Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne has cited the uncertainty about Donald Trump’s foreign policy as one reason Australia needs to bolster its home-grown defence industry.
Nanjing Night Net

In a remarkably frank set of observations, linking the rapid changes in the nation’s strategic outlook to building a self-reliant industry for military hardware, Mr Pyne said the Trump administration was “not business as usual” and “we’re having to rethink how that relationship will work”.

“The last 12 months have seen the acceleration of strategic changes around the world: a more assertive Russia and China, Brexit, North Korea’s highly dangerous nuclear and missile brinkmanship, a new broom sweeping through in Washington DC,” he told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

“These developments put a premium on the need for Australia to be able to act for itself, and make national security decisions that maximise our strengths at a time of unprecedented global strategic change.”

Asked to expand on what President Trump meant for Australia, Mr Pyne said that while Australia was one of the US’s closest allies, “every US ally ??? is considering how that will operate in the next four years”.

“It’s fair to say that many people did not anticipate the outcome of the US presidential election. Nobody did actually anticipate the way that it turned out.

“So we’re having to rethink how that relationship will work and the point I’ve tried to make ??? is that that is a new development.

“President Trump is not business as usual ??? President Trump’s presidency presents new opportunities but also challenges because we need to understand how he sees the United States’ place in the world.”

He also stressed that “we can and must strengthen our alliance cooperation with America”.

In the strongest articulation yet of what he called a “great national endeavour”, Mr Pyne linked a strong local defence industry to Australia’s clout as a so-called middle power in the world.

“In the past, we would buy defence equipment from overseas and take delivery a few years later. This can no longer be the approach we take,” he said.

“Australia needs to be able to better express itself as a middle power in the world. We should have the ability to stand on our own two feet. That means developing the ability to design, build, maintain and repair our own equipment. We need to grow our own defence industrial capability.”

Mr Pyne also flagged an expensive new missile defence system, apparently referring to a ship-based system on Australia’s three new Air Warfare Destroyers to shoot down ballistic missiles in a conflict.

“The missile defence for the future will obviously be extremely important, I can’t make announcements about the missile defence plan that we have because we haven’t necessarily decided that yet,” he said. “It is obviously very expensive, but there will be decisions being made about this in the very near future [and] announcements being made.”

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