Who runs and sets Australia’s Defence Policy?

In today’s AFR, there was an interesting OpEd by Geoff Raby who was Australia’s ambassador to China from 2007 to 2011:

Why has Labor lost its once-strong voice on foreign policy

One particular line in Raby’s piece caught TAFKAS’ eye:

Strangely, the opposition has not sought an explanation from the government on what this means in practice – apart from apparently not participating in FONOPs – which the ADF has long refused to support in any case.

FONOP stands for Freedom of Navigation OPerations.

It is this particular bit …. “ADF has long refused to support in any case“.

TAFKAS does not have a particular view on FONOPs per se, but if our political overlords believe it is in Australia’s national interest to participate in such, why is the AFDs support required?  Does the ADF have some sort of sovereign status whereby it can set and veto Australian foreign and defence policy?

Perhaps TAFKAS is naive.  Perhaps TAFKAS does not understand.  Perhaps this better explains some of the many idiotic and wasteful defence procurement Australia has made.

However, if the ADF has some sort of veto on Government policy, perhaps this should be made clear and written down somewhere, perhaps in the Australian Constitution.

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41 Responses to Who runs and sets Australia’s Defence Policy?

  1. bollux

    The ADF has changed its focus from defending our shores to providing sex change operations for the mentally deranged, a much more noble cause. The Australian Diversity Force.

  2. Eyrie

    AFAIK the RAAF flies its Poseidons on these in the South China Sea.

  3. John snowy Bowyer

    So some ex diplomat thinks his vote is more important than the elected government. Suspend his pension and see how independent he becomes.
    As an aside all government pensions should be on the same terms as ours. Take a big fat Chinese job and lose all pension!

  4. duncanm

    Sounds like splitting hairs to me.

    The ADF does indeed go through the South China sea, but they do not go in areas to contest China’s claims, such as within 12nm of the Spratleys, as the US do.

  5. HT

    The ADF does what they are lawfully tasked by the Australian government to do. They advise the government but will not engage in the actual decision making. That’s as it should be.

  6. Roger

    News to me.

    As others have suggested above, the reporting of this does not accurately convey the real situation.

  7. Rex Anger

    Yeah, nah.

    One thing that political types consistently get wrong is the concept of Civil Authority over the military. This is usually corrupted into Civilian control, which I recall being a preferred trope by Steve Smith and the Gillard government when they were really sticking the ideological boot into the ADF from 2010 onwards.

    To wit, Civil Authority means that military leadership acknowledges and submits to the authority of the duly elected government, and takes its cues from their policies. Military members provide advice, but ultimately obey Cabinet, etc. Civilian control is a nothing term that was simply used as “I’m in charge of yooz, and yooz do wat I say!” It is akin to saying that an ignorant backseat driver dictates everything you do, a mockery of how public service works. And lethally dangerous in any arena.

    Now, between the retired technocrat’s op-ed and any activists in uniform within the depths of Russell Offices (Nuke the site from orbit and salt the remains. Duntroon, DSD and the entire ADF establishment won’t mind in the slightest…), you may get very strong recommendations to Cabinet that certain FONOPS not be engaged in, e.g. sailing one of our limited fleet of warships close to a Chinese sandbar. You may even get strong recommendations that only token efforts be made, or only specific and multi-use assets be employed (our Poseidons and Gulfstreams have EW and ISR capability, so lighting up every radar from the first atoll to the Chinese coast, and timing how long it takes for interception could give very useful data, etc.), but it would not be practical or even possible (permissible?) to outright refuse a policy directive or engage in contrary behaviour without serious repercussions.

    TL;DR- Resisting FONOPS is a governmental policy from the top down.

    However, we do know that the bugmen classes in our society do love their pro-Communist (and anti-anyone-who-isn’t-them) propaganda and their PC shibboleths.

    I’d probably consider this piece a spot of bugman noise, and concentrate on how hard the RAAF’s surveillance group is working…

  8. Bruce of Newcastle

    I notice today that Pakistan has a new toy.

    India on alert as China launches ‘most advanced warship’ it’s building for Pakistan Navy (24 Aug)

    CHINA has built the first of four “most advanced” warships for the Pakistan Navy that is set to increase tensions with their bitter rival India.

    The warships built in the Hudong Zhonghua Shipyard in Shanghai are Type-054A/P frigates and are armed with advanced surface, subsurface and anti-air weaponry.

    The frigate looks pretty good to my uneducated eye. Here’s the wiki for the Type-054A in service with the PLAN. I was especially struck by this bit:

    In January 2013, it was confirmed that China offered to sell three Type 054As to the Royal Thai Navy for US$1 billion.[17] Instead, Thailand selected a derivative of the South Korean Gwanggaeto the Great-class destroyer from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.[18]

    Just one billion USD for three decent ASW frigates which take a couple years to build…and here we are buying a bunch of obsolete vapourware subs for fifty times that amount. Shows you just how off the planet our defence policy is.

  9. Fisky

    Geoff Rabies was opposed to the foreign interference legislation and wanted Australia to sign up to Huawei and OBOR.

  10. Rex Anger

    @ Bruce- Beware the build quality.

    Just as I’ll take a Hyundai over a Havill/Great Wall/SAIC, so I’d vouch for a Korean warship over a Chinese one.

    Though, paradoxically, I’d preference the Chinese Type 56 over the AK-47 and the Type 69 tank over the T-55. Some things the Chicoms do better, but that may well be an indictment on how shitty the base product is anyway. I’d take the Polish PT-91 over its T-72 ancestor, or its Chinese knock-off in the form of the Type 88. Poles and Czechs know how to build stuff properly.

  11. Bruce of Newcastle

    Rex – I agree, which was why I included the whole Thai paragraph. But that is just as damning for the ADF policy types given we rejected the Soryus.

  12. Rex Anger

    I agree with you there, Bruce.

    In fact the sheer amount of propagandising that went into the while fuss over both th F-35 and th Soryu class submarine can lead me to consider that the only thing or bugmen classes hate more than the Liberal Party and the Americans, is foreign-made equipment that is not from an ‘approved (I.E. European, with all their idiosyncrasies, incompatibilties and outright rorting that almost every major arms deal since the late 70s involved. And that’s asuming the purchased gear was evem fit fompurpose in the first instance!)’ foreign power.

    We never seemed to have the same troubles when we bought British. But their dominance hassomwhat dropped away since the late 60s.

    Maybe our Buggy overlords only ever wanted us buying Russian?

  13. Behind Enemy Lines

    Who runs and sets Australia’s Defence Policy?
    Posted on 8:26 am, August 25, 2020 by The Artist Formerly Known As Spartacus
    In today’s AFR, there was an interesting OpEd by Geoff Raby who was Australia’s ambassador to China from 2007 to 2011 . . . One particular line in Raby’s piece caught TAFKAS’ eye:

    Strangely, the opposition has not sought an explanation from the government on what this means in practice – apart from apparently not participating in FONOPs – which the ADF has long refused to support in any case.

    The government pretends to take the advice of the ADF, and then does what it wants regardless. The ADF accepts the direction of the government – no one gets to the top ranks without being a careerist yes-man – but then does its best to defeat any unwanted government directives in detail. RAN’s always been especially good at this.

    Anyway, national security policy has been a weak, pathetic excuse since at least the 1970s. The only thing in Australia’s favour is that the troops are so capable.

    If our Ambassadors could point to a similar record of selfless public service and high performance in the job, we might take them more seriously. But their kneepads are for an entirely different purpose. . . .

  14. Boambee John

    Bruce of Newcastle
    #3559349, posted on August 25, 2020 at 11:15 am
    Rex – I agree, which was why I included the whole Thai paragraph. But that is just as damning for the ADF policy types given we rejected the Soryus.

    Tony Abbott was a public supporter of tbe Soryus, therefore Turdbull ensured that the submarine builders were from as far away from Japan as possible.

    I believe it was that petty a decision. (Plus all the champagne pissibilities for the project team, to make sure that their “advice” was suitable.)

  15. Hay Stockard

    That Raby looks like a smarmy smug untrustworthy type. Just saying.

  16. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    Tony Abbott was a public supporter of tbe Soryus, therefore Turdbull ensured that the submarine builders were from as far away from Japan as possible

    Don’t have a reference, but wasn’t the main objection to the Soryus that they didn’t have the range, or carry enough torpedoes, to suit Australian requirements?

  17. Rex Anger

    @ ZK2A-

    Off the shelf, I think yes. But the Japanese were quite happy to lengthen the boat a little and rjig things to suit our range requirements. Which was inevitable with any Diesel-electric boat we decided in. Thyssen-Krupp and Kockums (who did Collins) only do coastal boats.

    The only real solution for the unique requirements of range, tranit speed and.variability of operational enviroment the RAN finds itself in, is to go nuclear. Plenty of shipbuilders worldwide can sort out an SSGN for us. But Greenies and PC bugmen say Nyet!

    So Soryu seemed our best bet, until Tony Abbot thought it was a good idea ndnegotiated. And the bugmen all agreed it was bad. I remember News.com.au deliberately producing a piece of seculative fiction about us having unmodified Soryus and well under current-spec F35s, showing how effectively they would be trounced by China. All bullshit. All designed to make Speedo Onion man look bad.

  18. John A

    Zulu Kilo Two Alpha #3559499, posted on August 25, 2020, at 2:14 pm

    Tony Abbott was a public supporter of tbe Soryus, therefore Turdbull ensured that the submarine builders were from as far away from Japan as possible

    Don’t have a reference, but wasn’t the main objection to the Soryus that they didn’t have the range, or carry enough torpedoes, to suit Australian requirements?

    Cynical thinking on my part steers me towards the idea that such arguments were crafted after the decision was made. They may even have been released for consumption without any real evidence behind them at all.

  19. HT

    Rex Anger
    #3559369, posted on August 25, 2020 at 11:37 am

    In fact the sheer amount of propagandising that went into the while fuss over both th F-35 and th Soryu class submarine can lead me to consider that the only thing or bugmen classes hate more than the Liberal Party and the Americans, is foreign-made equipment that is not from an ‘approved (I.E. European, with all their idiosyncrasies, incompatibilties and outright rorting that almost every major arms deal since the late 70s involved. And that’s asuming the purchased gear was evem fit fompurpose in the first instance!)’ foreign power.

    Indeed, I mean, just look at the stunning success that is the Tiger Attack Helicopter /sarc off

  20. HT

    I think that, when tasking the ADF and the degree to which the ADF should be engaged in them, ought be guided by the lessons of ‘69.

  21. Rex Anger

    @ HT- I saw what you did there… 😉

    You also forgot to mention its battlefield lift mate, the MRH-90…

    But you’ll have to enligten me about the lessons of 1969. I’m sure I remember the history, but not quite getting your reference.

  22. Gyro Cadiz

    ZK2A

    Don’t have a reference, but wasn’t the main objection to the Soryus that they didn’t have the range, or carry enough torpedoes, to suit Australian requirements?

    No they did not, the main problem though was their outdated design philosophy. Going through one was a bit like going back through an O-boat. Lots of manual vales and stuff. Not insurmountable, none of it. What was that this was the first serious tender for foreign sale the Japanese had prepared since 1939 (I kid you not) so it was not great, and that the entire design needed to be reworked to take the combat suite needed.

    The Japanese were shocked by how close we are to the USN and what access we have to their tech.

    There’s no doubt we have the best SSK ever built (Collins) and need to keep that edge, but the reason for that is ridiculous – we build “diesel powered nuclear submarines” because governments of both stripes have refused to build a nuclear power industry for two generations. I mean, FFS, the Shortfin Barracuda is a nuclear boat converted to being diesel to get the range we must have. That’s the depths of stupidity this ridiculous populist abhorrence of nuclear power has brought us to.

    It will be, beyond doubt, the best SSK in the world. It’s taking so long because Rudd-Gillard wasted 5 years and then we started on a very difficult design process to build a SSK with SSN range!

    What Abbott wanted (and Maocommie Turdball killed) was a quick and dirty acquisition of a ‘good enough’ short-range SSK which we would then forward base in Singapore, TLDM Sepanggar at Kota Kinabalu, from Japanese bases and via a depot ship like the old Stalwart.

    Getting Soryu+ was a STRATEGIC move above all else by Abbott, and a very smart one. Pity the human Turdball killed it even though we’d get a rather ordinary SSK.

    As for FONOPS, we do them all the time, just not as confrontationally as the USN.

  23. The Sheriff

    Geoff Raby has acquired a very serious case of yellow fever since leaving the ambassadorship. It keeps him moist in Peking though.

  24. Des Deskperson

    ‘Geoff Raby has acquired a very serious case of yellow fever since leaving the ambassadorship. It keeps him moist in Peking though’

    According to Wikipedia, Raby, besides running a Beijing-based business advisory firm:

    ‘currently sits on the board of an Australian subsidiary of Chinese state-run Yanzhou Coal Mining Company.’

    Hmmm!!

  25. Rex Anger

    @ Gyro Cadiz-

    A shame it took us so long to sort the Collins class out.

    Still, better late than never…

  26. HT

    Rex Anger
    #3559713, posted on August 25, 2020 at 6:06 pm
    @ HT- I saw what you did there… 😉

    You also forgot to mention its battlefield lift mate, the MRH-90…

    But you’ll have to enligten me about the lessons of 1969. I’m sure I remember the history, but not quite getting your reference.

    Doh! ‘62. October 1962 to be precise. These days we even have the secretly recorded tapes of Kennedy’s XCOMM meetings. History buffs rejoice!

    2 and 9 aren’t even the same edge of the keyboard so I can’t even claim “typo” LOL. A brain fart…

  27. HT

    Gyro Cadiz
    #3559718, posted on August 25, 2020 at 6:07 pm
    ZK2A

    Getting Soryu+ was a STRATEGIC move above all else by Abbott, and a very smart one. Pity the human Turdball killed it even though we’d get a rather ordinary SSK.

    Indeed. Abbott was attempting to build a strategic alliance with the Japanese across a broad range of, shall we say, military disciplines. What surprised “us” was the Japanese bifurcated military/ intelligence systems bought about by, shall we say, the Japanese indiscretions of WWII, which persist to this day (or, at least, until the day I retired).

  28. HT

    Rex. My own considered position about the establishments position on acquiring “Euro Trash” (as we called it) was that the France is much, much better place to be posted during the years (decades) long plan / build / train / handover process than was, for example, St Louis MI where the F18’s were built.

    In the end, all politics is local. And our locals wanted Paris, not the industrial city of Kobe.

    But that’s just my cynicism coming out to play.

  29. Rex Anger

    @ HT-

    That sadly makes good sense.

    Some of the few European things the Defence Department got mostly right have been the F88 Steyr rifle, Landrovers, G-Wagens, Mogs and their new Rheinmetall replacements an dmaybe the Leopard 1, depending on who you talk to. It is far too soon to pass judgement on the new Boxer Recce car.

    And almost all of the abovementioned systems were well-established and mature when we got them, or were effectively off the shelf purchases from big commercial vehicle producers..

  30. NoFixedAddress

    Now, between the retired technocrat’s op-ed and any activists in uniform within the depths of Russell Offices (Nuke the site from orbit and salt the remains. Duntroon, DSD and the entire ADF establishment won’t mind in the slightest…),

    Nah

    Raze the buildings and pitch tents and the very worst would be take away their coffee machines and communication systems.

  31. NoFixedAddress

    HT
    #3559867, posted on August 25, 2020 at 7:59 pm

    France.. the home of communism with all those hard working immigrants doing the boat works the French won’t do.

    Turnbull should have just cancelled and gone direct to the CCP.

  32. Rex Anger

    Nah

    Raze the buildings and pitch tents and the very worst would be take away their coffee machines and communication systems.

    Perfect! And have the Officer cadets from up the road bump them at random hours of the day and/or night, against which they must defend themselves.

    Good training for all parties, and one cannot spend time having ‘good’ ideas whe one must ‘defend’ one’s holdings…

  33. Gyro Cadiz

    Rex Anger
    #3559840, posted on August 25, 2020 at 7:34 pm
    @ Gyro Cadiz-

    A shame it took us so long to sort the Collins class out.

    Still, better late than never…

    It didn’t take as long as popular myth says, of course. Not even close.

  34. NoFixedAddress

    Perfect! And have the Officer cadets from up the road bump them at random hours of the day and/or night, against which they must defend themselves.

    Good training for all parties, and one cannot spend time having ‘good’ ideas whe one must ‘defend’ one’s holdings…

    RITL
    (roll in tent laughing)

  35. Rex Anger

    It didn’t take as long as popular myth says, of course. Not even close.

    I have never known how the Submariners shrugged the popular BS off then. I suppose the myth of your boat being a lemon is good counter-intelligence, but surely it gets a bit wearing?

    Then again, I’d quietly smile if Army’s Bushmaster was still popularly considered a waste of effort amd resources after 20yrs’ continuous rolling ops. Many diggers are alive today where they would have been dead in almost anything elss…

  36. Rex Anger

    RITL
    (roll in tent laughing)

    Only after you’ve pulled the pegs out on them, first… 😉

  37. HT

    Gyro Cadiz
    #3560658, posted on August 26, 2020 at 5:02 pm
    Rex Anger
    #3559840, posted on August 25, 2020 at 7:34 pm
    @ Gyro Cadiz-

    A shame it took us so long to sort the Collins class out.

    Still, better late than never…

    It didn’t take as long as popular myth says, of course. Not even close.

    Ummm. I think, Gyro, that maybe we both know more on these issues than most, and maybe should keep it that way. I will finish up though with the observation that some “myths” are in the national interest…

  38. Rex Anger

    @ HT-

    For the Greater Good. 😉

    In this instamce, we are all in this together…

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