Australia must strengthen its military capability in the face of an increasingly complex security environment across the Indo-Pacific, according to Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.
(Bloomberg) — Australia must strengthen its military capability in the face of an increasingly complex security environment across the Indo-Pacific, according to Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.
“We need to be able to project in a way which would mean that any adversary who was seeking to act against our interest has pause for thought,” Marles, who is also the country’s defense minister, said at an Asia Society event in Melbourne on Wednesday.
Australia’s national security interests weren’t limited to its borders, said Marles, adding that potential adversaries could do harm to the country “without ever having to put foot on our shores.”
His comments follow a series of major reviews by the Australian government into its military capability. The Defence Strategic Review released in April called for major changes to Australia’s military amid China’s build up.
A recent review of Australia’s surface fleet has yet to be released by the government, although some local media reports have suggested a significant reshaping in navy procurement. When asked on Wednesday about that, Marles said the report would be released in early 2024.
Australia’s center-left Labor government has cut back on its land-based army vehicles and increased spending on long-range missiles and domestic military manufacturing. Marles on Wednesday lamented that the country’s weakness in high-tech manufacturing prevents Australia from achieving self-sufficiency in defense production.
“We have to have an economy which is more than mining and agriculture, as important as those are,” Marles said, saying that Australia’s lack of economic complexity was a “real alarm bell.”
The minister said Australia’s diplomatic and strategic choices going forward were not immediately obvious, adding the region was facing the most complex strategic circumstances “since the end of World War II.”
On Australia’s alliance with the US, Marles said Canberra would work with whoever was in the White House following the 2024 election, although he added that former President Donald Trump’s administration had been characterized by “unpredictability.”
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