Friday, May 1, 2009

Australia’s defence white paper

Defence Review Afforded Friendly Reception in Indonesia
&:Australia’s defence white paper focuses on protecting the Pacific

THE defence white paper crowns a transformation in Australia's
strategic perception of Indonesia, as fears of invading hordes
from the archipelago are replaced by a far more sanguine view of
the country as a partner and friend.
The country's transformation from dictatorship to democracy, its
steady economic progress, the winding down of the military's
political power and its success in combating Islamic terrorism
have underpinned the reversal.
"Indonesia has made remarkable gains in the past decade," the
white paper said. "It is likely that these positive trends will
continue, and that Indonesia will continue to evolve as a stable
democratic state with improved social cohesion."
Reflecting the kind words for Indonesia in the white paper, and
the fact that its military was consulted in its drafting and
given an advance copy, the country's defence ministry warmly
welcomed the document yesterday.
"I believe the defence policy will be targeted to bring world
peace," said Brigadier General Slamet Heriyanto, a spokesman for
the defence ministry.
The extra spending on submarines, jet fighters and warships was
not seen as a provocative gesture but a benign development from
an economically successful nation.
"I think it is only natural for a country to do that, if
financially speaking it is able to do that," said General
Heriyanto. "The important thing is we never see our neighbouring
country Australia as a threat but rather as partner who,
together with Indonesia participating, is safeguarding the
While not expressed openly in the white paper, Indonesia's
military capability in terms of fighting wars is poor. Its
300,000-strong army is primarily structured for internal
security and its navy and air force are small and poorly
Andi Widjajanto, from the University of Indonesia, said the
spending priorities of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are
education rather than the military.
"It looks like the defence budget will be reduced in 2008-09,"
he said.
The Australian
May 2, 2009
The defence white paper focuses on protecting the Pacific
DIFFERENT century, same defence dilemmas. One hundred years ago,
Labor prime minister Andrew Fisher wanted an Australian navy
capable of keeping the continent safe from Asian attack. And now
Kevin Rudd, another Labor leader from Queensland, has a similar
strategy. Despite the Prime Minister's long association with
China, the defence white paper released today is underpinned by
the idea the Australian Defence Force must be prepared to
confront a major navy in the Pacific - and that can only mean a
blue-water Chinese fleet. This is one of two enormous
assumptions in the Government's long-term defence plan, one that
Malcolm Turnbull is quick to counter, saying we are not on an
inevitable collision course with China. The Opposition Leader
may be right, but Mr Rudd has obviously decided he dare not
ignore the possibility of a Chinese navy protecting Beijing's
interests, which may not coincide with ours, in years to come.
The second assumption in the white paper is one that the
Government can do more to address now - how to pay for an
enormously expensive arms build up, especially when a
considerable component of the cost is supposed to be supplied by
savings. With the big-ticket purchases years ahead, it is
impossible to accurately assess expenditure that will probably
exceed $100 billion. But there is no cause for comfort in the
white paper's optimistic arithmetic that all will be well
because real spending growth of 3per cent until 2017-18 and 2.2
per cent a year from then until 2030 is guaranteed. It sounds
impressive but the give away is that some $20 billion is
intended to come from savings in the defence budget - just short
of a full year's spending.
Regardless of how the prime minister in 20 years time will pay
for his policy, Mr Rudd is determined to expand Australia's air
and naval defence capacity. While the army will get the two
extra battalions already announced, the navy and air force are
the big winners in this plan. The purchase of 100 American F-35
multi-purpose joint strike fighters will proceed, and there will
be new refuelling and reconnaissance aircraft. This is intended
to secure Australian skies for a generation and allow for
air-launched missile attacks against distant targets. The navy
is also set for a significant increase in capability, with the
Collins-class submarines to be replaced with 12 new boats. To be
assembled in Adelaide over 30 years, this will be Australia's
largest defence project and will provide the navy with the
ability to fight a major foreign fleet a long way from home. The
capability of the surface fleet is also expanding. The navy will
commission at least three air warfare destroyers, plus eight
anti-submarine frigates, which will be bigger and much more
capable than the Anzac class they replace.
But who will they be sent to sea to fight? In setting out the
Government's strategic priorities, the white paper addresses the
issue cautiously but clearly. The defence of the continent and
its air and sea surrounds is the primary task of the ADF. This
is followed by ensuring regional security and stability in the
south Pacific and East Timor, with intervention in the Asia
Pacific the third-order issue. Peacekeeping and international
order is the last task. The message is quite clear: anybody
expecting big deployments as part of an allied army in
Afghanistan or the Middle East will be disappointed, and
terrorism is treated as a relatively minor risk. This does not
mean the Government wants to go it alone. Like Fisher, whose
dream of self-defence was defeated by the voter's belief in the
power of the British Empire, the Rudd Government unavoidably
acknowledges the ADF must be prepared to fight alongside the
Americans. But this ambitious equipment program is designed to
make it possible for Australia to act alone on a regional level.
By expanding the capacity to ship and supply troops and to
protect them from sea and air attack, it addresses the
deficiencies that plagued the East Timor intervention. And the
submarine fleet is intended to operate from what the white paper
diplomatically describes as a "considerable distance" from
Australia. The white paper taps into a tradition in Labor
thought - a belief that it is best to rely on our own abilities
rather than the protection of great and powerful friends. Even
with this planned expansion, the military realities are
inescapable: we lack the resources to go it alone, and our best
defence remains the American alliance.
by Tom Allard in Jakarta
The Sydney Morning Herald
Saturday, May 2, 2009

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