TheDefense White Paper for 2016 was finally released by the Australiangovernment. The term ‘rules-basedglobal order’is repeated 56 times in the article in comparison with the 2013paper, which had just nine instances. This repetition shows anexpression of fear and doubt given that the status quo is challenged.The 1976 Defense White Paper, for example, shows that Australia’sstrategic environment has not changed much1.Hence, the repeated encouragement to preserve the “rules-based”orderis an admission of this average strategic move.Over a period of 40years, an order led by the U.S. to secure strategic stability overAsia, is degrading very fast. Hence, this essay seeks to explain thestrategic shift and its significance to Australia.

Inthe 2013 Defense White Paper, countries obligated themelves tosharing commitment and conducting their activities by coming to anagreement on the rules, which would transform over time, forexample, gobal security arrangements and international law. Moreover,the International law is compirised of strict regulations, but howdoes international security arrangements equal to “rules?”. Anumber of regional security arrangements are usually informal, aswell as voluntary, in which counries enter as long as they benefit,in as much as the defense treaties bind them legally.

TheAmerican Sunset

Thementioning of the “rules-based global order” mantra can bediscussed in several levels. First, it offers a new accomodativeplanning concept for taking care of the surrrounding consequencesaround the world2.By being in support of the United Nations in stabilising the affectedcountries in Africa and the Middle East meant that Australia would beknown as a good global partner. The U.S. and China most likelycontribute loyalty to the United Nations Convention of Law of theSea because thy have clashes3.In the third chapter of the White Paper, it is presented that the“rules-based global order” provides a way that deals with threatsbefore they actualise in Australia4.Initially, the 2016 DWP had left open the possibilty of the U.S.primacy in the Western Pacific.

Section2.81says that the United States will still remain as the leading globalmilitary power for the progressive two decades5.In other words, 20 years is a short period according to previousprophesies by previous defense papers, which said the U.S. will rulein the future. One might think that the paper just provides a merelook on a time scale of 20 years6.Therefore, this does not conclude that the Australian governmentbelieves US dominance in the Western Pacific will come to an end7.Nevertheless, Section 2.35 projects a stratling relevation of thespending of regional military when China has apparently cut ties withthe U.S. hence, its addition on the white paper is of importance.Furthermore, it notes the United States’ security concerns as Chinafocuses on modernisation on a relativley slim range of strategicgoals. This is due to China having to undergo a fraction of the costto the U.S., that is, without denying project power across 10,000kmof the Pacific Ocean. More so, it must be recognised that the globalsecurity interest is by the U.S. but China prefers to concentrate ona narrow range of strategic objectives and its modernisation.

Decisionto Spend 2% of GDP on Defense

Thedecision to spend 2% of the Gross Domestic Product on defense isdeclared in seven occasions in the new Defense White Paper. Someopponents write false contributions for the 2% targeting section8.108.This states that the ten-year government funding will not besubjected to any more alterations, which will in turn result in achange in Australia’s GDP growth estimates. However, all that isbeing mentioned here is that the funding assurance reflected in thepaper does away with the need to adjust forced structural plans.

Themajor objective is the commitment to reach the 2% target that sevesas a proportion of GDP, which is constistently repeated in thedocument. Therefore, there is no likelihood of the 2% of the GDPtarget being denied by any other main political party anytimesoon,which is totally constant with Australia’s national intrests.

Recently,Defense White Papers have revealed Australia’s long term commitmentto reduce nuclear arms and free the world from nuclear weapons9.References to Australia’s reliance on the U.S. increased nuclearobstruction were expressed as regarding, “so long as such weaponsexist”. Section 5.20 points out that only the U.S. nuclear andmilitary capabilities can offer useful deterrence against theprobability of nuclear threats10.Further, Section 2.104 says that Australia has “historically”been a loyal supporter of the Non-ProliferationTreaty.It is evident the Australia’s government approach to nuclearweapons is fast evolving. The agreement will gurantee a steadyincrease in the defense budget, which will not be subject to furtheramendments. While the RSL congratulates the government for thispledge, it remains unclear of the future where a circumstance mayarise and cause the government to see to it that the guarantee iswrthdrawn.


Australia’sPolicy on Defense

InIndonesia, the paper opts for a more subtle approach. Section 5.34labels the vigorous and productive alliance with Indonesia as“critical to national security”. By contrast, the 2013 Defensewhite paper saw a chance in developing Australia-Indonesia defenserelationship. Furthermore,it acknowledged that Indonesia was a major land power, and thatasymmetric force is suitable to a good security partnership. This inturn would increase the strategic weight of both countries11.Naval violations of Indonesian sea waters, revelation of spies,killing of two reformed Australian prisoners and bribing smugglershave seen these relations subside to their lowest point since theEast Timor Crisis of 199912.Thus,this paper gives a list of on-going mutual defense activities andrealises the strategic involvement of Indonesia’s rise13.It shows no plan of going ahead of this curve and notes itslong term potential of the co-operation between Australia’s defenseteam merged together with Indonesia’s defense team14.Given the importance of these connections, failure of the paper toprovide a clear and determined strategic blueprint for joint defenseis a major weakness.

Section3.5 says “The ADF highest priority task is to prevent and defeatattacks on Australia without having to rely on help from othercountries.” The next section explains that Australia’s defensepolicy based on the principle of self-reliance and self defensemechanisms within the context of its alliance with the United Statesand its co-operation with its regional partners. There are no limitswhen it comes to Australia’s military resources. This can besupported by a few references. Paragraph 3.2 states that thegovernment will respond to threats and opportunities to the limit ofits reach and opportunity. Therefore, choices must be made to orderto give guidance on the allocation of resources that are to deal withchallenges that are most dangerous and the response, which is mostlikely to be effective. This theme recurs throughout the document asshown in section 7.9.

Australia’sstrong preference for operations is spelled out clearly from sections3.30 to 3.34 with Task 1, which is the one that deters and defeatsattacks and Task force 2 that contributes to the stability andsecurity of the Southern Pacific. These two Task forces are thedeterminants of the structural force with its resultant defense forcebeing reliable to meet the needs of Tasks 3 and 4, which contributesto the military stability of other countries with priority given toSouth East Asia.

The2016 Defence White Paper outlines three strategic defense objectives,which include15:

  • The capability by the military to contribute to alliance operations, which support Australia’s interest in a rules-based global order16

  • Demoralise, challenge and defeat attacks or threatening Australia and its national interests.

  • Implement active military contribution in support of the security of naval South East Asia and help governments in Papua New Guinea, Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste in a bid to build and strengthen their safety.

Atfirst, these objectives seem long-standing with minimal controversy17.What is immense however, is that section 3.10 states that thegovernment agrees that these should be equal. For instance, Australiais attacked by a foreign state through its north. Meanwhile,an alliance request is made to Australian unit to bring in theirforces to help stabilise a region in the Africa or Middle East. Whichshould be Australian government’s priorities? The 2016 DefenseWhite Paper does not clarify the order of Australia’s strategicpriorities. Therefore, this represents an apparent flaw.

The`newly powerful` Folly

Thepaper, which was released under Marise Payne and Turnbull, gives aclear resemblance to what would have been expected of their immediateand previous predecessors18.Paragraph2.24 states, “It is normal for new powerful countries to look forgreater power, but they should do so and act in a way thatcontributes to security, prosperity and most importantly, overallglobal peace”. Somecountries have attempted to challenge these rules, which also governactions such as cyberspace and in some unhelpful ways lead to tensionand uncertainty19.In other terms, the paper gives the UK commensurate attention and itsinfluence in Australia’s strategic affairs.

However,this is not meant to underestimate China’s deepening andmilitarising artificial island in Southern China Sea and space war20.Thinking China as “newly dominant” is committing the biggesterror that could lead to a serious misjudgement when assessingChina’s resolve.

Tothe Chinese, theirs is the greatest civilisation that ever existed. In Beijing’s opinion, the dominance of Western powers is but aglitch on the lengthy historicalrecords of the Middle Kingdom,and China’s ascend is just a natural correction to the norm21.The repercussion of the paper is that if China only restricts itsaspiration and comes to term with “rule-based order” as appliedby more knowledgeable new dominant powers, then peace and stabilitywill succeed. Giventhat this lays the undeniable truth about the power rivalry unfoldingon Australia’s doorstep22,China sees itself as not emerging but has re-emerged23.This shows China’s ambition is not based on fantasies but aims atreclaiming past glories and overcoming recent humiliation. This is adifferent hypothesis to what the newly great label implies.

Institutionsdo not neutralise threats or have any physical impact until someactor with material power decides to uphold these rules24.The nation-states military forces or international forces deal withthreats25.But considering the Defense White Paper, new umbrella hybrid conceptscomprise of both the system of international law and the system ofthe military alliance.

Finally,Australia has a large economic security interest in South East Asia.This growth represents an important opportunity, which contributes toAustralia’s economy and prosperity26.The trade between these two countries was worth over $100 billion in201427.The South East Asia waters bring the majority of Australia’sinternational trade that include its three largest exports, which areJapan, China and the Republic of Korea28.Two thirds of Australia’s export has to pass through the SouthChina Sea, which will include natural gas being exported29.Due to its immense interest in upholding peace, security andstability in North Asia, more than half of its exports are to Japan,China and the Republic of Korea’s who are Australia’s fourbiggest trading partners30.


Thepaper creates a more capable, acute and potent feature force that hasthe greater capacity to respond to strategic risk whenever defensefor Australia is engaged. It carries out government’s dedication tothe safety of Australians and defends its territory due to nationalinterest31.The government is investing in the defense to guarantee that we havethe armed forces we need to protect the people and secure itsinterests in the coming decades.

Thegovernment’s defense strategy is sustained by increased funding,which will grow to two per cent of Australia’s GDP by 2020-2132.The government’s funding plan provides $29.9 billion more todefense over the period of 2025-26 more than planned before. Theresponse of the Chinese to this paper has been bitter and accusedCanberra of mistaking China’s policies in the region. Meanwhile, ithas been received positively by many states33.However, there are questions, which are likely to arise once thecontents are released.

Muchexpenditure will occur at the end of the period’s paper, which isfrom 2019-2021. But putting into consideration Australia’s frequentchanges in government, whether the promised reforms will survive amodification or not remains a question people are asking themselves34.However, as for now, Australia’s new Defense White Paper lays out adetermined but realistic role for the future of the country’ssecurity prospects35.Therefore, this is one of the mostwelcome proposals, which focuses on rebuilding Australia’s militarybases and improve its facilities in the north of the country.

The2016 DWP appears to be a comprehensive document that achieves someimportant events, the most crucial being the agreement of a ten-yearfunding. This will bring certainty to the management of the defense.Even more important, it confirms that the government has instructedthe ADF to increase its preparedness level to respond to a morechallenging and complex strategic environment. Both proposals aregood news for the defense sector that it will be the primarybeneficiary of this activity.

Lastly,its stand on terrorism is clear considering it has been hit by terrorattacks and the attackers have claimed their loyalty to the IslamicState. It will continue to support Afghan and Iraqi government fightagainst terrorists. This will increase its participation in morecomplex missions such as the 12-year stabilisation operation inAfghanistan.


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Fernando,Mario. &quotIntroduction.&quot In&nbspLeadingResponsibly in the Asian Century,pp. 1-8. Springer International Publishing, 2016.

Fontaine,Richard, and Daniel M. Kliman. &quotInternational order and globalswing states.&quot&nbspTheWashington Quarterly&nbsp36,no. 1 (2013): 93-109.

Fukuyama,Francis. &quotPolitical order and political decay.&quot&nbspFarrrar,Straus and Giroux&nbsp(2014):185-186.

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Glaser,Bonnie. &quotHigh Stakes for Australia In Limiting China`s SouthChina Sea Incursions.&quot&nbspAusmarine&nbsp37,no. 9 (2015): 18.

Graeme,Dobell. “All About China, all the time &quot. The Strategist.

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Matthews,Rhea, Dominique Spoelder, and Michael Thurston. &quotAustralia`s2016 defence white paper: A summary.&quot&nbspUnitedService&nbsp67,no. 2 (2016): 21.

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Patrick,Stewart. &quotWorld Order: What, Exactly, are the Rules?.&quot&nbspTheWashington Quarterly&nbsp39,no. 1 (2016): 7-27.

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1 Ayson, Robert. “Discovering Australia’s Defence Strategy”. Security Challenges, Vol. 12, (No. 1): pp. 41-52. (2016).

2Baylis, John, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens.&nbspThe globalization of world politics: An introduction to international relations. Oxford University Press, 2013.

3Breslin, Shaun. &quotChina and the global order: signalling threat or friendship?.&quotInternational Affairs&nbsp89, no. 3 (2013): 615-634.

4 Emerson, Ambassador John B. &quotThe Importance Of A Rules-Based International Order | U.S. Embassy &amp Consulates In Germany&quot. U.S. Embassy &amp Consulates in Germany.

5Von Glahn, Gerhard, and James Larry Taulbee.&nbspLaw among nations: an introduction to public international law. Routledge, 2015.

6Fernando, Mario. &quotIntroduction.&quot In&nbspLeading Responsibly in the Asian Century, pp. 1-8. Springer International Publishing, 2016.

7&quotChallenges to the Rules-Based International Order&quot. Chatham House. 2016).

8Wood, S., Baogang He, and Michael Leifer, eds.&nbspThe Australia-ASEAN Dialogue: Tracing 40 Years of Partnership. Springer, 2014.

9 Unger, Danny. A regional economic order in east and Southeast Asia?, Journal of Strategic Studies, 24:4, 179-202.(2015).

10Chin Gregory and Thakur Ramesh. Will China Change the Rules of Global Order?, The Washington Quarterly, (2010): 33:4, 119-138, DOI: 10.1080/0163660X.2010.516145

11David Wroe. When the rules are no protection. The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney N.S.W) 27 Feb 2016: 28

12Parkinson, Martin. &quotEconomics of power: Stepping towards a new global order.&quot&nbspGriffith REVIEW&nbsp51 (2016): 159.

13 Zhang, Feng. &quotChina, Australia and the US rebalance? | The Strategist&quot. The Strategist. (2016).

14Zala, Benjamin. &quotThe Australian 2016 Defence White Paper, great-power rivalry and a ‘rules-based order’: an imagined correspondence between Carr, Bull and Bell.&quot&nbspAustralian Journal of International Affairs&nbsp70, no. 5 (2016): 441-452.

15Erickson, Andrew, and Adam Liff. &quotNot-so-empty talk.&quot&nbspForeign Affairs&nbsp9 (2014).


17Leipold, Sina, Metodi Sotirov, Theresa Frei, and Georg Winkel. &quotProtecting “First world” markets and “Third world” nature: The politics of illegal logging in Australia, the European Union and the United States.&quot&nbspGlobal Environmental Change&nbsp39 (2016): 294-304.

18 Evans, Gareth. &quotPlaying By the Rules in Asia | The Strategist&quot. The Strategist.

19Fontaine, Richard, and Daniel M. Kliman. &quotInternational order and global swing states.&quot&nbspThe Washington Quarterly&nbsp36, no. 1 (2013): 93-109.

20Matthews, Rhea, Dominique Spoelder, and Michael Thurston. &quotAustralia`s 2016 defence white paper: A summary.&quot&nbspUnited Service&nbsp67, no. 2 (2016): 21.

21Flanagan, Shane. &quotAustralia and Japan Security Ties: An accelerating partnership.&quot (2016).

22Glaser, Bonnie. &quotHigh Stakes for Australia In Limiting China`s South China Sea Incursions.&quot&nbspAusmarine&nbsp37, no. 9 (2015): 18.

23Fukuyama, Francis. &quotPolitical order and political decay.&quot&nbspFarrrar, Straus and Giroux&nbsp(2014): 185-186.

24Storey Henry. The International Implications of Australia’s Border Protection Policies. Young Australians in International Affairs (2016).

25 Gilley, Bruce and Andrew O`Neil. Middle Powers and The Rise of China. Washington: Georgetown University Press. (2014).

26Patrick, Stewart. &quotWorld Order: What, Exactly, are the Rules?.&quot&nbspThe Washington Quarterly&nbsp39, no. 1 (2016): 7-27.

27Lee, John. &quotAustralia`s 2015 Defence white Paper: seeking strategic opportunities in southeast Asia to help manage China`s Peaceful rise.&quotContemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs&nbsp35, no. 3 (2013): 395-422.

28 Graeme, Dobell. “All About China, all the time &quot. The Strategist. (2016).

29 Lang, David. &quotStrengthening Rule- Based Order In The Asia–Pacific&quot. The Strategist.

30Hanson, Tom. “Australia in the South China Sea: time to act, not react.” The Strategist. (2016).

31 Raymond, Greg. &quotPlaying By the Global Rules&quot. (2016).

32 Henry, Iain. &quotThe 2016 Defence White Paper’s Assessment of Australia’s Strategic Environment&quot. Security Challenges, Vol. 12, (No. 1): pp. 31-39. (2016).

33Ikenberry, G. John, and Jongryn Mo. &quotGlobal Leadership: International Peacekeeping Operations.&quot In&nbspThe Rise of Korean Leadership, pp. 145-162. Palgrave Macmillan US, (2013).

34Jennings, Peter. &quotThe US Rebalance to the Asia-Pacific: An Australian Perspective.&quot&nbspAsia Policy&nbsp15, no. 1 (2013): 38-44.

35Keck, Margaret E., and Kathryn Sikkink.&nbspActivists beyond borders: Advocacy networks in international politics. Cornell University Press, (2014).