This report provides a broad assessment of the current status of the Australian Antarctic Programme and the challenges to maintaining and expanding Australia’s well-regarded status in Antarctic science, operations and diplomacy.
Development of the report involved extensive stakeholder and community engagement. It makes 35 recommendations of action required to pursue Australia’s national Antarctic interests over the next 20 years and beyond.
Recommendations cover a range of key issues, including:
- Australia’s national interests in Antarctica
- Supporting and leading national and international Antarctic science
- Building economic benefits for Tasmania as an Antarctic Gateway city
- Australia’s future Antarctic station operations, transport and deep field traverse capabilities and support for large field-based research campaigns
- Effective administration of the Australian Antarctic Territory
Antarctica is strategically important to Australia: we assert sovereignty over 42 per cent of the Antarctic continent, and 36 per cent of Australia's maritime jurisdiction lies south of Australia. Australia has been a leader in Antarctica for more than 100 years.
However, Australia's standing in Antarctic affairs is eroding because of historical under-investment at a time when new players are emerging in Antarctica. The leadership that Australia has naturally assumed by its proximity, history and experience, risks decline.
The Antarctic is strategically important to Australia. The non-militarisation of Antarctica and its unique governance provide a region of peace and security at Australia’s southern borders, and the Antarctic Treaty helps protect Australia’s sovereign position with respect to the Australian Antarctic Territory.
But Australia must match its Antarctic aspirations with clear demonstration of presence and leadership in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Australia should become the partner of choice in East Antarctic logistics and science.
Australia now has a narrow window of opportunity to underline its Antarctic strategic interests and demonstrate its leadership in Antarctic affairs.