Proposed UNAA Response to the Defence Review 2000


UNAA welcomes this unique opportunity to comment on the defence discussion paper Defence Review 2000 - Our Future Defence Force issued by the Government on 27 June 2000. Not only is community involvement in Defence policy a positive step forwards, but it also acknowledges the value to the Australian Defence Organisation of having an ongoing Defence community involvement.

Previous Defence debates have raged between notions of 'forward defence' versus 'continental defence'. The flaw in these models was that both were predicated fairly specifically upon defence of Australia rather than expanding to incorporate defence of people or environment - in short, to incorporate more fully the ideas of human security and global security. Both of these trends are on the rise following the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and the 1995 Human Development Report that defined human security and addressed such issues in more detail than had been accomplished previously.

Only recently has the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan argued that even the United Nations had to reevaluate its approach to the concept of sovereignty focused solely on nation states.

"State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined - not least by the forces of globalisation and international co-operation. States are now widely understood to be instruments at the service of their peoples, and not vice versa. At the same time individual sovereignty - by which I mean the fundamental freedom of each individual, enshrined in the charter of the UN and subsequent international treaties - has been enhanced by a renewed and spreading consciousness of individual rights. When we read the charter today, we are more than ever conscious that its aim is to protect human beings, not to protect those who abuse them."

The current military thinking that defence is about the role of force in international affairs is therefore under increasing strain. This is being called into question because the number and frequency of high-intensity conflicts are diminishing whereas lower levels of conflict are becoming more prevalent. So for a military to be equipped, trained and readied for deployment in high-intensity operations is not only enormously expensive, it is also increasingly unlikely. UNAA would suggest that the risk management approach to the prospects for high-intensity versus low-intensity operations by the ADF requires review.

The Defence White Paper consultation process only examines traditional concepts of security. For Defence planning, where forward timeframes of 20 to 30 years must be incorporated into planning, the trend is for an increasing focus on human security and global security to rise and the number of low-level conflicts to increase. The potential for high-intensity conflicts such as in Korea or Taiwan remains as they have for some decades. The increases have instead come about in the potential for damage through terrorism by 'rogue states' and in horizontal proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) into our region. Neither of these two concerns are readily dealt with by increasing conventional armaments.

So where does this leave the theory of defence in the Australian community? We want our families to be safe and our environment to be sustainable. Do we want to finance equipment and training for high intensity conflicts in Northeast Asia or to safeguard first ourselves and then our neighbours? The latter is more likely. So how does this impact upon the practical aspects - the tasks and roles the Australia community needs from our Defence personnel, equipment and resources?

Role of the ADF

The roles and tasks for our defence forces should logically flow from what the Australian community needs. This is the safety of our families both in a physical and environmental sense. The defence forces can assist this by deterring threats to Australian citizens and international allies directly and to the depletion or destruction of our environment and its assets, ie fishing stocks. Anything else is additional - a want and not a need.

To ensure the safety of our families, hostile action by states, terrorists and controllers of WMD should be the highest priority now and in future. To safeguard our environment, maritime policing and enforcement is a high priority. Additionally, our positive relationship with neighbouring communities and states will further assist both of these aims, extending out to the global sphere.

The difference is whether Australians want our defence forces to take on a peacekeeping and regulating role or a more coercive, enforcement role in their activities. Domestically, the military supports humanitarian action in cases of state or national emergency relief. This is occurring more often in our nearer region also, for example, the supportive role in Papua New Guinea after the tidal monsoon devastated village communities or when the ADF provided drought relief. This is compared to the more coercive peace-enforcing role taken in East Timor.

To choose between these two is difficult. The current military thinking is that by equipping and training for the high-threat and coercive, enforcing roles then it is easier to adjust downwards for a humanitarian role, rather than move upwards to respond to a higher threat. In terms of quantity, the humanitarian tasks far outweigh the number of coercive, interventionist tasks. The risks associated with not responding to high threat situations is considered sufficient at present to warrant retaining the equipment and training to cope with these events. This has had significant implications for what types of equipment the Defence Department has purchased up until now, but should be clearly reevaluated in terms of the changed regional environment for any future acquisitions.


Drawing on the Capability Fact Book issued along with the Defence Review 2000 document, military equipment falls into two broad categories. The first is equipment designed specifically for addressing a high threat scenario, and the second, equipment that can be utilised for both high and low threat situations. The following table is included to promote discussion of these two types of equipment.