The Howard Government’s Defence White Paper: Policy, Process and Politics

Graeme Cheeseman, University College, University of New South Wales


The Howard Government’s recent defence white paper was said by its authors to be the result of a new and more open and rigorous approach to policymaking. The document was seen by some to be the ‘best Australian Defence White Paper yet’. I argue that, although novel, the preparation of the white paper was not as democratic or far-reaching as government spokespeople suggested. The process was more about politics than policy, driven in large measure by the desires and vested interests of the major actors within the defence establishment and those, primarily within industry and government, who stand to gain from the $160 billion to be spent on Australia’s defence over the coming decade. As a result, the policy advocated by the white paper was little more than a repackaged version of the ones that preceded it and, as such, continued to exhibit many of the contradictions, problems and weaknesses of its predecessors.

Graeme Cheeseman is Senior Lecturer in the School of Politics at the University College, University of New South Wales.

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