Launch of the Defence White Paper

February 25, 2016


Well, thank you very much, Secretary. Senator Marise Payne, the Minister for Defence, the Honourable, Dan Tehan the  Minister for Defence Materiel  and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, the Honourable Michael McCormack, the Assistant Minister for Defence, my parliamentary colleagues, Senators Fawcett and Back, Air Chief Marshal Binskin, CDF, Secretary of Defence, who just introduced us here.

Vice Admiral Griggs, Vice Admiral Barrett, Lieutenant General Campbell, Air Marshal Davies, Deputy Secretary Peter Baxter, who played such a big role in putting this together. The Defence Force Academy Commandant, Alan Clements, and you, the future of the ADF, the Cadets, and ladies and gentlemen -

The security of Australia and its people is the most fundamental responsibility of Government. 

This 2016 Defence White Paper, which I am launching today, demonstrates how my Government will fulfil that responsibility.

It sets out a clear eyed and unsentimental appraisal of our strategic environment, the threats and the opportunities. It sets out the capabilities we need to respond to them. And with considerable, fully costed detail, explains how we will acquire those capabilities.

At the outset, I congratulate and thank Marise Payne, Australia’s first female Minister for Defence, and her Department for the huge effort that is reflected in this major paper.

The Minister has delivered a truly visionary Defence White Paper, one that will shape our national security landscape, as the Secretary has observed, for decades to come and strengthen and equip the ADF to meet the challenges it faces now and in the future. 

I also pay tribute to and thank the former Defence Ministers Kevin Andrews and David Johnston, as well as my predecessor as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, all of whom were equally committed to arresting the uncertainty and reversing the decline in investment that we inherited.

This White Paper is a plan to deliver a more potent, agile and engaged Australian Defence Force that is ready to respond whenever our interests are threatened or our help is needed.

It is a plan to become more powerful on land and in the skies and more commanding both on the seas and beneath them.

It is a program:

  • To be more resilient in the cyberspace;

  • To be more innovative with technology;

  • To have greater situational awareness, thanks to our advanced intelligence capabilities.

For those of you here in this auditorium, this is a document that directly impacts your careers in the Australian Defence Force; it ensures that you will have the resources and the technologies to protect and advance Australia’s interests. 

The Government recognises that a strong, competitive and sustainable Australian defence industry is vital to support our armed forces.

Importantly, this White Paper will also affect the working lives and prospects of many civilian Australians - creating thousands of jobs across the regions and the cities of Australia.

For the first time for any Defence White Paper, we are releasing today a Defence Integrated Investment Program and a new Defence Industry Policy Statement.

It will give industry the certainty it needs to invest and plan for the future.

It will foster a new level of cooperation with industry and harness the innovation and the technological expertise that exists in our own local Australian industry.

The White Paper is more than simply a roadmap to achieve a strong and sustainable defence capability. Indeed, our investments in Australian industry and technologies will generate benefits beyond the Australian defence industrial base.

It is worth remembering that some of the most significant technologies of the 20th and 21st centuries originated as military inventions.

Famously, DARPA, the United States Defence Agency tasked with the development of emerging military technologies created the precursor of the internet, ARPANET, as well as the GPS technology.

Here in Canberra, the Defence Science and Technology Group devised the black box flight recorder, now found in almost all commercial aeroplanes.

Australian military innovation will spur greater and broader economic activity. It will bring benefits to local businesses and communities right across our nation.

And, of course, the continuous onshore build strategy for naval surface vessels my Government is delivering will fundamentally transform our naval shipbuilding industry, ensuring its sustainability in the long term.

Our shipbuilding workforce will be building the Navy’s frigates, offshore patrol vessels and major and minor war vessels for decades to come.

The Government’s continuous build strategy for the Australian submarine industry recognises the long construction timelines for the new submarines.

We will ensure that Australian submarine industry involvement is sustainable over the longer term - by building a new force of 12 regionally superior submarines, doubling the size of our current fleet.

Just as innovation is going to help create the modern, dynamic 21st century economy Australia needs, it will help develop the technologies that will provide our ADF with a leading edge.

It is a program that ensures that much more of the development of our defence technologies is done here in Australia.

Our defence industry already leads in innovation, with strong spill-over benefits into the wider economy.  We want to, and we will see more of this.

Now, this White Paper reflects and embodies modern Australia. A diverse and inclusive Defence Force, as diverse as the nation it protects, makes for a stronger ADF.

And no one is better placed than Minister Marise Payne to raise the female participation in the ADF and ensure all of our soldiers reach their full potential, particularly in senior leadership roles. 

The opportunities that await Australia, and this largely youthful audience, are of a breadth and scale unimaginable to earlier generations.

Nowhere is this more evident than in our own region where the pace and the scale of economic growth is utterly without precedent.

China has grown from impoverished autarky to become the world’s second largest national economy – on some measures the largest – in the space of 40 years.

And it’s not just China.

The Indian economy grew at 7.4 per cent in the year to September last year, making it the fastest growing major economy. Japan remains the third largest economy in the world.

A third of the world’s middle class lives in South and East Asia today. By 2030, it is expected to be 55 per cent.

Now, blessed by geography and guided by our determination to engage with our region, Australia has benefited enormously from this growth and dynamism.

The challenge, however, is that this tremendous growth also affects long-standing strategic balances.

Investment in military, technological and strategic capability is increasing.

In the next two decades, half of the world’s submarines and at least half of the world’s advanced combat aircraft will be operating in the Indo-Pacific region, in our region.

And this complicates the outlook for our security and strategic planning.  Now, we would be concerned if the competition for influence and the growth in military capability were to lead to instability and threaten Australia’s interests, whether in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula or further afield.

We have a strong, vital, vested interest in the maintenance of peace and stability and respect for the rule of law.

The decisions we take now will impact on our defence capability and outlook for decades to come.

Looking to the future, there are some things which we can confidently predict.

The United States will remain the pre-eminent global military power.

It will continue to play a vital role in the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific, just as it has done for almost three quarters of a century, since the Second World War.

We will continue to build on the foundation of our long-standing alliance relationship to develop our capability and adapt to our changing security needs.

The relationship between the United States and China, how it develops and grows, will be critically important.

We welcome China’s rise and its greater capacity to share responsibility for supporting regional and global security.

We will seek to build on our already-strong military ties with Indonesia - that vibrant, stable democracy to our North, whose charismatic President Widodo often remarks that Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation in the world proves that Islam is compatible with democracy, tolerance and freedom.

We share security interests with India and we believe its increased involvement in regional architecture will assist stability and order in the Indo-Pacific region.

Our increasingly close strategic and security cooperation with Japan reflects a long-standing relationship, and a shared strategic interest in a rules-based international order. 

Looking beyond our bilateral relationships, our Defence Force has an important role to play in this region and globally – providing support for fragile states, maritime patrols, border security, or in support of coalition operations elsewhere in the world.

Ongoing turbulence and state fragility in the Middle East and west Asia will continue to be a threat to Australia’s, and the region’s, security.

The proliferation of terrorist threat sources – some of them home-grown, many of them enlisted via the internet – will require sustained effort both within Australia and elsewhere to limit the freedom of terrorist groups to operate, and as we seek to undermine their narrative of hate.

We will continue to be a constructive and influential player in the regional strategic environment and beyond.

We need to have the capacity to deter and defeat threats to Australia.

And we have to be able to make more effective contributions to international coalitions that secure our interests and strengthen the rules-based global order upon which our prosperity depends.

To achieve all of these goals we must be prepared to adequately fund our defence effort.

And, with all of the competing demands that a Defence budget must meet, and governments must meet, we must ensure that we put our money where it matters, where it is most effective.

Today, we are backing up our commitment to secure our nation into the future, by making a substantial investment in our defence.

We will grow Defence spending to two per cent of GDP by 2020-21 – three years earlier than promised – doing so not to achieve an arbitrary number or benchmark but because that represents the funds that ensures Defence has the capability and resourcing required to protect Australians and advance our national interests.

For the first time, the investments foreshadowed in a White Paper have been externally cost-assured, providing the funding certainty that the ADF has needed for a long time.

My Government has committed to this significant increase in spending for two reasons.

First, we recognise that Australia’s strategic environment is the most dynamic and challenging one that we have faced in peacetime.

We are also susceptible to the potential threats of conflict, climate change, malicious cyber activity, pandemic diseases, and transnational terrorism.

As the range and nature of the challenges evolves so must the way our ADF responds.

Regrettably, recent investment and funding in defence had dropped to negligently low levels. Between 2009 and 2013, $16 billion was slashed from defence, reducing spending to the lowest level of funding since 1938. Industry contractors had entered a ‘valley of death’.

In Opposition we committed to re-invest in Defence to ensure a long-term and sustainable defence industry in Australia. And that is exactly what we have done.

Over the next decade this plan will see $195 billion of capital investment in our defence capabilities

I am determined that the ADF personnel operating in difficult and dangerous conditions - including the young men and women I met in Taji in Iraq and Kabul in Afghanistan - have the equipment, training and support that they need to do their jobs properly.

We ask and expect so much of you.

That is why we have committed to this ambitious investment program to modernise and enhance the capability of the ADF.

My Government will continue to invest in enhancing the skills of the men and women of the ADF so that they can continue to work at the very cutting edge of the connected, high technology environment of the modern battlefield. 

This involves an historic modernisation of our Navy including:

  • 12 regionally superior submarines,

  • 3 additional air warfare destroyers,

  • 9 new anti-submarine warfare frigates and

  • 12 new offshore patrol vessels

We will considerably strengthen our cyber capability.

We will create a more potent air combat and air strike capability, centred around the Joint Strike Fighter.

We will upgrade our Army’s equipment and armoured vehicle fleet.

These investments will, in particular, deliver substantial opportunities for remote and regional Australia where so many ADF personnel and their families work and live.

Now, with clear eyed calm and careful calculation this White Paper surveys the world as it is, and is likely to develop.

It sets out not aspirations, but fully costed plans.

This is a massive investment in securing the peace and prosperity of Australia and our region.

All of the opportunities Australians have today - especially you, young Australians here in this auditorium, unprecedented in their scale and their scope - depend on a secure and stable regional environment.

We cannot seize those opportunities, unless we are agile, innovative, competitive - and this White Paper will strengthen our ability to be so.

But is peace, the rule of law and the confidence that it enables which underpins it all.

We reject the harsh and cynical assessment that might is right and justice can be found only between equals in power.

But equally we know that a strong Australia is essential to enable us to play our part in providing the measured balance upon which regional security depends.

These are momentous times.

The stakes are high, and as the opportunities expand so does the cost of losing them.

A stronger Australia supports a safer Australia, a safer region and a safer world.

This White Paper supports every element of my Government’s plan to support and secure our 21st century economy.

Investment, innovation, science, security. A safe, secure and prosperous Australia for our children and our grandchildren and generations yet unborn.

I thank the Minister for Defence and her Department for this tremendous body of work.

And I want to commend the ongoing commitment of our service men and women.

And to you, the ADFA cadets here today, the Defence Minister and I dedicate this White Paper to you and to your generation of Australians, whose security this plan is designed to ensure and which will be in turn your responsibility to maintain.

A great pleasure in launching the Defence White Paper 2016.

And I now have great pleasure as well in introducing the Minister for Defence, Senator the Honourable Marise Payne.

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