingdom in the arrangement was window dressing. The UK is a shrinking if not collapsing power.

If implemented in anyway approaching public statements by the hapless Minister for Defence, Marles, various US Generals and Admirals and leaks from vested interests, then AUKUS represents a significant abrogation of responsibility by government toward the security and sovereignty of Australia.

Apparently AUKUS aims to see the basing of US nuclear submarines and other naval assets in Australia, US strike and bombing aircraft based in the north and missiles stationed in the north. US Marines are already based in Darwin, Pine Gap has been expanded to give an enhanced China watching and operational capacity to the facility.

The north and indeed other parts of Australia will be put on a US directed war footing. Notionally to confront China but perhaps later to attack it. Australian territory will become the front line, various so-called joint facilities and US supply, fuel and ammunition storage facilities will become targets.

Given the de facto integration of ADF forces into the US defence operational and command structure that has already taken place and is taking place, it is difficult to see what the Defence Strategic Review can recommend above and beyond confirming the status quo.

Albanese, with his trade mark caution, appointed former Labor Party, Foreign Affairs and Defence Minister, Stephen Smith and Air Chief Marshall, Angus Houston to conduct the review. Both have had a life time of operating within frameworks provided by government. Neither are noted for lateral thinking or rocking the boat.

In November 2009, as Foreign Minister, Smith went to Sri Lanka and signed a people smuggling agreement with the corrupt Rajapaksa regime. He made no mention of the Tamil people who were seeking to come to Australia by boat to escape genocide, rape and torture at the hands of the Rajapaksa regime. He did not offer to process any of them as refugees.

Smith is Chairman of cyber security firm, archTIS. Cyber security is said to become a key element of joint US/Australian co-operation under AUKUS.

In 2012 Houston was charged by the Australian government with an investigation into asylum seekers. The report was delivered in August 2012. He recommended the establishment of offshore processing facilities on Nauru and PNG, people arriving by boat should not be eligible to sponsor family members and boats should be turned back. He delivered the outcome the government wanted. There were alternatives. All of them more humanitarian and practical. Houston is Honorary Patron of the Australia/American Association, Canberra Division. He has given the nod to China as the threat facing Australia, saying after his most recent appointment that ‘the deteriorating strategic environment facing Australia is the worst I have seen in my lifetime.’

Houston and Smith will no doubt tinker around the edges with wasted resources, poor procurement decisions and man power requirements and training but they will not push back on AUKUS and all that it represents in casting China as the enemy, primarily because they believe in the ‘fundamentals’ of the alliance and the benefits to flow from what they have been told about AUKUS.

AUKUS is a negative game changer for Australian defence and foreign policies but Smith and Houston are likely to endorse it.

Read more in our Defence Strategic Review series of articles.

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