Australian army chief says climate change will impact miltary role | Asia Pacific

Australian army chief says climate change will impact miltary role

Australian army chief says climate change will impact miltary role

Updated 20 February 2014, 12:30 AEST

Just days after US Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed climate change to be a 'weapon of mass destruction,' Australia's Army Chief says it's the great challenge of our time.

Lieutenant-General David Morrison says climate change needs to be factored into future plans for the military .. in a speech about the challenges facing the army in coming decades.

Correspondent: Karon Snowdon

Speakers: Lieutenant General David Morrison, Australia's Chief of Army; James Brown, Military Fellow at the Lowy Institute

SNOWDON: The new-ish Australian government has brought forward the delivery of a new defence white paper to next year. That's just 18 months - not the usual five years after the last one in 2013.

Army Chief Lieutenant General David Morrison says this is a most challenging period for a major policy document, as the world transitions to the Indo-Asian Pacific century.

He says the serious implications of climate change will be factored in.

MORRISON: You have to look at the region with a number of low-lying islands to I think be confident in drawing conclusions that there will be a role for the military as a result. I think that the most likely role for the military however will be in providing immediate assistance for humanitarian and disaster relief.

SNOWDON: Addressing the Lowy Institute in Sydney and responding to a question on Indonesia, Lieutenant General Morrison said he sees no military threat to Australia within the region in the foreseeable future.

MORRISON: While of course there are concerns on the part of the Indonesian government at the moment in terms of their relationships with Australia, my sense is that cool heads on both sides who see the importance of both fulfilling national objectives but also meeting international obligations will always predominate.

SNOWDON: The government has committed to boost defence spending over the next decade to 2 per cent of GDP, needing an extra 35 billion dollars.

It's also promised a budget surplus making its target for defence difficult to achieve says James Brown, Military Fellow at the Lowy Institute.

BROWN: Funding the defence force as the government has promised is going to be very tough and if I had to wage money I don't think we'll actually see 2 per cent eventuate in the next four years.

SNOWDON: Does that weaken Australia?

BROWN: It makes the challenge of defending Australia greater, it means we need to think a lot smarter about how we structure our military appropriately.

SNOWDON: And do you agree with more emphasis if you like on maritime capability across the defence forces?

BROWN: Absolutely, when you look at what's happening in Asia, particularly in places like the South China Sea, when you look at the kind of forces that our neighbours are developing, all the action in the next 20 years seems to be happening at sea. So the fact that we're developing an amphibious force is a good solution and a lot of other countries in the region are following our lead on that as well.

SNOWDON: Lieutenant General Morrison said significant changes since the challenge of East Timor exposed army deficiencies mean the joint Australian defence forces are in good shape now.

The lessons learnt in Afghanistan have been important.

MORRISON: And indeed I think our army's operations in Uruzghan province can accurately be described as intelligence led, which is the ideal. It is an absolute lynch pin to temporary military operations.

SNOWDON: He says he will leave the role as Army Chief in a few months knowing he will be most remembered for his handling of entrenched misogyny and sexual harassment scandals in the army.

The General's YouTube message insisting soldiers who can't handle cultural change and female equality should get out received much praise.

MORRISON: My tenure will probably be most remembered for three minutes of video, which gained considerable public notoriety through the pervasiveness of social media. It is somewhat surreal to have a three-and-a-half decade career crystalised to such a sharp point, but I am actually very proud that our army and the changes that we are now undertaking with regard to culture are being seen in such a positive light, not just by countries other than Australia, but most importantly from within our own society.

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