This presentation to the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network’s European Leadership Network explores Australian perceptions of strategic risk, the country’s heightened sense of threat and the differences between the two. In short, threats come and go, while risk is a constant in a world that is inherently chaotic. Long-term strategic policy needs to be based on analysis of risk and its mitigation, not on perceived threats.
Responding to threats has given Australia a chequered strategic policy history, too often depending on the UK or the USA as a protector rather than using the country’s own considerable national power. When Australia has responded to critical regional events in its own interests, Australia has demonstrated that it can be effective in combining military capability, international development assistance and engaged diplomacy to deliver key policy objectives. Examples include the Bougainville crisis, the Malayan Emergency, and Solomon Islands peacekeeping missions.