‘I’ve heard a suggestion that India could invite and train with US Army forces in its mountains. Additionally, having Indian forces train with Australia in the Pacific would be useful. The harder you train together, the better we will fight, together.’
In this edition of “Indo-Pacific: Behind the Headlines” we speak with Lincoln Parker about China, Australia and the just announced Australia, United Kingdom, United States (AUKUS) security partnership.
Mr Parker is with Australia’s New South Wales Defence Innovation Network and is the chair of the Liberal Party of Australia’s Defence & National Security Policy Branch. He regularly appears on Sky News Australia as a commentator on defence and political issues. He spoke from Sydney.
Q: Australia has been brutally economically targeted by China. How has it affected Australia’s strategic positioning? What can be done about it?
A: Communist China is a bully. They thought they could bring Australia to its knees by bullying, shouting, using trade and cyber warfare to bend us to their will. They’ve used coercion, theft, bribery and intimidation and I thank them for that. It has woken the Australian public to the true nature of the Communist Chinese regime and hardened our will.
They clearly underestimated the spirit and character of Australia (at least under this Government) and we are now moving to counteract their influence in Australia and our region. Unfortunately, New Zealand has chosen riches over principles siding with Communist China over their cousins in Australia, which is both disappointing but also a threat to our national security.
We will need to have a quiet word with the New Zealand Labor government.
Q: What is the importance of AUKUS to Australia?
A: The Australia, United Kingdom, United States (AUKUS) trilateral security partnership is the single most important military partnership Australia has ever signed amid the rapidly growing threat of Communist China. Not only will the partnership provide Australia with much needed military capabilities, from nuclear propulsion for future submarines, to cyber and quantum technologies, but it shows our mates are backing us. It is also an important reminder to not just China but the region that both the United States and the United Kingdom are committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific.
For Australians, with our population equal to Taiwan, it is comforting to have Uncle Sam and the Old Mother Country saying, we stand with you, we’ve got your back.
Loyalty is perhaps our most endearing and enduring quality. Australians have fought and died in every conflict involving the United Kingdom and/or the United States since our federation in 1901.
We’ve always said to our mates, you can count on us. And we backed it up.
That message will not just resonate with us down under, but also with our allies across the Indo-Pacific in India, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and even the Pacific Islands.
Q: How does it affect things over the short term, medium term and longer term?
A: In the short term, AUKUS provides more than just reassurance as I’ve described above. Yes, the nuclear-powered submarines we build won’t be operational until about 2040. However, it is more than just symbolic as Greg Sheridan argues in The Australian on 18 September. The partnership also provides a collaborative framework for our three countries to cooperate across a broad array of sensitive military technologies including capabilities such as artificial intelligence, cyber warfare, underwater capabilities, and long-range strike capabilities.
Trilateral collaborations across these technology areas can begin immediately and indeed already are. The NSW Defence Innovation Network, where I work, is already actively engaged with the US military’s science and technology agencies collaborating on military technology that will provide our defence forces with world leading capabilities.
That’s more than symbolic. It’s real and it’s lethal.
Q: Will it be affected by changes in administration?
A: Not in the United States or the United Kingdom. I worry that were an Australian Labor Party to take power they could either cancel or just conduct reviews to slow down progress. I am no one-eyed Liberal Party supporter, but I worry about the Labor Party’s form, its engagement with the Greens, antipathy towards the military, but first and foremost its public statements on engaging and appeasing Communist China.
Labor Party policy is strongly influenced by its party elders like former Prime Ministers Paul Keating, Kevin Rudd, and other influential figures like former Victorian Premier John Brumby (former President of the Australia China Business Council). And let’s not forget current Victorian Premier Dan Andrews, who signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Paul Keating incredibly stated that AUKUS will lead to a “further dramatic loss” of the nation’s sovereignty. Taking queues from his Chinese masters his acid tongue couldn’t help itself and he had to resort to insulting the United States. “If the United States military with all its might could not beat a bunch of Taliban rebels with AK47 rifles in pickup trucks, what chance would it have in a full blown war against China, not only the biggest state in the world but the commander and occupant of the largest landmass in Asia?” he asked.
The United States is a vibrant, free and open democracy that has stood by Australia shoulder to shoulder for many many years. General Douglas MacArthur and the United States military came to our aid in World War 2, pushing back Japan from invading Australia. Many young American servicemen were killed in the defence of Australia.
Paul Keating wouldn’t be here were it not for the United States. The Australian Labor Party needs to expel him. He can live in Beijing and cease influencing his party.
Q: How important is Taiwan to Australian security?
A: Very. Not only is Taiwan a free and vibrant democracy of 25 million people, it is a shining example of what China could become if the Communists are removed. And that’s precisely why the Communists want to crush them.
Militarily, Taiwan is crucial to Australia and the rest of the Indo-Pacific. It would provide China a large base from which to easily access the Western Pacific, take on the United States, Australia and other free nations, harass, coerce, bully and eventually control the Western Pacific.
If we wish to remain free, democratic, and sovereign, we must defend Taiwan.
Q: Why does China have such a large consulate in Adelaide? Does anyone else have as large a representation there?
A: Speaking on Sky News Australia with Chris Smith recently, I raised the point that China opened a massive “consulate” in Adelaide when only two other countries have any representation in this very small and remote city; Italy and Greece (who have one to two people). Adelaide is where we build ships and submarines, have large test ranges (Woomera) and host our Department of Defence’s Science & Technology Group (DSTG).
It also has the world’s best wines, which China unilaterally slapped crippling tariffs on (among other commodities), ceasing exports. The consulate is not interested in trade.
Neither the United States nor United Kingdom has consulates in Adelaide.
China’s massive Adelaide consulate is nothing more than a spy base and, like the Chinese consulate in Houston, needs to be closed.
Q: What would you like to see come from the upcoming Quad meeting?
A: Action. The time for talks and cocktail parties is over. China is just as big a threat to India and Japan as it is to Australia and the United States. More joint training exercises on sea, air and land but also including coordination across space, cyber and information warfare domains would be positive.
Think of the Quad as a newly formed rugby team. We need to learn how to communicate, call plays, work together, know what each will do under stress and react accordingly. We all study the opposition together and know what our plays need to be.
I’ve heard a suggestion that India could invite and train with US Army forces in its mountains. Additionally, having Indian forces train with us in the Pacific would be useful. The harder you train together, the better we will fight, together.
This will also send a strong message to the region, including the Pacific Islands.
Q: How do you see Australia/India relations developing?
A: I’ve never really understood why Australia isn’t closer to India. We are friends, but I think we could be very close friends. Australians have always liked India.
We admire your cricket prowess, your incredible food, your kind people and your dedicated and skilled military. We understand India is a great and powerful democracy that is fiercely independent. But at the end of the day everyone needs mates.
We are your mates.
Cleo Paskal is Non-Resident Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Special Correspondent for The Sunday Guardian.