National Security College Head urges security rethink

16 March 2015

The new head of the ANU National Security College, Professor Rory Medcalf, has delivered a wide-ranging speech which urged greater political and community unity to help Australia face its mounting security challenges.

The speech, Towards a new Australian security, is the first from Professor Medcalf since he became head of the National Security College in January.

He said Australia faces an era of change, uncertainty and fragility, with an expanding horizon of risk.

“Like it or not, devoting substantial resources to national security, broadly-defined, will need to be an accepted part of the Australian policy landscape for as far ahead as we can see,” he said.

He called for a greater commitment to political bipartisanship over defence and security issues, including debates about defence capabilities such as the new submarine fleet.

“There is a hidden fragility, a potential fragmentation of public opinion and political views, across much of the national security, defence and foreign policy agenda – for instance on the best ways to respond to terrorism or to strategic change in Asia,” he said.

“What we cannot afford is any further politicisation of the national security debate – not just on the part of the Government of the day, but by any side.

“Thus, for instance, the acquisition of the next submarine, and for that matter the one after that, needs to based coldly on ensuring the best capability and our ability to sustain it, as well as cost.“

Professor Medcalf said cyber security was a growing issue, and he suggested the government look at setting up a ready reserve of cyber experts who could be called upon to help if needed.

“A national cyber security reserve, involving creative work arrangements and flexible exchanges with private industry, would transform traditional notions of what soldiering is about, and what new generations with new skills can do for their country,” he said.

Professor Medcalf's full speech can be viewed here.