Prime Minister Scott Morrison has signalled that Australia will not be “passive” against Beijings destabilising actions in the Indo-Pacific as the communist regime engages in “crude economic or political coercion.”
Australia is also working to rebuild the international order in an attempt to strategically balance global competition in the Indo-Pacific region.
Delivering an address at the Aspen Security Forum on August 3 Morrison noted that the Indo-Pacific region had become the “epicentre for strategic competition.”
Listing the tensions around territorial claims, growing threats from foreign interference, cyber-warfare, and economic coercion, Morrison said: “Its fair to say that in 2020, our international society is under strain.”
“The configuration of power in global politics has changed,” said Morrison, and Australia needs to “deal with the world as it is, not as wed like it to be.”
The prime minister said Australia will not be a bystander in this new world order and will deploy “all elements of statecraft to shape the world we want to see.”
“We will call it as we see it,” he said.
China and the United States Need to Uphold a Common Set of Rules
Singling out China, Morrison said Australia welcomed Chinas economic rise but that “global expectations of China are now higher,” and China must accept that it has a responsibility to enhance and maintain global stability.
China needs to stop pursuing a “narrow national or aspirational interest” and instead consider the “broader global and regional interest,” the prime minister said.
The United States has always been held to such a standard, as it is a major stabilising factor in the Indo-Pacific region, and its continued focus and engagement in the region was vital to the world.
“China and the United States have a special responsibility to uphold the common set of rules that build an international society,” Morrison said.
The federal government has recently pivoted Australias strategic defence and foreign relations focus on security in the Indo-Pacific region. Currently, Australia is working with its allies in the region including India, Vietnam, Japan, and Indonesia to ward off Beijings aggressive expansionist activities in the region, as reported by AAP on August 5.
In recent months the government has also moved swiftly to counter cybersecurity attacks on the nations institutions and called out disinformation campaigns from Beijing, Moscow, and Turkey. Beijing has also instigated a long-running trade dispute with Australia slapping tariffs on barley imports and banning beef from local abattoirs.
The prime minister said that in the face of these challenges Australia was “not being passive.”
“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. Now, we are doing in Australia,” he said.
He pointed to the July 1 announcement of a new Strategic Update which would see the country invest a record $270 billion (US$187 billion) into the Australian Defence Force (ADF) over the next ten years, effectively pushing Australias defence spending past 2 percent of the countrys GDP.
Morrison said: “Australia already spends more on our defence than most of the United States alliance partners.”