Home' Defence Magazine : Issue 3 2009 Contents 25
n 16 March 2009, Minister
for Defence the Hon. Joel
fitzgibbon MP launched a
collection of declassified
strategic defence documents
that shed light on Australia’s
defence and strategic policy for the
period of 1946 to 1976.
Drafted by uniformed officers and civilian
public servants, the papers in A History of
Australian Strategic Policy since 1945 represent
the views of the Defence hierarchies of their time
about the principles underlying defence policy.
These principles include the circumstances
under which Australian armed forces might be
used, and the kinds of forces and capabilities
Australia should develop.
The papers were all submitted to the
government of the day for consideration, so they
provide an insight into the interface between
the government’s policy directive and Defence’s
“To understand where we are going we
need to understand where we have come from.
The launch of this publication is significant given
the upcoming release of the new Defence White
Paper,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
A History of Australian Strategic Policy since 1945
has a limited print run and is not available for purchase.
It is available for download from the Defence website
eXceRPT fROM: A HIsTORY
Of AusTRALIAN sTRATeGIc
POLIcY sINce 1945
APPRecIATION Of THe
Of AusTRALIA (1946)
The 1946 Appreciation was endorsed by the Chiefs of Staff
Committee within months after Japan’s capitulation, and sent to
the Prime Minister before the 1946 Commonwealth Conference.
It pre-dated the rapid deterioration of relations with Russia
and the communist victory in China, and did not yet discuss the
implications of decolonisation, or of the atomic bomb (paras 59,
60, 103, 122). The basic tenets of post-war defence strategy it
developed thus bore strong resemblance to Australia’s pre-war
policy, adapted to the new world situation.
Australia was protected by its geographic situation and the
collective security system of the UN (paras 9, 32). However, it was
‘unable to defend herself unaided against a major power’, and should
the UN became dysfunctional, its security was intrinsically linked to
that of the Empire as a whole (paras 1, 3, 20, 35). Given the experience
of the world wars, explicitly no reliance was placed on assistance
forthcoming from the US, although it was ‘essential’ (paras 23, 24, 46,
77, 89). The USSR was identified as the only major power that ‘is a
potential enemy of the future’, which could pose threats to the Empire
‘in Europe, the Middle East, India and, if Russia develops sea power, in
the South Pacific’ (paras 45, 53). This required ‘Australia to throw her
maximum effort into the area in which her forces are most required’ in
accordance with a co-ordinated and prepared plan for Empire defence,
even taking risks, if necessary, ‘to the security of the homeland’ (paras
3, 4, 19-21, 28, 29, 64). In the Pacific, Commonwealth strategy would
be based on the maintenance of Empire lines of communication, initial
offensive action from forward bases in the Formosa-Shanghai area,
and mobilisation of the Empire’s war potential (paras 66, 87). It was
recognised that ‘[d]ominance of China by Russia would constitute
a grave danger to the Empire’ (para 94). This would make French
Indochina ‘of great strategic importance in preventing a serious threat
to Malaya (and ultimately to Australia) from developing’ (para 87).
Australian forces should be developed for their contribution
to the wider strategic plan, with standardisation of organisation,
equipment, and training throughout the Empire, and would then
be adaptable to home defence ‘without material re-organisation’
should the need arise (paras 30, 108, 109). They should be either
permanent forces, or be able to mobilise ‘within the time limit which
the International situation permits’, without the need to re-organise
or raise a special force for overseas duties (paras 48, 110). The
force structure recommendations were ambitious compared to the
forces Australia had maintained before the war. The Navy should
provide aircraft carriers with escorts and fleet train, vessels for the
protection of shipping, and amphibious transports. Army formations
should be capable of operations in ‘normal terrain’ and amphibious
operations, and be able to re-configure for jungle warfare. The Air
Force should comprise a ‘Mobile Task Force, including units for
long range missions and transportation, ready to move wherever
required’, as well as defence of ‘bases and focal areas against
sporadic air raids’ (paras 126-128).
ABOVe LefT: Ms Rebecca skinner, first Assistant secretary strategic Policy; Mr Ric smith, former
secretary of Defence, and Professor Hugh White, former Deputy secretary strategy.
ABOVe RIGHT: Dr stephan frühling and Minister for Defence, the Hon Joel fitzgibbon.
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