AUSTRALIA would spiral in to a Mad Max-style world if our slim fuel reserves were cut off by an enemy, a defence expert has warned.
It comes with a stark warning that “if an adversary decided to, they could cut off fuel supply to Australia very easily”.
Defence Strategy and Capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute senior analyst Dr Malcolm Davis said incoming Liberal Senator Jim Molan’s warning that Australian forces would be rendered almost useless in just 19 days was “absolutely true” and warned that Australia is “one of the few countries in the world that does not take our energy security seriously”.
Mr Molan, a former senior military officer, said on Wednesday that if Australia’s current stockpiles of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel ran dry then the military would effectively be grounded in that time.
It is a debate that has raged between experts for years as experts accuse the Australian government of ignoring the issue.
How is an island country like Australia “secure” in the military sense if we don’t refine oil & have no, substantial strategic fuel reserve?
Molan was the chief of operations for coalition forces in Iraq and will enter federal Parliament next month, replacing former deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash who was forced out of the Upper House over the citizenship scandal.
After he quit the military, he was the driving force behind the Abbott Government’s successful Operation Sovereign Borders that stopped asylum seekers reaching the mainland.
Australia was one of the few places in the world that didn’t have a government-mandated strategic reserve of fuel, Mr Molan said.
Dr Davis backed Mr Molan’s comments, saying Australia’s fuel reserves would last “20 days at best” if supplies were cut off.
“It would be a Mad Max world. Our society and our economy would begin to fall apart very quickly,” Dr Davis told news.com.au.
“It’s like electricity — everything depends on fuel to make an economy run. It is very serious.
“We’ve left ourselves in a perilous situation and governments on both sides have been negligent in this regard.
“Military analysts have been warning consistently for years and they just ignore it.”
The fuel threat had been assessed by former air force vice-marshal John Blackburn in 2015 who found if Australia’s sea lines were blocked through terrorism or conflict in the South China Sea, supplies would be depleted within weeks.
Mr Molan also warned Australia’s pledge to boost defence spending over the next decade by $30 billion — to the 2 per cent of GDP Donald Trump has been urging NATO allies to commit to — might not actually be enough.
“You can’t just hit 2 per cent and achieve military perfection. You’ve got to stay at that level of expenditure.”
Writing in The Australian, Mr Molan said it was also not a guarantee that the US could or would come to Australia’s aid.
“Until I deployed to Iraq with the US military in 2004-05, I made the common mistake of assuming US power was infinite,” he writes. “The US was indeed powerful after 1945 and even more powerful winning the Cold War. But the US Army had only 10 full-time combat divisions and … was furiously trying to increase its strength.”
Further cutbacks since then had weakened their forces even more — to the extent that only three brigades was now combat-ready.
Dr Davis said a major war between the United States and China in the Pacific could be the catalyst to disrupt Australia’s fuel supply.
He explained most of Australia’s fuel is transported through narrow straights by tanker ships.
“Instead of investing in refinement facilities here for refining fuel, the government has decided it’s cheaper to do it overseas.”
One of the key facilities is in Singapore.
“The price they pay for that in a crisis is that China can interrupt flow to Australia relatively easy and our economy falls apart.
“It’s very negligent of the government to let this situation happen. It’s even more appalling we’ve been warning both political parties for years about this.”
Dr Davis warned the US military had become severely depleted since the Bush administration and said China, Iran, North Korea and Russia had become “direct threats”.
“In a world where there’s no threats like in the 1990s maybe you could get away with that but we are in 21st century in a world with many, many threats.
“It’s no longer about terrorism.”
But, Dr Davis warned President Trump’s approach was too “haphazard and chaotic” to see a positive result.
Despite the risks, Dr Davis said the US is “always” going to be essential to security, and suggested Australia increase defence spending and “step up to the plate in terms of burden sharing with the United States so we help them more”.
He said we needed to spend more on defence, invest on more capability to assist America and think seriously about increasing funding.
“We are running into a future that is highly dangerous and uncertain. We can’t just rely on Americans to do it for us. Americans are less placed to be able to maintain the burden themselves.”