Should Australia plan to defend Christmas and Cocos Islands?

Author/s (editor/s):

Ross Babbage

Publication year:

1988

Publication type:

Policy paper

Canberra Papers on Strategy and Defence No. 45

Christmas and Cocos Islands are the most strategically important of Australia's Indian ocean territories. Located about one third of the way across the Indian Ocean, they are limited in dimensions, natural resources and populations but both posess important airfields. They are also located much closer to several regional countries than to mainland Australia.

The book examines whether it is sensible for Australian defence planner to consider diverting elements of the county's small Defence Force to provide security for these forward outposts in a range of possible future defence contingencies. What role could these islands play in the defence of Northern Australia? Could these territories be held against various sorts of attack and, if so, how? Would the diversion of Defence Force elements to these islands be a net loss for Australian security? Should Australian planners assume that in some circumstances these territories would need to be abandoned? What interest does the Defence Department have in the development of civil facilities on these islands? And how might Australian security planners approach preparations for the defence of these territories in the immediate future?

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