National Security Focus – New study examines our Northwest’s Regional Significance


The Pilbara region is considered ‘the engine room of the Australian economy’ and is of significant economic and geo-strategic importance to state and national interests. Existing and emerging security challenges, however, may prove destabilising for regional development and national prosperity.

Future Directions International (FDI), a West Australian-based, ‘think tank’ organisation, is working with relevant stakeholders to develop a national dialogue to ensure the region has the capacity to meet possible challenges to regional security.

Future Directions International

FDI, is an independent, not-for-profit, strategic research institute based in Perth, Western Australia. It was established in 2000 by former Governor-General of Australia and FDI Chairman Major General Michael Jeffery (rtd.) together with a small group of leading Australians who shared a belief that Australia needed a strategic organisation that researched and promoted a broad mandate of issues of regional, national and international importance.

FDI seeks to identify strategic based outcomes by examining the opportunities and challenges facing Australia in four core research areas:

  • Developments in the Indian Ocean including its littoral states;
  • Australia’s energy needs in a global setting;
  • Developments in Northern Australia and their impact on the economy, population, infrastructure, environment, security and foreign relations; and
  • Implications of the developing global food and water crises for Australia.

The institute, in doing this future-based strategic research, is conveying that Australia is part of a two-ocean continent in an emerging and rapidly changing part of the world. In particular, this research approach seeks to broaden Australia’s traditional outlook which at times has focussed on East and South- East Asia and the Pacific.

FDI is governed by a distinguished board of accomplished directors who have the experience that strengthens and contributes to the institute’s activities. The institute has a core base of dedicated staff, together with external associates, FDI hosted international guest speakers and an active base of interns, all of whom share FDI’s ‘big picture’ vision.

FDI produces a number of hardcopy and electronically-delivered analytical assessments. These range from extensive landmark studies to short, current intelligence papers.

Current Research

Australia is experiencing an unprecedented expansion of its minerals and energy sectors. The Pilbara region of northwest Western Australia is a significant part of this outcome. Much of this involves on- and off-shore facilities that are vulnerable to natural disasters, industrial accidents and, potentially, acts of sabotage and other forms of violence and destruction.

A relatively minor disruption may result in a significant and costly loss of production. Nor is the cost restricted to export earnings: loss of employment, environmental damage and the impact on local, regional and national economies cannot be under-estimated.

To help prevent and alleviate such disasters, Australia requires a national capability. This capability must be able to plan for such disasters. It must have an analytical and research capacity, the ability to develop the necessary doctrine and capabilities and the authority to deploy and direct assets.

Capabilities require time to develop. This involves not only identifying the personnel needed but also considerations relating to doctrine, training and preparation, equipment and communications and aspects of command and control.

Many of these capabilities will not necessarily be dedicated to disaster or emergency management. Instead they will include existing national and state emergency and security forces as well as health, communications, transport and other agencies. Well-established disaster management forces within the private sectors, like the Australian Security Industry, should also be incorporated.

The next phase of FDI’s research programme is to publish a major ‘Landmark Study’, entitled ‘Security and Safety of the Pilbara Region’. The study will concentrate on the strategic significance of the Pilbara to 2020 and potential security challenges that may inhibit the region reaching its full economic potential. The study will be the result of a number of smaller research papers and conferences (workshops and roundtables), involving a number of FDI associates.

Security and Safety of the Pilbara

In order to start the process to develop a national capability, ‘Security and Safety of the Pilbara Region’ will prepare a series of assessments that seek to determine the following:

  • The national importance of the northwest region of Western Australia from now until 2020.
  • The damage and disruption that may result from natural disasters, industrial accidents and human acts of violence and the areas or activities that are most vulnerable to such acts.
  • The effectiveness of national, regional and local entities to deal with such emergencies, to identify deficiencies and to recommend measures to overcome such deficiencies.
  • The strategies needed to influence key decision makers to take the necessary remedial steps.

The first study seeks to determine the ongoing and future importance of the region between now and 2020. Judgements will be made in terms of its importance to the Australian economy. Population, including indigenous Australians, infrastructure and the impact of the region’s developments on Australia’s foreign policy will be considered.

The second study seeks to identify the likelihood and consequences of natural and industrial disasters and acts of terrorism and sabotage between now and 2020. This paper will examine types of targets, how they might be attacked and the results of such incidents.

The third study will seek to review existing capabilities to deal with these incidents, to identify shortfalls and to recommend new or different capabilities and practices.

Strategies will also be developed to identify key policy makers and to ensure that they are aware of these issues.

The outcomes of the study will hope to provide the framework for a national dialogue, to discuss coherent and rigorous risk management models for the region. The results of this research will be published in draft form and be available for comment before the publication of the Landmark Study in early 2012… To read more subscribe to the magazine today!


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