Earth & Conservation

How Powerful Is Australia?

Australia may have the largest military in Oceania, but how does it measure up with the world at large? Is the nation a global superpower?

A Growing Defense Budget

Last May, the Australian government released its 2014-15 federal budget, including a raise in defense spending. Overall, defense budget would increase by 2.3 billion Australian dollars ($1.9 billion) to A$29.3 billion. Prime Minister Tony Abbott's administration is on track to boost the defense budget to 2 percent of Australia's GDP over the next 10 years. The budget also showed that the Australian Navy, the largest fleet in Oceania, would receive the smallest amount of funding (compared to the other branches of the military) and several naval vessels would be taken out of commission.

Claiming a Stake in the Fight Against ISS

In September, as the international community joined in the fight against the Islamic State, Abbott offered Australian military support. In a speech, Abbott positioned Australia as a key world power in this ongoing combat, saying, "When Australia is called upon to shoulder our fair share of the world's burdens, we rally to the cause. We always have and as far as I'm concerned we always will." The Australian Air Force would provide weapons, military equipment, military advisers, and possibly Royal Australian Air Force Super Hornets. At the time, he estimated that this support would cost A$250 million every six months.

Low Approval Rating Forces Cabinet Changes

As of now, Abbott's policies do not seem to be gaining public favor. On top of a weak economy and various cabinet blunders, Abbott's approval ratings hit an all-time low in December, forcing him to make changes within his administration. Among the changes, Defense Minister David Johnston was forced to resign after making disparaging remarks over ASC, a government-owned ship producer. There's much speculation that Australia will now outsource its submarine construction program.

Learn More:
Australian Minister for Defence – Budget 2013-14: Defence Budget Overview (via Ministry of Defence)
"The 2013 Defence White Paper (the White Paper) addresses the range of significant international and domestic developments which influence Australia's national security and defence settings, including their impact on force posture, future force structure and the Defence budget."

World GDP Ranking: Data and Charts (via Knoema)

Minerals Council of Australia (via Minerals Council of Australia)
"Joint parliamentary inquiry into the role of the private sector in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty in the Indo-Pacific region."

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (via Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
"Twenty-eight per cent of Australia's population was born overseas and more than 40 per cent are of mixed cultural origin. One in 10 Australians speak an Asian language at home and almost 1.3 million speak a European language other than English."

Will the Land Down Under Pick the United States or China? (via Foreign Affairs)

Australian Military to Boost Air Power to Focus on Indo-Pacific (via Reuters)