1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2002   
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Contents >> Defence >> The White Paper: Defence 2000 – Our Future Defence Force


Released in December 2000, the White Paper outlines the Government’s long-term security direction and military capability enhancement framework. It identifies the most important priorities for Defence and establishes the priority task for the Australian Defence Force as ‘the defence of Australia'. Importantly, it sets the Government’s priorities for capability development and its funding commitment for Defence for the next ten years.

The White Paper establishes five strategic objectives to which Defence contributes:

  • ensuring the defence of Australia and its direct approaches;
  • fostering stability, integrity and cohesion in our immediate neighbourhood;
  • working with nations in South East Asia to maintain stability and cooperation;
  • supporting strategic stability in the wider Asia Pacific region; and
  • supporting the efforts of the international community in upholding global security.

As outlined in the White Paper, Australia’s strategic environment is shaped by the interrelated trends of globalisation and the primacy of the United States, while the evolution of the United Nations (UN) is also significant. These trends are generally positive from a security perspective, although countervailing pressures (such as nationalism and regionalism) are also prevalent. For the region, the economic dynamism of the Asia Pacific is expected to present significant opportunities and challenges, with relationships between major powers (China, Japan, India, Russia, and the United States) the most critical issue. South East Asia remains an area of great promise, despite a number of economic, political and social challenges.

Australia remains one of the world’s most secure countries, thanks to its geography, good regional relations, a strong armed force, and a close alliance with the United States. The likelihood of an attack on Australia is low. A full-scale invasion is the least likely military contingency Australia might face. A major attack, including the seizure of territory and damage to Australia’s population, infrastructure and economy, is only a remote possibility. Minor attacks on Australia may be possible, but would be credible only in a major dispute.

However, significant shifts in Australia’s strategic environment could introduce a major risk and would require a fundamental shift in our strategic planning. Moreover, increased instability in the nearer region could require simultaneous deployments of Australian forces, stretching resources. Therefore, Defence keeps a close watch on the strategic environment, relying upon the intelligence agencies and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Updated strategic analysis is produced quarterly to inform strategic judgement and to help set priorities for capability development.

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