OUR SAY: Trouble on our doorstep

AUSTRALIA has every right to be concerned about China's increasing exercise of power over the South China Sea.

Quite unlike Iraq and Afghanistan - areas of conflict in which Australia has never had either a legitimate authority to act or a compelling reason - the South China Sea represents a region of real security and economic threat to our nation.

The seaway provides passage for our exports and imports, particularly oil for which there are no strategic reserves in this country.

Two NRMA Liquid Fuel Security reports produced for the motoring body by retired Air Vice-Marshall John Blackburn have gone largely unacknowledged and without firm commitments from any political party.

There are five days supply of fuel in crude tanks at refineries, two days stock in the refinery process. Ten days stock of refined fuel, three days supply at service stations and another three days in the tanks of Australian motorists.

Just how clumsily that reality has been managed can be seen by the inflammatory remarks of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop who has called for Australia to carry out freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea to test the legality of China's man-made islands in the waterway it has equipped with runways, troops and defence systems.

Australia has been fixated since the early 1990s on matters of no primary concern while a lack of proper focus has allowed our security to be compromised and the relationship with our major trading partner to sour much closer to home.