Australia

Tony Abbott says Australia shouldn't depend on Trump's backing

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Australia’s former prime minister says Donald Trump is right that US allies have been "keeping safe on the cheap".

Australia should increase its spending on defence above the current target of two per cent of GDP and take more responsibility for its own security in the era of the Trump presidency, former prime minister Tony Abbott says.

In a speech to a conservative US think tank, Mr Abbott said a “new age” was coming.

“The [US] legions are going home. American values can be relied upon but American help, less so,” he said.

"If America spends three per cent plus of the world's biggest GDP on its own forces, and the rest of the western world scarcely two per cent, it's hard to dispute Trump's view that most of us have been keeping safe on the cheap.”

The comments come as Donald Trump attends a NATO summit with European leaders. Mr Trump is arguing Europe has not been pulling its weight in defence spending.

Mr Abbott said the same argument was true for Australia, too.

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
US President Donald Trump listens to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at ASEAN in November 2017.
AAP

The US is a major military player in the Pacific and has large numbers of troops stationed in Australia and Asian countries like Japan.

“America can't be expected to fight harder for its Australian ally than we would be prepared to fight for ourselves or to do more for Australia than we would already do for ourselves,” Mr Abbott told the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

“Our armed forces need to be more capable of operating independently, even against a substantial adversary, because that is what a truly sovereign nation must be prepared to do.

“What Trump is making clear to us and to others is what should always have been screamingly obvious: that our nation's safety now rests in our own hands far more than anyone else's.”

 

Back home, Mr Abbott is among a group of Coalition backbenchers pushing the Turnbull government to change direction on energy policy and encourage new investment in coal-fired power.

The consumer watchdog, the ACCC, produced a landmark 400-page report on energy this week.

The report recommends the government consider underwriting new generation projects but is “technology agnostic” about whether those projects are coal, gas or renewables with battery storage.

Nonetheless, some in the Nationals are claiming the report “vindicates” their calls for government intervention to encourage new coal-fired power.

Asked about what kind of projects the ACCC had found that were struggling to get finance, Mr Sims said they had all been gas or renewables "firmed up" by pumped hydro or batteries.

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