Eye of the Storm

Ken Parish alluded to the Charles Darwin Symposium titled “The Eye of the Storm: Northern Australia’s Location in an Arc of Instability in which several speakers

explore[d] … the regional security issues that have arisen since the commencement of the ‘War on Terror’ and the attack in Bali. Darwin’s place as the ‘Eye of the Storm’ and our related responsibilities as moral leaders to the rest of Australia, will be central considerations. We will also be asking very personal questions about what happens to us as residents, in the event of war. What are the plans for locals given our location in the region, and our role as the principle support base for Australia’s northern defences?

The audio presentations are now available with papers expected to be up from October 6. I will be working my way through the presentations and commenting where I consider that I have a point of view that is distinctly different.

In the mean time I happened on this post by Kev Gillett wherein he said,

there are no targets of sufficient political import for terrorists to consider in the North. So on the one hand a defence strategy that has combat elements in the North is fine but on the other hand, some of these elements will be needed down south where the political targets are. The Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Parliament House, Russell Hill ADF HQ can’t all be defended by Special Forces.

(unfortunately it appears that the archiving function on Kev’s site is malfunctioning).
Apart from the fact that the threat of attack from Antarctica is low and that the icons that he mentions are structural rather than strategic (it’s more than probable that attacks will be repulsed by soldiers other than those flying desks in Russell Hill), it is in direct contradiction to the abstract of the paper presented by Dr Dennis Shoesmith

The deteriorating security situation in the arc of states stretching from Aceh in western Indonesia to the weak states of the Southwest Pacific has provoked a dramatic change in Australian defence policy in our north. The pivot of this arc of instability is the new state of Timor Leste. If Timor Leste becomes a failed state, the security consequences for Australia will be alarming.

In parroting the old line about our Defence problems being overcome by simply getting more of everything;

Defence needs new tanks, more APCs and better technical equipment across the board to provide a viable force that will do Australia proud; that will show we are prepared to put ground troops in place and that we really are still impacting internationally and helping in practical terms. Even a small force of a Battalion with its supporting tanks, APCs, Engineers and logistics would be seen as putting our money where our mouth is.

it’s highly likely that Kev formed some of his opinions from the recently published Australia’s National Security – A Defence Update 2003 however even the ultra conservatives in the ADF have finally realised that;

our strategic circumstances have changed and this has implications for the types of conflict in which Australia might become involved, the types of operations the ADF might have to conduct, and the capabilities it might require.

This attitude is reinforced by the statement made by Air Commodore Steven Walker in the abstract of his paper.

The Australian Defence Force is structured for the defence of Australia, but its employment is increasingly in non-traditional military tasks. The Australian Defence Organisation is one contributor to Australian Government policy in the delivery of whole-of-nation security. In the ‘eye of the storm’ Headquarters Northern Command coordinates and delivers the regional Defence effort to achieve the Government’s objectives.

I maintain that the deployment of heavy armour (particularly without the support of artillery) is a waste of resources and, recognising the changes to potential threats, wholesale alterations must be made to the Defence of the North in order to meet new challenges to national security. It will be interesting to read what the experts said at the seminar.

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2021 years ago

Old soldiers never die. They just fizzle out.

2021 years ago

“the icons that he mentions are structural rather than strategic”

The WTC was structural as well. The terrorists have shown a willingness to attack icons that are only structural thus turning them into strategic ones. Blowing up the Sydney Harbour Bridge during peak hour would have a strategic impact. We would be forced to bite the bullet and expand defence overnight. People would be in shock, our stocks would fall and Politicians would be using the tax word regularly.

The fact that we need a defence presence in the North is understood, I was in the vanguard of that presence in the eighties and I know how welcome we were then. Cab drivers, check out chicks, ticket sellers, pub patrons all left me with an impression of local defence awareness and how locals felt unprotected. But then I wasn’t just talking about defence of the north.

No, my thoughts were formed well before Dr Dennis Shoesmith put pen to paper and I generally agree with him. Likewise with the good AVM. I also agree with your point that deploying armour without artillery support potentially wastes resources. But then I wasn’t suggesting we do that.

Gen Leahy says “We are in transition away from being a light infantry force towards becoming a light armoured force.”

Presuming his opinion doesn’t get passed off under the old soldiers cliche then when and if he gets his light armoured force, which, incidently must by definition include supporting artillery, then consideration must be given to who fills the gap when the force is deployed. If it goes to another Iraq then all the Dr Dennis and AVM considerations say we still need to have a similar force in the country as a reserve to both protect Australia/Darwin and act as reinforcement unit for the the mob in Iraq.

One man/tank/battalion/light armoured force overseas need to be backed by two in Australia. You work it out.

Generals Cosgrove and Leahy then go on to parrot the old line that we need new tanks and more troops. Don’t believa a fizzled out old soldier check it here.


Nial. My politics may be right wing but my thoughts on defence are apolitical. Poor comment to brush off experience with a cliche. Lets have your considered thoughts on defence issues.

2021 years ago

Much of this is in the realm of philosophy and geo-political prognostications. I will be confined to the observation that, in the recent (30 year) climate, all areas of public service are likely to have underinvested in capital equipment. The bids may be strategically awry, but capital investment must be sound today … particularly as interest rates mean capital is virtually free.

2021 years ago

Kev, mispelling of Niall’s name aside, that’s a great last para.

2021 years ago

Oops. Sorry Niall – maybe I am at stage one of fizzled out.

2021 years ago


You would say that. What else would you expect from a person who barely has a nice thing to say about his country’s conduct, past and present, let alone be prepared pick up a rifle and shoot some bugger who’s aim is to destroy it?

Your disdain for Kev’s service is a gross insult. He’s done more for this country than you could do in a thousand lifetimes.

2021 years ago

I agree. You’re a spineless sack of shit, Niall.