1998 - Coalition
1998 Coalition Defence Statement – Building Combat Capability
The Coalition’s Defence policies were built around four key themes: building a more capable Defence force, improving Defence management by cutting unnecessary administration and duplication, revitalising key alliance relationships with an emphasis on high technology and expanding defence links with the Asia–Pacific, and making a major effort to support Defence personnel and build stronger links with the Australian community.
Maintaining a ‘knowledge edge’ was considered critical for the future of the Defence Force. The Coalition committed to implementing a series of initiatives to ensure Defence receives maximum value from the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) Initiative, through equipment acquisition and development, training, doctrine development and alliance relations. DSTO would receive $10 million annually to undertake research and technology development in fields related to RMA and military cooperation with US Army labs working on the RMA.
The Coalition highlighted the delivery of important capabilities in coming years, particularly the Collins-class submarines, which would be introduced into full operation service. In the next three years, Defence would spend between $10–11 billion acquiring new equipment and continuing existing projects. A number of important projects would be introduced for approval, including Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft, reconnaissance and fire support helicopters for Army, upgrading weapons systems and sensors for the Guided Missile Frigates and ANZAC frigates, upgrading the F/A-18 Hornet, acquiring new light tactical aircraft and bringing into service the modified and refurbished amphibious transport.
The Coalition committed to finding ways in which to speed up the acquisition process, and improve project management. In particular, the Coalition stressed the importance of ensuring Australia’s capacity to manage the acquisition of software and system integration kept up with technological change. At the same time, it was considered necessary to maintain high levels of transparency and accountability of the current system.
According to the Coalition, Australia’s alliance relationship with the US remained a key factor for stability, relevant to meet both Australia and America’s security needs. The Coalition committed to a new initiative that would broaden the two countries’ contact by increasing training and education opportunities for defence and civilian personnel.
The Coalition purported that Australia cannot be safe within an insecure region; therefore it was important to increase Defence’s resources to regional cooperation. This would occur through an increased level of Defence representation at Australian diplomatic postings, building a stronger relationship with Southeast Asian countries and a measured expansion of defence contact with North Asia.
The Coalition committed to continuing the international effort to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Asia–Pacific region. This included the acquisition of anti-chemical and biological weapons equipment and protective gear and the sponsoring of a major Asia–Pacific meeting of defence officials.
Personnel commitments included increased pay, a new career management system, more housing in remote and regional areas, and a review of the employment of women in the ADF. The Coalition focused on greater ties with Defence industry, including the broadening and acceleration of the Commercial Support Program through market testing. It also promised to implement the Cadet Training Improvement Initiative, establish a new Institute of Strategic Policy and continue to monitor the issue of military honours.
1998 Coalition Defence Statement – Veteran’s Affairs, Saluting Their Service
In order to commemorate the achievements of Australia’s veterans, the Coalition would commission the production of a documentary series called ‘Australians at War’, allocate $1 million over four years to the Regional War Memorials Programme to enable communities to restore, renovate or create memorials, fund the construction of the new ANZAC memorial at Gallipoli, provide $100,000 towards the construction of a Memorial to Bomber Command at the Australian War Memorial and would sponsor the pilgrimages to Sandakan and Korea by representative veteran groups. In addition, the Coalition committed to allocate $11.9 million from the Federation Fund for the construction of ANZAC Hall at the Australian War Memorial.
The Coalition committed to a rapid response following the validation of findings from the Vietnam Veterans Health Study, and would also give priority to the completion of the Korean Veterans Nominal Roll and Mortality Study. It committed to increase funding for medication awareness programmes, improve the quality of and access to hospital and health services for veterans and war widows by implementing the findings of the Review of the Repatriation Private Patient Scheme, introduce a range of health promotion and preventive care programmes, and give priority to programmes designed to assist elderly veterans who live independently.
The Coalition stated it would give high priority to the implementation of electronic lodgement of veterans’ claims, evaluate the success of the Claims Assistance Grant Scheme and the Training & Information Programme, with the view to implement new arrangements, and would implement the findings of the review of the Repatriation Medical Authority.
1998 Coalition Foreign Affairs Statement – Advancing Australia's Interests
The Coalition showed its intent to pursue policies that enhance Australia’s economic and security interests by pressing for more open markets for Australia’s exports in order to make the economy more competitive. It pledged to promote an effective response to Asia’s financial crisis through APEC, the World Bank and IMF, ensure Australia’s aid program addressed the severe economic and social impact of the East Asia financial crisis, and provide long-term support for governance through financial market reform and multilateral strategies for regional reform.
Recognising a complex security environment, the Coalition committed to building confidence in the Asia–Pacific through active diplomacy—including a bilateral approach to nuclear non-proliferation, participation in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the establishment of bilateral dialogues.
In Northeast Asia, the Coalition highlighted the importance of Australia’s engagement with Japan, particularly within international forums, the need to help China integrate with regional and multilateral forums, pledged to engage the Chinese government in a regular human rights dialogue, and build on economic liberalisation.
Due to ASEAN’s growing economic importance to Australia, the Coalition vowed to continue to explore initiatives that deepen Australia’s cooperation with Southeast Asian nations and pursue closer links between the ASEAN Free Trade Area. The Coalition pledged to assist the Indonesian government in rebuilding its economy after the economic crisis and supported a reduction in Indonesian armed forces, as well as a peaceful resolution in East Timor. It sought to maintain Australia’s bilateral partnership with Singapore, further trade liberalisation in Thailand, deepen links with Vietnam and move towards genuine dialogue and democratic reform in Burma.
Under the Closer Economic Relations Agreement, the Coalition aimed to pursue closer economic integration between Australia and New Zealand. It also remained committed to bilateral and multilateral engagement with the South Pacific, prioritising regional economic reforms, security, law enforcement and resource management, and in the allocation of development assistance. In South Asia, the Coalition stated that Australia would play a role in the evolution of regional bodies, including the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.
According to the Coalition, the US plays a vital role in underpinning security in the Asia–Pacific. It committed to fostering US engagement with the region, including active participation in regional institutions, and to continue to encourage the US on trade policy matters.
The Coalition looked to modernise Australia’s relations with the European Union, particularly in the UK, and vowed to strengthen relations with traditional migration source countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Acknowledging the significant export opportunities in Eastern Europe and Russia, the Coalition pledged to remain engaged with the region in line with Australia’s economic and security interests.
The Coalition also recognised the Middle East as a source of great economic potential for Australia, and committed to continuing to development trade opportunities, particularly with the Gulf States. Through diplomacy and development assistance, the Coalition committed to promote cohesive peace in the Israel–Palestine conflict, as well as to press Iraq to fulfil disarmament and post-Gulf War obligations. The Coalition committed to facilitate trade and business opportunities in Africa and Central and South America and develop a new policy framework for aid in Africa.
The Coalition strongly supported the future operations of the International Criminal Court and vowed to carry forward the Safer borders/Safer streets initiative. It emphasised that the current UN system could be more effective, and supported reform to the composition and work practices of the Security Council.
Under the Coalition, Australia’s aid program would focus on assisting developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development. This would be achieved through a focus on partnerships, responsiveness to urgent development needs and trends, practical approaches and greater targeting. Australia’s aid program would remain focused on the Asia–Pacific, with selective assistance in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The Coalition committed to pursue constructive and equitable measures to improve the global environment and encourage the sustainable use of natural resources.
In terms of consular protection, the Coalition pledged to overhaul the consular system through the expansion of the Honorary Council network and the exploration of additional consular sharing arrangements.
1998 Coalition National Security Statement – Immigration: Building on Integrity and Compassion
Due to pressures on Australia’s migration program, the Coalition stated it would administer an immigration program that does not discriminate, enjoys the confidence of the Australian community, serves national interests, and balances economic, social, environmental and international considerations.
The Coalition committed to administering an immigration program in an open and publicly accountable manner, and would ensure consultative mechanisms were strengthened. Migrants would be selected on an objective, case-by-case basis, and tough bona-fide measures would limit abuse of the program.
A Coalition government would examine the recommendations of a Commonwealth/state/territory working party—due to report in 1999—which was considering options to increase skilled migrant quotas in regional areas. Each year’s migration target would not be exceeded.
It committed to curb the number of visa applicants that abuse the review process by reintroducing legislation in the Senate to restrict access to judicial review in all but exceptional cases. In addition, the Coalition would reintroduce legislation to streamline the two-tier review process of non-refugee visa decisions.
Under the Coalition, parent migration would be capped at 2,500 and new measures would be introduced to prioritise parents supported by family members in Australia.
In the area of skilled migration, the Coalition committed to improve skills recognition and employment prospects information, give greater weight to bilingual and multilingual skills in the points test, establish other minimum thresholds to remove anomalies in the current points test and introduce factors more pertinent to gaining employment in Australia.
The Coalition reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining the refugee component of its immigration program, and would maintain the current definition of ‘refugee’. It stated it would request the UNHCR re-examine practices for female asylum-seekers, to ensure their claims are fairly and properly assessed.
Border control would be strengthened under the Coalition, including by strengthening provisions for revocation of visas obtained fraudulently, and it would ask the Council on Australian Citizenship to investigate options to allow the revocation, without time limitation, of future grants of citizenship based on false declarations.
Updated: 25 Jul 2018