Defence of Australia policy

The Defence of Australia Policy was Australia's dominant defence policy between 1972 and 1997. The policy was focused on the defence of continental Australia against external attack. The Australian Defence Force was tailored to defending Australia rather than developing capabilities to operate outside Australian territory.


The Defence of Australia (DOA) policy was adopted after the previous policy of "forward defence" was discredited in the public eye by Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. The policy was developed during the 1970s and early 1980s before it was formalised in the 1986 Dibb Report and the 1987 and 1994 Defence White Papers.


The focus of Australian defence planning was to protect Australia's northern maritime approaches (the "air-sea gap") against enemy attack. The ADF was restructured to increase its ability to strike at enemy forces from Australian bases, by increasing the size and capabilities of the Royal Australian Air Force and Royal Australian Navy, at the expense of the Army and the forces used to project Australian power overseas (such as Australia's aircraft carrier, HMAS Melbourne, which was retired without replacement).

Specific force structure changes introduced under the DOA policy included:

Nevertheless, the adoption of the DOA policy did not involve Australia adopting a policy of neutrality or completely disbanding its ability to deploy forces overseas. During the DOA era, Australia maintained its alliances with the United States and New Zealand and sought to develop stronger defence relationships with South East Asian countries. In addition, the ADF maintained a sizeable force of transport aircraft and amphibious ships and an infantry brigade capable of rapidly deploying overseas (the 3rd Brigade). Furthermore, Australian forces continued to be deployed overseas for exercises and peace keeping operations, and a small Australian military base was permanently maintained at Butterworth in Malaysia.


Most criticisms of the DOA policy focus on the policy's inflexibility. In particular, it is argued that Australia's foreign relations and defence interests require a force capable of rapidly deploying outside Australia. It is also argued that the DOA force structure was not capable of adequately responding to threats other than a direct attack on Australian soil. Furthermore, it is also argued that the DOA policy is unsuitable for coping with the less stable geopolitical conditions since the end of the Cold War, which has seen the Australian Army deployed more often than anticipated under DOA.

To a large extent, the Liberal Party government elected in 1996 embraced the criticisms and re-oriented Australian defence policy by placing greater emphasis on the ADF's ability to deploy overseas. This did not, however, represent a return to "forward defence" as it involved Australian expeditionary forces deploying from bases in Australia, and not the permanent stationing of Australian military units overseas. Furthermore, defending Australia from external attack remained the Australian Defence Force primary responsibility.

East Timor and aftermath

The Australian-led intervention in East Timor in 1999 highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the policy. While the enhanced defence infrastructure in northern Australia and high-tech naval and air units played a critical role in the operation, the limited availability of deployable logistic units and infantry constrained the operation, especially in its early days.

While the Australian government has expanded the ADF's logistic capability in light of experience, the ADF's force structure remains largely unchanged from that developed during the DOA era. A key reason is that given the long distances which need to be covered to protect northern Australia, the units developed for the Defence of Australia are inherently capable of deploying outside Australia. This has created an emphasis upon a light and mobile land contingent.

See also


  • Australian Department of Defence (1987). The Defence of Australia 1987. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 0-644-05655-X.
  • Dibb, Paul (1986). Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 0-644-04923-5.
  • Evans, Michael (2005). The Tyranny of Dissonance: Australia's Strategic Culture and Way of War, 1901–2005 (PDF). Land Warfare Studies Centre Study Paper No. 306. Canberra: Land Warfare Studies Centre. ISBN 0-642-29607-3.
  • Tewes, Alex; et al. (2004). "Australia's Maritime Strategy in the 21st century". Australian Parliamentary Library. Archived from the original on 30 September 2008. Retrieved 27 September 2008.

External links

  • "Publications". Department of Defence Strategy Executive. (broken link)
Australian Defence Force

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is the military organisation responsible for the defence of Australia. It consists of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and a number of 'tri-service' units. The ADF has a strength of just under 80,000 full-time personnel and active reservists, and is supported by the Department of Defence and several other civilian agencies.

During the first decades of the 20th century, the Australian Government established the armed services as separate organisations. Each service had an independent chain of command. In 1976, the government made a strategic change and established the ADF to place the services under a single headquarters. Over time, the degree of integration has increased and tri-service headquarters, logistics and training institutions have supplanted many single-service establishments.

The ADF is technologically sophisticated but relatively small. Although the ADF's 58,206 full-time active-duty personnel and 21,694 active reservists make it the largest military in Oceania, it is smaller than most Asian military forces. Nonetheless, the ADF is supported by a significant budget by worldwide standards and is able to deploy forces in multiple locations outside Australia.

Dibb Report

The Dibb Report (Review of Australia's Defence Capabilities) was an influential review of Australia's defence plans. While the report's recommendations were not fully accepted by the Hawke government, they led to significant changes in Australia's defence policy, including adoption of the Defence of Australia Policy.

Foreign relations of Australia

Foreign relations of Australia are influenced by its position as a leading trading nation and as a significant donor of humanitarian aid. Australia's foreign policy is guided by a commitment to multilateralism and regionalism, as well as to strong bilateral relations with its allies. Key concerns include free trade, terrorism, refugees, economic co-operation with Asia and stability in the Asia-Pacific. Australia is active in the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations. Given its history of starting and supporting important regional and global initiatives, it has been described as a regional middle power par excellence.It maintains significant ties with ASEAN and has become steadfastly allied with New Zealand, through long-standing ties dating back to the 1800s. The country also has a longstanding alliance with the United States of America. Over recent decades Australia has sought to strengthen its relationship with Asian countries, with this becoming the focus of the country's network of diplomatic missions.

James Rowland (RAAF officer)

Air Marshal Sir James Anthony (Jim) Rowland, (1 November 1922 – 27 May 1999) was a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), serving as Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) from 1975 to 1979. He later held office as Governor of New South Wales from 1981 to 1989, and was Chancellor of the University of Sydney from 1990 to 1991. Born in rural New South Wales, Rowland cut short his aeronautical engineering studies at the University of Sydney to join the RAAF in 1942. He was posted to Britain and served as a bomber pilot with the Pathfinders in the air war over Europe, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1944. The following year he was forced to bail out over Germany following a collision with another Allied aircraft, and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner.

After repatriation and demobilisation, Rowland gained his engineering degree and rejoined the RAAF. He became a test pilot, serving with and later commanding the Aircraft Research and Development Unit in the 1950s, and also a senior engineering officer, being closely involved in preparations for delivery to Australia of the Dassault Mirage III supersonic fighter in the 1960s. In 1972 he was promoted to air vice marshal and became Air Member for Technical Services, holding this post until his elevation to air marshal and appointment as CAS in March 1975. He was the first engineering officer to lead the RAAF, and the first man to personally command it in a legal sense, following abolition of the Australian Air Board in 1976. Knighted in 1977, Rowland retired from the Air Force in 1979 and became Governor of New South Wales in January 1981. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1987. Retiring from the Governorship in 1989, he held a place on several boards as well as the Chancellorship of the University of Sydney.

Military history of Australia

The military history of Australia spans the nation's 230-year modern history, from the early Australian frontier wars between Aboriginals and Europeans to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century. Although this history is short when compared to that of many other nations, Australia has been involved in numerous conflicts and wars, and war and military service have been significant influences on Australian society and national identity, including the Anzac spirit. The relationship between war and Australian society has also been shaped by the enduring themes of Australian strategic culture and its unique security dilemma.

As British offshoots, the Australian colonies participated in Britain's small wars of the 19th century, while later as a federated dominion, and then an independent nation, Australia fought in the First World War and Second World War, as well as in the wars in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam during the Cold War. In the Post-Vietnam era Australian forces have been involved in numerous international peacekeeping missions, through the United Nations and other agencies, including in the Sinai, Persian Gulf, Rwanda, Somalia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, as well as many overseas humanitarian relief operations, while more recently they have also fought as part of multi-lateral forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In total, nearly 103,000 Australians died during the course of these conflicts.

Operation Morris Dance

Operation Morris Dance was an Australian military operation conducted in May 1987 in response to the first of the 1987 Fijian coups d'état.

On the morning of 14 May 1987 the Military of Fiji took control of the country in a bloodless coup d'état. In response to the coup, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) began preparations to evacuate Australian citizens from Fiji. Five Australian warships (HMA Ships Stalwart, Sydney, Parramatta, Success, and Tobruk) were deployed to patrol south-west of Fiji. 'B' Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment was added to this force on 23 May, with the soldiers being flown from Townsville to Norfolk Island and transferred by helicopter to Stalwart, Tobruk, and Success. The Australian task force remained off Fiji until 29 May, when the situation in the country had stabilised.

RAAF Base Townsville

RAAF Base Townsville (IATA: TSV, ICAO: YBTL) (formerly RAAF Base Garbutt) is a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) air base located in Garbutt, 2 nautical miles (3.7 km; 2.3 mi) west of Townsville in Queensland, Australia. The base houses a squadron of light transport aircraft, and is used for training purposes by combat aircraft. It is also headquarters for No. 1 Wing Australian Air Force Cadets and, along with Lavarack Barracks, establishes Townsville as a key military centre. The base's airfield is shared with the Townsville Airport.

RAAF bare bases

The Royal Australian Air Force currently maintains three Bare Bases in remote areas of Northern Australia. These bases were developed in the 1980s and 1990s in line with the Defence of Australia Policy in order to enhance the RAAF's ability to conduct combat operations from the Australian mainland. As front line bases, the bare bases are well provisioned with bunkers and other defensive facilities and have the capability to support the RAAF's combat aircraft during wartime.

During peacetime the Bare Bases are maintained by a small caretaker staff drawn from No. 322 Expeditionary Combat Support Squadron. Flying and support units are not permanently stationed at Bare Bases. The bases are occasionally activated during exercises with flying and support units deploying from other RAAF bases to staff the base for the duration of the exercise.

In December 2008 RAAF Learmonth was rapidly activated to support border protection patrols conducted by Lockheed AP-3C Orions. During this period more than 200 personnel were stationed at the base.The RAAF maintains caches of catering equipment, bedding and defence stores at each of the bare bases so that they can be rapidly activated. The size of these caches was reduced by 25 percent in 2012, and the RAAF's newspaper Air Force stated that the service was considering storing all the supplies at a central location in the future. In October 2013 it was reported that the caches were in the process of being centralised. Once the process is complete supplies will be flown or driven to the bases when they are activated.The three bare bases are:

RAAF Base Scherger near Weipa, Queensland

RAAF Base Curtin near Derby, Western Australia

RAAF Base Learmonth near Exmouth, Western AustraliaRAAF Tindal near Katherine, Northern Territory, was maintained as a Bare Base for a number of years before being upgraded in 1988 to a permanent operational base for No. 75 Squadron's F/A-18s.

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