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Thursday, 10th March 2022

Stronger in the World, United at Home

Address to the Lowy Institute

The security off our nation is the most solemn responsibility of any government – and the first priority of every Prime Minister.
Today I want to take the opportunity to share my vision for an Australia that is stronger, safer and more resilient…
…more prepared to meet the challenges and threats of a less certain world.
Almost 80 years ago, on 14 March 1942, Prime Minister John Curtin gave a speech for broadcast on American radio.
He began:
“On the great waters of the Pacific Ocean war now breathes its bloody steam.
From the skies of the Pacific pours down a deathly hail.
In the countless islands of the Pacific the tide of war flows madly.
For you in America, for us in Australia, it is flowing badly.”
Curtin was not one for doomsaying, or hyperbole.
Truly, they were the most fearful days our nation has known.
Eight decades later, Labor still looks to Curtin.
Not just to salute his strength of character, or his sacrifice ...
… but because Curtin’s famous 1941 declaration that Australia ‘looked to America’ was deeper than a statement of wartime necessity.
It was an assertion of Australia’s right and indeed our Australia’s responsibility to act in our own interests, to make our own alliances, to decide our place in our region, for ourselves.
And through 80 years of change, that principle of sovereignty has remained at the core of Labor’s approach to our foreign policy and defence policy.
Whether in government – or in opposition – we treat national security as the first priority, with our national interest at its core.
Under my leadership, Labor offered bipartisan support for the Defence Strategic Update 2020, and for AUKUS and the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines.
We have engaged constructively and supported a range of national security legislation, covering issues such as cyber, critical infrastructure, intelligence, and law enforcement.
We have continued our long-standing bipartisan approach to the work of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. 
For Labor, national security is above politics.
And fundamental to our national security is our national resilience.
As all of you at Lowy understand, Australia’s national security is bound-up in so much more than our defence capability, critical as it is.
In the complex, interconnected, rapidly changing strategic environment of the 2020s, national security also means:

  • Cyber-security
  • Energy security
  • Economic security
  • Environmental security

Keeping Australians safe means planning for global shocks – be it conflict, pandemic, financial collapse or environmental disaster …
And investing in the country’s capacity to adapt to crisis, building the resilience and resolve to ensure we can come through challenging times together.
That’s the other vital element of the resilience that underpins our national security – our unity as a country.
Our allies and partners around the world are rightly describing Russia’s unprovoked, attack on Ukraine as an assault on the ‘rules-based order’ that has stood since the creation of the United Nations.
Russia’s actions are also an attack on the values free nations hold dear: representative democracy, the rule of law, the right to live in peace.
Just as we have long viewed it as Australia’s responsibility to join in the defence of those principles and values when threatened abroad…
…it is also our duty to protect and nurture them at home.
The health of our democracy, the integrity of our institutions, the transparency and fairness of our laws, the harmony and cohesion of our population…
…these aren’t just noble ideals. They are a powerful defence against the threat of modern authoritarianism.
Because behind authoritarianism’s reliance on disinformation, crude nationalism and false nostalgia and its insidious appeal to the disillusioned and disenfranchised…
…is the implicit and explicit argument that democracy, diversity and progress have failed us.
It’s why measures to strengthen faith in our institutions and our democracy - including our commitment to a National Anti-Corruption Commission - are so important in building national cohesion.
In a very real sense, I see our determination to be a government that delivers on its commitments and brings the country together as a key element of ensuring a stronger and safer Australia.

Labor’s Approach 

Three key principles are at the heart of Labor’s national security policy:
One, defending Australia’s territorial integrity.
Two, protecting our nation’s political sovereignty from external pressure.
And three, promoting Australia’s economic prosperity and social stability, with sustainable growth, secure employment, and a unified community. 
This means preventing threats to our borders, our people, our infrastructure and our institutions.
Protecting the democratic institutions so central to the expression of our sovereignty.
Building and maintaining a strong economy, resilient supply chains…
…and the skills, technology, infrastructure and industries to make more things here in Australia, securing our self-reliance.
These are all part of our plan for a better future
A Labor Government will achieve these objectives and build a more secure, resilient Australia by:

  1. Supporting a stronger Australian Defence Force
  2. Prioritising better and smarter cybersecurity
  3. Shoring-up our economic self-reliance
  4. Strengthening our communities and institutions
  5. Deepening our partnerships in the region and globally around the world
  6. Taking action on climate change

This is the plan Labor will take to the election and deliver in government.
But of course, these aren’t theoretical constructs.
They operate in a real world of geopolitical tension – and in some cases conflict.

The Complex Strategic Environment

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has trampled fundamental principles which have made the world safer since World War II.
Russia has called sanctions an act of war, attacked nuclear power plants, and inflicted terrible injury and death on civilians.
They have gone as far as to issue threats of a nuclear response to international support for Ukraine.
The courageous resistance of the Ukrainian people, embodied by their President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has rallied the world to the cause of their freedom.
And Russia’s ruthlessness has only served to strengthen the resolve of our allies in Europe, the United States, and around the world.
But we know Russia is not without friends.
One of those friends is China.
China has failed in its special responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, while offering Russia relief from sanctions.
Just weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, China signed a ‘no limits’ friendship with Moscow.
There are many reasons to be concerned about such a friendship, particularly in light of China’s growing assertiveness in our region.
Both at home and in its international posture, the China of Xi Jinping has demonstrated a harsher authoritarianism and more strident nationalism.
This has manifested itself most recently in a takeover of Hong Kong, repression of human rights in China and the militarisation of the South China Sea.
More broadly speaking, Australia still faces threats such as foreign interference, espionage, terrorism, organised crime, and cyber-attacks – all while the world continues to grapple with the pandemic.
These vulnerabilities are often exploited by autocratic countries seeking to increase their power.

Not all threats are external. As ASIO Director General Mike Burgess points out, ideologically motivated extremism is on the rise in Australia, and now accounts for 50 per cent of ASIO priority domestic counter-terrorism caseload.
And amid it all, the clock keeps ticking relentlessly on climate change – a threat with serious direct implications for the security and wellbeing of Australians and our region.

A Strong Australian Defence Force

It is more important than ever that we chart a clear, long-term course for Australia that can sustain maximum bipartisan consensus.
We need to look to the next thirty years, not just the next three.
Our national security interests should transcend the partisan divide.
The brave men and women who serve in our Defence Force, our intelligence and law enforcement agencies deserve that stability and clarity from their government.
That extends to how we equip and resource our military.
A defining characteristic of this Liberal Government is an enduring focus on announcements, but not on the delivery of them.
In the 2009 Defense White Paper the Rudd Government outlined the need to change the force structure of the ADF to enhance our nation’s naval capabilities.
Yet here we are, nearly a decade after the Liberal Party was elected and still no actual progress.
Billions of dollars wasted on the French contract.
After a production line of six defence ministers in this Government - and two goes at landing on a model - we now have no contract for any submarine, and a looming submarine-shaped capability gap.
And it leaves the next government with another repair job: healing the wounds inflicted on the Australia-France relationship. Not forgetting, of course, the earlier damage to the relationship with our other close partner Japan.
The entire episode is the greatest defence procurement disaster we have seen in this country.
Unfortunately, it’s not the only procurement fumble.
The Future Frigates are $15 billion over budget and delayed into the next decade. There is now concern they might be too heavy and too slow.
There are now 30 major defence projects that are running a total of 79 years late. 17 major projects are running $4.3 billion over budget.
And some projects that have been completed don’t deliver what taxpayers paid for - such as helicopters that can’t shoot their weapons.
The 2020 Strategic Update announced traditional ten-year warning times no longer apply, yet the acquisition of new submarines has been pushed out up to two decades.
Labor offered bipartisan support for the Update and the budget expenditure associated with it, including $270 billion of capability acquisition.
We have also offered support for the nuclear-powered submarines.
We recognise this will mean Defence budgets beyond the 2 per cent benchmark.
Let me be clear: Labor will ensure that Defence has the resources it needs to defend Australia and deter potential aggressors.
It is unwise to discuss specific defence acquisitions from Opposition where we do not have the benefit of detailed advice from all the experts. I won’t try doing this today.
What I can say is that it will be incumbent on us to deliver a frank assessment of our capabilities and pipeline on arrival in government. 
For instance, we will consider whether tomahawk missiles can be fitted to the Collins Class submarines.
We will review progress of the Frigates project, and explore whether our naval power could be bolstered through upgraded weapons on the Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels or through additional Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyers.
We would also work with Defence and those experts who have identified the need for Government to quickly increase Australia’s strike capabilities.
We will deepen our regional defence cooperation with close partners – including Japan, India, Singapore and others – to bolster our joint capabilities, shape our strategic environment and uphold the rules of the road.
And Labor will plan for how we address submarine capability in the period until we receive the nuclear-powered submarines.
The Morrison Government has been dropping hints about submarines, but offered no clarity.
This week also saw an announcement about an announcement, with the Government promising that it would announce the location of a new submarine base in Australia in 2023.
No doubt this is driven by an election timetable rather than a full analysis of our overall force posture which has not been done since Labor was last in power.
Labor has already committed to a Defence Force Posture Review to consider our long-term posture, particularly our strategically crucial northern and western approaches. In government, this Review will provide a more reliable basis for decisions on the final location of a new submarine base.

Prioritising Cyber Security

I turn now to cyber security.
When I was first elected to parliament in 1996, Google hadn’t even launched, let alone become a verb.
Fax machines were a main form of interaction.
Technology has fundamentally, irreversibly changed the way we work, the way we communicate, the way we shop and bank and learn.
As a consequence, cyber attacks represent a threat to our way of life.
Australia has already been the target of state-sponsored cyber attacks, aimed at political parties, government departments, universities and corporations.
These are attempts to destabilise the foundations of our society, our democracy…
…but they are also attempts to hurt everyday people – to raid bank accounts, steal identities, rip-off small businesses and abuse private information.
Cybercrime costs the Australian economy $33 billion per year.
Our security agencies are very good at what they do in this space, but true national cyber resilience is a whole-of-nation endeavour.
It’s not just about who has the best offensive cyber tools, it’s about building systemic resilience across public, private and civil organisations
It’s also about recognising that sovereign, domestic data security is a modern foundation of national security.
And, with nearly every one of us carrying precious data around in our pockets, it’s about recognising that the storage of our data – much of which is offshore - has implications for our sovereignty and security.
For some types of data, appropriately securing it may require mandating that it be kept in Australia.
Lifting cyber resilience across the nation, across public, private and civil systems requires political leadership.
That’s why I kept a dedicated role for cyber security in our shadow ministry, that Tim Watts has performed since 2019.
Cyber security needs to be someone’s day job, not the last item on another Minister’s to do list.

Shoring up Our Economy 

Of course, our ability to execute on any of the priorities I’ve spoken about will be enhanced with a stronger, more secure economy at home.
Labor’s plan to build back stronger draws on the lessons of the pandemic – namely that the end of a global supply chain is a precarious place to be.
Economic resilience is at the core of Labor’s Future Made in Australia plan.
Building up our capacity for making things here leaves us less vulnerable to economic coercion and global shocks. By ensuring we make more of what we strategically need, the less we are hostage to global supply chains
I’ve already announced several elements of this plan, including its centrepiece: our National Reconstruction Fund.
We have also released our Defence Industry Development Plan which will sustain defence supply chains, develop our sovereign defence industry and encourage innovative in both defence and wider industry.
Labor’s plan for a National Strategic Fleet of Australian flagged vessels will underpin security of supply for critical commodities like fuel.
Labor will elevate trade diversification. Government needs to focus not just on new markets for our existing exports, but also work alongside business and unions to support the development of the future products and services Australia will sell to the world.

Strengthening Our Communities and Institutions

Of course, nation-building is about more than economic strength. Democratic strength is also critical to our long-term stability and security.
Our democracy faces new challenges from foreign interference and disinformation.
At home, right-wing extremism is on the rise fueled by a mixture of social isolation and online echo chambers.
Responding to this trend requires building the legitimacy and trust in our democratic institutions.
Unfortunately, the Morrison Government has waged a prolonged assault on accountability, dragging Australia down to its lowest level on record in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
The doctrine of ministerial responsibility has been comprehensively trashed.
And the Prime Minister has reneged on his promise of a national anti-corruption commission. I will deliver one.
It is not just our institutions that matter, social cohesion too will be vital to an effective response to these threats.
In government, Labor will draw on our long tradition of support for multiculturalism and look to unite the country, not divide it.
We will do this because it is right, and because inclusion is a vital part of our democratic strength.

Stronger Partnerships Around the World

Labor has always understood the need to work with others around the globe to support our security and economic strength, and to shape the world for the better.
Labor also understands creating stronger global partnerships requires rebuilding our diplomatic capability, including development assistance.
Of course, our longstanding alliance with the United States is a central pillar of our foreign policy.
A Labor Government will be an energetic and trusted alliance partner.
This is why we give strong support to AUKUS and why we will make sure the Quad delivers in our region.
Penny Wong and I were recently able to underline this in person to Quad Foreign Ministers.
We understand that such partnerships are crucial to Australia’s interests, which is why we will strengthen our political, economic and military ties with India and Japan, as well as with regional partners such as Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam.
We are committed to elevating our engagement with the countries of Southeast Asia and ASEAN – building on our legacy as the Party that secured Australia as ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974.
Enhancing our bilateral relationships with Indonesia and India will be a priority.
We will work with Jakarta to deliver a $200m climate and infrastructure partnership and deliver the economic expansion that the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement promised but has not yet delivered.
We also see New Zealand as a central partner in this regional effort – but for too long Canberra has preferred to talk at Wellington rather than realising the potential of our shared experiences.
Our regional engagement is also critical to how we manage the China relationship.
Our approach to the China relationship will determined by our interests and values: a commitment to international law, rules-based trade, and respect for human rights, and bolstered by our regional partnerships and alliances.
Labor’s position on current questions of national security is clear and established.
The search for false distinctions between the Government and Opposition on China is not in Australia’s national interest, as both current and former leaders of our security and intelligence agencies as stated so clearly.
We have the same position on the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and human rights abuses against Uighurs and Tibetans.
I was a member of the Gillard Government that brought US Marines to Darwin. And as Shadow Infrastructure Minister I opposed the sale of the Port of Darwin.

Responding to Climate Change

One area where Labor and the Coalition diverge significantly is climate change.
Our allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, understand that the global climate emergency is a direct threat to global security.
Without meaningful action, climate change will create major population displacement, drive a surge in refugees, and create new grounds for conflict over ever scarcer clean water and fertile land.
Too many Australians have firsthand knowledge of the brutality of bushfires, drought and flood.
Climate change is here now.
I have announced a comprehensive plan on climate change. As part of this, on coming to government, I will ask the Director General of National Intelligence and the Secretary of the Defence Department to undertake a risk assessment of the implications of climate change for national security.
Instead of playing a positive role in the global effort to combat climate change, Australia is seen as one of the recalcitrant nations holding back action.
This undermines our status and presence in the region.
Our bid to host a future Conference of the Parties in Australia with our Pacific partners would assist our regional standing and credibility as a partner in the Pacific.


To serve as Prime Minister of Australia is a rare privilege. If successful I am determined to restore a greater sense of responsibility to the Office of Prime Minister
A deeper respect for the Australian people and for the integrity of our democracy.
Real accountability – and delivery.
I will lead a government that keeps its promises. I will be determined to bring the country together rather than divide it.
Our national security is a national asset which must be nurtured. Strengthening it means:

  • Investing in our ADF and our defence capability
  • Supporting our security agencies
  • Deepening our strategic partnerships in the region and the world.

A Labor Government will always hold these as priorities.
Beyond this, investing in cybersecurity, supporting more self-reliance and acting on climate change will strengthen our nation and build shared prosperity.
We will be a government in service of Australia’s enduring values: freedom, fairness, democracy and a multicultural society that enriches us all. 
This is my vision, my commitment.
An Australia stronger in the world.
An Australia united at home.
A resilient, self-reliant and secure Australia.

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Electorate Office

334a Marrickville Rd
Marrickville NSW 2204

Phone: 02 9564 3588

Parliament House Office

Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Phone: 02 6277 7700

Phone: (02) 9564 3588
Fax: (02) 9564 1734

We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which our offices stand and we pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the sorrow of the Stolen Generations and the impacts of colonisation on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We also recognise the resilience, strength and pride of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

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