As the world pivots, it’s time for Australia to confront the unthinkable

The nation’s pre-election preoccupations are trivial, even while huge shifts in global security demand that our leaders consider actions that have been unthinkable.

In this article, AALD alumni Peter Hartcher proposes:

  •  conscription
  •  cutting trade with China
  •  even more new USA war bases

Australia soon will be discussing with Washington the options for hosting major US combatants, including nuclear-capable planes and ships and subs, on Australian territory, in rotation or home-basing.

... but expect to be left in the lurch in the likelihood of USA abandoning democracy

Pentagon to build up US bases in Guam and Australia to meet China challenge

The Pentagon will focus on building up bases in Guam and Australia to better prepare the US military to counter China, a senior defense official said on Monday.

To counter China, the review directs the Department to enhance "infrastructure in Guam and Australia," and to prioritize "military construction across the Pacific Islands," the official said, as well as "seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities."

"In Australia, you'll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments, you'll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation, and more broadly across the Indo-Pacific, you'll see a range of infrastructure improvements, in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Australia," Karlin said during the briefing.

The review also did not include "functional capabilities" like nuclear, space and cyber, because those are being addressed in other Department specific reviews, the official said.

AUKUS: Australia, USA military ‘melded like never before’: US adviser

President Biden’s top adviser for Asia, Dr Kurt Campbell, has said he expects the US and Australia military to become “melded” together in a way unimaginable twenty years ago, as the AUKUS security pact comes to fruition.

Dr Campbell said the AUKUS pact “tied Australia more deeply to us”, and both Australia and the UK had made “a fundamental strategic choice to work with the US” in the Indo-Pacific.

“High level” teams in the US, Australia and UK were working on “doing whatever possible to provide the Royal Australian Navy with options to build nuclear subs as rapidly as possible”, Dr Campbell said.

AUKUS partners sign tech-sharing agreement

Minister for Defence Peter Dutton and representatives from the United Kingdom and the United States this morning (22 November) signed a legally-binding treaty to grant Australia access to advanced nuclear technology under the AUKUS agreement.

The treaty establishes a framework for the disclosure and use of information related to naval nuclear propulsion, supporting the local development of at least eight nuclear-powered submarines for the Royal Australian Navy.

The agreement also aims to develop the skills necessary to establish a best practice regulatory and safety regime, ensuring Australia complies with its international obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“There are plenty of others who don't want to see this go ahead, I think that tells you why it's so important that we do.”

China military build-up makes Darwin the unsafe harbour of the north

The stakes for war and peace could hardly be higher. The Morrison government and the leadership of our defence, intelligence and security agencies understand these developments.

But it’s one thing to see you are facing a crisis and quite another to know what to do. Strategic trends in the region are lifting the importance of northern Australia. Our north is, in fact, the essential southern rampart of the Indo-Pacific. The outcome is to make the future of the Port of Darwin a central strategic question. This becomes clear by looking at the plans and purposes of Chinese military growth.

There is no more important step the Morrison government could take than to end the 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to Chinese company Landbridge.

The threadbare excuses that were deployed to justify the lease in 2015 have long been abandoned by government and opposition. Now, when the Prime Minister warns about the priority “to enhance the resilience of Indo-Pacific supply chains”, we must realise that our ports and airports are critical joints in those supply chains.

The Port of Darwin, and the Top End in general, is the place from which Australia can mount efforts to resist Chinese subversion of the Pacific Islands. The Port of Darwin is also the place to which the USA and other partners can disperse and sustain their forces while deterring Chinese aggression.

Six years into the lease of the port the promised development of infrastructure for tourism isn’t happening. The strategic outlook has changed fundamentally. Landbridge’s presence is now a bone in the throat preventing the development of Darwin as a facility for greater engagement by the AUKUS and Quad partners.