Security and Defence
THREATS TO AUSTRALIA’S VITAL INTERESTS
Since we began polling in 2005, we have asked Australians about a range of possible ‘threats to the vital interests of Australia in the next ten years’. In 2018, ‘international terrorism’ remains the leading threat to Australia’s vital interests in the next ten years, with 66% seeing it as a ‘critical threat’. This is seven points lower, however, than the number who saw terrorism as a critical threat in 2006. ‘North Korea’s nuclear program’ joins terrorism at the head of Australians’ concerns, with 66% seeing it as a critical threat.
This year, perceptions of the threat posed by climate change have remained steady, with 58% of Australians saying it is a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests, almost unchanged since 2017 but up 12 points since 2014. Climate change is seen by more Australians as a threat than a ‘severe downturn in the global economy’ (50% saying critical threat). ‘Cyberattacks from other countries’ continue to provoke concerns, with 57% seeing them as a critical threat.
‘The presidency of Donald Trump’ (42%) ranks equally with ‘the dissemination of false information and fake news’ (42%), ‘foreign interference in Australian politics’ (41%) and ‘large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into Australia’ (40%) as a critical threat to Australia’s vital interests.
In 2005, in a result that raised eyebrows at the time, our polling revealed that 57% of Australians were ‘very’ or fairly’ worried about ‘US foreign policies’, ranking them equally with ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ as a potential threat from the outside world. Australians now appear to have a more positive view of US foreign policies: 36% see them as a critical threat, almost unchanged since 2017, and ranking equally with ‘China’s growing power’ (36% saying critical threat).
THREAT OF TERRORISM
On five of the six occasions we have asked Australians about the threats to Australia’s vital interests, terrorism has been the leading or equal highest concern. This year, we sought to understand this better among those respondents who said terrorism was either a ‘critical’ or ‘important but not critical’ threat to Australia’s vital interests (1123 of 1200 respondents). Almost all of them see terrorism as a global threat, with 91% agreeing it is a ‘threat to global security as well as Australia’s’. Incidents such as the Martin Place siege in late 2014 and the Parramatta shooting in 2015 may have heightened fears of home-grown terrorism: 93% of the respondents agree that terrorism is a threat because ‘terrorists could kill innocent Australian citizens in our cities’. Around three quarters (72%) say ‘terrorism is a threat to our way of life in Australia’. Fewer (65%) say ‘terrorism makes it unsafe to travel overseas’.
FEELING OF SAFETY
Feelings of safety this year remain at their lowest point in our 14-year history of polling, and the 12-point drop in feelings of safety which we recorded between 2010 and 2015 has not been reversed. While most Australians (78%) say they feel ‘safe’ overall, only 18% (almost unchanged since 2017 and a six-point drop since 2015) feel ‘very safe’, and 21% feel ‘unsafe’ overall (unchanged since 2017).