Aus­tralia los­ing naval edge in re­gional arms race

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - IAN MCPHEDRAN

THE Asia- Pa­cific arms race is heat­ing up, with de­fence spend­ing by re­gional na­tions ex­clud­ing the US, Rus­sia and In­dia pass­ing $ 320 bil­lion a year.

The big­gest mover is China, with an an­nual spend es­ti­mated at more than $ 162 bil­lion, which is more than dou­ble its 2003 bud­get of $ 68 bil­lion.

The amount pales when com­pared to the US de­fence bud­get of $ 610 bil­lion a year, but it places China in sec­ond place fol­lowed by day­light and then Rus­sia with $ 84 bil­lion. Another big mover is South Korea, up from $ 16 bil­lion in 2003 to $ 32 bil­lion in 2013.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port out to­day from the Aus­tralian Strate­gic Pol­icy In­sti­tute ( ASPI), most of the new spend­ing is on navy ca­pa­bil­i­ties and that is slowly erod­ing Aus­tralia’s ca­pa­bil­ity edge.

ASPI also warns that the build- up of naval ca­pa­bil­i­ties in­creases the risk of “se­ri­ous in­ci­dents” at sea.

“If the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment were to de­ploy forces in mar­itime South­East Asia, the ADF could face more so­phis­ti­cated ca­pa­bil­i­ties,” it warns.

Another re­port re­leased yesterday shows Aus­tralians know very lit­tle about de­fence and how $ 30 bil­lion of their money is spent ev­ery year.

The re­port by a panel ad­vis­ing the 2015 De­fence White Pa­per re­vealed that just 500 peo­ple at­tended al­most 40 meet­ings in all states and ter­ri­to­ries; 260 writ­ten sub­mis­sions also came in.

Other de­fence is­sues on their minds in­cluded pos­si­ble threats to Aus­tralia, closer en­gage­ment with In­done­sia, strength­en­ing the US al­liance, de­fence in­dus­try pol­icy and ca­pa­bil­ity and more in­for­ma­tion when gov­ern­ments de­ployed mil­i­tary forces over­seas.

Aus­tralia is No. 4 on the re­gional arms ta­ble ( ex­clud­ing the US, Rus­sia and In­dia) with $ 29 bil­lion a year, grow­ing to $ 32 bil­lion by 2020. A new De­fence White Pa­per due out later this year is ex­pected to con­firm that naval war­fare is where the ac­tion is.

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