Weak Response to Red Sea Houthi Attacks Exposes Our Defence Issues

Australia’s recent response to a request for a naval vessel to be sent to the Red Sea highlights the inadequacy of Australia’s defences.CommentaryYears of indecision about Australia’s defence requirements threaten the security of the nation over the coming decade.In particular, the cutting of the defence budget by the Rudd-Gillard Labor governments, the neglect to place timely orders for the replacement of the naval fleet, and the ongoing submarine fiasco leaves Australia in real jeopardy.While the Abbott Liberal government reset defence expenditure with a floor of 2 percent of GDP, the delays with a new submarine purchase by the successor Turnbull government and the ending of the contract with France created further uncertainty and delay.The subsequent announcement about AUKUS, including the lease and purchase of United States nuclear-powered vessels, has eased the situation, but the arrangements with the United States remain subject to the attitude of the next U.S. president.Recent reports—that some of the key security and defence advisors to the leading Republican candidate in the polls, Donald Trump are sceptical about the ability of the United States to supply new submarines to Australia—illustrate the challenges.Related Stories12/25/202312/20/2023“The U.S. has far too few available, many are in maintenance, and the production schedule is way below what we need,” said Eldridge Colby, the ex-U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defence for strategy.Mr. Colby was joined by another Trump confidant, former republican Senate security adviser Alex Velez-Green, in voicing his concerns about the ability to supply the proposed Virginia-class submarines to Australia.The inadequacy of Australia’s defences was highlighted by the response to the request to send an Australian naval vessel to the Middle East to help police the Red Sea.The Red Sea is a major trading route. Some 12 percent of world trade and 30 percent of global container trade passes through the waterway. This includes trade with Australia.In a remarkable statement, Defence Minister Richard Marles said that a response including a team of 16 navy personnel in Bahrain “is proportionate to where we are in the world and the size of our Defence Force.”Of some 80,000 Australian Defence Force personnel, we can spare just 16!Mr. Marles’ statement should be treated with the utmost seriousness.Australia has more than 25,000 kilometres (15,500 miles) of coastline—more if various islands and territories are included. Yet it has just 50 commissioned naval vessels to defend it!That is one vessel for every 500 kilometres of coastline. But some of these vessels are not defensive, for example, supply ships. At any one time, some are not operable.Yes, there are also aircraft, missiles, and other military equipment.As the Royal Australian Navy points out, “We are one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the Pacific region, with a significant presence in the Indian Ocean and worldwide operations in support of military campaigns and peacekeeping missions.”Compared to most of Australia’s neighbours, our military is large. That comparison however is misguided. None of our neighbours offers a real threat to Australia’s peace and security. That threat is further afield.Japan recently announced that it would be providing missiles to the United States. What is Australia actually providing for the co-ordinated defence of the region, apart from a land base in the South Pacific? Very little, it seems.It is time for a real conversation about our defence and security. The events in the Middle East and elsewhere illustrate how minor incidents can escalate rapidly.Closer to home, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to engage in both aggressive rhetoric and dangerous manoeuvres in the China Seas.Australia is not immune from these developments.If Mr. Marles is correct in saying that all we can contribute is 16 Defence Force personnel to the efforts to protect shipping in the Red Sea, it should be a wake-up call to the nation.Instead of talking about an era of cooperation, the Australian government should be honest with its citizens about the real threats the nation faces over the next decade; and it should be willing to adjust its policies to immediately prioritise the measures required to improve our security.The defence of the nation is the fundamental responsibility of a national government.Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Weak Response to Red Sea Houthi Attacks Exposes Our Defence Issues

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Australia’s recent response to a request for a naval vessel to be sent to the Red Sea highlights the inadequacy of Australia’s defences.

Commentary

Years of indecision about Australia’s defence requirements threaten the security of the nation over the coming decade.

In particular, the cutting of the defence budget by the Rudd-Gillard Labor governments, the neglect to place timely orders for the replacement of the naval fleet, and the ongoing submarine fiasco leaves Australia in real jeopardy.

While the Abbott Liberal government reset defence expenditure with a floor of 2 percent of GDP, the delays with a new submarine purchase by the successor Turnbull government and the ending of the contract with France created further uncertainty and delay.

The subsequent announcement about AUKUS, including the lease and purchase of United States nuclear-powered vessels, has eased the situation, but the arrangements with the United States remain subject to the attitude of the next U.S. president.

Recent reports—that some of the key security and defence advisors to the leading Republican candidate in the polls, Donald Trump are sceptical about the ability of the United States to supply new submarines to Australia—illustrate the challenges.

“The U.S. has far too few available, many are in maintenance, and the production schedule is way below what we need,” said Eldridge Colby, the ex-U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defence for strategy.

Mr. Colby was joined by another Trump confidant, former republican Senate security adviser Alex Velez-Green, in voicing his concerns about the ability to supply the proposed Virginia-class submarines to Australia.

The inadequacy of Australia’s defences was highlighted by the response to the request to send an Australian naval vessel to the Middle East to help police the Red Sea.

The Red Sea is a major trading route. Some 12 percent of world trade and 30 percent of global container trade passes through the waterway. This includes trade with Australia.

In a remarkable statement, Defence Minister Richard Marles said that a response including a team of 16 navy personnel in Bahrain “is proportionate to where we are in the world and the size of our Defence Force.”

Of some 80,000 Australian Defence Force personnel, we can spare just 16!

Mr. Marles’ statement should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Australia has more than 25,000 kilometres (15,500 miles) of coastline—more if various islands and territories are included. Yet it has just 50 commissioned naval vessels to defend it!

That is one vessel for every 500 kilometres of coastline. But some of these vessels are not defensive, for example, supply ships. At any one time, some are not operable.

Yes, there are also aircraft, missiles, and other military equipment.

As the Royal Australian Navy points out, “We are one of the largest and most sophisticated naval forces in the Pacific region, with a significant presence in the Indian Ocean and worldwide operations in support of military campaigns and peacekeeping missions.”

Compared to most of Australia’s neighbours, our military is large. That comparison however is misguided. None of our neighbours offers a real threat to Australia’s peace and security. That threat is further afield.

Japan recently announced that it would be providing missiles to the United States. What is Australia actually providing for the co-ordinated defence of the region, apart from a land base in the South Pacific? Very little, it seems.

It is time for a real conversation about our defence and security. The events in the Middle East and elsewhere illustrate how minor incidents can escalate rapidly.

Closer to home, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to engage in both aggressive rhetoric and dangerous manoeuvres in the China Seas.

Australia is not immune from these developments.

If Mr. Marles is correct in saying that all we can contribute is 16 Defence Force personnel to the efforts to protect shipping in the Red Sea, it should be a wake-up call to the nation.

Instead of talking about an era of cooperation, the Australian government should be honest with its citizens about the real threats the nation faces over the next decade; and it should be willing to adjust its policies to immediately prioritise the measures required to improve our security.

The defence of the nation is the fundamental responsibility of a national government.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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