With Australia's strategic risks rising, you might assume that the government is urgently reorienting defence policy, finding ways to bolster national security within a few years.
And you would be wrong.
Before a policy statement in July declared that a major attack within 10 years could not be ruled out, big defence equipment programs were focused on yielding stronger armed forces after 2030. They still are.
Meanwhile, the country has not attended to 1001 unexciting details of national resilience that became familiar in Cold War Europe but have always been neglected here, simply because Australia has not been under strategic pressure.
In 2021, the government is even persisting with huge programs that would be useful for a return to Afghanistan or the Middle East, but almost useless for a far more pressing concern: helping the US resist Chinese expansion onto Taiwan, and defending Australia at the same time.
It's time for a shake-up. Linda Reynolds, defence minister until March, appears to have let her department just carry on as though the threat from China was hardly changing. Now the question is whether her successor, Peter Dutton, will do the same.
Yes, the government has increased the defence budget. But so much of the money is pouring into shipbuilding programs in Adelaide from which nothing will emerge before late in the decade. That's when the first Hunter-class frigate is supposed to be delivered; it should be fully operational a couple of years after that.
The first of the Attack-class submarines is not due for delivery until 2032. That program is intended to increase the submarine force from six boats to 12 - a number which will be achieved in 2054, when the last submarine in the class is delivered. You may not find that very comforting.
After the last of 72 F-35s becomes fully operational in 2023, the Royal Australian Air Force will reach a level of capability that will stay approximately stable until the 2030s. That's been the plan for many years, and the government, even as it judges that danger has moved into the 2020s, is doing little to change it.
There cannot be one defence analyst in Australia who believes the country is even close to ready for a major-power conflict. What specialists mostly call for is not, as might be expected, more flashy equipment (though some would be important). Rather, the most urgently needed actions are a multitude of less interesting measures that would be needed to keep the armed forces fighting efficiently.
Take command centres, for example. Australia's are in above-ground buildings - which were a good, economical choice in the days when the risk of attack was negligible. Those days have gone, so the command centres need to be hardened (put behind thick concrete or buried) or duplicated so that losing one does not leave forces without direction.
If the Royal Australian Air Force had to fight, it would do so from what it calls forward operating bases; there are six dotted across the north-west, north and north-east of the continent. But they, too, are vulnerable, lacking spare runways and taxiways. The RAAF's organization for rapid base repair probably could not cope with widespread and sustained attacks on them.
Stephan Fruehling, a defence specialist at the Australian National University, urges the air force to plan to disperse aircraft to many civilian airfields in the north, some owned by mining companies.
This valuable idea, which would make the planes safer, requires not costly construction but simply organisation, plus the acquisition of additional mobile aircraft-support equipment.
Supplying fuel to northern airfields might well require hauling it up there in civil airliners flown by reserve pilots. If so, plans need to be made, and the air force needs to talk to the airlines. Some equipment will be needed.
Then there's weapon stocks. Aircraft, ships and submarines are useless if they run out of things to shoot, so large stocks are needed. A missile-production capability that Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced in March will make little difference.
If an enemy submarine litters a port entrance with mines, ships - including warships - cannot enter or leave. Ever the Cinderella of the Royal Australian Navy, the mine-clearing unit originally had just six ships (mine hunters) for this problem. But two were pulled from service a decade ago as an economy measure; they are now for sale. This hardly seems serious.
Commissioning a mine hunter might not attract as much attention as, say, the launch of a great big frigate, but the mine hunter might prevent several frigates from becoming bottled up and useless.
Money for all this and more is available. The government just has to stop spending on equipment that would be needed mainly for resuming deployments somewhere between Syria and Afghanistan. This expeditionary task is receding in importance as the frightening risk of a war over Taiwan grows.
Most Australians have been surprised by the sudden, unpleasant talk of war. But for specialists in the area the problem has been obvious and growing for more than a decade, as China has built its capacity to fight off the US in the western Pacific, take Taiwan and, if it chooses, assert hegemony over east Asia.
The government has been well aware of this, too. Yet successive defence ministers have let the army and air force push ahead with plans to buy equipment for ground wars - meaning Middle Eastern wars of choice. Examples are tanks, armoured personnel carriers and propeller-driven drones.
None of those things would have much use if fighting broke out in the western Pacific. It's frankly baffling that the defence spending plan still allocates billions of dollars to buying them.
It's up to Dutton to change the direction. He should defer or cancel programs for ground combat, and use the funds to attend to a whole lot of unexciting measures. They wouldn't generate big headlines, but they would make the country much safer.
- Bradley Perrett is an international defence journalist who lived and worked in Beijing for 16 years.
- This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.