China threat: Australia’s 40 percent defence budget hike a lesson to the UK, says MP

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Meanwhile fellow Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Australia and New Zealand, has said the announcement underlines Australia’s importance as an ally. Speaking in July, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country would spend £1.43billion over the next 10 years to acquire longer-range strike capabilities across air, sea and land.

We need to learn from Australia – they are ahead of us

Tobias Ellwood

And with the UK in the midst of a wide-ranging integrated defence review, Mr Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth West, urged the UK Government to take note.

He told Express.co.uk: “We need to learn from Australia – they are ahead of us.

“They have been upgrading their stance on China.

“They are closer to the impact if China’s authoritarian policies.

“And it is critical that we work together with one of our closest allies.

“Because it is only collectively that we can stand up to the might of China’s technology, growing economy and indeed military machine.”

With specific reference to the review, thought to be spearheaded by Dominic Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, Mr Ellwood warned: “Prior to COVID-19, the world was already becoming a more dangerous insecure place, with threats diversifying and resurgent nations flexing their muscles.

“And it is at the exact time that we are distracted by a pandemic that we must be on our guard.

“And if post-Brexit, we are looking to get trading relationships across the world, trade only exists if access to markets is unhindered.

“That needs better collaboration between what our armed forces do and what our prosperity agenda is.

“And that is exactly the sort of homework which needs to be done with this integrated defence review.

“We have signed a trade deal with Japan – but we need to be able to defend the goods that we move backwards and forwards.

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“And likewise if we want to defend markets in the Middle East from China economically pushing us out, then we have to really commit ourselves to regional strategies that bring together our national and economic plans.”

Mr Rosindell told Express.co.uk: “In recent years China has shown itself to be an increasingly malign power, not just in the Indo-Pacific, but in the rest of the world.

“We have watched in horror as China increasingly bullies its neighbours, trashes the liberties of Hong Kong, threatens Taiwan and embarks on a programme of ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang.

“The West is finally waking up to what Australia realised some time ago: that China is behaving like an enemy, not an ally and must be treated accordingly. Australia is on the frontline of this fight.

“The Indo-Pacific is a vital region for British interests with the legacy of Empire and the emergence of the Commonwealth.

“The world needs the region to move towards greater democracy and freedom and only Australian leadership, backed by the United States, United Kingdom and other allies, will deliver this.”

Mr Rosindell added: “Australia’s announcement over the summer that they will increase their defence spending is a reminder of how important Australia is as an ally.

“It shows that in an era of enormous geopolitical challenges, Australia is fighting them head on.

“As the Chairman of the APPG for Australia and New Zealand I am proud of the strong position our Australian friends are taking.

“It gives us all confidence for the future to know that Australia will be at the forefront of efforts to ensure the victory of liberty and freedom over dictatorship and oppression in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere.”

Explaining the decision in the summer, Mr Morrison said: “We want a Indo-Pacific free from coercion and hegemony. We want a region where all countries, large and small, can engage freely with each other and be guided by international rules and norms.”

The UK’s overall defence budget for 2020/21 is set at £41.3 billion.

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