Opinion articles by the Australia Defence Association

The promotion of informed public debate on strategic security, defence and wider national security issues through public commentary, such as opinion articles, is a core activity of the Australia Defence Association's public-interest watchdog role.

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2014

  • Rebalancing national security and public scrutiny

    Upated laws protecting a specific type of ASIO undercover operation do not "threaten free speech". Indeed they help preserve it. Particularly by strengthening ASIO's ability to mount the type of security-intelligence operation - within and against extremist groups - that is occasionally necessary to preserve the constitutionalism and liberty of any liberal-democracy. Incorrect, sensationalist and biased media claims about the legal reforms reflect serious failings in the objectivity of modern journalism, and the commercial practices driving this decline in professionalism, institutional integrity and objectivity.

  • Don't underestimate Aussie strategic thinking in 1914 ("The Drum", 04 August 2014)

    Much discussion of why Australia was in World War I falls into historiographical and conceptual traps. Not least of these is where our subsequent knowledge, now, of the war's eventual tragic human costs distorts or obscures the grand-strategic logic of why the Australian government and people made the strategic decisions they did at the war's beginning in 1914. And indeed throughout the decades beforehand leading up to and after Federation in 1901.

  • Grand strategy, strategy and Australia (ASPI "Strategic Insights", No. 73, pp.12-13, 17 July 2014)

    Strategic-security debate often seems bogged down at the strategic level, rather than thinking grand-strategically.

  • Sinking feelings all round: Flawed debate on asylum-seeking ("Quarterly Essay", Issue 54, June 2014, pp.84-88)

    An answering essay to "That Sinking Feeling: Asylum-seekers and the Search for the Indonesian Solution". Few public policy issues in Australia have been so side-tracked by contextual errors, over-simplifications, partisan politicking and emotive stances as that of asylum-seeking.

2012

  • Establishing the truth either way will end the controversy about alleged abuses in the ADF

    Informed debate about the incidence of bullying, harassment and sexual abuse in our defence force is hampered by many Australians seeming to be in denial about three key aspects:

  • Developing national security policy

    Difficulties with developing national security policy, and the defence strategies needed to help implement it, cannot be solved without recognising and resolving deep-seated problems in our civil-military interface at the strategic level.

  • Stephen Smith and the ADF

    Since June 2011 ["Defence Brief" 144 refers] the Australia Defence Association - as the relevant independent, non-partisan, public-interest watchdog - has been warning of a burgeoning problem with Stephen Smith’s approach to his responsibilities as Minister for Defence.

  • Defence force behaviour

    Media coverage of bad and criminal behaviour in our defence force has led many Australians to assume, incorrectly, that problems such as alcohol abuse, sexual harassment and youth suicide are prevalent in our defence force and occur at rates far higher than community norms or in other professions and industries.

  • Strategic basics of asylum policy

    By fixating on the recurrent symptoms, not the causes and cures, most public argument on asylum seeking continues ineffectively. Politicians are addicted to electoral point-scoring. Refugee advocates are prone to discuss factors selectively.

2011

  • Fixing defence once and for all

    Reforming the Department of Defence needs to start with a genuine first-principles review of its constitutionality, purpose and structure.

  • David Hicks

    Most public debate concerning David Hicks has always floundered in subjectivity and confusion: outwardly because of emotive criticisms or defences of his actions; more deeply, through commonplace misunderstandings about the facts and law actually applying to his original and current legal predicaments. Objective discussion needs to distinguish carefully between Hicks’ internment and his later, separate, trial — and their consequences.

  • Debating our wars responsibily

    As actual first or second-hand experience of war has declined, several generations of TV watching since the mid 1950s has conversely resulted in many Australians wrongly believing they know war. Including the pervasive incorrect belief that wars can be easily avoided, easily fought or ended quickly, and with few or no casualties or strategic implications.

  • Serious holes in the latest navy blame game

    Recent controversy about the poor state of the Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious fleet has again demonstrated three great truths about much public debate in Australia on defence issues.

2010

  • Rethinking Afghanistan

    Commonplace arguments against Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan tend to suffer from a factual deficit. Arguments for the commitment tend to suffer from a conceptual one. This is not much different from wider public argument about how Australia is best defended now and in the future — and for much the same reasons.

  • Afghanistan: February 2009 incident (2)

    Monday's [27 September 2010] announcement of manslaughter and lesser charges against three Afghanistan veterans has jolted many Australians out of their customary lethargy about defence and strategic issues. But much of the ensuing public concern has been emotive and not well informed. The Australia Defence Association has been warning the Minister for Defence and senior Australian Defence Force commanders of such a likely public reaction since mid-2009. We have also regularly protested that the time being taken to decide whether charges were warranted or not was increasingly unfair to the diggers concerned.

  • Separating party politics and war

    Whether politicians should attend the funerals of our casualties from the Afghanistan War is a complex, sensitive and nuanced issue.

  • Deciding causes worth winning and dying for?

    Reactions to the recent combat deaths of two Australian Diggers in Afghanistan again demonstrate serious problems in how we decide to initiate, fight and end our wars.

  • Solving refugee issues by taking a strategic approach

    Our national dilemma with asylum-seeking and illegal immigration strategically, and our public debate domestically, are much affected by factors which Australia shares with very few countries. This is why our public debate on refugee policy tends to dwell emotionally on the symptoms of the dilemma rather than its actual strategic, legal and moral causes.

  • Afghanistan: February 2009 incident (1)

    In mid February 2009 a night raid in Afghanistan resulted in the deaths of six Afghan civilians, four of them small children, at the hands of the ADF. Two more children and two adults from this family group were wounded.

  • The need to close small ADF bases

    As in other locations around Australia, local discussions about the future of Borneo Barracks at Cabarlah seem to be caught in a recurring time warp where nothing must ever change. National strategic and administrative efficiency requirements mean this and other small bases must be closed. The only question to be discussed is how soon.

  • Yet More Diversion of Greg Combet's Capacity for Ministerial Supervision

    The Prime Minister’s announcement that Greg Combet is to take over many of Peter Garrett’s ministerial responsibilities in the environment portfolio has more than a party-political or issue-of-the-day dimension. Once again, the necessary ministerial supervision of the ADF, and government capacity for appropriate attention to its responsibilities to the men and women the defence force comprises (and which it often sends into combat), have been sacrificed in the interests of political expediency and the short-term electoral and media cycles.

  • Informed and calm debate on gender reassignment needed

    Recent media coverage concerning an ADF officer undergoing gender reassignment treatment has unfortunately tended to adopt sensationalist and often prurient themes. It should instead have stuck to the facts so we could have commonsense discussion of the possible implications for the individual concerned and our defence force.

  • Wikileaks and international law

    The vast bulk of material recently released by WikiLeaks would not be new in nature to those who keep up with the Afghanistan War or the difficulties and perennial moral quandaries of fighting wars generally. However, this latest material goes well beyond justifiable whistleblowing, such as the earlier helicopter gun-camera film showing probable breaches of the laws of armed conflict by US forces in Iraq.

2007-09

  • Solving Afghanistan

    The strength of opinion on the current war in Afghanistan is often inversely proportional to actual knowledge of the country and its recent history.

  • Northern Territory intervention

    Defence force logistic support to the Commonwealth government's emergency intervention in Northern Territory aboriginal communities has been deliberately misrepresented in an inflammatory and sensationalist fashion by some opponents of the intervention. Such misrepresentation and scaremongering is disgraceful.

  • ADF gap-year program

    The ADF gap-year program launched on Thursday 09 August 2007 is an imaginative step to help solve defence force recruiting shortfalls. But just as importantly the program also has important implications for the integrated relationship between the defence force's full-time and reservist components, and for the future relationship between the ADF and Australian society generally.

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