Edited by Peter Dean, Brendan Taylor, Stephan Frühling
Published by Melbourne University Press www.mup.com.au
RRP $49.99 in paperback ISBN: 9780522866070
I thought that Gareth Evan’s assessment of this book was a big call for a small tome – “This timely and comprehensive volume leaves future Australian policy-makers with few excuses for getting things wrong” – but in fact this small but dense book does pack in a lot of excellent, well-researched yet succinct papers. Beyond the three editors, the contributors are a veritable who’s who of the roll call of defence and strategic analysts in Australia – names such as Richard Brabin-Smith, Paul Dibb and Mark Thomson will resonate with many.
The book follows in the footsteps of the ANU’s T B Millar who, fifty years ago, penned a seminal book on Australian defence policy in the lead up to the Vietnam War. This new book brings together leading experts to examine the domestic and international context of Australia’s defence policy, Australian strategy and the size and state of our armed forces.
It’s concise, easy to read and it pulls no punches: Mark Thomson, for example, writes about the relationship between the Department of Defence and the Minister (of which there has been many – 10 in 19 years since the election of the Howard Government). He describes the rocky tenure of Stephen Smith (Defence Minister from 14 Sept 2010 to 18 Sept 2013), saying that with growing distrust comes a tendency to refer ever more minor matters upwards for ministerial approval.
If I was a Minister new to the portfolio or ministerial staff new to the portfolio, I’d slip this in my pocket and read it at every available opportunity. It would be beside my bed or downloaded as an ebook on my iPad. It’s the best crib available.