Australia 'facing threat of war with China within three years'
Australians are being warned today they face the threat of war with China within three years, but the country is unprepared for any conflict with the rising Asian superpower.
A panel of national security experts assembled by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age has warned war could come as early as 2026, with a Chinese invasion of Taiwan a major potential flashpoint.
The experts believe the federal government's advice that Australia has less than 10 years' of warning of conflict needs revising.
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Their report "Red Alert" is a big wake-up call for Australia's armed forces and the nation as a whole, warning the nation is unprepared.
The three-part subscriber series comes at arguably the most significant moment in Australian defence policy since World War II, with the federal government set to release its response to the defence strategic review as well as reveal the type of submarine technology it will acquire under the AUKUS pact.
The five respected experts – former senior Defence Department official Peter Jennings, Macquarie University senior lecturer in strategic studies and criminology Lavina Lee, former chief scientist of Australia Alan Finkel, National Institute of Strategic Resilience chair Lesley Seebeck and retired Army major general Mick Ryan – all met in person over nearly two days to examine a range of scenarios and to determine whether Australia is ready for war.
With the world's ammunition stocks and military hardware fast being consumed by war in Ukraine, the panel warned that an opportunistic grab for Taiwan could result in 200,000 US troops pouring into Australia.
This could see Chinese missiles attacking Australians military facilities and cyber attacks on critical infrastructure.
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The experts warn there is an "absence of urgency" about what measures need to be taken now.
"The need to dramatically strengthen our military and national security capabilities is urgent, but Australia is unprepared," the report said.
"Most important of all is a psychological shift. Urgency must replace complacency. The recent decades of tranquillity were not the norm in human affairs, but an aberration. Australia's holiday from history is over."
The experts warn China President Xi Jinping's rapid buildup of his nation's military must be taken seriously.
"China has growing capability and sense of entitlement. The balance of military power is moving in China's favour."
READ MORE: Australian military forces set for overhaul after defence review
And Xi is committed to reuniting the self-governing territory with the mainland and has not ruled out force to fulfill that goal.
Federal front bencher Bill Shorten told Today this morning national security was the government's top priority but sought a balanced relationship with China.
"We have to work with China, we've always had to maintain our own national security and our own defence interests," he said.
"People want to hear this morning is the government is doing everything we can in defence and national security.
"Are we also trying to maintain constructive bilateral relations with China? Yes. We'll engage where we can, but disagree where we must."
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