UPCOMING EVENT: 6pm Tues 12 Feb: Dr Paul Monk: What’s happening with Australia’s defence? What actually is our defence policy? Looking ahead to coming decades, what do we see as the threat(s)? Do government plans match this threat? More to the point, does the Gillard government have plans, and if so what are they, and when will they be debated?
Until the third week of January 2013, the answers to these questions remained an enigma. But then came publication of a 48-page document Strong and Secure, a Strategy for Australia’s National Security. Introducing it to an invited audience, the prime minister, Julia Gillard, said that the Post 9-11 era was over and that the priorities for the coming decade would be dominated by the threat of Great Power conflict, the rise of China, and malicious cyber espionage and attack.
But, like the Asian Century white paper, the document is largely aspirational, and ignores the ten per cent cut in Australia’s defence budget. It is written in diplomatic language, and is weighted more on negotiation and less on military preparedness. But it does list the US alliance as one of the pillars of security, as well as seven others, including being influential in the region. Here, much of the emphasis, again coded in diplomatic language, is encouraging China to settle disputes by negotiation and to participate fully in regional groupings. Another ‘pillar’ states “strengthening theresilience of Australia’s people, assets, infrastructure, and institutions”. It does not say why this is considered necessary, or how it will be achieved.
To examine the issues facing Australia’s defence planners, to review the military expansion of China, and to assess the probable content of this year’s white paper, we have invited one of Australia’s leading defence analysts to meet with us. He is Paul Monk, a former intelligence analyst and head of the China division of Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation. Dr Monk is now director of Melbourne-based Austhink Consulting, and a frequent contributor to the debate on defence policy, China, Japan and North Korea.
An edited version of a lecture Dr Paul Monk gave to the Athenaeum Club in Melbourne late last year, Slaying the Dragon, was published in Quadrant December 2012 . He has taught strategic studies and Chinese politics at university and is the author of Thunder From the Silent Zone: Rethinking China (Scribe 2005), which emphasizes the need for critical thinking in coming to grips with the rise of Chinese power in our time. It was shortlisted, in 2006, for both the Gleebooks prize for non-fiction in New South Wales, and The Age Book of the Year in Victoria.