The oceans and
The key to Australia's defence lay not on the mainland but … at its approaches.
General Douglas Macarthur, 8 May 1942
In 1998, the International Year of the Ocean, it was significant that Australia finally accepted the primary enduring feature of its geography and declared a maritime concept as the basis of the country's defence strategy. It took General Douglas Macarthur less than two months in 1942 to decide that the key to Australia's defence lay at its approaches, but the evolution of Australia's defence strategy since World War II has been a slow and convoluted process. However, throughout this process the oceans have been a fundamental consideration in our defence posture.
This chapter reviews the evolution of Australia's defence strategic thinking and examines some selected naval force structure developments and activities and the strategic concepts used by Australia's defence planners against the backdrop of the maritime environment which dominates any consideration of defence in this country.
Australia is an island trading nation, surrounded by oceans, with over half of our national territory being sea. Australia's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is one of the largest in the world, covering 11 million square kilometres. The Australian mainland is surrounded by a continental shelf, which is about 200 metres deep and ranges between 15 and 500 kilometres wide, covering an area of some 3 million square kilometres. Australia