China’s “more aggressive posture” in the region has prompted a “vital” and sweeping review into the Australian Defence Force.
Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles say the Defence Strategic Review, which will be led by former Labor defence minister Stephen Smith and the former chief of defence force Sir Angus Houston, will ensure the ADF is “well positioned” to meet the security challenges of the next decade.
It will be the most comprehensive reassessment of the ADF in 35 years and comes amid a threat of full scale state-on-state conflict within the next 10 years.
Mr Albanese said the consequences of getting the review wrong could be detrimental, as he would not be drawn on whether war with China this decade was “inevitable”.
“We need to do all that we can to advance peace and security in our region,” he said.
“We live in an era … where China has taken a more aggressive posture in the region.”
Sir Angus described the security conditions as the worst he has seen in his lifetime.
“It’s absolutely imperative that we review the current strategic circumstances … and what we need to do about it in terms of the force structure, posture and capability,” he said.
He said the war in Ukraine as well as the issues surrounding Taiwan and the East China Sea and conflicts in northern India had also threatened global security.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said the 2020 Defence Strategic Update had identified changes in Australia’s strategic environment were accelerating “more rapidly” than predicted in the 2012 force posture review.
“(The Dub review in 1986) established a strategic setting for this country for 35 years, and inherent in that was an idea that if any country meant to do us harm, we would be given a 10-year warning,” Mr Marles said.
“In 2020, the Defence Strategic Update observed for the first time that we’re within that 10-year window.
“It was a very significant observation … but it left a question of ‘what are we going to do?’ Answering that question is what this review will do.”
Mr Marles said the review would “cross pollinate” with the ongoing AUKUS work.
Professor Smith and Sir Angus have been asked to prepare the review by March 2023.
By that time, they will need to outline the investments required to support defence preparedness and mobilisation needs.
Mr Albanese said their work would ensure Australia had the best possible Defence Force capability ready to meet the security challenges over the next decade.
“Professor Smith and Sir Angus bring a unique blend of knowledge and experience to their role as independent leads,” he said.
“Their depth of expertise will be invaluable in informing the review.”