Prime Minister uses Press Club speech to highlight national strategic intent, foreshadows DSR
Photo: Defence Connect
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has used a major national security speech to the National Press Club in Canberra to highlight Australia’s reinvigorated strategic intent, with the PM declaring, “I can promise all Australians that our government will ensure that Defence has the resources it needs to defend our nation and deter potential aggressors.”
It was widely hailed as a major defence and national security speech by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ahead of the widely anticipated release of the Defence Strategic Review in the coming weeks, however, it ultimately emphasised more of Labor’s traditional policy strengths, with only a passing focus on defence and national security.
In saying this, what was mentioned and the way the speech was framed by the Prime Minister did shift the dial from the siloed approach of the previous government towards a more holistic and “whole of nation” approach to national security and defence in this new era of mounting great power competition and a new multipolar paradigm.
The Prime Minister told the audience, “This year, our focus as a government is on providing stability, confidence, and security. Greater security in the economy, in energy and industry, and jobs and wages. Greater security in Medicare and child care and aged care.
“In education and skills and housing, in building and delivering the infrastructure and services Australians rely on. And in defence and national security, investing in our sovereignty, strengthening Australia’s relationships in the region, and securing our place in the world. After nine months in government, my colleagues and I are fully aware of the size and scale of the problems that we inherited.”
The Prime Minister went on to detail the significant role the new multipolar world is playing on the nation’s security, stability, and prosperity, saying, “The cost-of-living pressures Australians are facing can be traced back to a global pandemic that constricted supply chains, making it more difficult and more expensive to bring things here but also a hollowing-out of local manufacturing that meant we weren’t making enough things here.
“Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine has pushed up energy prices around the world and it comes on top of years spent attacking renewables and neglecting our energy grid, meaning energy prices were more vulnerable to international movements than they should have been.”
Importantly, the Prime Minister highlighted the government’s focus on “relief, repair and restraint” which would see the government pivot to respond to structural weaknesses across the economy and nation that have an impact on Australia’s capacity to resist foreign coercion and defend our national security.
Prime Minister Albanese said, “I want to make two things clear right now. First, as I said before the election at the Lowy Institute, I can promise all Australians that our government will ensure that Defence has the resources it needs to defend our nation and deter potential aggressors.
“Secondly, while there will inevitably be a focus on the capability gaps we need to fill, we should never lose sight of the extraordinary service performed by the men and women of our ADF.”
Building on these key points, the Prime Minister added, “with the right investments in our capability and our sovereignty, our Defence force can be made ready for future challenges. These investments include announcing, through AUKUS, the optimal pathway by which Australia will operate our nuclear-powered submarines.
“This will be the single biggest leap in our defence capability in our history. Yet, AUKUS is about much more than nuclear submarines, or even technological interoperability. AUKUS is about the future. It further formalises the common values and the shared interest that our three nations have in preserving peace and upholding the rules and institutions that secure our region and our world.
“Australia has long understood that partnerships and alliances are key to our security — that’s still true today. But we recognise that pursuing and defending our sovereign interests and contributing to regional stability requires us to build our sovereign defence capability, including advanced manufacturing.
“As Richard Marles has said, national security demands a whole-of-nation effort. It also presents a whole-of-nation opportunity: for new jobs, new industries, and new expertise in science and technology and cyber,” the Prime Minister explained.