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Deteriorating relationship with China ignites call to reintroduce conscription

As tensions with China escalate, the federal government has announced a $270 billion plan to boost the Australian military.

In announcing the plan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia needs to be prepared for a “poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly world” post-COVID-19.

Australia Defence Association Executive Director Neil James told Breaking Politics our region is entering “a time of high risk”.

“From 1945 until recently … there was no great risk of a major war in the Asia-Pacific region, and you can no longer say that.”

The Defence 2020 Force Structure Plan will see heavy investment in technology and weaponry: under the plan, the ADF will add just 80 recruits a year over the next decade.

The manpower shortfall has led to discussions of whether the reintroduction of conscription could make up numbers in a time of crisis.

While “we’re not at that stage yet”, Mr James admitted such a measure may eventually need to be discussed as part of a “widespread, informed debate”.

“The Defence Act allows, for times of apprehended war for example, for conscription to be reintroduced.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen in the short-to-medium term. But it remains a possibility in the long term, should our strategic circumstances deteriorate further.

“Conscription is always controversial. But it’s generally speaking less controversial when people appreciate it’s a time of greater strategic risk.”

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