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Peter Dutton labels Putin a ‘despot’ at launch of new defence program

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has labelled Russian President Vladimir Putin a “despot” following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a major speech in Canberra on Tuesday, Mr Dutton will announce the launch of Australia’s Defence Space Command to help protect against hostile acts in earth’s orbit and beyond.

Justification for the new program was partly put down to recent hostile acts by Russia and rapid advancement of Chinese military capability.

“All of us are watching the terrible conflict unfolding in Ukraine at the hands of a despot hell bent on reinstating Russia’s imperial reach and spheres of influence,” Mr Dutton will say.

“It is becoming clear that in invading Ukraine, President Putin has miscalculated. He has underestimated the resolve of the people of Ukraine and the response of nations around the world.

“We must remain determined in what we can do to support liberty against the odious forces of tyranny.”

Australia has flown three transport planes to Ukraine delivering “military assistance”.

“Australia is providing financial aid and military assistance to help Ukrainians defend themselves against their Russian aggressors,” Mr Dutton will say.

Also of concern to Mr Dutton are “different forms of Chinese coercion” being felt by nations in the Indo-Pacific.

“We are witnessing China’s rapid militarisation – the largest of its kind in peacetime and modern times – a build-up unaccompanied by transparency or strategic reassurance for concerned nations in the region and beyond,” he will say.

“Russia and China are already developing hypersonic missiles which can travel at more than 6000 kilometres per hour.”

The Defence Space Command will aim to develop Australia’s military space capabilities to protect intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets such as satellites.

PRIME MINISTER
Camera IconMr Dutton will say Russia has “miscalculated” by invading Ukraine. NCA NewsWire / Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

Mr Dutton asserts that space will undoubtedly take on greater military significance in the 21st Century.

“Space is becoming more congested and is already contested – particularly as the boundaries between competition and conflict become increasingly blurred through grey-zone activities,” Mr Dutton said.

“Technological developments continue to change the character of warfare. Particularly in the Air and Space domains.”

Heading up the command will be former Royal Australian Air Force officer, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts.

It will be made up of personnel from the three major branches of Australia’s Defence Force (ADF), as well as defence public servants and private industry contractors.

Australia’s Space Command will initially be small compared to similar programs overseas, but is considered a necessary first step in developing an Australian Space Force in the future.

One of the key reasons for developing a space command was to complement the efforts of allies.

“By developing our sovereign space capabilities, we will not only become more self-reliant, but also be a better ally and partner through the combined effects of our capabilities,” Mr Dutton will say.

“Importantly, Australia and the United States are strengthening our Alliance to support our mutual objectives in the space domain.”

The new organisation will work in close collaboration with the Australian Space Agency, industry partners, and other research and scientific institutions.

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