AUSTRALIA modelled detailed plans for the invasion of Fiji and a military intervention in Papua New Guinea as it tested strategic scenarios while drafting the Defence white paper.
A number of potential conflicts were examined and strategies devised to deal with them using the equipment planned for in the Rudd government’s 2009 white paper, the nation’s key defence planning document.
These plans were contained in the top-secret Force Structure Review and analytical documents supporting it – which were prepared in conjunction with the white paper – and were presented to the National Security Committee of cabinet for consideration.
The purpose of the review is to test how the Australian Defence Force would perform in real-world conditions.
The Weekend Australian has learned the plans to intervene in Fiji were considered in a scenario involving large-scale civil strife in the Pacific island nation.
The role of Australia’s amphibious ships, the number of troops needed for the task, the urgent priority of evacuating Australians, and the potential resistance or other actions of the Fijian military were all examined in detail.
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The planning for PNG also involved responding to a fundamental breakdown of order in the capital Port Moresby and the logistical challenge of transporting troops in sufficient numbers to evacuate Australians and secure the PNG government. These revelations follow the release of The Kingdom and the Quarry by The Australian’s economics editor David Uren, who wrote of a secret chapter of the white paper containing plans to use submarines to blockade Chinese ports as well as halting minerals shipments to China, and questioning whether the US communications facility at Pine Gap would be a priority target for Chinese missile attack in the event of hostilities. Defence Minister Stephen Smith has denied the existence of any secret chapter, but The Weekend Australian has confirmed the contingencies in Uren’s book were canvassed in official documents.
Yesterday a spokesman for Mr Smith, in response to questions put by this newspaper, said: “As you would expect for any major national security process, a considerable amount of analysis was undertaken which underpinned the white paper’s judgments.
“However, this never took the form of a ‘top secret section’ to the white paper regarding China or any other country.”
He, however, admitted there was a range of analysis involving specific contingencies. He said intelligence and threat assessments “included the results of a comprehensive force structure review,
which evaluated the ability of the force structure to achieve the strategic tasks required of it”.
“As would be expected, the classified analysis underpinning the force structure review examined a range of plausible defence planning scenarios, notably in our region.”
The planning regarding China involved several scenarios, including a conflict between China and the US. In this case it was believed the Chinese would be tempted to strike Pine Gap. The analysis held that the US would implement the sea/air warfare strategy it has developed to counter China’s rapid military expansion.
Senior US military officials have testified to congress that this expansion and modernisation is aimed at enabling China to hit the US Navy in the Pacific.
Australian submarines, of which the white paper envisaged there would be 12, would play a crucial role in supporting the Americans in such a conflict.
Other scenarios involving China were also examined, such as a miscalculation in the Taiwan Straits and a Chinese effort to coerce the Australian Navy, as it has done with The Philippines over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
A maritime conflict naturally emphasises the role of submarines and an intervention in a South Pacific island naturally emphasises moving large numbers of troops by sea.
Analysts say the three key considerations in examining contingencies are probability, consequence and timing. In other words, is it likely to happen, what would be the consequences if it did happen, and how quickly could it happen?
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