Sep 20, 2018 Last Updated 4:57 AM, Sep 13, 2018

Australian defence encounters new Pacific realities

  • Jul 24, 2015
  • By  Michael O’Keefe
Published in 2013 June
Read 6289 times
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Canberra has turned its attention back to the Pacific. No more potent a symbol of this renewed interest could be found than the Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith’s visit to Tonga on the eve of releasing the Defence White Paper ‘Defending Australia and its National Interests’. The fact that Smith was convening the inaugural annual ‘South Pacific’ defence ministers meeting is certainly significant. But there is also substance behind this symbolism. The minister foreshadowed the new Pacific Maritime Security Programme, which replaces the Pacific Patrol Boat Project and forms the centrepiece of Australia’s new Pacific strategy. Canberra has some catching up to do after years of benign neglect. For over a decade, Australia and its US ally have been focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and the ‘War on Terror’. Operations in Afghanistan are winding down and the White Paper is sensitive to the implications of this major shift in tempo. Australia’s other large and enduring operation in the Solomon Islands is also winding down. RAMSI has been a major bridge to the region and ending this link will have an impact on the Solomons and on Australian defence engagement. The second principal task of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) identified by the White Paper is to “contribute to stability and security in the South Pacific and Timor-Leste”

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