Australia news live: Reynolds warns of war risk and faces fresh questions over Higgins case | Australia news

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The defence minister, Linda Reynolds, will argue the risk of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region “is far less remote than in the past”.

Reynolds will address the National Press Club in Canberra today, amid intense pressure over whether she and her office showed appropriate duty of care to Brittany Higgins after she alleged she was raped by a more senior colleague in Parliament House in 2019.

The minister is set to focus on the defence portfolio in her prepared remarks, including the increasing competition between the US and China in the Indo-Pacific region, building on the themes in last year’s defence strategic update:

This is multiplying potential flashpoints and ratcheting up geopolitical tensions, and with that, comes an increased risk of conflict. We are seeing military modernisation, accelerating technological advances and the use of coercive tactics. Tactics that are increasingly exploiting the grey area between peace and war. Tactics that are also challenging Australia’s interests in new ways. All of these challenges together mean we are contending with a more complex, a more dynamic and a more volatile strategic landscape.

Reynolds doesn’t name the country or countries that she sees as using coercive tactics in the version of her speech distributed to media in advance, but it comes amid growing tensions with China. She says Australia is “not alone” in wanting an Indo-Pacific region that is “peaceful, stable, inclusive, sovereign, prosperous and resilient”.

Reynolds will also say the future of the region is being shaped by many countries’ interests, and while Australia will work closely with the US, “it is clear that no single nation can address the strategic and technological challenges ahead alone”.

Reynolds will say that in the years ahead Australia will require “courage to call out behaviours and activities contrary to our nation’s sovereign interests”, and nations must be ready “to stand together when our shared interests are threatened”.


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