The DLP is committed to the self-reliant defence of Australia, based upon the fundamental strategic priority of maintaining the security of our region.
We believe that Defence spending should be restored and maintained at a minimum of 2% of GDP. The defence of Australia, the first responsibility of government, has too often been subsumed by other governmental initiatives. This has led to under-investment in our national defence capabilities. A higher allocation of funding for defence must be immediately restored.
The volunteer ADF gap-year program should be restored. We value the important contribution it makes to the lives of young men and women by providing them with experience in military training and lifestyle.
Out of respect for those who commit their lives to the defence of our country and in an effort to aid retention and recruitment. The DLP believes that all existing entitlements and incentives for defence personnel and their families should be maintained and not be subject to funding cuts.
Large defence contracts should include Australian manufacturing industries. Australian industries that manufacture, or have the capacity to manufacture defence materiel, must be invited to tender for defence contracts.
The DLP supports the introduction of a Coast Guard to support our trade and people. Instead of disposing of obsolescent defence equipment, for example, aircraft, armoured vehicles, naval vessels etc., update some of the systems (navigation, communications, weapons, nuclear/biological/chemical protection etc.) and issue them to reserve forces and a coast guard in a manner similar to US practice. If replacement of frontline equipment is done when it should be done, reserve forces could be equipped to play their part in less demanding tactical situations where weight of numbers would decide the outcome of a conflict.
That the terminal decline threatening the defence forces of our nation be arrested through the implementation of sound long-term strategic vision, sound management, forward thinking, adequate ongoing funding and a true appreciation of Australia’s geopolitical situation. Second only to the Government taking seriously its primary obligation, which is the defence of the nation, the most urgent need is to cement the relationships between the Defence Minister, his Department and senior defence force staff. This would enable better decision-making processes in matters such as procurement of equipment and greater efficiency in allocating resources.
That industries poaching highly trained defence personnel be required to contribute a portion of the cost of the training of those who leave the forces within a certain period of time from joining the defence force. The defence forces should not be subsidising training for civilian jobs.
The DLP’s Report on the Defence of Australia
The defence of Australia, its interests and our people is both the first responsibility of government and a universal civic responsibility of all Australians. With the end of the Cold War caused by communist powers confronting the world’s liberal democracies, this first responsibility of Australian governments has too often been subsumed by other governmental initiatives and public inattention.
This, in turn, has led to insufficient public attention by Australians and consequently frequent and serial under-investment in our national defence capabilities. Both in absolute terms and as the only major governmental responsibility that is wholly federal, and in comparison to federal and state spending on other major and shared governmental responsibilities such as health, education and social security.
The Democratic Labour Party remains committed to ensuring Australia’s national security, both external and internal, is managed holistically, planned for the long term and adequately resourced. Australia’s security and prosperity is maximised when our foreign, trade and defence policies are aligned. Furthermore, the primary role of our defence force and supporting strategic policy is to deter threats to our sovereignty and win wars should they eventuate.
Maintaining an adequate and just as importantly an adaptable defence force also means maintaining manufacturing and service industries capable of supporting:
- the defence force Australia needs currently; and
- maximising our national capacity to sustain the larger defence force we would need in times of increased strategic tensions.
Australia’s economy and indeed our whole way of life are dependent on our national ability to export, import and attract effective foreign investment on our terms. Over 99 per cent of Australian exports by volume, and over 75 per cent by value, travel in ships. The oceans that these ships cross and the sea-lanes involved need to be secured but this security does not occur as a free gift. Australia must contribute to a functioning international system that keeps our ability to export and import secure and unimpeded by threats to our economic, strategic and moral freedom of action as a country.
The DLP supports Australia’s collective security obligations as a founding member of the United Nations and our longstanding collective defence arrangements with both our principal allies (US, NZ, UK) and some of our regional neighbours (Singapore, Malaysia, PNG, Timor Leste). We believe that all these treaties and arrangements contribute to regional security and stability. Reliance on the UN alone will not work, especially when the liberal democracies do not constitute a majority of the UN Security Council (including all permanent members) and the UN General Assembly.
The DLP believes that a secure Australia requires a secure and stable region, and an international system based on the rule-of-law and resistance to armed aggression as a means of resolving international differences.
As a consequence, the DLP firmly believes that Australia’s foreign, trade and defence policies, and the strategies required to implement them, cannot be isolationist in either territorial, cultural or moral terms. Australia cannot be defended, and our future prosperity secured, by methods that do not involve both the defence of our territory and our wider national interests within a complex, globalised and increasingly inter-dependent international system.
Planning for the Long Term
The DLP will ensure that the prime purpose, and key defence capability configuration, of our defence force is the defence of both Australia’s territory and its interests. Other functions of our defence force, such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, can be undertaken by a defence force properly structured for defence purposes, but the opposite is not the case.
Our defence force needs to be configured so it can easily adapt to cope with future strategic challenges, recognising that these cannot be foreseeable with any great degree of confidence and likely to always feature unpredicted, unpredictable and unknown events. The DLP therefore believes it is ineffective to configure our defence force, or base our defence strategy, on the basis of perceived threats that might be agreed, eventually and often too late, at any given time. In a globalised world with a medium and long-term future that cannot be predicted in detail, our national defence planning must be capability-based, not narrowly based on perceived threats now or an ideological view of the world generally.
Australia is the world’s only island continent and the only continent wholly occupied by one country and national sovereignty. Including our surrounding oceans and airspace, some ten per cent of the Earth’s surface is some form of Australian territorial, economic zone, resource management, conservation or international search and rescue responsibility.
Our defence force therefore needs to possess the strategic and operational mobility and weight to meet these responsibilities, contribute effectively to the security of our region, and have some capacity to speedily meet our wider international obligations globally. Configuring our defence force so it can only operate in or close to Australia has been proven inadequate time and time again throughout Australia’s history. Such past mistakes and continuing views are chiefly the result of narrow ideological viewpoints or short-sighted financial constraints. Such constraints have too often led to our defence force being committed unprepared and under-resourced ─ and with unnecessary casualties as a result.