Statements of intent: the politicisation of Australia's strategic edge in the era of defence self-reliance

John Hardy

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    The notion of using technology to offset demographic and economic limitations on Australia's military emerged in the early 1970s alongside the concept of defence selfreliance. It began as a means to bolster Australia's credibility as a regional security partner as US and British presence in Southeast Asia waned. By the twenty-first century it became a recurring policy concept and featured in public statements and diplomatic signals at the highest levels of government. Although the need for an 'edge' in military capability was articulated consistently in policy and political statements, the meaning of the concept changed over time. This evolution provides insight into key strategic policy decisions and offer lessons for scholars, policymakers and analysts alike, but is yet to be examined directly. This study traces transformations of the strategic edge concept from its emergence in the 1970s through to the twenty-first century. It conducts a comparative analysis of publicly-released policy documents and archival records of speeches made by Prime Ministers and Ministers for Defence in order to identify the ways in which the concept evolved and how transformations were represented in political statements. The paper finds that primary drivers of change related to political needs rather than internally-consistent policy impetus. Politicians have utilised the strategic edge concept in defence debates to reflect and often legitimate political goals relating to: changing policy contexts, particularly the scope of Australia's strategic ambitions; other strategic concepts, such as ideas about force posturing and the way technology should be used to enhance military capability; and different communication needs, often the need to signal specific audiences in order to facilitate other policy objectives. This politicisation of the edge highlights the need for further scrutiny of ideas which inform the interpretation of policy challenges and solutions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    EventAustralian Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2013 (APSA) - Perth Australia
    Duration: 1 Jan 2013 → …


    ConferenceAustralian Political Studies Association Annual Conference 2013 (APSA)
    Period1/01/13 → …


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