Labor stresses importance of WA in nation’s defence strategy

By Tom Ravlic

Wednesday September 8, 2021

Shadow Defence Minister Brendan O'Connor.
Shadow Defence Minister Brendan O’Connor. (AAP Image/Luis Ascui)

The federal opposition has flagged it will closely examine the strategic importance of Western Australia as a part of a Defence Posture Review, should Labor be elected to government at the next federal poll.

Shadow defence minister Brendan O’Connor has stated in a published opinion piece that WA has a range of issues that need to be examined from a national security perspective.

These issues include but are not limited to examining the shipbuilding industry that operates in that state, the mining sector and the strategic importance of the fact that Western Australia is geographically closer to the Indo-Pacific.

O’Connor said a defence posture review by a Labor Government would be the first conducted since 2012 but that such a review will involve more than just running an eye over ‘places and bases’.

“This review would ensure the Australian Government is considering both long-term strategic posture and whether Australian Defence units, assets and facilities are prepared for the military to take action in a timely way,” O’Connor said.

“It would also examine implications of the emergence of cyber security as a central strategic concern for Australia’s posture.

“The Indo-Pacific would be a key focus and facilitate an opportunity to rebalance our strategic positioning and develop strategic policy in tandem with key allies like the US.”

O’Connor insists the government has neglected planning on defence posture and has instead spent time being distracted by ‘delays and cost-blowouts on major capability issues, such as the $90 billion Future Submarine program and the $45 Billion Future Frigate program’.

“This is in stark contrast to our Allies, such as US President Joe Biden, who tasked Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to conduct a global posture review to ensure the footprint of American service members worldwide is correctly sized and supports strategy, with a strong focus on the Indo-Pacific,” O’Connor said.

Labor’s position on a defence posture review follows several months of federal government announcements in the portfolio aimed at enhancing the country’s defence capability.

Announcements made by the ministers in the defence portfolio include the establishment of Defence Project 9358 to explore solutions for ground based space electronic warfare capabilities and the creation of a partnership between the United States and Australia to develop a new precision missile capability.

Defence minister Peter Dutton also announced the purchase four Chinook helicopters on July 8 with a $595 million price tag.

“The Chinook is Defence’s largest helicopter, with a long and proven track record of supporting ADF operations in Australia, our near region and further afield,” the Minister said.

This arrival comes approximately three months after the sale was approved and highlights Australia’s excellent strategic working relationship with the United States.


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