Australian Shadow Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie yesterday called for Australia to develop and operate its own missiles, saying that the era of the “lucky country” is over.
Hastie said that Australia needs greater deterrents given the “very bleak” strategic outlook, with a “rising China” displaying “revisionist and expansionist ambitions.”
China launched ballistic missiles during live-fire exercises near Taiwan following US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the nation earlier last week.
Hastie, who was Australian assistant minister for defence before the coalition government lost office in May, told Australian Broadcasting Corp’s Insiders the missile launch demonstrated that China was using its “strategic bulk to force a sphere of influence.”
He said that Australia needed more fuel stocks, more ammunition, investment in cybercapabilities, nuclear submarines through the AUKUS alliance with the UK and US, to “hold adversaries ... at distance,” and missiles that can “reach out and touch an adversary.”
“I think we need to partner more closely with the US, with the UK ... on missiles — they’re a critical partner,” he said.
Hastie said he was not referring to allowing the US to base long-range missiles in Australia, but rather that “we need to partner to develop our own sovereign missiles ... Australian-owned, Australian-delivered, if required.”
Australia would cover the capability gap before it acquires nuclear submarines with an extension of the Collins-class submarines, which are still “regionally superior,” Hastie said.
“Richard Marles as defense minister needs to be focused on delivering those [nuclear] submarines as quickly as possible,” he added.
Australia needs to “continue to engage with China and Taiwan ... because the last thing we want is miscalculation,” Hastie said.
Hastie said as a “general principle” Australia must be prepared to defend its neighbors, because if it does not stand up for other countries, “who will stand up for [us]?”
“As a nation of only 26 million people on a vast continent, we need as many friends [as] we can get. In fact, I would say the era of the lucky country is over,” he said.
If conflict over Taiwan were to eventuate, “whether we are involved directly or indirectly on the periphery, we would certainly be in the gun, and that’s why we need to build our deterrence strength,” he said.
He said he would “like to visit Taiwan at some point,” adding that he had already been invited.
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