China bristles at defence rise that might not be enough

China has lashed out at Australia after the federal government announced plans for a big boost in defence spending, as an expert warns the increase may not be enough.

Defence Minister Richard Marles on Wednesday unveiled the new national defence strategy and investment program which will which nearly double annual defence spending to $100 billion by 2033/34.

"We hope Australia will correctly view China’s development and strategic intentions, abandon the Cold War mentality, do more things to keep the region peaceful and stable and stop buzzing about China," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

Mr Marles on Wednesday quoted the strategy, which states China has employed "coercive tactics in pursuit of its strategic objectives".

ADF
A strategy to fill a shortfall in ADF personnel includes widening recruitment eligibility criteria.

Security risks in the Indo-Pacific were coming from "major countries" outside the region, Mr Lin said.

"They have been forming exclusive groupings, stoking bloc confrontation, and in particular, muddying the waters in the South China Sea, as if the world needed any more instability. China firmly opposes it," he said.

Mr Marles said it was ridiculous to suggest Australia was trying to match the strength of China and the US in the Indo-Pacific.

"You're talking about great powers and clearly, we're not seeking to be a peer of the United States or China. Which is why ... commentators who walked down that road, frankly, lack wit," he said.

Australian National University expert associate Jennifer Parker said while she was pleased to see more defence spending, her gut feeling was it may not be enough, or in the right timeframes.

She said subsequent reviews were delaying crucial decision-making from government.

"When we're saying that we're concerned about potential conflict in the region, I would have thought we could have expedited that," Ms Parker said.

The navy veteran of more than 20 years pointed to the defence plan's reduction of joint support ships, which provided war ships with replenishment, including fuel at sea.

"It does create a gap that's not addressed in the national defence strategy," Ms Parker said.

The strategy includes a push to widen the recruitment eligibility criteria in a bid to fill the shortfall in personnel.

Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles.
Richard Marles says the government is improving conditions in the ADF.

Expanding the criteria would allow defence to recruit non-Australian citizens.

Mr Marles said that would not happen overnight.

"It's reasonable to describe that in terms of years," he told ABC's Radio National on Thursday.

Ms Parker said the strategy hadn't been bold enough in examining other methods to solve workforce issues, with a review into the ADF reserves not due until 2025.

Mr Marles said the government's immediate challenge was to improve conditions for Australians serving or thinking about joining the ADF.

He said there had been a fall in the number of personnel leaving the military and recruitment numbers were starting to turn around.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Mr Marles said the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders calling Australia home was an obvious place to start.

Responding to criticism extra defence spending the government will pump into the ADF over the next decade would come too late, Mr Marles said the decision had been made "quickly".

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