25 September 2023

Defending Australia

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Edited by Jonathan Pearlman, Australian Foreign Affairs, $22.99.

The last issue of 2018 tackles the vital subject of Australia’s ability to defend itself as both the region and military technology rapidly change around us.

Australia’s military has fought almost continuously since the nation was founded in 1901. As Pearlman points out: the country has an unusual approach to its defence.

“Today, the challenge for Australia is whether its defence equation can hold when the foundation on which it rests appears to be shaky.”

The other challenge for Australia is that the superiority of its military capabilities in its neighbourhood is diminishing as national economies around the region grow.

With continuing developments in the region, this will “require Australia to rethink many of its traditional approaches to its defence, including the role and operation of its intelligence agencies, its choices of hardware, and its handling of alliances and diplomacy.”

There is also a positive outlook because Pearlman thinks Australia’s luck has not run out: as Asian nations rise, it is closer than ever to the centre of global power and wealth.

Australian Foreign Affairs 4, Defending Australia, explores whether the nation’s weaponry, intelligence agencies and handling of alliances and diplomacy are up to the task of securing against new vulnerabilities in a fast-changing Asia.

The periodical picks up on this thread of thinking with contributions from some well-known authors.

Michael Wesley says: “Whether we like it or not, the challenge of defending Australia will become much harder in the twenty-first century. We are no longer a strategic backwater.”

Stephan Frühling explores Australia’s options for developing nuclear weapons to protect its maritime approaches.

Patrick Walters probes the overhaul of Australia’s expanding intelligence agencies, while John Birmingham analyses Australia’s weapons capabilities as the military expands its reach.

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