Speech: Australian Industry & Defence Network Policy Symposium




Tuesday 29 November 2022


Good morning, everyone. It's great to be with you.

Can I start by acknowledging Master of Ceremonies Dr. John Coyne from ASPI, Carl Quarterman, AIDN Chair, Brent Clark, AIDN CEO, board members Sarah Cullens and Sarah Pavillard, and my parliamentary colleague, Gavin Pearce, the Member for Braddon – a great veteran, former member of the Snake Pit in the ADF, and keeps us honest in the House of Representatives.

To veterans and ADF personnel and leaders in industry, it's really good to be able to talk with you this morning.

My headline this morning is that governments who fail in the task of deterrence invite calamity upon their people, weakness is provocative and strength is our only alternative and it is the cornerstone of effective deterrence.

Now, as we look back over the last year, and I studied history at the Australian Defence Force Academy, so I like to put things in perspective, there are moments in time that grow in significance the more distant they become.

In Europe, the unprovoked shots fired by Russia as the invasion of Ukraine began.

Closer to the home, another important moment of 2022, the rockets that streaked across the sky over Taiwan after former US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island. You can question the judgement of such a visit but nonetheless, the reaction from the People's Republic of China is very telling.

But one event of 2022 stands out above the rest, and that is the summit between President Xi and Putin in Beijing on the eve of the Winter Olympics. That meeting in February - where the two authoritarian rulers struck a ‘no limits’ strategic partnership - I think was a decisive moment in geopolitics of this year.

It was a moment that gave form and significance to Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine soon after.

And it also confirmed what the 2020 Defence Strategic Update made clear: that authoritarian powers are on the move and the risk of state-on-state conflict has increased dramatically.

And so not just in Eastern Europe, as the brutal war in Ukraine reminds us, but the risk of conflict has also increased in the Indo-Pacific region. And we're already seeing challenges on our own doorstep in the Solomon Islands. That should all focus our minds, not just in the ADF, but in industry as well, because without a partnership with defence industry, the ADF can't do its job.

So the question for us, to quote Lenin, what is to be done? What is to be done? How do we steer Australia safely through the rocky shoals ahead? The Defence Strategic Review will address this central question and we look forward to the report being handed down early next year. We also eagerly await the Albanese government's response due in March. And our pledge as the Parliamentary Opposition is to work constructively with the government on these questions.

But we will be tough and demanding. I certainly won't be a light touch because the stakes are high for us. That's in keeping with the Westminster system design. But our objective and our purpose is the same as the Albanese government’s and that is to build a strong and resilient Australia that can resist a potential aggressor. That's our bottom line.

In the meantime, however, given that I'm not in government, I'm just going to flesh out some general themes that I think we all need to remember in this room. For me, as a legislator, for you as industry, we've got to stay mission-focused and so hopefully these three points will help sharpen our focus as we work together.

Number one: the enduring lesson of history is that weakness is provocative. The best way to secure peace is to be strong - to deter those who would do us harm. There's a strong moral reason for this.

As I said earlier, governments who fail in the task of deterrence invite calamity on their people. War is inherently destructive, abhorrent, and unproductive. It's ultimately a waste of resources. And if we want to protect the things that we love - and we’re one of the oldest continuing democracies in the world - if we want to protect the things that we love, we must be prepared to defend them.

For this reason, we need to build a powerful multi-pronged strategic deterrence that has reach and resilience. I use that language – strong, multi-pronged, deterrent. We're going to wait to see what the DSR lays down, but it can't be one mega project at the expense of a whole bunch of other capabilities. The problem of scarcity is something that we all deal with and it's a reality that imposes hard choices on us but nonetheless, any deterrent must be multi-pronged.

AUKUS will deliver new strike capabilities - including nuclear submarines - that will enable us to reach out and ring someone's bell in the event of an escalating threat to Australian security. So, we need strike.

Second, we need to be able to survive on our own - at least for a period of time. For that we must build supply chain and industry resilience. The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the need for deep stocks of ammunition, pharmaceuticals, and fuel - among the other many essentials of war. Our energy grids must be resilient to cyber-attack and disruption. The obvious point is that we need more than one shot in the locker, to quote Paul Keating, and that we need depth in industry and strength in supply.

Another key lesson from Ukraine is that people generally back a winner. You watch the betting odds change on Melbourne Cup Day, same is true in war - people like to back a winner. And it took some time for European allies to pivot behind the Ukraine. The reason why they did is because Ukraine beat expectations – a lot of the reports that came out of people here in Canberra in the know were that Zelensky wouldn't survive, nor would the Ukrainian defence. They did, and that helped build a coalition. So, we need to be able to win and hold.

And President Zelensky’s strong leadership and Ukraine's resistance were critical in building international support. And so, the lesson for us is we too Australia, must be able to stand firmly on our own two feet as the Ukrainians have shown us.

So, I think it's therefore vital that the Commonwealth invest in our local manufacturers and supply chains, thickening and tightening their weave so that production and delivery can withstand an initial shock of war and for longer, if needed.

For many years, you've heard, I've heard the tired trope that ‘the market will take care of things.’ I've had plenty of conversations in my office, particularly with people in the fuel sector saying ‘don't worry it, the market will take care of things, there’s fuel floating out on the ocean’, never mind the geostrategic risks. It’s a tired trope, and it’s a naive assumption that is the luxury of a stable, global economic order and ignores the escalating strategic disorder fuelled by geopolitical competition across many sectors - diplomatic, economic, financial and military. We can't assume that strategic industries like defence industry will grow on their own. It actually needs political leadership, it needs to be cultivated, like a garden, by political leadership.

The hard truth is that governance, and this is my starting premise if you want to know where I'm coming from, my starting premise is that governments are always involved in defence industry. The question is which government, the French? The British? The American? Or the Australian Government? And I think for Australian industry to flourish, the Australian government has to actually back our local manufacturers and suppliers. Why else therefore would the 2021 AUKUS decision be so contentious if governments didn't have a stake in it?

So, in an era of increasing geopolitical competition, it is time the Australian Government signalled to our national industry - with deeds, not just words - that sovereign capability and capacity is a priority. That requires financial investment, and political direction. It requires courage, boldness, and initiative.

So finally, my third point: we must invest in new cyber and space capabilities to maintain our edge. We can no longer think of warfare purely in the traditional domains of air, sea and land and I don't think we do, but again, the question is, how much are we investing in cyber? How much are we investing in space? The previous government made a $10 billion investment in cyber through REDSPICE, sending a big signal to industry. I think space needs more work as well.

Despite the emerging capabilities in cyber and space, we do need to remember though that war is fundamentally a human enterprise that involves lethal force.

That has not changed since the Peloponnesian War more than two thousand years ago. And it remains, war, fundamentally a contest of wills.

But wars, as I said, will also increasingly be contested in space and online, and it will be contested in the hearts and minds of the population. Not only do our systems therefore need to be secure, but our people need to be hack-proof as well. And so even as we invest in strike capabilities, we must not neglect emerging capabilities in cyber and space and nor can we neglect fortifying ourselves against misinformation - misinformation, disinformation, propaganda. We've got to protect ourselves against that.

So, they’re my three points. To summarise – weakness is provocative, we need a strong deterrence. Number two: we need to be self-sufficient, at least for a time, so that if we do find ourselves in a war, we can build a coalition as the Ukrainians have shown us. And number three: we need to invest in other capabilities - space, cyber - and also safeguard ourselves against disinformation, misinformation and propaganda.

Now, against the backdrop of the ‘no-limits’ partnership struck on the eve of the Winter Olympics, all of this probably sounds a bit dramatic. I am in Opposition and I see one of my tasks is moving the needle in public debate to provide space for the government to make the important decisions. So, whilst government comes with other obligations, I think my role is to be pretty straight shooting.

We are in a dangerous time but we also need to be honest with the Australian people. We need to be honest about the strategic challenges ahead – if we can avoid taking the hard decisions. We need to be honest about how we address them, the expenditure that will require and the consequences.

No one said politics is easy. I've learned that. But there are people in this room I know personally, who will also tell you that modern warfare is infinitely more difficult and that's why we've got to avoid one at all costs and be able to deter our enemies. Thank you very much.


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  • Ruby Jinman
    published this page in Latest News 2022-12-01 12:18:03 +0800