The prime minister, Scott Morrison, will announce a $500m funding boost to Australia’s special forces on Monday.
The defence spending – to be delivered over four years – is the first stage of Project Greyfin, which will provide a total of $3bn over 20 years for the elite forces and comes from the department’s existing budget.
“Australian Special Forces undertake complex, highly demanding operations in high threat environments,” Morrison said ahead of the announcement.
“Global threats will continue to evolve. This funding will ensure our Special Forces have cutting edge capabilities to stay ahead of those who might threaten Australia’s interests.” The defence minister, Linda Reynolds, said the funding would mostly be for equipment, including body armour, weapons, diving and parachuting equipment and roping and climbing systems. It would also go towards medical search and rescue, communications, and “human performance training and support”.
“Our special forces, now more than ever, need to be ready and able to deploy on operations anywhere in the world, at short notice, and in very uncertain conditions,” Reynolds said.
“This first stage of funding enables our special forces to engage with intelligence, science and technology, and innovation organisations to ensure future threats and opportunities are assessed, to make sure we are delivering them the capability they need in the future.”
The spending arises out of recommendations made in the 2016 Defence White Paper, and is part of the government’s commitment to restore defence spending to 2% of GDP by 2020-21. The coalition’s focus on defence spending comes as Labor calls on the government to improve its engagement with the opposition on China, saying a bipartisan approach is needed to deal with the “complex” foreign policy challenge.
“We have got to have a settled position going forward over the next few decades and that does require bipartisanship,” Labor’s defence shadow, Richard Marles, said.
He said balancing security concerns about China with Australia’s economic interests was complex, but described remarks made by the Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, which likened the threat of China to the advance of Nazi Germany, as “incendiary”.
“That does present challenges for us,” Marles said. “(But) there isn’t a cold war going on here, China is not the Soviet Union.”
The trade minister, Simon Birmingham, said the government already gave the opposition briefings “when required”, but also expressed disappointment with Hastie’s remarks.
“I would certainly encourage any colleague or indeed anybody making comments around sensitive foreign policy matters to pose a couple of questions,” Birmingham told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.
“Is the making of those comments in a public way necessary? Is it helpful to Australia’s national interests?”