Tag Archives: greg sheridan

Labor Weakens Our Defence Forces, Invites Foreign Occupation

25 Mar

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Would you consider a government that is deliberately weakening our defence forces, and at the same time, inviting foreign troops to be permanently stationed here, to be guilty of treason?

What about a governing political party that knifed its own popularly-elected Prime Minister – who had offended a foreign power – to replace him with someone who would suck up to that foreign power? Would you consider that to be treasonous?

Greg Sheridan of The Australian has most of the story (reproduced in full, with more below):

ACROSS the upper echelons of the Defence Department, within the broader Australian defence industry, and among that small but hardy tribe we might describe as our strategic class, there is a deepening realisation that the Gillard government has abandoned the 2009 defence white paper and the force structure Labor committed the nation to acquiring by 2030 or thereabouts.

This is a devastatingly dangerous national path. It is also dishonest because the Gillard government and Defence Minister Stephen Smith claim that they are still implementing the white paper. No one, however, any longer believes them.

The basic mechanism for abandoning the white paper is an endless deferral of decisions on big equipment, combined with a blatant betrayal of the resource commitments of the white paper.

Those resource commitments were probably never sufficient to deliver the force structure envisaged but, given how much the government has ripped out of defence resources, there is absolutely no chance now of achieving the forces the government told us were necessary for our security.

Death by deferral is the key mechanism. Say a government decides that to build its required defence force it must spend $200 billion over the next 10 years. The best way to achieve that is to spend $20bn a year. That won’t always be possible but over a decade it will average out.

But if a government spends only $10bn in the first nine years, always claiming that it is not cutting but merely deferring expenditure, it leaves itself in year 10 needing to spend $110bn. That is impossible. Industry cannot supply that much in one year, the department can’t process it.

If you’re judging a government’s long-term commitment to resources, look not at what it promises five or 10 years down the track, always beyond the forward estimates period of four years, look at what it does year by year.

The Gillard government has consistently made defence budget papers more and more opaque. It requires quite esoteric, specialist knowledge and vast industry to penetrate them. This is done consciously to avoid democratic scrutiny.

From the first budget after the 2009 white paper, the government started not putting its money where its mouth was.

Mark Thomson of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in a study of the defence budget last year, established that even in the 2009-10 federal budget, some $9bn was deferred to later within the first decade of the white paper’s 20-year timeframe.

Then in 2010-11, according to Thomson: “Defence funding across the next decade has been cut (not deferred) by $3.9bn. In addition, $2.4bn of capital investment funding has been deferred to beyond 2014-15.”

According to Thomson’s study, all the deferrals and delays mean that to meet the Gillard government’s own defence spending commitments, for the five years after 2012-13, “underlying defence funding needs to grow by 32 per cent in a period of only five years, corresponding to an average of almost 6 per cent per annum”. Is there anyone in the world who thinks there is the faintest chance of this happening?

The Gillard government is truly a Hollowmen government. The only programs it actually implements are the ones it promises never to do, such as the carbon tax. Everything it does positively promise is all announcement effect and no follow through.

In the case of the defence white paper this is very disturbing. The nation’s security is in part a casualty of Kevin Rudd’s political assassination. Rudd was the driving political, and to some extent intellectual, force behind the white paper. When he left the prime ministership the government lost all interest in it.

Gillard has never displayed any interest in defence and Smith is emerging as a world-class ditherer who never gets anything done. His comments indicate further defence budget cuts this year.

This is not just special interest pleading for its share of the pie. This means the Gillard government has decided that Australia will not be able to defend itself, and will not be able to mount serious, independent military operations, either alone or as part of a coalition. That is dereliction of duty.

There are sections of the 2009 white paper that offer a retrospective black hilarity. One of the biggest decisions of the white paper was that Australia should double its submarine fleet from six to 12, and these should have greater range and capability than the Collins boats they will replace. The white paper declares: “The complex task of capability definition, design and construction must be undertaken without delay, given the long lead times and technical challenges involved.”

Don’t you love that “without delay”? Here we are three years later and virtually nothing has happened on the new subs. This is classic Smith: defer, defer, defer. Whatever decision an Australian government takes on the subs will cause angst. Either we will design and build them in Australia, guaranteeing huge cost overruns and that basically they won’t work, but satisfying the make-work element of defence. Or we will buy something useable from overseas and whichever government does that will lose a couple of South Australian seats. The best way to avoid the inevitable grief of either decision is to simply avoid any decision at all. It is death by deferral.

Our Air Warfare Destroyers, which allow us to control an area of the sea, mainly that area in which we are transporting our troops, is already at least a year behind schedule. And this is while we are dealing with the easy bits, building the hulls. If we can’t build the hulls properly, imagine the fun and games there will be installing the software and the weapons systems. Already the budget cuts are seeing our forces hollow out, as they did in the 1980s and 90s. The only units of the army properly equipped are those in Afghanistan. In Australia there are units meant to have 100 vehicles where only five or 10 work. There is no budgetary provision for the up-to-the-minute communications equipment that would make the amphibious ships, when one day we get them, work properly.

This is a monstrously inefficient way to spend $27bn a year. It is offensively undemocratic because the government has never said it’s abandoning the force it committed to in the white paper. And it is wickedly irresponsible in its sacrifice of national security to political convenience.

Lest we forget, dear reader, some other noteworthy recent developments.

On June 24, 2010, a popularly-elected Prime Minister was ousted by his deputy.  There are plausible insider claims that she was “given the nod” to depose the PM, by multinational corporations. And the PM she knifed just happened to be unpopular with the USA:

WikiLeaks has given Australians a rare glimpse of how their country is run. In 2010, leaked US cables disclosed that key government figures in the Labor Party coup that brought Julia Gillard to power were “protected” sources of the US embassy: what the CIA calls “assets”.

Kevin Rudd, the prime minister she ousted, had displeased Washington by being disobedient, even suggesting that Australian troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

In the wake of her portentous rise to power, Gillard attacked WikiLeaks as “illegal” and her Attorney-General threatened to withdraw Assange’s passport. Yet the Australian Federal Police reported that Assange and WikiLeaks had broken no law.

In November 2012, having just enjoyed basking in the reflected glory of the visiting US President Obama, our new unelected PM announced that her minority government will allow the crumbling (and increasingly desperate) superpower to permanently station US marines in northern Australia (see This Will End Well).

There is an excellent article in The Conversation that adds some perspective to what your humble blogger considers a very bad move for our national interest. Here’s one small excerpt:

There are disturbing reports that the Gillard government is giving the US Marines a base in Darwin. Not since the Vietnam War will Australia have seen such an invasion of US miltary [sic] personnel into its territory. But it’s 35 years since that war ended, so what is the threat to both the US and Australia that necessitates a Marine base in our northern capital?

Whatever that threat is, it is not a clear and present danger: not even in the sense of the tumbling dominoes used to justify intervention in Vietnam. The threat is that the squares on the checker-board of the Great Game are being filled up fast by a power in a position to take advantage of the economic recession of the Atlantic powers.

This current global situation is characterised by John Bellamy Foster as “the attempts of Washington to restore and expand its global hegemony, using its military power to enhance its economic position”. William Tabb provides a finer-grained analysis of the motives for the current round of US expansion. It is in part spurred on by “the financial turbulence that has gripped the economy of the United States”.

So what do we have here?

A narcissistic, popularly-elected PM – who just happens to have angered a crumbling and desperate modern-day Roman Empire – is knifed by his deputy, at the urging of multinational corporations including the world’s biggest mining company, BHP Billiton.

The new PM immediately sucks up to said crumbling superpower by attacking one of the nation’s citizens, who just happens to have embarrassed said superpower.

Following a visit from the putative leader of said superpower, the new PM announces that said superpower’s elite military forces can have a permanent base on our sovereign territory.

And in the meantime, the new PM’s government wilfully undermines the nation’s own defence forces by quietly, deceitfully, starving it of necessary funding.

It all smells like treason to me.

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