As Australia gears up for a national election, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told voters the expansion of the Aukus defence pact to include the building of hypersonic missiles will ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific region and boost the country’s economic security. Morrison, who is due to call a federal election on either May 14 or 21, made the comments on Tuesday during an inspection of French defence contractor Thales’ Sydney manufacturing base, where he outlined the role defence manufacturing has played in creating jobs and propelling economic growth in Australia . The factory visit came as the leaders of the Aukus alliance on Tuesday said they were working on developing advanced hypersonic weapons – which had been deployed by Russia in Ukraine – and counter-hypersonic weapons. They also reaffirmed their commitment towards “a free and open Indo-Pacific”. Announced in September last year, the defence pact initially enabled Canberra to develop nuclear-powered submarines. It has been viewed as a platform to counter Beijing at a time China’s increasing aggressiveness in the region has rattled US allies. “Now, our economic plan is about getting taxes down and cutting red tape … It’s also about making things in Australia, important things like they are making here at Thales with 500 employees, right here in the heart of Parramatta,” Morrison said at a press conference. “And so there is a clear link between Australia’s economic security and our defence security.” While the Aukus partnership sank the Liberal National government’s existing diesel electric-powered submarine contract and its diplomatic ties with France, Morrison said it had in turn created “thousands and thousands of jobs”, triggering concerns of Canberra’s increased enmeshment with the industrial-military complex of generating profits from war. Australia accelerates missile upgrade due to China, Russia threats Political observers say Morrison is riding on the coattails of a national budget released last week, which promised a record low unemployment rate. While polls showed the budget only slightly boosted Morrison’s popularity, observers say he is preaching to the choir in wooing voters who have already been swayed by the coalition government’s increase in defence spending and national security measures. “Absolutely, it’s a strategy,” political analyst and professor at the ANU’s Australian Studies Institute Mark Kenny said. “The question is: would people buy it? I think that is unknown at the moment, perhaps they are already in the coalition’s camp,” he said. Australian PM battles poor support, ‘racial vilification’ claims before election Veteran Labor Party pollster John Utting said Morrison appeared to be using national security and defence policies to further stoke a fear of China, but voters were seeing through the strategy. “There is no real Chinese threat to Australia at all, if you look at it completely objectively,” Utting said. “What the public is concerned with is the rise of authoritarianism and where the Chinese relationship is going to go.” Military and defence analysts had been concerned about the rise of the industrial-military complex in Australia, that is, public policies enabling private defence and weapons manufacturers to profit from war. Australia’s defence and military investment has been rising and in the recent budget last week, the Morrison government committed to a new A$9.9 billion (US$7.5 billion) investment in “national cyber and intelligence capabilities”. Large amounts of Australian public funds flow into the arms industry, with an extra A$270 billion, on top of the allocated defence budget, earmarked for between 2020 and 2030, Australian militarism and arms trade analyst Michelle Fahy said citing her recent research for the Australian Democracy Network. Fahy said Canberra was “well enmeshed” in the military-industrial complex pointing to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) research that showed after the UK, Australia hosted the second largest number of subsidiaries of the top 15 global arms manufacturers. She also said it did not make sense for politicians like Morrison to justify defence on the basis of job creation, as the number of jobs created by defence corporations were small, about 0.2 per cent of the Australian workforce. Allan Patience, a Principal Fellow in Political Science at the University of Melbourne, said in a local interview that provoking China was a means of creating an enemy so that Beijing could justify its military spending. Australia and China’s relationship sank to new lows at the start of the pandemic in 2020, after Canberra called for an investigation into the coronavirus without consulting Beijing. The relationship remains on ice amid informal blocks on some Australian imports by Beijing. Australia signs trade deal with India to reduce its dependence on China Asked during his visit to Thales if his expectation was China would invade Taiwan in the next decade and if Australia would be involved in any conflict, Morrison said he was building up defence capabilities to avoid those sort of scenarios. “We do these things to keep Australians safe; we do these things to bring balance and strategic certainty to our region,” he said. That included working with the Aukus alliance and the Quad grouping of the US, Japan, Australia and India, the prime minister added. “The reason we invest in all of these things is to create a peaceful environment and a stable environment in our region, not one driven by conflict.” Morrison declined to say when he would set a poll date. In Australia, voting is held on a Saturday and the country’s election laws mean that Morrison has until April 11 to set a May 14 election, or until April 18 to call for one on May 21.