Australia is in the process of pivoting back to our own region and looking for new strategies for Defence re-engagement. But the Defence Cooperation Program hasn’t been scrutinised in any depth since an audit report by the Auditor-General in 2001. That pointed to a lack of financial information management and clear and public articulation of the goals and objectives of defence cooperation activities.A fundamental conclusion of the report is that these criticisms remain valid today.
The emphasis has shifted over the years from assisting regional countries to build their own defence forces more towards working together to promote a secure region.
The report makes a number of recommendations including that our defence engagement in the priority regions should focus on the maritime dimension. The highest priority should be attached to implementing the Pacific Maritime Security Project as the cornerstone of our maritime security engagement in the South Pacific.