Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023



8:41 pm

Photo of Raff CicconeRaff Ciccone (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Tonight I want to make a short contribution on the Defence strategic review that was released last month. The government commissioned this review in the first 100 days after its election. It set out an agenda for ambitious but necessary reform to defence's posture and structure. The response to the review from the government sets out a blueprint for Australia's strategic policy, defence planning and resourcing over the coming decades.

The government has identified six priority areas for immediate action: the acquisition of nuclear powered submarines through the AUKUS agreement, to improve our deterrence capabilities; the development of the Australian Defence Force's ability to precisely strike targets at a longer range and manufacture munitions in Australia; to improve the ADF's ability to operate from Australia's northern bases; initiatives to improve the growth and retention of a highly skilled defence workforce; lifting our capacity to rapidly translate disruptive new technologies into ADF capabilities in close partnership with Australian industry; and to deepen our diplomatic and defence partnerships with key partners in the Indo-Pacific.

I think almost everyone who has been involved in national conversations and debates about defence has welcomed the review and the priority areas from the government. Of course, realising these priorities will require enormous effort. I know that the Albanese government and the Australian people are up for that challenge. We will be guided by a national defence strategy that will set out a comprehensive plan for defence policy, planning, capabilities and resourcing. I think the recommendations from the Defence strategic review reflect our increasingly challenging strategic environment.

On the first priority, acquiring nuclear powered submarines, I know from spending time with submariners that there is a lot of anticipation for this new technology, and it really is a key to our ability to project deterrence to where it matters. There is broad acknowledgement that we cannot entirely rely on other nations to deter conflict in our region. We need to acquire the capabilities necessary to be a serious deterrent in our own right. It's also positive to see our diplomatic work recognised as an essential part of our efforts to support the international rules based order. This work needs to be seen as part of an overall effort to stabilise our strategic environment, in addition to the acquisition of capabilities that can deter conflict.

Of course, the DSR calls out something that I've discussed in this place on numerous occasions: our sovereign capability and being able to manufacture things right here in Australia. Increasing the capacity of our own defence industrial base will be an important priority of the Albanese government. In recent times, we have all seen how fragile international supply chains can be, and it's not too difficult to understand the impact an international conflict would have on our ability to use the trade routes we usually rely on. That's why developing the sovereign capability to manufacture weapons here in Australia is so important, and I look forward to the government working with industry and people in this place to realise this ambition. I thank former Minister for Defence the Hon. Stephen Smith and former Chief of the Defence Force Sir Angus Houston for their efforts in putting the DSR together. It is an important guiding document that will be essential in navigating these uncertain times.


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