Australia’s Defence Force is dangerously small, warns new report

Helena BurkeNCA NewsWire
Peter Dutton has become increasingly hawkish over recent weeks, warning China’s naval battle force had more than tripled in size over the past two decades. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage
Camera IconPeter Dutton has become increasingly hawkish over recent weeks, warning China’s naval battle force had more than tripled in size over the past two decades. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

A new Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee report has called for an urgent review of the size of Australia’s defence force, calling into question the ADF’s current ability to keep the country safe.

With just 58,600 defence personnel, Australia’s military force is a fraction of the size of our neighbouring countries.

Similar middle power countries to Australia such as South Korea and Indonesia dwarf Australia’s military capabilities with 599,000 and 395,000 troops respectively.

China boasts the largest military in the world with more than 2 million troops.

The new report urged the Australian government to urgently consider the need to significantly increase the size of the ADF amid growing tensions between Canberra and Beijing.

“In an increasingly contested Indo-Pacific, the Committee is concerned that as Australia’s main area of geostrategic interest has moved back to our region,” the report said.

“With a full-time force of only 58,600 (and a much smaller number of frontline combat personnel) the Committee is concerned that the ADF is too small to credibly field sufficient rotational combat forces for protracted high-end combat operations.”

The report comes as a war of words has erupted in Australia about how to manage the threat of an increasingly powerful and volatile China.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has become increasingly hawkish over recent weeks, warning the National Press Club last Friday that China’s naval battle force had more than tripled in size over the past two decades.

“(The Asia-Pacific) is a region witness to a military build-up of a scale and ambition that historically has rarely been associated with peaceful outcomes,” he said.

“Every major city in Australia, including Hobart, is within range of China‘s missiles.”

PETER DUTTON
Camera IconPeter Dutton has become increasingly hawkish over recent weeks, warning China’s naval battle force had more than tripled in size over the past two decades. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

But some have criticised Mr Dutton for his alleged war mongering, warning that provoking China is a very dangerous move.

“Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower is the most dangerous election tactic in Australian history,” Labor MP Penny Wong said last Tuesday.

“Mr Dutton does Australians and the Taiwanese no favours by amplifying Beijing‘s fatalism.”

The Committee urged the government to “make a shift in strategic thinking” and reassess the necessary size of the ADF for future military operations in a volatile Asia-Pacific region.

French National Day Parade 2016
Camera IconThe Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee report urged the government to reconsider the number of ADF troops necessary to keep Australia safe. Defence Credit: Supplied

“The conventional forces of the ADF may not be suitable in size or capabilities to face potential emerging security situations,” the report said.

“This may require a shift … towards resourcing and shaping the ADF not only as a highly capable conventional force, but also as a disproportionately potent force in grey-zone and asymmetric capabilities.”

Originally published as Australia’s Defence Force is dangerously small, warns new report

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