Australia will spend $580m to upgrade four military bases in its north and expand war games with the United States, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to announce on Wednesday, according to extracts of the announcement seen by the Reuters news agency.
An airstrip in the Northern Territory will be lengthened to support larger aircraft, firing ranges overhauled and new training facilities set up for defence personnel and US marines.
“Working with the United States, our allies and Indo-Pacific neighbours, we will continue to advance Australia’s interests by investing in the Australian Defence Force,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison will say.
“Our focus is on pursuing peace, stability and a free and open Indo-Pacific, with a world order that favours freedom.”
The military upgrades will begin this year and be completed by 2026.
The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The US embassy in Canberra also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Australia and the United States hold biennial war games, the next of which is scheduled to begin in August.
Australia is also expected to join a multi-nation military drill involving the US, UK, Japan, India and a host of other countries.
‘Brace for war’
Typically, more than 30,000 troops participate in the exercises off Australia’s east coast.
One of Australia’s most senior security officials earlier this week said liberal democracies must brace for war.
Home Affairs Department Secretary Mike Pezzullo did not specify the catalyst for his warning but it follows a sharp deterioration in Australia’s relationship with China and a rise in regional tensions over Taiwan.
Relations between Australia and its largest trading partner have been in free-fall for a year after the government called for an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus, which first emerged in late 2019.
Beijing has since inflicted a range of trade reprisals, including imposing crippling tariffs on Australian barley and wine and blocking coal shipments.
Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday said a conflict between China and Taiwan “should not be discounted”.
Australia and China have also clashed over Hong Kong, with Canberra expressing opposition to the national security law China imposed on the former British colony.
Last year, Morrison suspended the country’s extradition agreement with Hong Kong and extended visas for an estimated 10,000 Hong Kong people already in Australia because of concerns about the impact of the law.
It also cautioned Australian citizens that they “may be at increased risk of detention on vaguely defined national security grounds”
Most recently, Australia’s federal government cancelled two deals between Victoria state and China on the Belt and Road Initiative, citing national security concerns.
The Chinese embassy condemned the move by Foreign Minister Marise Payne to veto the two agreements signed by Victoria state as “provocative” and said it would further damage ties with Australia.