Australia’s biggest threat is economic coercion not invasion amid largest military build-up the ‘world has seen’ since WW2

1 May 2023

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles has revealed the biggest threat facing Australia over the next decade in the face of the largest military build-up the “world has seen” since World War Two.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles has said Australia’s major investment in missile and submarine capabilities will meet the country’s biggest threat over the coming decades.

The government released the findings from the Defence Strategic Review (DSR) on Monday which called for a realignment in Australia’s defence posture.

A major strategic rethink will be underway with the government to plunge billions of dollars into a domestic guided-weapons industry along with AUKUS nuclear submarine program which is set to cost up to $368 billion over the next three decades.

Mr Marles said the shift away from land-based capabilities and vehicles to a maritime focus was driven by Australia’s changing threats.

HMAS Ballarat (left) and USS America conduct a replenishment at sea off the coat of Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021. Picture: Royal Australian Navy Imagery Unit

HMAS Ballarat (left) and USS America conduct a replenishment at sea off the coat of Queensland, during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2021. Picture: Royal Australian Navy Imagery Unit

He said the most pressing challenge to Australia’s sovereignty was to the country’s key trading routes rather than via an invasion.

“The threat is not that we’re about to be invaded but our exposure to economic coercion and to coercion from an adversary is greater, and the potential for that coercion going forward is much more significant,” Mr Marles told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

“And that’s where the threat lies, and that’s why we need to re-posture for that.”

Australia’s trade now accounts for 45 per cent of its total GDP, a significant increase from about 30 per cent where it sat in the early 1990s.

However, the Defence Minister said Australia’s reliance on fuel imports, particularly from Singapore, was the most concerning factor in a rapidly changing strategic landscape.

He also added that the threats were elevated in the face of the “biggest conventional military build-up that the world has seen since the end of the Second World War” from China.

“When you look at the way in which great power contest is playing out, and particularly in our region, you look at that military build-up, and you look at our exposure to that through a much greater economic connection to the world, we are much more vulnerable to coercion than we’ve ever been before,” he said.

“And we need to be thinking about the way in which we posture our Defence Force to deal with that.

“We need a Defence Force which has a much greater power or ability to engage in projection. Because so much of what we need to do is beyond our shores.

“So to have a Defence Force with the capacity for impactful projection across the full spectrum of proportionate response is now what we are seeking to achieve.”The DSR marked the most significant shift in Australia’s strategic posture in a generation and will see $19 billion invested into six priority areas over the forward estimates.

The overwhelming focus was force projection and it matches the government’s continuing overhaul of its defence strategy following the AUKUS submarine announcement in March.

At the time Mr Marles repeated his concerns over potential trade blockades when spruiking Australia’s need for nuclear submarines.

During a speech to Parliament, Mr Marles said the new submarines, which would be “highly capable in conflict”, would act as a deterrent against any adversary looking to take out Australia’s extremely important trade routes.

“Any adversary who wishes us harm by disrupting our connection with the world will be given pause for thought,” he said.

Tyrone Clarke
 Digital Reporter Skynews