Defence Minister Peter Dutton has warned Australia needs to prepare for war in light of the looming threat from China and global insecurity spurred by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
In an Anzac Day television interview, Dutton cast back to the Gallipoli campaign and the rising dictatorships of the 1930s in backing up Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments this morning that the “arc of authoritarianism” was troubling the region.
Dutton was asked about Morrison’s comment that Australia was setting up a “red line” in the Pacific over whether China would be allowed to build a military base in Solomon Islands after signing a controversial security pact.
“The only way you can preserve peace is to prepare for war, and be strong as a country. Not to cower, not to be on bended knee and be weak. That’s the reality,” Dutton responded on Nine’s show on Monday morning.
“Curling up in a ball, pretending nothing is happening, saying nothing, that is not going to be in our long-term interests and we should be very honest about that.
“We have to be realistic that people like Hitler and others aren’t just a figment of our imagination or that they’re consigned to history. We have in President Putin, at the moment, somebody who is willing to kill women and children. That’s happening in the year 2022.”
He said the Ukraine war was “a replay, in part, of what’s happened in the 1930s,” referring to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland and the beginning of World War II: “You don’t need to over-egg it.”
“The Chinese, through their actions, through their words, are on a very deliberate course at the moment, and we have to stand up with countries to stare down any act of aggression … to make sure we can keep peace in our region and for our country,” Dutton said.
“We’re in a period very similar to the 1930s now, and I think there were a lot of people in the 1930s who wish they had spoken up much earlier into the decade. I think that’s the sobering reality of where we are, it is the sobering reality of the intelligence we receive.”
During Darwin’s dawn service this morning, Morrison spoke of coercion “troubling our region again” as Australia grapples with the diplomatic and strategic upset of China’s security pact with Solomon Islands.
“An arc of autocracy is challenging the rules-based order our grandparents had secured and democratic freedoms,” the prime minister said.
Beijing’s deal with the Pacific Island nation has become a major election issue, with Labor branding the development Australia’s most significant foreign policy failure since the Second World War, and the US sending officials to the Solomons to meet its prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare.
Addressing media in Darwin this morning, Labor deputy leader Richard Marles said Australia’s strategic circumstances are as complex as any point since the end of World War II, “and certainly, we need to prepare, but we have not seen the preparation under this government”.
Of China’s Pacific expansion, Dutton said, “I just think that’s the reality of our time”.
“We have to have a conversation and really be frank about the intelligence and the advice that we’re receiving and reading.
“We shouldn’t take for granted the sacrifice that was made by the Anzacs, or those in World War II or in Vietnam, in the Middle East, in every conflict in between, that somehow that will see us through to eternity without conflict in our region.”
Dutton’s comments this morning are a step-up from his rhetoric last year in which he said it would be “inconceivable” that Australia wouldn’t support the US if the Western superpower chose to go to war against China to preserve Taiwan.
In November, Dutton suggested China would not stop taking territory if it invaded Taiwan, warning acquiescence to, or appeasement of, aggression by Beijing could ultimately lead to the creation of a new regional order.
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( Information from smh.com.au was used in this report. To Read More, click here )