Complex Trade-offs: Economic Openness and Security in Australia

Adam Triggs, Peter Drysdale
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A challenging global environment has forced Australian policymakers to think about where Australia’s security comes from, and how it can be strengthened. A nascent but increasingly influential narrative is emerging in parts of the Australian community that economic openness makes the country less secure and that Australia’s security can only be bolstered through economic self-reliance, increased military spending and a deepening of Australia’s alliance with the United States to the exclusion of relations with other nations, notably China.


The chapter describes the main elements of this narrative and argues that it is inconsistent with Australia’s lived experience, overlooks how Australia’s flexible markets and domestic policies and institutions bolster Australia’s security, and is based on an overly simplistic trade-off between Australia’s openness and its security. Economic openness carries with it political risks, but there are national and international strategies that can mitigate these risks. The chapter explores the economic and strategic context Australia faces, how international tensions have shaped recent public discussion in Australia, and how the Australian Government is managing a difficult global environment. It concludes that there is much work to do in re-thinking the strategies needed to deal successfully with the challenges Australia now faces.