Is it time to increase Defence Spending?

This might seem an unusual question to ask in an edition for the Land Forces conference, which will feature displays of the massive amount of hardware that Army is in the process of acquiring. As the Government likes to remind us, by raising Defence expenditure to 2% of GDP by 2020 -2021 the practical consequence is that this pays for $200 billion worth of new equipment during the next few years. This is the largest peacetime build up in Australia’s history, but is it enough?

The rationale for this is increasing strategic uncertainty, coupled with the ultimate purpose of defence spending: being able to protect Australia from aggression, including the possibility of an armed incursion. Regional conditions are far less settled than they were even a decade ago and there is a reasonable chance that things will get much worse. The main dynamic is the rise of China – and for as long as the Trump administration remains in power this is coupled with a considerable degree of uncertainty about U.S. treaty commitments and whether a willingness to come to the assistance of allies, including Australia, can still be counted on.

As discussed with Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne in this issue, this is something that the Government is alert to. He refers to the concept of strategic self reliance, which was a guiding principle of Defence planning following the 1986 Dibb Review, but which fell out of fashion about a decade later to be replaced by the idea of coalition operations. This idea that all serious military undertakings would always be carried out in conjunction with the U.S. was strengthened after 9/11 – but is now starting to fade with the realisation that Washington might no longer be prepared to come to our assistance. As Minister Pyne points out, self-reliance is impossible without a strong domestic industry base – and ensuring that is one of several reasons why the Government is prepared to pay a reasonable premium for Australian Industry Content in place of fully imported solutions.

In an ideal world, the Defence budget would be sufficient to fund the ADF to the level deemed adequate to fulfil all of its goals – no more and no less. This could mean that for a few years it was considerably more than 2% and at other times much less. However, for public consumption and a



  1. Of course it’s time to increase defence spending!
    From 1942 onward Australia was under repeated air and sea attack from a major naval power. Aircraft and submarines attacked Darwin, Sydney, Broome, Townsville, and Mossman ports. These were not just isolated incidents. The initial Darwin raid was bigger than Pearl Harbour. Darwin was raided many times. The only reason many Australian aircraft carriers and battle ships were not lost was because there were precious few principal Navy ships in Australian waters; and of course there were no carriers to loose. That was because we hadn’t built any. China now seeks “lebensraum” and has prematurally declared it’s intention to acquire ports and land from Beijing to Antarctica and in the Indo Pacific, by any means. Our government has a duty of care to provide our military with the best tools of their professions to maintain our sovereignty. LHD type aircraft carriers, F35Bs, and long range nuclear powered submarines is where it should start. The carriers should also be nuclear powered. Building here is preferred but buying instead will fill the gap. To the government – do it yesterday!
    Regards Doug A.

  2. Yes we should increase defence spending because it is difficult to “walk quietly, but with big stick” if Australia doesn’t own a big stick (Navy).
    Regards DOUG A.


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