13 April 2014
Despite diplomatic convention dictating otherwise, in a press conference in Seoul, Tony Abbott continued his bad habit of publicly criticising the previous government for several issues, including their decision to cancel a gun order from South Korea. He has apparently promised, in his obscene haste to sign a free trade agreement, that we will buy armaments from them in the future.
Now I don't know about you, but I would prefer to spend our money on education, health, action on climate change, the NBN, the NDIS, job creation, those sorts of things, than on buying weapons to help Korea's economy.
Total world military expenditure in 2012 was over $1.75 trillion. This is equivalent to 2.5 per cent of global GDP. The US spent about $700 billion alone.
China announced a defence budget for 2014 of $132 billion, a generous increase of 12.2% on the year before. That was the official figure, though the real one may be 40% higher still. Japan, Vietnam and South Korea are raising their military expenditure in response to the Chinese military build-up.
Russia's defence spending will increase by 18% in 2014, and another 33% over the next two years. This is projected to be about 3.4 percent of Russia's GDP but over 20 percent of government spending.
Defence experts estimate the current Australian defence spending at about $26.5bn this year, or 1.6 per cent of GDP. The Coalition wants to double this to $50 billion a year within a decade and have commissioned, you guessed it, yet another defence white paper.
Minister for Defence, Senator Johnston, originally wanted academic and noted commentator Alan Dupont to write the report, and Mr Dupont had begun work in the Defence Department and had assembled a team to work on the document. 'Tony Abbott's office' (have you noticed how often that phrase comes up) overruled him deciding that the white paper would be written within the Defence Department, as was the case with the Howard government's 2001 defence white paper. What Defence Department in the history of the world has ever said we need less money?
While we are being told that Labor ambushed the Coalition with unaffordable spending commitments on education and the NDIS in the years beyond the forward estimates we hear this:
The Abbott Government is set to give the green light to the nation's biggest ever military purchase allowing Defence to order up to 86 American made stealth fighter jets for the RAAF.
The planes will cost about $90 million each when they roll off the assembly line between 2018 and 2020 and the overall project will cost some $14 billion during the 30-year life of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The Abbott government will spend $4 billion buying eight highly-sophisticated P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes for the Royal Australian Air Force. The US-built aircraft will be delivered in 2017 to replace the Cold War-era P3 Orion aircraft. The Poseidon will come equipped with torpedoes and harpoon missiles to destroy submarines and warships.
Australia announced plans Thursday for a fleet of giant high-tech unmanned drones to help patrol the nation's borders, monitoring energy infrastructure and attempts to enter the country illegally. A report in February said seven of the US-made drones would be purchased for Aus$3 billion ($2.7 billion), but Abbott said the details of how many and when had yet to be finalized.
It seems we have money to buy planes and drones from the US and who knows what from South Korea, but we have no money for locally made submarines.
Senator Johnston told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute conference this morning that he was still working (on) the problem of what sort of submarines should be built in SA. He also confirmed that building 12 submarines was no longer a Government policy, and that the specific number was now an aspiration.
Senator Johnston also echoed Prime Minister Tony Abbott's stance that building boats was about Defence capability not job creation.
This seems to be at odds with their previous stance recognising the need for ship building in South Australia. Perhaps the election result changed their minds.
The Abbott government is also aware that it needs to make decisions quickly to address the looming so-called valley of death in the shipbuilding industry. This refers to the gap in shipbuilding work that will come about when the Air Warfare Destroyer project is complete.
I am just wondering what we intend to do with all these weapons of war since the only people we are at war with is unarmed asylum seekers. I mean, seriously, does anyone truly believe that China is going to invade us using military force when we are giving them the country without firing a shot? And just what would Tony do if his unmanned drones detected an invasion fleet?
I have respect for our military and the job they do but when we are all being told we must help with the heavy lifting (instead of rising on the promised tide) how about we spend some of those billions on productive things rather than new toys for generals and admirals.