Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific century: force 2030

4 May 2009

This new Defence White Paper explains how the Government plans to strengthen the foundations of Australia's defence. It sets out the Government's plans for Defence for the next few years, and how it will achieve those plans.

It provides an indication of the level of resources that the Government is planning to invest in Defence over coming years and what the Government, on behalf of the Australian people, expects in return from Defence.

 

From the executive summary

Ultimately, armed forces exist to provide Governments with the option to use force. Maintaining a credible defence capability is a crucial contributor to our security, as it can serve to deter potential adversaries from using force against us or our allies, partners and neighbours. It is the Government's policy that the main role of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) should continue to be an ability to engage in conventional combat against other armed forces.

The ADF must also be prepared to play its part in dealing with intra-state conflict, an enduring feature, and assessed to be the most common form of conflict in the period to 2030. Australia's armed forces must also be able to contend with non-state global actors.Defence's vital role in supporting domestic security and emergency response efforts will continue, and Defence will support these areas of Commonwealth responsibility.

From the outset, we need to have a clear view of how much strategic risk Australia is prepared to bear, and hence how much military power we should seek to develop. The more Australia aspires to have greater strategic influence beyond our immediate neighbourhood - that is to say the ability to exert policy influence that is underpinned by military power - the greater the level of spending on defence we need to be prepared to undertake. If we want to back up strategic influence with military power, we have to be prepared to invest the resources required, and to be confident that the security benefits outweigh those costs.

As in other areas of public policy, the more balanced our portfolio of capabilities, the more we will be able to hedge and re-balance as required. The key issue is to have a solid foundation upon which to build, adapt and take advantage of opportunities. We need to review periodically and rigorously whether the mix and scale of our capabilities are appropriate to the emerging challenges in our strategic outlook. The Government intends to prepare a new Defence White Paper at intervals no greater than five years. This quinquennial  White Paper development process will be the centrepiece of the Government's new strategic risk-based approach to defence planning.

Defence policy must be based on clear objectives. Not all strategic risks necessarily require our full attention, while those that are the most remote might require our fullest attention because of their potential consequences. We have to be very clear about what matters most, so that we can provision against the right risks and do not waste resources.

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