ASPI urges ADF Australia to reconsider spending up to $14M on uniforms from China

Security experts are urging the Australian Defense Force to rethink its decision to spend up to $14 million a year on Chinese-made clothing.

Michael Shubridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said the Department of Defense needed to come up with an alternative to purchasing parts of its uniforms made in China.

Mr. Shubridge noted that unstable and cold diplomatic relations between the two countries have already led to trade embargoes on other goods.

“A country that will not allow lobsters to enter China from Australia during a time of political tension could very well cut off supplies to our military heading towards us during a crisis,” Shoebridge told 3AW radio.

He said the Department of Defense had already reduced its dependence on China for military clothing and equipment in recent years.

But he said it would be “really smart to go even further” and offer alternatives to other staples that are made in China.

Mr Shubridge said the Covid-19 pandemic had exposed the world’s dependence on China for goods such as personal protective equipment and chemicals used in medicines.

“You don’t want to find those little inputs that get in the way of your work during a crisis or even a war,” he said.

“Things like goggles and gloves. We need alternatives to China as a supplier.”

Mr Shubridge said China was “without a doubt” Australia’s biggest military threat, noting Beijing’s aggressive military expansion into the South Pacific.

Defense and foreign ministers of China and Australia resumed communication after the Albanian government came to power after a freeze under the previous government.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said earlier this month that Canberra and Beijing had taken “the first step towards stabilizing relations” after she met with her Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali.

The Albanian government is pushing for China to lift forced trade sanctions on Australian goods, including coal.

Mr Shubridge said on Tuesday that both sides were trying to “change the tone of the relationship.”

“But China is not starting to buy our coal because it loves us. This is because their economy is in trouble. So we have to look a little deeper,” he said.

“Beijing wants to play a big, direct role in securing our new South Pacific region. And frankly, it’s all bad news.”

The Department of Defense was contacted for comment.

Originally published as Why Australia pays China up to $14 million annually