I’m here for an argument: Why bipartisanship on security makes Australia less safe

Australia’s politicians are expected to treat issues of national security and foreign and defence policy in a ‘bipartisan’ fashion. Doing so is believed to create good policy, ensure national unity and protect the military. Polling for this report by The Australia Institute shows 71% of Australians agree that ‘bipartisanship is generally a good thing’. Yet bipartisanship has costs. In this talk, Dr Andrew Carr will launch his new report on the perils of Bipartisanship. Dr Carr argues that, as it currently operates Bipartisanship in Australia weakens the quality of national policy, reduces accountability, lowers public engagement, and risks estrangement between the military and civil leadership. The demand for bipartisanship, which comes from the public, military, media and academics is therefore putting Australia at risk. Given the growing range of problems in Australia’s security environment, politicians should treat security policy as they do economic or social policy and be willing to openly argue. Only by using the full capabilities of our adversarial and democratic political structure will Australia have both the flexibility and resilience needed to find our way in Asia’s troubled security environment.

Andrew Carr is a Senior Lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. His research interests include Australian foreign and defence policy, middle powers and Asia-Pacific security. His recent books are Winning the Peace: Australia’s campaign to change the Asia-Pacific (MUP, 2015) and Asia-Pacific Security: An Introduction (Georgetown University Press, 2016).

Dr Carr is the editor of the Centre of Gravity policy paper series and a frequent media commentator for both Australian and Asia-Pacific press.

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