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PM's $270b for defence in "poorer, more dangerous" post-pandemic world

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Australia will spend $270 billion on defence over the next decade to protect against China’s expansion and growing regional instability.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants the Australian Defence Force to firmly focus its efforts on the Indo-Pacific.

“We need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly,” Morrison will say in a speech on Wednesday.

He says strategic competition between China and the United States is creating “a lot of tension … and a lot of miscalculation”.

Other regional tensions – underscored by border skirmishes between China and India – have also accelerated in recent years.

Morrison will release the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and the new Force Structure Plan in Canberra on Wednesday.

He will say the strategic environment and heightened risk from any miscalculation make it vital that Australia is able to respond with credible military force.

It also needs stronger defences to deter others from threatening Australian interests.

“Capabilities that can hold potential adversaries’ forces and critical infrastructure at risk from a distance, thereby deterring an attack on Australia and helping to prevent war,” Morrison will say.

The government is promising to give Defence $270 billion over the next decade – up from the $195 billion promised in 2016.

The force will look for long-range weapons that could strike ships or land from thousands of kilometres away, as well as test long-range hypersonic weapons.

It will also boost cyber capacity and surveillance, and build a network of satellites so Australia has an independent communications network.

The shift in Defence objectives matches Morrison’s foreign policy focus on Australia’s region.

It comes as the US under Donald Trump has become more inward-looking.

Morrison will say Australia remains prepared to make military contributions outside of the Indo-Pacific region, including backing US-led coalitions.

“But we cannot allow consideration of such contingencies to drive our force structure to the detriment of ensuring we have credible capability to respond to any challenge in our immediate region,” he will say.

“If we are to be a better and more effective ally, we must be prepared to invest in our own security.”

Morrison defended the plan to boost military spending while refusing to extend JobKeeper wage subsidies to more workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If you don’t have a strategic defence of your country then you are unable to achieve all the other things that you hope to achieve as a nation,” he told Seven Network ahead of his speech.

-AAP

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