Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and trade committee held a public hearing Thursday as part of a broader inquiry into the resilience of Australia’s supply chains and the “impact of COVID-19 on the global rules-based order”.
Witnesses appearing before the committee represented an interdisciplinary consultancy group, an Australian policy, geopolitical and economic think tank, and experts specialising in "grey zone" defence tactics – which include election meddling, economic coercion, and the ambiguous use of unconventional force.
Committee chair senator David Fawcett said that COVID-19 has heightened awareness for many Australians that a “business as usual” approach is not sustainable with the dual impacts of the pandemic and the changing strategic environment.
"Reducing acquisition cost has been a major feature of business supply chain decisions since the turn of the century, including off-shoring production and just-in-time replenishment," said Senator Fawcett.
For the first time, he added, Australians have been pushed to have a national discussion on the country's supply chain models and national resilience.
"COVID‑19 has prompted a rethink of our current trade and manufacturing architecture and ensuring defence strategy responds to the new environment, from both a health and a strategic perspective," said Senator Fawcett.
Dr Alan Dupont, AO, the CEO and founder of consultancy firm Cognoscenti Group, will discuss his submission highlighting the threats to the current global rules-based order and the likely implications for Australia as supply chains "decouple".
The committee will explore this — and the possible emergence of new geopolitical blocs — with Dr Dupont and with another submitter, John Blackburn, AO, retired RAAF Air Vice‑Marshal and founder of the Institute of Integrated Economic Research Australia.
Australia’s exposure to geopolitical risks, the stability of near neighbours and its defence and cyber security capabilities will be discussed with joint submitters: Professor Sascha Dov Bachmann, Professor in Law, University of Canberra; and Dr Andrew Dowse, AO, director of defence research, Edith Cowan University, and also retired RAAF Air Vice-Marshal.