According to a new report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday (May 4), Adam Findlay, then commander of Australia’s special operations division, told his troops in April 2020 that Beijing was already engaged in “grey zone” warfare against Australia and Australian forces had to plan for future scenarios that could well spill over into an actual conflict.
Major General Findlay is no longer commander of Australia’s Special Operations Division, but he continues to advise the Australian Defence Force. Findlay said there was a “high probability” of an actual conflict because of the unpredictability of foreign affairs.
According to reports, Findlay asked his soldiers and officers, “Who do you see as the main [regional] threat?” “China,” he replied.
Findlay added: “Okay, so if China is a threat, how many special forces brigades does China have? You should know that China has 26,000 special operations personnel.”
The Times and the Sydney Morning Herald obtained details of the April 2020 briefing from multiple sources who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
These sources say Findlay told his troops that if the threat of conflict became a reality, the Australian Defence Force would need to rely not only on traditional air, land and sea power, but also on Australia’s ability to use cyber and space warfare.
Findlay stressed the need for the Australian Defence Force to reassert its presence and play a “tier one” role in South-East Asia and the South-West Pacific. He described how the Australian military had uncovered information that China was seeking to take advantage of “Australia’s absence in the region”.
“We need to make sure we don’t run out of steam…… Go back to the area.” He also stressed Australia’s close ties with Indonesia.
To “prevent war from breaking out”, Mr Findlay argues, Australia’s military must compete with “coercive restrictions” imposed by China on Australia. In carrying out its own grey zone missions, Australia’s aim is to “disadvantage the opponent, to put us at an advantage” and to avoid war.
Major General Findlay’s comments to Australian special forces soldiers last year provide the most detailed public insight yet into how the country’s top military planners view the threat from China, the Sydney Morning Herald said.
Canberra has hardened its stance towards China in the past week.
Peter Dutton, Australia’s defence minister, said the war over Taiwan could not be ignored, that Australia was “already under attack” in the cyber space and that he wanted “a more frank discussion with the public” about China’s intentions.
Mr. Dutton said Canberra’s priority was “sustained peace in our region”, but warned that Australia needed to make its ability to defend its northern and western waters its top priority.