Australia to spend almost $1 billion to boost cyber security

Scott Morrison to outline bolstered defence spending

Scott Morrison to outline bolstered defence spending Politics Sco Mo goes ballistic Australia splashes out on new weapons

Morrison called the Indo-Pacific "the epicenter of rising strategic competition".

Senator Reynolds said the package was part of an overall $15 billion spend on cyber and information warfare capabilities over the next decade, to be outlined in Defence's upcoming 2020 Force Structure Plan.

A big chunk of the money will go towards purchasing long-range maritime missiles and land strike capabilities as tensions between China and India escalate.

The package will include A$470 million to hire an extra 500 security experts in the Australian Signals Directorate, the country's cyber intelligence agency.

"We're about having the freedom to live our lives as we choose - in an open and democratic society, without coercion or fear". The weapon is a significant upgrade from Australia's current AGM-84 air-launched Harpoon anti-ship missile, which was introduced in the early 1980s.

"The simple truth is this: Even as we stare down the COVID pandemic at home, we need to also prepare for a post-COVID world that is poorer, that is more unsafe, and that is more disorderly", he said.

In a seeming reference to recent tensions with Beijing, Morrison said in the speech that "coercive activities are rife" and "disinformation and foreign interference have been enabled by new and emerging technologies".

In his remarks Morrison noted the "fractious" ties between China and the United States "as they compete for political, economic and technological supremacy".

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will reveal details of the military package on Wednesday
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will reveal details of the military package on Wednesday

In a sign that Morrison's defense and intelligence network sees the threat of actual military engagement with an enemy in its region growing, Australia will alter the focus of its 2016 Defence White Paper.

Mr Morrison will highlight the important role Australia and other countries such as Japan, India and South Korea can play in maintaining security in the region at a time when the USA and China are at odds.

"China is the unspoken elephant in the room", said Sam Roggeveen, director of the Sydney-based Lowy Institute's International Security Program. Beijing denies that it was responsible for the attack.

Australia's government is committing to spending two per cent of GDP on defence - as US President Donald Trump has angrily demanded of allies - and spending nearly 40 per cent more over the last defence review in 2016.

According to the country's Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds, the funding is part of a $10bn investment in cyber warfare capabilities and part of plan that was expedited following a cyberattack on Australia's parliament and three of the country's largest political parties a year ago.

With rising Australia-China tensions, the decision to boost defence spending is seen as Canberra's intention to be more assertive with Beijing and less reliant over the United States.

China has suspended beef imports from four of Australia's largest meat processors and imposed hefty tariffs on barley, although both sides say that is unrelated to the latest spat.

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