Australia: NATIONAL SECURITY
Armed Forces Overview: Australia’s military (the Australian Defence Force) consists of 51,800 active-duty personnel and 21,600 reserves. Active-duty forces are assigned to the various services as follows: army (25,300), navy (12,850, including 990 naval aviation), and air force (13,650). The reserves are assigned as follows: army (17,200), navy (1,600), and air force (2,800).
Foreign Military Relations: Australia’s most important foreign military relationship is with the United States. This mutual defense relationship is formalized in the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty. Al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, triggered the mutual-defense commitment, and Australia participated in subsequent United States-led military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Australia also belongs to a military alliance with Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom under the Five-Power Defense Arrangements. In addition, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum fosters the discussion of regional security issues. In July 2005, Australia’s foreign minister announced that Australia would sign an agreement with ASEAN forswearing the use of force to settle regional disputes or intervention in the affairs of other member states. This step was a concession—long resisted by Australia—that paved the way for Australia to participate in an East Asian summit later in 2005.
External Threat: Australia faces an external threat from regional terrorist organizations, particularly al Qaeda affiliates, such as Jemaah Islamiyah (Community of Islam). Australia has reached memoranda of understanding with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Brunei that formalize counterterrorism cooperation.
Defense Budget: Australia’s defense budget for fiscal year 2005 is US$12.4 billion, representing about 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Major Military Units: The army’s Land Command has a main headquarters, one deployable joint force headquarters, and three brigade headquarters, which are in charge of the following units: three combat service support regiments, one joint support regiment, one electronic warfare regiment, one armored regiment, two reconnaissance regiments, six infantry battalions, one independent armored personnel carrier squadron, one medium artillery regiment, two field artillery regiments, one air defense regiment, three combat engineering regiments, and three regional force surveillance units. An aviation brigade headquarters has one aviation brigade, two aviation regiments, and one aviation squadron. A logistic support force headquarters has three combat service support battalions and three force support battalions. The Special Operations Command consists of a headquarters, one special-forces regiment, two commando battalions, and one incident response regiment. The Training Command has 3,160 personnel. The navy is organized into a Maritime Command, a Naval Systems Command, and a Commodore Flotilla and operates seven naval bases. The air force has an Air Command and a Training Command.
Major Military Equipment: The Australian army is equipped with 71 main battle tanks, 255 light armored vehicles, 364 armored personnel carriers, 270 towed artillery, 296 mortars, 651 recoilless launchers, 48 surface-to-air missiles, 5 aircraft, 293 helicopters, 15 marine vehicles, and 21 surveillance vehicles. The navy is equipped with 6 tactical submarines, 10 frigates, 15 offshore patrol combatants, 6 mine warfare vessels, 3 amphibious vessels, and 13 support ships. Naval aviation has 16 helicopters. The air force has 152 combat aircraft, including maritime reconnaissance aircraft, but no armed helicopters.
Military Service: Male and female Australians may volunteer for military service beginning at age 16. Australia ended military conscription in December 1972.
Paramilitary Forces: In May 2003, the Australian Defence Force established a Special Operations Command to respond to domestic and foreign terrorist threats. It is responsible for commanding two Tactical Assault Groups (East and West), the Incident Response Regiment, and related paramilitary units.
Military Forces Abroad: In 2003–4 Australia deployed about 1,100 military personnel in various overseas operations, including the following: Operation Catalyst (rehabilitation of Iraq), Operation Slipper (Persian Gulf security), Operation Spire (United Nations Mission in East Timor—UNMISET), Operation Anode (rule of law in Solomon Islands), Operation Bel Isi II (United Nations monitoring of the cease-fire in Bougainville, the largest Solomon Island), Operations Relex II and Cranberry (interdiction of unauthorized arrivals by sea along the northern approaches to Australia), Operation Iran Assist (humanitarian relief to victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran), Operation Niue Assist (disaster relief to the Pacific island of Niue after Cyclone Heta), Operation Nauru (disposal of World War II-era unexploded ordnance), and Operation Vanuatu Assist (disaster relief to the South West Pacific islands of Vanuatu after Cyclone Ivy).
Police: Australian police organizations are subject to civilian control. The Federal Justice Ministry is responsible for supervising the Australian Federal Police, while state police ministers oversee state police forces. Human rights abuses by the police are alleged only occasionally, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Internal Threat: Australia faces the threat of a domestic strike by transnational terrorists against innocent civilians, as has occurred in New York, Madrid, and London. In October 2003, Australia deported Willie Virgile Brigitte, a Frenchman, to France for allegedly plotting to destroy the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney on behalf of al Qaeda.
Terrorism: Following al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, Australia did more than offer expressions of solidarity. Rather, Australia invoked the Australia-New Zealand-United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty and dispatched troops to Afghanistan to fight alongside U.S. forces. In addition, Australia has been instrumental in organizing regional counterterrorism initiatives through joint declarations of cooperation with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members. These declarations are the public dimension of close military and intelligence cooperation in the struggle against regional al Qaeda offshoots, such as the Southeast Asian terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah (Community of Islam). Australian Prime Minister John Howard has been characterized as the United States’ “deputy sheriff” in the region. Australia also has been the direct victim of terrorism. On October 12, 2002, Jemaah Islamiyah killed 88 Australians and 114 others when it destroyed a nightclub on the Indonesian island of Bali. On September 9, 2004, the same group exploded a car bomb outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta, killing nine and injuring 182; none of the casualties was Australian. Media reports as of August 1, 2005, indicated that Osama bin Laden funded the bombing as an act of revenge for Australia’s participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The source of this information was one of the arrested plot leaders.
Australia is actively involved in the nonproliferation arena. The Australia Group, which was proposed by Australia and held its first meeting in June 1985, helps coordinate international efforts to control the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons.
Human Rights: The U.S. State Department has given Australia high marks for its respect for human rights. However, Human Rights Watch, a nongovernmental organization, has criticized Australia’s strict policies on asylum. The government discourages refugees from many countries in the region from settling in Australia. For example, in the fall of 2001 Australia refused entry to 450 Afghani refugees who were stranded in the Indian Ocean. Instead, they were sent to detention camps or deported. Australia prefers to control its borders and offer citizenship to those most likely to make an economic contribution and maintain the country’s values. Amnesty International also asserts that Australia’s counterterrorism campaign has come at the expense of human rights. Amnesty International objects to the alleged detention and questioning of terrorist suspects without charges being filed. In 2000 the United Nations Human Rights Commission criticized Australia for its treatment of aborigines.
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This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country’s historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. In addition to being featured in the front matter of published Country Studies, they are now being prepared as stand-alone reference aides for all countries in the series, as well as for a number of additional countries of interest. The profiles offer reasonably current country information independent of the existence of a recently published Country Study and will be updated annually or more frequently as events warrant.
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