Please enable javascript to access the full functionality of this site

Opinion standard banner

Why we need a national security adviser

By Danielle Cave

On 16 December the Canberra Times published a short version of Danielle Cave's article that argues Australia needs a national security adviser. The long version of the article was then published on the ASPI Strategist on 18 December and is available here:

The review of Australia’s intelligence community that’s now underway—as long as it is delivered with ambition so it remains relevant years from now—is one tool that will help prepare the government to confront the speed of global change. In the current environment, maintaining a strategic and technological edge over our adversaries, remaining a sought-after and valuable partner that can keep pace with bigger and better-resourced intelligence communities, and attracting and retaining top workforce talent (for which industry is also fiercely competing) will continue to become harder.

Both the domestic and international stakes are higher for this intelligence review than the terms of reference let on, so the review’s output should be watched closely. But it likely won’t look at a gap in Australia’s security architecture that has been filled in almost all counterpart nations—a dedicated and autonomous national security adviser (NSA). An Australian NSA would report to the prime minister and speak publicly with a trusted voice both internationally and domestically on Australia’s most pressing interests and priorities.

Without such a position, Australia is missing out on a seat at the table at key global meetings, which provide the best opportunities to exercise the kind of influence we want, need and deserve. What’s more, the lack of an NSA means the government lacks an authoritative representative who can help set the tone and focus of our strategic communications across all international security issues.

Most countries—including our most important partners—have an NSA. These roles are as senior as it gets, often equivalent to a department head or sometimes even a minister. NSAs have the ears of their leaders, often travel with them and are always available for briefings and policy advice. Critically, most NSAs also maintain their own remits of policy work and their own busy travel schedules separate from their presidents or prime ministers.

On 20 December former Director-General of ASIS Paul Symon responded with an article on the ASPI Strategist titled 'Yes, Australia does need a national security adviser.' Head of the ANU National Security College also joined the debate in the Australian Financial Review on 27 December.

Originally published by: Canberra Times - Why we need a national security advisor on 11 Apr 2024