Resources: how to think about Australian national security

Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently released the first Australian National Security Strategy.

As there is already plenty of commentary available on it, this post provides some background material to help readers assess the Strategy themselves.

Here are three valuable academic papers, published last year, about conceptualising security threats to Australia and devising a national security strategy. All three are open access and in PDF format.


Conceptualising future threats to Australia’s security
Andrew O’Neil

Much of the recent Australian security studies literature has focused on contemporary challenges to Australia’s role in Asia, the evolving trajectory of defence strategy, and the various factors that have shaped the nation’s ‘discourse of threats’. While this body of work is important and valuable, there is a distinct lack of scholarship that discusses the types of future security threats likely to confront Australian policy makers in the twenty-first century. Indeed, there is a tendency among scholars to assume that this sort of ‘futures’ work is best left to those outside the academy. I argue, however, that it is an area which is too important to leave to the authors of defence white papers, think tank reports, and classified strategic assessments. Australia’s future security environment in a complex international system has not been subject to the sort of systematic scholarly analysis that the topic merits. This paper seeks to provide a stepping stone for more substantial work in the area, and outlines a conceptual framework that can aid us in understanding the factors likely to impact on Australia’s security environment in the early part of the twenty-first century.


An Australian National Security Strategy: competing conceptual approaches
Peter Layton

There is a growing global interest in formulating national security strategies but their form, nature and usefulness depends greatly on the conceptual approach policymakers choose to base them on. The three different national security approaches of grand strategy, opportunism and risk management have different purposes, parameters and implications. The first major issue to be considered when devising an Australian National Security Strategy is which organising construct to adopt.


Australia’s national security priorities: addressing strategic risk in a globalised world
Alan Dupont and William J. Reckmeyer.

This article reviews the seminal influences on Australian national security planning and outlines a methodology for assessing national security risk which provides a workable analytical framework for prioritising Australia’s national security challenges and allocating scarce resources in a systematic and integrated way. The authors argue for a System of Systems approach that addresses the most serious security challenges as a whole rather than treating them as independent, compartmentalised issues. The ability to develop effective analytical tools for assessing national security risk will be a key determinant of strategic success in the twenty-first century. Nations adept at anticipating developments, discerning trends and evaluating risk among the clutter of confusing and contradictory change indicators will be significantly advantaged over those which are not.

2 thoughts on “Resources: how to think about Australian national security

  1. Thanks Andrew, but I’ll continue with the side dish, of a pinch of salt, when reading any commentary or research in this subject matter.

    Should we take verbatim that Academic opinion should be considered over and above the knowledge of actual events, actions, evidence, scope and present limitations in the field?

    Some are academic articles are worthless or at best misleading, like this one that overlooks terrorist attacks that actually have occurred in Australia completely and denies that any ever occurred.

  2. Cheers Andy. I will have a read of the ‘Neil’ one at some stage, which looks like it is dealing with potential resource/climate threats to security. On the question of national security in general, I will just throw in my a global big picture perspective. To quote Trainer ‘One way to seek security is to develop greater capacity to repel attack. In the case of nations this means large expenditure of money, resources and effort on military preparedness. However there is a much better strategy; i.e., to live in ways that do not oblige you to take more than your fair share and therefore that do not give anyone any motive to attack you. This is not possible unless there is global economic justice. If a few insist on levels of affluence, industrialisation and economic growth that are totally impossible for all to achieve, and which could not be possible if they were taking only their fair share of global resources, then they must remain heavily armed and their security will require readiness to use their arms to defend their unjust privileges.’

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