Federation Chamber Statement – Defence





Subjects: Defence

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: I’m going to try something a little different. I’m going to try and throw a little bit of trust over to the opposition side and trust in their goodwill, their good conscience and their good faith that the words they speak about the importance of our defence and national security, the bipartisanship that is necessary, in one of the most critical periods that Australia is facing—and I think we all agree on that—the most volatile geostrategic circumstances that we’ve faced since World War II, that they’re not going to play petty politics in this space, that they follow through on the words they use when they say, ‘We’ll back you in because it’s about Australia’s national interest.’ But already I’ve heard the first skirting towards a bit of falsehood when I heard a previous speaker talk about cuts to the defence budget.

Let me just remind those in the opposition that defence funding will rise to over two per cent of GDP over the forward estimates. It will be the highest it has been in decades. That is a fact. So, rather than playing around with misinformation or disinformation and trying to score a few cheap political points in this space, why don’t you trust that good conscience that you have? I know you have it because you care about Australia. We all do. We care about the safety and security of our nation. We care about ensuring the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific. The bipartisanship that we talk about is very, very important. So, the fact is that the Albanese Labor government is delivering on its election commitments across the defence portfolio.

The other thing I heard from the opposition speaker was that somehow the DSR, the Defence Strategic Review, was an excuse not to make decisions. Let me remind the opposition that the Defence Strategic Review is actually happening at warp speed. I’ve been in and around this space for 20-plus years; I have not seen a defence white paper or defence update completed in such a time. It’s at breakneck speed. Sir Angus Houston and Stephen Smith have delivered the first part of it and will deliver the final report. It is fundamentally important to the huge decisions that this government has to make around the future of our defence capability because, frankly, it goes to shaping the world that we live in. When we’re talking about major decisions, you can’t make major decisions on strategy, force posture and force structure capability one at a time. They have to be done with a view of the big picture and the strategic necessity of what we face. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why the Defence Strategic Review is being put in place. That’s why the Defence Minister will be making those decisions going forward once he has received that report, as it should be.

There is a global strategic contest underway between the rise of authoritarianism and democracies like Australia. We know that. With our friends and allies, we are all working together and using all the tools of statecraft—diplomacy, defence, development assistance—in the region to ensure security and stability in the Indo-Pacific because it’s the neighbourhood we live in, and it’s also the place where this battle is most drawn out. It’s where that contest is happening. We are in the middle of the most important region of the 21st century. What we do as a government in the coming years—and, I hope, with the support of the opposition, in a bipartisan way—will effectively shape the future for our children and grandchildren in the coming decades. So maybe you can just resist the temptation to play short-term domestic politics within this defence space. Sure, we can disagree. Let’s disagree on substantive issues if we must, and we can debate those. But let’s not play politics with this. It’s too important.

This government is committed to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region and the ongoing prosperity of Australia. We’re a trading nation. The defence capabilities that we make decisions about will help us defend and protect the international rules-based order, which is so important for our nation’s future. AUKUS is part of that as well—the framework to deepen cooperation between our allies in developing leading-edge military capabilities and technology. That’s critically important. It’s central to shaping strategic circumstances in favour of our national interest. But it’s more than just submarines, as important as that long-range naval capability is; it’s about advanced capabilities, quantum computing, electronic warfare, artificial intelligence, hypersonics and counter-hypersonics. That’s all happening right now.