chapter  15
21 Pages

Australia’s maritime challenges and priorities: recent developments and future prospects


Introduction Australia, with its lengthy coastline, vast maritime jurisdiction and multiple offshore territories, undoubtedly fits the description of a maritime nation,1 but it was not until the issue of Australia’s Oceans Policy in 1998 that a comprehensive statement of Australia’s maritime challenges and priorities emerged at the Federal Government level.2 The Oceans Policy articulated a diverse array of challenges and priorities relating to Australia’s maritime interests, including the conservation of marine biological diversity, the maintenance of ecologically sustainable fisheries, the prevention of marine pollution, the development of the offshore petroleum and minerals industry, the definition of Australia’s maritime jurisdiction and the protection of Australia’s national interests both within and beyond Australian maritime jurisdiction.3 In addition to these fundamental maritime challenges and priorities, the Oceans Policy highlighted some emerging challenges, such as improving and disseminating our knowledge of the role of the oceans in climate change and developing, using and exporting Australia’s ocean energy resources.4 To tackle all these challenges and priorities in a balanced and effective manner, the Oceans Policy identified the need for integrated ocean planning and management, and nominated specific responses for particular sectors of ocean activity. Thirteen years on from the Oceans Policy, it is timely to reassess some key maritime challenges and priorities identified in that document to determine their relevance to the current strategic and political environment for Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. This chapter will examine a selection of these maritime challenges and priorities, their applicability to Australia’s current geostrategic circumstances and some recent developments in responding to them.