Albanese Government “coming apart” on national security, defence and foreign affairs: Greg Sheridan | Matter of Public Importance Matters of Public Interest

I, too, rise to speak on this matter of public importance.

I notice that Senator Paterson referred to ‘the Albanese government’s multiple failures to protect Australia and keep Australians safe, including their abandonment of Operation Sovereign Borders,’ et cetera. He has discussed Sovereign Borders. I want to come to the core element of keeping Australians safe, which is defence.

Those opposite have talked a lot about facts and have cast aspersions that the coalition is merely playing politics and seeking to raise fear, but I have quoted, previously, independent commentators who are expert in their field, and I’ve referred before to Mr Greg Sheridan, who is undoubtedly one of Australia’s pre-eminent foreign affairs and defence journalists, who is also critical of the Albanese government in terms of national security.

Now, to be fair, he’s also been critical of my side of politics in the past, and I’ve acknowledged that before. But, as to the point that Senator Paterson raises, it’s worth looking at and quoting from a recent article by Mr Sheridan, where he says:

The Albanese government is coming apart in foreign policy, national security and defence. It has become incoherent and indecipherable. It consistently tries to hide basic information, can’t maintain cabinet unity or policy consistency, its ministers frequently contradict each other and often seem to have no idea what they’re talking about.

What that says is that in this most fundamental thing, national security, all the promises that were made before the last election are not actually being carried through by action. In fact, Mr Sheridantalks about that, saying:

The government started off well on … security issues generally and defence. Albanese made strong, substantial speeches in opposition.

But now it looks as though those were purely designed to neutralise national security as an election issue.

The government speaks a big game, and the Defence Strategic Review is one of those. It was all about meeting the urgent requirements, and yet what’s happened?

Twelve months before the Defence Strategic Review was released, there has been a range of cost shifting within Defence, and the budget that has followed has seen a $1.5 billion decrease in Defence funding. And this is not just criticism coming from the opposition.

People like Mr Brent Clark, who heads up the Australian Industry & Defence Network, has said that the DSR has come out, which was the review, and ‘now there is also to be a further review’ with ‘wasted time’. The government have taken a year to tell us that they are going to do another review, and this has significant implications for defence industry.

As Mr Clark said:

In other words, industry sat idle for 12 months.

The government speaks a big game but then doesn’t follow through with meaningful actions that would actually deliver outcomes on the ground.

Even this week we tabled a report in this place about an inquiry that the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee had done into the proposal for a defence capability assurance bill, which I have lodged in the Senate.

All of the evidence provided by experts—some of whom work within Defence, many of whom work within defence industry, some of whom work in academia across large industry, small and medium sized companies; they have deep expertise and draw on ANAO reports and others, so they’re completely independent of the coalition—were critical of the approach to assessing risk, yet what have the government done?

They’ve said: ‘We’re not going to actually accept the change that’s required. We’ll stick with the internal reform that Defence is promising they can achieve, even though the evidence highlighted that Defence has failed to make that reform and consistently drive better outcomes over the last 20 years, even after three quite significant reports.’

To the concern around antisemitism within the community, yes, the coalition has been critical of some of the actions of the government, but that’s not us purely seeking to politicise the event. It’s not us. Independent commentators—and again I go back to Mr Sheridan. In the same article, he said:

The government’s biggest moral failing has been its response to the Israel-Hamas war.

And we do see deep fear amongst many in Australia’s Jewish community because of the rise of antisemitic behaviour and the threat of violence. All Australians deserve to feel safe, not just our Jewish community.

All Australians deserve to know they have a government that will put Australia’s security first.