For the first time Australia now has two senior ministers in the Defence portfolio, with Marise Payne as Minister for Defence and Christopher Pyne as Minister for Defence Industry. Minister Pyne is more senior in Cabinet ranking, but Minister Payne is adamant they are equals in the portfolio. Last year the Abbott government’s First Principles Review proposed killing off the diarchy; this year the Turnbull government has doubled down and created another at the higher level! Wry comments aside, this innovation is strategically significant.

There’s always debate over whether economics is the foundation of security or the converse. This has a new twist, with some arguing that warfare is unrewarding for the major powers today, given the highly interdependent nature of the international system. Geopolitics is giving way to geo-economics. Foreign Minister Bishop might agree, given her observation that ‘economics is power and power is economics’. At least some think that the Prime Minister believes that trade is the new black, rather than preparing for conflict.

Reflecting that view, the Turnbull government’s election platform mantra was ‘jobs and growth’. Defence was often mentioned, but related to economics not security, with the continuous shipbuilding strategy being pitched in terms of ‘securing thousands of advanced manufacturing jobs for decades to come’ rather than the strategic value of the warships to be procured. So it’s not surprising that a new Defence Industry Minister position and lots of new industry support funding followed this new policy direction.

Critics will say this simply reflects pandering to the electorate—and in an era of Brexit and Trumpkins there’s much in that. A major issue in today’s global politics is the perception that globalisation’s economic benefits haven’t been sufficiently shared.

Please click here to read the full “The strategic dimensions of Australia’s new defence minister diarchy” article in The Strategist by Griffith Asia Institute Visiting Fellow Peter Layton.