This article analyses the political context of Defence White Papers from 1976 to 2013. Political competition between the major Australian political parties is an inevitable and indeed essential backdrop to policy development. Only by understanding the dynamics of that competition is it possible to understand how governments make key defence policy decisions around strategy, force structure and defence spending. Competition for authority within parties also informs how Prime Ministers use White Papers as a means to cement their own power. A key challenge for governments is the need to look credible as custodians of Australian national security in the perceptions of voters. If one party is unable to demonstrate clear superiority over the other in its management of defence, a secondary aim is to try to remove defence as a point of political difference by claiming bipartisanship on key aspects of policy.