With the re-election of the Scott Morrison-led Coalition government in May 2019, the future shape of Australian defence policy needs to be examined.
The strategic assumptions that underpinned defence policy choices in the 2016 Defence White Paper were made in the years preceding the release of that document and extend from earlier white papers, including those released in 2009 and 2013.
Their foundation goes back to the days of the 1986 Dibb Report and the 1987 Defence White Paper. In the next Defence White Paper, which could emerge as early as 2021, a continued approach that places too much emphasis on defending the inner arc—notably the ‘sea–air gap’—would not adequately address emerging strategic risks to regional stability.
The strategic environment has evolved at such a pace that policies announced in 2016 have been overtaken by events. It’s time for a review of Australian defence strategy. It’s time for something new.