Richard Marles says ‘economic coercion’ biggest risk to Australia


Economic coercion is a bigger threat to Australia than the risk of invasion the Defence Minister has warned.

Richard Marles said Australia had become “much more reliant” on economic connections than ever before, which brought with it a host of new risks.

Topping off a week heavy with discussions about Australia’s military posture and future after the release of the Defence Strategic Review, Mr Marles warned of the evolving threats the country needed to be prepared for.

“Most of the liquid fuels now come from overseas. Back in the ‘90s, we used to do it all onshore, most now comes from just one country and that’s Singapore,” he told ABC’s Insiders.

“So the threat is not that we’re about to be invaded, but that our exposure to economic coercion and to coercion from an adversary is greater, and the potential for that coercion going forward is much more significant.

“And that’s where the threat lies.”

He said the defence force needed to have a much greater capability to “engage in projection”.

“So much of what we need to do is beyond our shores, so to have a Defence Force with the capacity for impactful projection across the full spectrum of proportionate response is now what we are seeking to achieve,” Mr Marles said.

The Review warned the defence force as it currently stands is not “fit for purpose”.

The government has committed to the $19 billion overhaul, with $7.8 billion to be drawn from “reprioritising”.

Some programs will be scrapped and others will be wound back to free up money to be spent elsewhere.

“That’s not tweaking or fiddling on the edges. That’s a significant amount of money,” he said.

Mr Marles said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had shown there was a shortage of long-range missiles “among our friends and allies”.

“It’s actually quite difficult to go out there and procure long range strike missiles and we need more of them,” he said.

Pressed on whether Australia would buy Tomahawk Cruise Missiles from the United States, Mr Marles said the government would “consider and pursue” the question.

He said such a procurement was not currently the focus; noting that the government was instead prioritising acquiring HIMARS systems which have proven effective in Ukraine.

Mr Marles said Australia’s ultimate ambition was to establish a production line domestically that would manufacture long range strike missiles.

Originally published as ‘Economic coercion’ biggest risk to Australia: Richard Marles


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