25 July 2010

What about Defence?

One week into the election campaign it is clear that both pretenders to the highest public office in the land consider that the only national security issue worth discussing is how best to deal with the trickle of lost souls arriving in our north-western waters. There are some other national security issues that I would like to hear from them about in order to be able to exercise an informed choice:

-  What is their position on the 2009 Defence White Paper and the Defence Capability Plan that was derived from it? Do they remain the basis for Australia’s defence policy and our defence force development?

-  In particular, do they agree that the principal task for the ADF is to deter and defeat armed attacks on Australia by conducting independent military operations without relying on the combat or combat support forces of other countries?

-  Do they agree, as the White Paper states, that this means that the ADF has to be able to control our air and sea approaches against credible adversaries in the defence of Australia, to the extent required to safeguard our territory, critical sea lanes, population and infrastructure?

-  Do they agree with the priorities contained in the White Paper, which prescribe that the future force of 2030 will be a more potent force in certain areas, particularly in undersea warfare and anti-submarine warfare (ASW), surface maritime warfare (including air defence at sea), air superiority, strategic strike, special forces, ISR and cyber warfare?

-  Will there be 12 boats in the next generation submarine fleet that will replace the Collins class?

-  Will they be designed and built in Australia?

-  Do they think that the enhancement of the Australian Defence Force that is contemplated in the Defence White Paper can be substantially financed by savings? (I do not – see Defence savings: the impossible dream).

-  The Rudd Government’s planning guidance for Defence is that its budget will be increased in real terms by 3% per annum until 2018, after which it will be increased by 2.2%.  Will this planning guidance remain after the election?

-  What do they have to say about the war in Afghanistan? What is the future role of Australian forces there? Please explain the connection of the war in Afghanistan to Australia’s national security, and set your answer in the context of a grotesquely under-resource war in which most of the ISAF (NATO) participants are determined to avoid conflict, a war which we seem to be in the process of losing.

There are many more questions to which I would like the answers, but the above would do for a start.  There is much more to national security policy than offshore processing of asylum seekers or “stopping the boats”. Please explain.

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