Link to PDF of Full Submission Submission on Australia in the Asian Century main text is reporduced below.
Our organisation would like to see several different levels of national debates occur such as
- Bring together all organisations and individuals who made a submission to consider submission responses
- Hold public consultations in all capital and regional cities across Australia.
Terms of Reference
We are pleased to see that the Terms of Reference encompass the economic, social, cultural and strategic. We would also like to see a particular focus on conflict prevention or building peace which could be implied through the statement “the role of effective economic and political regional and global cooperation” but is not sufficiently explicit to build peace in our region for the future. Without peace all economic, social and cultural goals founder.
Recommendation No.1 :
We recommend that another Term of Reference be included :
- Building sustainable peace in our region
Political and Strategic Issues
WILPF believes that it is time to redefine security with the focus more on building peace and promoting human security
How peaceful is Australia as seen by our neighbours and other countries?
Two reports give some indication of our current peace ranking.
1. The Report of the Global Peace Index 2011 (Institute for Economics & Peace). New Zealand (which while smaller geographically and of less regional influence is in some ways a comparable society to Australia due to its similar history of colonisation and links with Britain and the US) was ranked the most peaceful country out of 149 countries, whereas Australia was ranked No.19 in 2011. It is interesting to note that NZ changed its relationship with the US through their ANZUS Treaty, from a locked-in response to US military operations by changing their formal relationship from ‘ally’ to ‘friend’. In the latest NZ Defence White Paper 2010, the US is now called a ‘close security partner’ but with no definition what this means.
Australia’s other traditional allies are ranked much lower, ie less peaceful, with the United Kingdom (Britain) ranked No.31 and the US ranked No.85. Are we being too influenced by our allies? It is timely to review these alliances.
2. The Global Militarization Index 2011 (Bonn International Centre for Conversion) represents the relative weight and importance of the military apparatus of a state in relation to society as a whole. Militarism is defined in a narrow sense, as the resources (expenditure, personnel and heavy weapons). This Index gives Australia a medium rating with two higher ratings and three lower ratings, so there room for improvement here too.
These two Indexes (The Report of the Global Peace Index 2011 and the Global Militarization Index 2011) show that Australia has the capacity to move to a more peaceful rating through changed policies and a greater conflict prevention focus.
The 2009 Australian Defence White Paper Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030 reveals that Australia proposes buying 12 submarines (which would be Australia’s largest ever single defence project); air-warfare destroyers and a new class of frigates to replace the ANZAC class ships; marine-based land–attack cruise missiles; naval combat helicopters; 100 F-365 joint strike fighters; Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft; maritime surveillance and response aircraft; and around 1,100 armoured combat vehicles. The period of acquisition is long, 20 years, but the costs are unprecedented in Australian peacetime defence spending (Langmore 2010). In his analysis of this Defence White Paper Langmore states:
The theoretical basis for the White Paper is a form of realism which assumes that military power is the fundamental basis of security. Yet the world is far more complex than that. Alliances enable countries to strengthen their security. Rules, norms and conflict resolution processes constrain aggression. National economic goals are overwhelmingly achieved through commercial and political activity. The global order of the early 21st century is one in which considerable benefits flow from cooperating with the international community. (Langmore 2010).
This Australian Defence White Paper focuses mainly on preparing for future conflict by planning for war and increasing our military capability as the primary way of safeguarding our security. There is little recognition that Australia’s security could also be procured through other non-violent means such as conflict prevention, diplomacy and pursuing good neighbour relationships.
This preparing for war focus is evident through our close alliance with the US through the ANZUS Treaty, where militarism is expanding exponentially with joint training exercises, interoperability, Pine Gap and Omega spy bases and recently more US military bases and troops stationed here. A former Director of the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Frank Lewincamp, argued that the real issue for Australia is not terrorism or the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan ‘it’s the alliance’. (Dobell 2009).
In November 2011, US President Obama visited Australia to publicly announce greater military cooperation through access and joint operations by stationing US troops at an Australian base near Darwin. This announcement was greeted with local, national and international concern as it considerably raised the stakes for potential future conflict in our region. The question many are asking is: ‘Do the national interests of the US really match the national interests of Australians?’
Australia’s history of engaging in pre-emptive wars (Vietnam 1962-1975), Iraq (2003-2009), now Afghanistan (2001-2012+) shows that defence can easily become offence.
Peace definitions over time have changed, morphing from ‘absence of war ’ or ‘violence’’ and ‘conflict prevention’ to a hard-nosed ‘realist’ approach focussing on preparing for ‘worst case scenarios’ which runs the risk of undermining peaceful relations and conflict prevention.
The purpose of national-security deliberations should not be to maximize military strength but to maximize national security. The key to national security is sustainability. (Suter 1984 p.59)
WILPF wishes to redefine the current militaristic definitions of peace and security to focus more on human and environmental security with a plan to build sustainable peaceful relations in our region. We put forward this redefining exercise as an equal opportunity argument.
Recommendation No.2 :
Redefine national security to include peace, human and environmental security.
Australia’s regional relation
In May 2011, Graeme Dobell wrote a blog Stepping into the Asian Century pointing out that whereas in the 1990’s Australian leaders assured us that we would not have to alter our society or institutions to engage with Asia, that comfort zone has now shrunk and Australia is being told that it is already being altered by Asia and must go further. (Dobell 2011)
Hugh White (2010) also looks at the problem with Australia’s vision of its future. He sees a new order developing in Asia which may not be as peaceful and stable due to China’s rising power and potential to contest US leadership. He analyses this from each country’s major perspective and looks at the outcome of various scenarios – China clashing with the US for dominance, China emerging as a soft hegemony, or sharing power through a ‘concert of power’ model.
Australia, like other Asian countries, has important relationships with China it will not want to lose. It would prefer to see America make room for China and keep Asia peaceful than to confront China and risk conflict just to protect America’s status. (p.30). He suggests it is time for Australia to look at how we will respond to these possibilities and what is best for regional stability.
Prof Kevin Clements’ concluding chapter in Peace & Security in the Asia Pacific Region ends by stating :
“It is vital that countries in the Asia Pacific region declare their independence from outmoded ways of solving problems. An Asia Pacific mode of problem solving, detached from the Western ‘realist’ tradition and which takes advantage of existing indigenous knowledge and non-confrontational ways of resolving problems, may make the Asian Pacific region a model for the future.” (Clements 1992).
Strengthening the United Nations
The United Nations remains the primary global institution with a mandate to promote peace and assist with the resolution of conflict through negotiation but is facing increasing undermining of its authority and effectiveness by member states (governments). Civil society views this downgrading of the UN with alarm and advocates for greater compliance and support of the UN.
The UN Charter starts with the words ‘We, the peoples …’ yet it is the governments of the world that vote at the Security Council and General Assembly with civil society acting only in a consultative advisory status. Realist approaches commonly adopted by member states reveal the different agenda focus that states have, compared with their citizens who focus on more human needs. An example of this disparity is the implementation of the UN Millennium Development Goals which are urgently required to overcome poverty, lack of health and education in so many countries, but still do not receive the promised funding from each country while their defence expenditure increases.
Peace (both internally and externally) is achieved through non-violence, addressing social justice, inequality, poverty, reconciliation with indigenous peoples and compliance with human rights.
This vision of a peaceful Australia fits with a growing movement for Australia to act more independently as the country matures as a nation, secure in its own unique identity. Australians are being educated to reject violence as the way to solve conflict at all levels. To counter ongoing domestic violence, the National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children was launched in April 2009. The Government’s position on domestic violence and sexual assault is now zero tolerance. Neighbourhood disputes are usually resolved through community mediation or local courts. There is growing personal and community recognition that violence never results in a just and sustainable solution to conflict. Can this concept not extend to our regional neighbours?
It is timely, therefore, to look seriously at building peace and reducing potential international and/or regional conflict, as reports continue about the destabilising effect of worsening climate change, limited supplies of water, food and energy, the increasing divide between rich and poor, growing populations and environmental degradation which have the potential to ‘ignite long-simmering conflicts’ (UN Secretary General (2011).
We need to redress and balance the power interests of the state versus our human interests as global citizens. That there is a growing disconnect between governments and citizens’ welfare has become evident with the global Occupy movement, which claims it represents the 99% of people seeing their welfare deteriorate, while 1% grow wealthier and more powerful. WILPF seeks both economic and gender equity as a matter of social justice and human rights.
As a middle power, Australia has the potential to become a leader for peace but currently there is no vision, national leadership, political will or strategic plan for how to achieve this goal.
Recommendation No.3 :
WILPF recommends that the Australian government develop a strategic peace plan in consultation with key peace organisations, academics and prominent Australians.
We have taken the liberty of drafting some of the key issues that could be included in such a peace plan. Please see our attachment.
Australian Defence White Paper : Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific Century: Force 2030, released in May 2009. http://www.defence.gov.au/whitepaper/docs/defence_white_paper_2009.pdf
Bonn International Centre for Conversion, ‘Global Militarization Index’ see www.bicc.de/our-work/gmi.html
Clements, Kevin P, ‘Peace & Security in the Asia Pacific Region’ The United Nations University Press, 1992 p. 377.
Dobell, Graeme, 2009 Lowry Institute Blog on http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/ “Australia-Afghanistan: A short look at a long war” Graeme Dobell writes The Canberra Column for The Interpreter, the blog of the Lowry Institute and is also Radio Australia’s Associate Editor for the Asia Pacific.
Dobell, Graeme, 13 May 2011, Lowry Institute Blog on http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/ “Stepping into the Asian Century”.
Langmore, John, Logan Calum and Firth Stewart . The 2009 Australian Defence White Paper: Analysis And Alternatives presented at the Nautilis Institute Australia, Austral Policy Forum 10-01A 15 September 2010
National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/women/…/violence/nationalplan/…/default.asp …
Suter, Keith, “An Australian Campaign for a Ministry for Peace – A world initiative” UNAA Peace Program, 1984, Chatswood NSW, Australia.
UN Secretary General’s Peace & Security Report to the Security Council, 29 April 2011 www.un.org/Docs/sc/sgrep11.htm
US -2006 National Military Strategic Plan for the War on Terrorism http://www.cfr.org/terrorism/national-military-strategic-plan-war-terrorism/p9795
White, Hugh, ‘Power Shift: Australia’s future between Washington and Beijing’ Quarterly Essay issue 39 2010, Black Inc – an imprint of Schwartz Media Pty Ltd