Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 00:56 | SYDNEY
Friday 10 Apr 2020 | 00:56 | SYDNEY

Defence White Paper vs Federal Budget


Graeme Dobell

13 May 2009 17:39

The Defence White Paper and the Federal Budget offer two maps of how Australia sees the world. One way of presenting these maps is to seek the topography offered by the typography. In other words, see how countries rank by checking how often they are mentioned.

The country count is used by embassies to check out official statements. How often did we get a mention compared to everyone else? The reference count is an Asian favourite. It offers the crudest of measures, but it is still a measure. And it certainly produces hierarchies.

The White Paper showed that Australia might be a bit concerned about China, but one key country outranks everyone else by double measure. This is the count of how many times the White Paper mentions these countries:

  1. United States (79 mentions)
  2. China (34)
  3. India (30)
  4. Indonesia (21)
  5. Japan (18)
  6. South Pacific (18)
  7. New Zealand (15)
  8. PNG (8)

Crude, yes, but a reasonable rundown on how Australia’s defence planners structure the world in their cogitations.

Now, apply the same test to the equivalent document in the Federal Budget. This is Budget Statement 2, expressing the Treasury view about the economic outlook for Australia and the world. A different order emerges:

  1. China (17 mentions)
  2. Japan (12)
  3. United States (9)
  4. ASEAN (7)
  5. India (4)
  6. Indonesia (2)
  7. New Zealand (1)
  8. South Pacific (0)

Apply the measure to Australia’s international development assistance budget in the AusAid statement and the horizon of the map comes much closer: 

  1. Pacific Islands (135 mentions)
  2. Indonesia (55)
  3. PNG (34)

China pops up seven times in AusAid’s view of the world but the US seems to miss out completely.

Different hierarchies. Different ways of looking at the world. Which map do you like?