Australia’s defence minister told the country to “prepare for war” in the run-up to this week’s general election, capping what analysts have called a “khaki campaign” by Scott Morrison’s rightwing government.
To counter what it sees as a threat from China, Morrison’s Coalition government has in recent years sealed the Aukus security pact with the US and UK and promised billions of dollars of defence and cyber security spending.
With Labor party leader Anthony Albanese leading in the polls, the election on Saturday is seen internationally as an opportunity for a potential reset of Australia’s highly assertive approach to Indo-Pacific security and China’s rise.
Labor has pledged to spend A$525mn (US$370mn) more in overseas aid in the Pacific over the next four years, but analysts do not expect it to pursue significant changes in policy toward the region.
Lisa Curtis, head of the Indo-Pacific programme at the Center for a New American Security, said: “While some conservative Australian groups may try to scare Australian voters into equating a vote for Labor as a vote for a softer China policy, I don’t think that is necessarily going to be the case.”
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