war-threat-with-china-‘dramatic’

Suggestions that Australia could be at war with China within three years have been shot down by the government.

National security experts made the alarming claim in a report commissioned by the Nine Newspapers. The panel warned that Australia was not prepared for a conflict in its near future, but Government Services Minister Bill Shorten dismissed the report as “hot and fevered discussion”.

“I’m not going to start speculating or inflaming any war talk this morning over breakfast,” the Labor frontbencher told Nine.

“It’s important we stabilise our relationship with China.”

The panel of experts, including former chief scientist Alan Finkel and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Peter Jennings, warned that Australia as a nation was complacent about the threat of conflict in the region.

Official guidance from the Department of Defence is that Australia will have less than a decade to prepare for an outbreak of war.

An invasion of Taiwan, the experts said, would be the likely flashpoint.

A landmark review into Australia’s Defence Force by former chief of defence Sir Angus Houston and former Labor defence minister Stephen Smith was ordered by the government last year.

Commissioned and conducted over the past six months, the report will be used by the government to overhaul the ADF to counter China’s rapid military build-up in the Indo-Pacific.

It’s expected it will lay the foundation for a ramp up in Defence spending in the upcoming budget.

An unclassified version of the report is due for release within the coming weeks.

Mr Shorten said Australians should take comfort knowing “the government is doing everything (it) can in Defence and national security”.

Asked if he felt like the reporting was “hysterical”, the minister said he didn’t think the “dramatic headlines” were helpful.

“Are we also trying to maintain constructive bilateral relations with China? Yes. We’ll engage where we can but disagree where we must,” he said.

His comments came after former prime minister Scott Morrison sounded the alarm on Australia and its allies’ ability to stand up to China.

“The question is which, if any, countries in the region, on their own, would be able to resist a country with that military strength?” he told Sky News on Monday evening.

“There’s no country – I would argue almost on Earth – that could say they could other than the United States.

“I mean, that’s just the reality; we’re a country of just over 25 million people, their Defence budget is multiple, multiple, multiple times that of Australia.”

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