Eye of the Storm II

Following on from my post about the Defence Symposium held in Darwin, some of the papers are now available. If you are interested in obtaining some background, the details of the economics of the defence forces in the NT 2000/1 are here.

The (very heavily censored?? edited) presentation by Kim Beazley obviously alluded to the changes instituted while he was Minister for Defence and consequently used terms such as disciplined, strategic planning and far sighted. As in ;

This massive change in the location of our defence forces was a product of a disciplined approach to defence planning with a clear-eyed understanding of the national interest.

It is under threat now from a political leadership seeking more a partisan opportunity with prejudice than addressing our real needs.”

Compared to the disorganised, knee jerk, short term lack of planning evident in today’s ADF….

Mr Beazley claimed Australian defence planning was in a state of complete confusion, with the government finding it hard to settle on a strategy from which armed services operational doctrine can be developed and force structure prioritised.

Well he would say that wouldn’t he ? (wasn’t that first said by someone else that had something to do with Profumo ?) However some of the other speakers bolstered Bomber’s arguments with similar sentiments.

For instance Professor Paul Dibb said;

the Government’s new defence posture suggests that the defence of Australia doctrine will be wound back in favour of expeditionary capabilities with the US.

The professor continued ….

Australia’s defence policy stands at a crossroads. Either we continue to give priority to the defence of Australia as the primary determinant of the ADF’s force structure or we move more to an expeditionary force designed for coalition operations with our US ally. The current indications are that influential individuals in the debate in Canberra are attempting to move us decisively in the latter direction.

And asked the questions …..

should we now restructure the ADF for the so-called war on terror and, if so, just how is that to be done without stripping away from our small Defence Force its high technology, conventional war fighting capabilities? ….. Aren’t we better off sticking to the successful formula of having available niche capabilities that are in short supply in the US order of battle from within an ADF primarily structured as a balanced force for the defence of Australia?

He summarises;

This principle of self-reliance reflects, fundamentally, said the White Paper “our sense of ourselves as a nation”. It went on to state that this provides a clear basis for our defence planning, which is clearly understood both by Australians and our neighbours. We should not rely on others having either the capacity or willingness to defend our own country, especially if we have not taken the effort to provide effectively for our own defence. There has been no public discussion whatsoever of whether tanks are an appropriate niche capability for Australia to be contributing to coalition operations with the United States. What difference will 50, or even 100, Australian tanks make to US military operations? (It has over 7,600 main battle tanks). The US has much more important deficiencies in such capabilities as Special Forces, tanker aircraft, airborne early warning and control aircraft, and even submarines.

IMO the most telling conclusion made by Air Commodore Steven Walker was ;

We should never have to use the expression ‘with hindsight’. If that were the case, we would have failed to understand the significance of a piece of information, or failed to pass it to someone who did.

Unfortunately, if his words are applied to what happened in Bali, who was the ‘someone’ responsible ?

A fascinating review of TERRORISM IN EUROPE SINCE 9/11: RESPONSES AND CHALLENGES by Joanne Wright covers 30 pages and gives readers plenty to think about.

My conclusions from the material presented at the symposium are;
1. SNAFU – the bureaucrats in Canberra have no idea of what’s going on at the bleeding edge.
2. There seems to be a (widening) gulf between theory and practice.
3. The emphasis is shifting from ‘protecting Australia’ to ‘positioning the ADF for expeditionary forays’.
4. While recognising that if the Indonesian economy turns to shit that country could be a terrible threat to Australia, no cognisance whatsoever has been taken of the potential for India (four times the population and how many times the firepower of Indonesia ??) To completely overwhelm us. I couldn’t find one reference to India or Indian in the hundreds of pages of presentations.

Am I paranoid or what ?

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Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

Yeah you are paranoid. No one can threaten Australia without first dealing with Indonesia first.

Also India has plenty of security problems of their own with Pakistan and China to be worrying about little adventures down under.

2021 years ago

I agree with Scott.

I can’t imagine the circumstances in which India would pose a threat to Australia with conventional weapons. They have a big army, but a useless airforce (a couple of squadrons of MiG-29s, but the rest are MiG-21s, and those have been falling out of the sky at an astonishing rate in recent years), and a large-ish, but not terribly well-equipped navy. They simply don’t have the capacity to project force beyond anywhere that they can walk to.

As for nuclear weapons, they don’t have long-range missiles, and I can’t imagine the circumstances in which their attention would be directed our way if they did. If the government became an extreme hindu nationalist one (as opposed to the mild one it is at the moment), one would assume that its belligerence would be directed firstly towards Pakistan, then China, and also maybe Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, all of which is more than enough to occupy any Evil dictator.

The other threat to Indian stability is probably disintegration, which could easily have regional implications, but again, difficult to see how it could metamorphasise into a threat towards Aust.

2021 years ago

… or even metamorphose into a threat, now that I’ve looked it up!

2021 years ago

wasn’t that first said by someone else that had something to do with Profumo ?

Mandy Rice-Davies

Scott Wickstein
2021 years ago

John, I think you are correct on that one.

2021 years ago


Over at Troppo Armadillo, Wayne Wood, discussing Beazley’s contribution to a defence conference, saysWell he would say that wouldn’t he ? (wasn’t that first said by someone else that had something to do with Profumo ?)This immortal line was indeed…