The government is publishing this White Paper to chart a clear course for Australia at a time of rapid change. Over the coming decade Australia will need to pursue its interests in a more competitive and contested world.
Our world is now more interconnected and interdependent than at any other time. Scientific and technological advances and the speed with which ideas and knowledge can be transmitted have driven economic growth and helped millions of people live longer and better lives. Australia and Australians will have great opportunities to prosper.
At the same time, concerns about globalisation and levels of political alienation and economic nationalism in many countries are on the rise. The same connectedness that empowers individual citizens increases risk and volatility in the international system. Similarly, it amplifies the reach and impact of non-state actors, including those who would do us harm.
In the Indo–Pacific, the economic growth that has come with globalisation is in turn changing power balances. The United States has been the dominant power in our region throughout Australia’s post-Second World War history. Today, China is challenging America’s position.
Australia and our regional and global partners face a diverse range of security threats, from North Korea’s long-range missile and nuclear programs to Islamist terrorism.
State fragility, demographic shifts and environmental challenges like climate change will continue to shape our world and demand policy responses.
Powerful drivers of change are converging in a way that is re-shaping the international order and challenging Australian interests.
In the decade ahead, Australia will need to be competitive and agile to take advantage of the opportunities that will come from dynamic Asian economies and technological and scientific advances.
In parallel, risks to our interests are building. In particular, the stability of the Indo–Pacific region, which has underpinned its economic transformation, cannot be assumed.
Any significant rise in protectionism globally could create strategic friction, damage economic growth and undermine the rules that support flows of trade and investment.
Similarly, the rules and institutions that help maintain peace and security and guide global cooperation are under strain. In some cases, major powers are ignoring or undermining international law. With many divergent interests and shifts in power between states, it is more difficult to get governments to respond collectively to some security and economic challenges. In the United States, there is greater debate about the costs of sustaining its global leadership.
In this dynamic environment, Australia must seek opportunity while protecting our interests in the face of complexity and uncertainty.
In a more contested and competitive world, our domestic and international policies will have to work together to maximise our national power and international influence. We will require active, determined and innovative foreign policy built on strong domestic foundations—a flexible economy, strong defence and national security capabilities and resilient democratic institutions within a cohesive society.
These broad themes—opportunity, security and strength—sit at the heart of this White Paper. They recognise that an outward-looking Australia fully engaged with the world is essential to our future security and prosperity.