The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and escalated the risk to Australia from cyber attacks and disinformation a new report from the United States Studies Centre (USSC) warns. Multilateral partnerships to counter these risks while strengthening infrastructure, health systems and collective security in the Indo-Pacific top the list of recommendations to bolster resilience after the pandemic.
USSC CEO Professor Simon Jackman says, “The COVID-19 crisis alerted Australia to the breadth of our strategic vulnerabilities. Last week's announcement of Australia being hit with persistent, state-backed cyber intrusions is a vivid reminder of the many different ways states can project power and influence in the mid 21st century.
“This report highlights where our long and deep relationship with the United States - and regional partners - can be deployed or adapted to meet this broad range of challenges."
The new report, Bolstering Resilience in the Indo-Pacific: Policy options for AUSMIN after COVID-19, notes the top 10 recommendations for the Australia-United States relationship following the pandemic. Co-authored by USSC’s Director of Foreign Policy and Defence Ashley Townshend, Research Fellow Brendan Thomas-Noone, Research Associate Matilda Steward, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Claire McFarland and Perth USAsia Centre’s Research Director Jeffrey Wilson, the report forms a playbook for government to move quickly to mitigate risks and optimise outcomes.
“Australia has already seen coercive threats become reality. This report notes both how negative actions can be countered – but also how positive regional order-building results can and must be progressed, especially in health, development and connectivity” Townshend notes.
“The need for a multilateral, collaborative approach within the alliance in support of all of our regional partners is essential,” he says, “As we head into AUSMIN 2020, our agenda is clear: together we thrive, but this requires concrete action.”
Bolstering Resilience in the Indo-Pacific: Policy options for AUSMIN after COVID-19 is now available for download.
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Advance health, development and infrastructure goals
- Australia and the United States should intensify their existing partnership on strengthening health resilience in the Pacific.
- Australia and the United States should work with Japan to recommit to and significantly expand a trilateral development agenda for the Indo-Pacific.
- Australia and the United States should work to ensure the Indo-Pacific has robust digital infrastructure and support technology standards which are equitable, industry-set and multilateral.
Counter state-based disinformation and cyber threats
- Australia and the United States should strengthen their organisational capacity to counter state-backed disinformation and preserve the integrity of the alliance’s shared information landscape.
- Australia and the United States should align their healthcare cybersecurity efforts, sharing best practices and connecting cybersecurity public-private partnerships.
Strengthen collective deterrence and defence
- Australia and the United States should accelerate military collaboration at the operational level to strengthen deterrence and blunt coercive statecraft in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in maritime Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
- Australia and the United States should establish new high-end military exercises tailored to developing and demonstrating operational concepts for Indo-Pacific contingencies.
- Australia and the United States should establish a joint Indo-Pacific Security Workshop to explore new operational concepts for conventional deterrence in the Indo-Pacific.
Foster defence industry and commercial collaboration
- Australia and the United States should redouble their efforts to strengthen defence industry collaboration by making the National Technology and Industrial Base (NTIB) framework a reality.
- Australia and the United States should move to collaboratively de-risk the critical minerals sector for commercial development to ensure both have access to secure value chains.
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