Australia to spend US$340 million on upgrading special forces with one eye in the Pacific

Australia said last month it would create a new military unit to train and assist its allies in the Pacific. Photo: EPA. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

CANBERRA, Aug 12, 2019, SCMP. Australia will spend A$500 million (US$340 million) to improve the capability of its special forces troops, the first stage of a US$3 billion, 20-year plan that the government said on Monday will enable a better response to security threats at home and abroad. The spending comes after some high-profile security incidents in Sydney and Melbourne in recent years and as Australia seeks to play a more prominent role in the Pacific, where China is seeking greater influence, reported the South China Morning Post.

According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the investment represents “the biggest single commitment to upgrading the capability of our defence forces since the Second World War”.

“Australian Special Forces undertake complex, highly demanding operations in high threat environments,” Morrison said ahead of the announcement. “Global threats will continue to evolve. This funding will ensure our Special Forces have cutting edge capabilities to stay ahead of those who might threaten Australia’s interests.”

Defence minister Linda Reynolds said the funding would mostly be for equipment, including body armour, weapons, diving and parachuting equipment and roping and climbing systems. It would also go towards medical search and rescue, communications, and “human performance training and support”.

“Our special forces, now more than ever, need to be ready and able to deploy on operations anywhere in the world, at short notice, and in very uncertain conditions,” Reynolds said.

“This first stage of funding enables our special forces to engage with intelligence, science and technology, and innovation organisations to ensure future threats and opportunities are assessed, to make sure we are delivering them the capability they need in the future.”

Australia said last month it would create a new military unit to train and assist its allies in the Pacific.

Last week, a member of the government likened the West’s attitude to the rise of China to the French response to the World War Two advances of Nazi Germany, drawing a rebuke from the Chinese embassy.

“It is in Australia’s national interest to have an independent and sovereign Indo-Pacific where all the nations of this part of the world can engage with each other freely, according to international norms and the rule of law,” Morrison said.

The government said Australia’s spending on defence would reach 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the financial year ending June 2021 – which US President Donald Trump has said should be the spending goal for Nato alliance members.

World Bank data showed Australia’s military spending at 1.89 per cent of GDP in 2018.

The increased investment – Morrison said on Monday the government would spend A$200 billion on defence capabilities over the next decade – is in line with an objective to focus on the Indo-Pacific region outlined in a Defence White Paper released in 2016.

Additional reporting by The Guardian

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