Australian External Policy under Labor: Content, Process and the National Debate

By Henry S. Albinski | Go to book overview

7 External Policy: Defence Dimensions

We now turn to defence, our final policy area theme. We will first assess a basic instrument of the defence policy, the military establishment. Our attention will then turn to Australia's role in security alliances, and lastly to regional and Australian-based approaches to nuclear affairs, arms control and neutralization.

We begin by inquiring into the assigned role of Australia's armed forces: what they were supposed to do and why. We will then be better placed to evaluate their capabilities, measured by such criteria as numbers, organization, training and equipment, industrial and economic back-up, and the like.

Much of the perspective needed for our present subject was set out in Chapter 3, where we reviewed the external policy assumptions of the Labor government, and of the opposition and other critics. We noticed that Labor did not anticipate a serious threat to Australia in the foreseeable future. The ALP had a general aversion to military "solutions" to international problems. It repudiated the "forward" defence strategy subscribed to by its predecessors. It wished to be less reliant on traditional defence partners such as the United States. Above all, Labor was persuaded that foreign policy considerations had to dictate defence policy, not vice versa.

In principle, Labor as a party did not disavow the need for a defence capability. Article XX of the party's platform stipulated that " a strong and valid defence must be maintained. This defence intention must be so effective as to demonstrate beyond all doubt Australia's intention to defend itself and her vital interests." Once Labor had translated itself from opposition to government, and in light of international developments after December 1972, the role of Australia's armed forces had to be spelled out in considerably more detail. A perceived low-threat climate did not require massive forces. Changes in the climate were unlikely to be sudden, allowing Australia

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Australian External Policy under Labor: Content, Process and the National Debate
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - The Liberal Inheritance: I 1
  • Notes 25
  • 2 - The Liberal Inheritance: II 28
  • Notes 57
  • 3 - Australia and the International Scene 60
  • Notes 89
  • 4 - External Policy: Diplomatic Dimensions: I 92
  • Notes 120
  • 5 - External Policy: Diplomatic Dimensions: II 124
  • Notes 173
  • 6 - External Policy: Economic Dimensions 178
  • Notes 219
  • 7 - External Policy: Defence Dimensions 225
  • Notes 268
  • 8 - The External Policy Process 274
  • Notes 317
  • 9 - Electoral Politics and External Policy 321
  • Notes 352
  • Bibliography 355
  • Index 359
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