Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP101309- Ambassador Rod Smith National Defense College of the Philippines

Presentation to the National Defense College of the Philippines- Ambassador Rod Smith
Australia's Defence and Security Concerns
13 October 2009  


In May this year, the Australian Government released its latest Defence White Paper – Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030. This followed a comprehensive review of Australia’s strategic and security environment and defence policies initiated by the Government upon its election in November 2007. The White Paper is both an authoritative statement on Australia’s defence policies and a blueprint for the re-shaping of Australia’s long-term defence capabilities to meet the national security challenges that Australia will face over the next 20 years. This presentation aims to give you some insights into what Australia considers those security challenges to be, and how we plan to develop our military capabilities to respond to those challenges.

I will also discuss Australia’s international defence cooperation, and particularly the strong cooperation on defence and security matters we have with the Philippines.

The Evolution of Australia’s Defence and Security Policy

The 2009 Defence White Paper is only the fifth such paper since the end of the Vietnam War. It is instructive to look at how Australia’s defence policy has evolved over the years.

In 1964, the government’s classified Strategic Basis Paper expressed the view that ‘Australia must rely on her own independent military capability and collective security arrangements for her defence and the maintenance of stability in the area’.

The 1972 Australian Defence Review argued for a more independent national defence capability and for self-reliance as ‘a central feature in the future development of Australia’s defence policy’. Still, it was not until the 1976 Defence White Paper that defence policy was officially shifted away from the assumption that Australia’s forces would be sent abroad to fight as part of another nation’s force, to the notion that our defence force should be structured for the self-reliant defence of Australian territory.

The 1987 Defence White Paper added substance to this policy of defence self-reliance by stating that priority would be given to the ability to defend ourselves with our own resources. Australia, the White Paper declared, must have the military capability to prevent an enemy from attacking us successfully in our sea and air approaches, gaining a foothold on our territory, or extracting political concessions from us through the use of military power. The 1987 Paper noted that this policy was pursued within a framework of alliances and agreements with friends and allies in the region and beyond, notably with the United States. Defence self-reliance and the ‘defence of Australia’ doctrine did not mean that Australia became isolationist, but defence of Australia did mean that – for force structure purposes – the primary determinant remained focused on the ability to defend Australia and its approaches.

This construct was continued into the 2000 Defence White Paper, with a decision to develop a force structure with a focus on maritime capabilities that could defend Australia by denying the air and sea approaches to any credible hostile forces, and land forces that could operate as part of a joint force to control the approaches to Australia and respond effectively to any armed incursion on to Australian territory.

The 2009 Defence White Paper was developed through an exhaustive review process, led by the Department of Defence with input from other government agencies and experts from think tanks and academia. Unusually, the process also included direct consultations with the Australian public for their views on the most appropriate defence policy for Australia. The starting point for the White Paper process was a wide-ranging review of our security environment and our strategic interests, followed by determinations of the future tasks and roles for the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

The final document represents the most comprehensive Government statement on Defence ever produced. It affirms the Government’s commitment to the defence of Australia, the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and a rules-based global security order. The defence capabilities outlined in the White Paper will, over the next 20 years, create a smarter, globally flexible force better able to deal with the new strategic environment. To achieve this, the Government has directed the largest defence acquisition program and the most complex and far reaching reforms of Defence business ever undertaken.
Australia’s Strategic Environment

Let me take a few minutes to discuss the White Paper’s assessment of our strategic operating environment over the next two decades. The strategic environment today is very different to that described by the last White Paper almost a decade ago. Some of the trends that were identified then, such as the increasing pace of globalisation and state fragility in our near neighbourhood, continue. But other trends, such as the rise of terrorism, the realignment of global and regional power realities, and emerging threats such as border protection, climate change and resource security, represent newer dynamics that will also affect our strategic and security environment for the foreseeable future.

The key features of Australia’s future security environment are as follows.
First, the United States will remain the most powerful and influential actor out to 2030. No other power will have the military, economic or strategic capacity to challenge US primacy over the period covered by this White Paper. Our alliance with the United States is enduring and remains vital to Australia’s future defence.
Within the Asia-Pacific Region economic growth should help foster stability and security, but there are likely to be tensions between the major powers where the interests of the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia intersect. The security environment in Northeast Asia will turn on how the strategic dynamics between the US, China and Japan are managed. While the chance of direct confrontation between any of these major powers is small, there is always the possibility of miscalculation.

China will continue to be a key driver of economic activity in the region and globally in the period out to 2030. It will also be Asia’s strongest military power by a wide margin, and China is likely to develop a significant military capability commensurate with its size. The management of the relationship between the United States and China will be critical for stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Within Southeast Asia, economic and social development will continue but power relativities will shift. Southeast Asian nations will benefit from their proximity to major powers, but will also feel their competitive pressure. Some countries will continue to be beset by security problems such as terrorism, insurgency and communal violence, but as a general rule should be able to contain these challenges.

The evolution of Indonesia as a stable democratic state with strong social cohesion is important to Australia’s strategic interests and provides Indonesia with a strong platform for long-term stability and prosperity. The success of Indonesia’s democratic transformation under the leadership of President Yudhoyono is an important contribution to longer-term regional stability.
In the South Pacific and East Timor, economic, social and political instability will continue to present challenges to Australia’s strategic interests. This may create conditions in which Australia might be required to respond with security and humanitarian assistance, as we have done in the past.

Coalition operations in support of our wider interests will also remain critical. Australia’s enhanced contribution to Afghanistan is a demonstration of our commitment to working with the international community to help prevent Afghanistan once again becoming the primary training ground and operating base for global terrorist activity.

Australia believes that the Middle East will remain a violent, conflict-ridden region to 2030. Economic development in Africa will be uneven and insecurity and instability (such as we see in Somalia) are likely to continue, exacerbated by environmental pressures. Closer to home, the Indian Ocean will have greater strategic significance in the period to 2030. And it remains our assessment that Islamist terrorism will remain a destabilising feature of the global security environment for at least a generation.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) remains a matter of serious concern. There is a risk that the number of states with a ‘break-out’ capability to produce WMD will increase due to the proliferation of dual-use infrastructure and the continued operation of WMD proliferation networks.
And we see new security risks also emerging as a result of the potential impact of climate change and questions of resource security. These trends are likely to exacerbate existing problems in governance and population in developing countries.

Adapting our Defence Forces

The environment I have just described will present our defence forces with challenges of a new and different order to those we have faced before. We must have a flexible and effective force to deal with a wider range of contingencies – contingencies that range from stabilisation operations and humanitarian and disaster relief to the more remote possibility of direct conflict.

In adapting our defence forces to meet the demands of the future, we need not only to understand our strategic environment, we also need to know the primary tasks that the defence force will need to be able to perform. Australia’s defence policy is based on the core principle of self reliance in the direct defence of Australia. This means that we must have the ability to conduct independent military operations in the defence of Australia by controlling our air and sea approaches and denying any potential adversary the ability to operate in our immediate neighbourhood.

The defence of Australia is the core task for the Australian Defence Force and it is around this task that our force is shaped. But we also need to conduct other tasks when it is in our interests to do so. This means we need to have the capacity to act independently where we have unique interests at stake and do not wish to be reliant on the combat forces of others, lead military coalitions where we have shared strategic interests at stake with others and make tailored contributions to military coalitions where we share wider strategic interests with others.

These objectives shape the priority tasks that our defence forces will be required to undertake in the strategic environment out to 2030. These tasks are:

• deterring and defeating attacks on Australia by controlling our air and sea approaches against credible adversaries

• contributing to stability and security in the South Pacific and East Timor by assisting our neighbours in dealing with humanitarian and disaster relief, and on occasion stabilisation interventions as we have done in the past

• contributing to military contingencies in the wider Asia-Pacific Region including by way of assisting our Southeast Asian partners to meet external challenges; and

• contributing to military contingencies in support of global security by supporting the efforts of the international community in upholding a rules-based global order, where our interests align and where we have the capacity to do so.

In order to undertake these tasks in an increasingly demanding strategic environment, the White Paper concluded will need a force that is capable of confronting a wide range of contingencies both now and into the future. That in turn will require significant long term investment –investment that is crucial to our long term national interest and will help secure our nation and our people for decades to come. This is why the Australian Government has decided to acquire what the White Paper terms “Force 2030”.

It is often said that one of the great mistakes of military strategy throughout history has been to prepare to fight the last war. The Australian Government is determined not to repeat that error. We are determined to ensure that our defence forces are shaped in the geo-political realities of the century ahead. That is why this defence paper looks forward to 2030 and seeks to determine what our defence forces will need over the next 20 years.

Australia’s Future Defence Force: Force 2030

Force 2030 represents the most powerful, integrated and sophisticated set of military capabilities that Australia has ever acquired. It is a force that provides us with the reach, weight and flexibility to undertake the principal tasks for the Australian Defence Force. The White Paper describes the key capability elements that comprise Force 2030. These include the following:

• 12 future submarines, which will be Australia’s largest-ever single defence project. They will be capable of anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, strategic strike, intelligence collection and support for special operations forces;

• Air-Warfare Destroyers and a new class of Frigates to replace the ANZAC class ships, to provide enhanced anti-submarine warfare and air defence capabilities. This will give us greater flexibility in protecting our air and sea approaches, and provide greater protection for our troops on operations;

• New maritime-based land-attack cruise missiles to enhance the capabilities of the Air Warfare Destroyers and future combatant ships and submarines;

• New Naval Combat Helicopters, to further enhance our maritime capabilities and, in particular, anti-submarine warfare;

• Around 100 Joint Strike Fighters, to provide a potent air combat capability to 2030;

• New Wedgetail Early Warning and Control aircraft, to provide greatly enhanced situational awareness and an ability to control and coordinate other aircraft;

• New maritime surveillance and response aircraft, to provide enhanced capabilities for protecting our borders;

• Around 1,100 new armoured combat vehicles to provide greater protection, mobility and fire-power for our troops;

• Networking of our land forces, to ensure that our men and women in uniform are more effective on operations;

• Maintaining the capability edge and effectiveness of our Special Forces, so that their formidable combat edge is not only preserved but expanded; and

• Enhancing our cyber-warfare capabilities, by establishing a Cyber Security Operations Centre that will provide a greater capacity to respond to cyber-threats and improve our response to incidents in cyberspace.

Acquisition of these capabilities will see Australia increase its major naval assets by one third, double the size of its submarine fleet, and transform its surface fleet from Light to Heavy Frigates and Destroyers. Realising Force 2030 will mean the best fighter jets, the most versatile armoured vehicles and the most sophisticated submarines available are acquired to defend Australia’s national security. It is a force that will provide the ADF with greater depth, power and survivability for the next two decades.

The White Paper also sets out a range of other major new defence commitments. It is equally important to renew, to repair and to refit the materiel and equipment that we already have and the facilities that support it. That is why this defence paper also focuses strongly on remediating the defence force we have today so this it can operate better for tomorrow.

Over the next decade, Australia will devote approximately $30 billion (approx USD27 billion, or Php1.2 trillion) to fixing the existing force. This includes approximately $6 billion for more than 50 new projects to fill the crucial gaps that have been identified in equipment and protection for our women and men in uniform. Approximately $18 billion will be allocated to topping-up existing projects that have been under-funded in the past, and approximately $6 billion to fix systems and infrastructure that support our women and men in uniform.
Australia believes that to be effective, a Defence policy must look over the horizon, not just of the next year but of the decades ahead. So, in setting Australia’s new defence policy the government has taken the view that the economic challenges of today do not negate the security challenges of tomorrow. We must deal with the challenges of the global recession today and at the same time prepare for the major national security challenges of the future – hence, the significant financial commitment to Force 2030.

Securing funding of this magnitude, even for an affluent developed country like Australia, is not easy. It requires tough decisions and a determination to ensure that strategic planning is not undermined by underfunding. To enable Defence to plan with certainty its capability goals in the long term, the Australian Government has committed to real funding stability for Defence. The key elements of this funding profile include maintaining three per cent real growth in Defence’s budget out to 2017-18, 2.5 per cent fixed indexation designed to offset Defence against the cost of inflation to its business, and long-term growth of 2.2 per cent from 2018-2030.

None of these measures can be effective if we do not invest in the people that we need to operate, support and maintain our capabilities. That is why the 2009 Defence White Paper also describes a people strategy aimed at providing a more strategic approach to managing people in defence, nurturing the skills of our defence professionals, ensuring that defence families are looked after and enhancing our ability to attract and retain the very best men and women in uniform.

Australia’s International Security Relationships

Central to Australia’s strategic posture, and one of the most important ways Australia seeks to promote its strategic interests, is our network of alliances, our bilateral and multilateral defence relationships, and the growing range of multilateral security forums and arrangements in the region. These international security relationships are critical, complementing our broader foreign policy interests, contributing to building confidence, mutual understanding and transparency, and providing a basis for working together with allies, neighbours and friends when circumstances demand. Among the priority security relationships identified in the White Paper are these:

• Fostering the Australia-US alliance. Our alliance with the United States is our most important defence relationship. In day-to-day terms, the alliance gives us significant access to materiel, intelligence, research and development, communications systems, and skills and expertise that substantially strengthen the ADF.

• Working with New Zealand as a key ally in building security and stability in the South Pacific – this is best exemplified through our work together in places such as East Timor and the Solomon Islands.

• Ensuring our Defence relationship with Indonesia continues to grow through our ongoing work together on security challenges such as terrorism, people smuggling and maritime security.

• Deepening bilateral cooperation with other Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines which I will discuss more in a moment

• Maintaining our important relationships with Singapore and Malaysia as other key regional partners in this region and, together with the United Kingdom and New Zealand, cement practical and long-standing cooperation through the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

• Maintaining a strong, positive and practical relationship with China as it assumes a greater role on the regional and global stage.

• Further enhancing our growing Defence relationship with Japan, which remains a key friend and security partner in the region.

• Building closer ties with India, given our shared interests in counter-terrorism and maritime security in the Indian Ocean.

• Continuing assistance to help East Timor to build its own security forces, and the Solomon Islands to build national stability and security.

• Providing assistance to Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island Countries to enable them to maintain stability and protect their sovereignty; and

• Continuing to enhance our longstanding defence relationship with the United Kingdom.

Australia’s Defence and Security Relationship with the Philippines

As I draw towards a conclusion, I would like to specifically mention Australia’s defence and security relationship with the Philippines. Australia and the Philippines enjoy an extremely close and cooperative security relationship built around two central pillars – counter terrorism and maritime security. Under a Defence Cooperation Program that has been running for more than 30 years, Australia has trained thousands of Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel both in Australia and in the Philippines. Currently, under a multi-million dollar assistance program, we take approximately 130 AFP personnel to Australia every year to undertake various courses ranging from several weeks duration for skills and technical training courses, up to three or four years for degree studies, while training about three times that number in various skills-enhancement courses, workshops and seminars here in the Philippines.

The Australian Defence Force is also working closely with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to strengthen the AFP’s capacity to counter international terrorist threats, particularly in the marshlands of central Mindanao, while at the same time providing practical assistance to the Philippine Navy (as the lead Philippine Service) to establish the Coast Watch South Headquarters in Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City.

In 2007 Australia concluded a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines. The Agreement has been ratified by the Australian Parliament and we look forward to its ratification by the Philippine Senate. Entry into force of the Agreement will enable a deepening of our already strong defence relationship.

The counter terrorism and capacity building activities sponsored by the Australian Department of Defence complement the contribution other Australian government agencies also make in these areas. This year the Australian Government Aid Program will contribute AS$123m – close to Php 5 billion on current exchange rates – towards economic development, education, infrastructure, health and governance programs and projects throughout the Philippines, with a particular focus on Mindanao. The Australian Federal Police also conduct capacity building and skills enhancement projects for the Philippine National Police, including funding the establishment of the PNP Bomb Data Centre. And the Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development has sponsored several major projects to improve the security and operations of Philippine ports and airports, particularly in the southern Philippines.

Despite the global economic crisis and the impact it has had on the Australian economy, Australia has committed to continue making such important contributions to the defence and security of the Philippines and other regional countries. This commitment is made explicit in the Defence White Paper in these terms:

We will work particularly closely with modernising defence forces in the Philippines and Thailand, where we will continue to have an interest in helping them develop their counter terrorism capabilities and the professionalism of their armed forces as they confront difficult internal security challenges. We will also continue to assist our Southeast Asian neighbours to develop greater capacities to contribute to regional security.


In conclusion, the 2009 Defence White Paper represents the most comprehensive Government statement on Australia’s defence and security concerns ever produced. While noting the increasing uncertainty of the strategic environment over the next two decades, the White Paper affirms the Government’s commitment to the defence of Australia, the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and a rules-based global security order.

The capabilities outlined in the White Paper will, over the next 20 years, create a smarter, more capable, globally flexible Australian Defence Force better able to deal with a more complex and rapidly evolving global strategic environment, provide for a more secure Australia, and contribute meaningfully to international peace and stability.

One final point. The White Paper has been prepared with a commitment to the principle of transparency. It provides a basis for assessing how – and how effectively – defence funding is spent, and how the Government plans to manage strategic risk. It gives stakeholders – the Australian public, defence force personnel, both uniform and civilian, business, industry, the media, and not least Australia’s allies, neighbours and partners – a comprehensive account of our approach to defence matters. Transparency in strategic affairs is, self evidently, crucial in building confidence in the international community. The Australian Defence White Paper is, we hope, a contribution to that critically important goal of building confidence across borders.