Abbott calls for defence spend boost
Former prime minister Tony Abbott has challenged Malcolm Turnbull to stick with plans to increase defence spending to two per cent of national income and buy new frigates and submarines.
Mr Abbott’s comments come amid speculation the government will release the long-awaited Defence white paper while parliament sits this week.
“No government can be economically responsible at the expense of national security,” Mr Abbott wrote in an opinion piece for The Australian.
The white paper should “confirm the Abbott government’s commitment to giving our armed forces global reach … and above all else the spending needed to sustain armed forces that can defend Australia”.
Defence spending in last year’s budget was $32 billion, or about 1.9 per cent of GDP.
Mr Abbott says tension in the South China Sea, the Middle East crisis and the growing threat of cyber warfare all point to the need for more defence spending.
The white paper is expected to outline how many new submarines will be ordered to replace the existing Collins class, but not who will supply them.
A competitive evaluation is under way involving Japan, Germany and France.
Mr Abbott said the decision on the next generation of submarines, as well as the future frigates, will be a “real test of the Turnbull government’s seriousness”.
The government has declined to confirm the release date for the white paper, which is a year overdue.
“Consistent with what the defence minister has said, the Defence white paper will be released in the first quarter of this year,” a spokeswoman for Mr Turnbull told AAP.