24 Aug 2006

Australia to build up its army strength so it can deal with its patch, the Pacific

7:43 pm on 24 August 2006

Australia is to increase the size of its army by two thousand six hundred personnel because of the challenging situations it will face in the next two decades.

The new places are in addition to the 1,500 further personnel to be recruited under another army initiative announced last year.

Prime Minister John Howard told reporters that it is self evident Australia needs a bigger army.

He says in his opinion Australia faces increasing instances of destabilised and failing states in the region.

Mr Howard says the bigger army will allow Australia to deal in a pre-emptive fashion with problems in the region.

He says he has very much in mind the experiences in East Timor, the Solomons, and is concerned about the instability in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.

Mr Howard says Australia has in the past received assistance from other countries in the region, such as New Zealand, but the Pacific is considered "Australia's patch".

He says Australia is overwhelmingly expected to carry the greater bulk of the load, both with military personnel and also with police.