The Australian Defence Force will increase by more than 18,000 people by 2040 – in a move the federal government is labelling the biggest personnel increase ever made during peacetime.
Prime minister Scott Morrison announced the $38 billion investment on Thursday morning from flood-affected areas in Queensland, with the forces expected to increase to 80,000.
“This is a significant vote of confidence in our defence forces,” Morrison said.
“But it’s a significant recognition by our government, which has always been clear-eyed about threats and the environment that we face as a country as a liberal democracy in the Indo Pacific.”
Asked whether the 2040 horizon was too little too late, Morrison cast his government as having a starkly different vision for Australia’s defence forces than Labor.
He claimed the Liberal government had spend $55 million more on Defence than the opposition had indicated it would while in government.
Defence minister Peter Dutton said people who believed risk in the Indo Pacific was limited to Taiwan “don’t understand the lessons of history”.
“It is going to be necessary to supplement, particularly in space in cyber in our naval assets, our underwater capability, our autonomous vehicles, both on the land and under the sea, because that provides a deterrence,” he said.
“It makes us a more credible partner with the United Kingdom, the United States and NATO, with Japan, with India and many other partners in the Southwest Pacific. And if we are to rely on them, they need to rely on us.
“Today the supplement of 18,500 extra [personnel] will talk to the capacity that we need in the future.”