Tag Archives: Labor

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.

Barnaby: Labor Downplays Debt Like It’s Only A Little Melanoma

18 Nov

Good for his word. That’s Senator Joyce.

He pledged to never relent in reminding Australians that “if you do not manage debt, debt manages you” (Feb 2010).

Check out his latest and greatest attack on Labor’s melanoma-like growth in debt, in the Canberra Times (my emphasis added):

Forever in debt and Labor still ignores cost cuts

The Labor Party did something remarkable last week: it actually paid back some money after borrowing $11billion over the six weeks before. Our gross debt is now at $215billion. Unfortunately, Labor will probably borrow more again this week.

Recent statements by Penny Wong about cost-cutting and by the secretary of the Treasury, Dr Martin Parkinson, seem to accord with my fears of two years ago that we were taking on too much debt.

On October 21 , 2009, Australia’s gross debt accelerated through $100billion. This was before my unfortunately spectacular and brief tenure as Australia’s shadow finance minister. I was deeply concerned about the trajectory of our debt but it was very hard to find somebody else in government or the fourth estate that held similar concerns.

I remember the date well as I put out a media release at the time which concluded, ‘‘There are lots of ways you can try to pay debt but closing your eyes tightly and crossing your fingers has proven lately to be completely ineffective.’’

Leading the caravan of opprobrium against me was Treasury, acting as an arm of government. Repeatedly, it said Australia had no problems. It avoided that it was not the size that was the concern, it was the rate of growth, a very small active melanoma. We fell into trap of saying we are in a better position than others because our melanoma is tiny compared with theirs.

In a speech last week, Parkinson said ‘‘efforts to reduce government net debt should be the immediate focus’’. I’ll give him a tip, it would have been easier to control back in 2009. It has taken a couple of years, but now Parkinson and I appear to be on the same page.

You can see Australia’s gross debt grow almost every week, like a Chia Pet, by visiting the front page of the Australian Office of Financial Management website. I imagine it is there because the people we borrow from want a fully transparent view of exactly how much we have borrowed. If you start hiding it they get very, very suspicious.

Everything is moving into unfortunate focus as we approach at a rapid rate our third debt ceiling under this Government’s watch, and Europe and America come to the realisation that the problem is debt.

To understand debt ceilings you must understand gross debt. On March 10, 2009, Treasurer Wayne Swan increased our debt limit from $75billion to a ‘‘temporary’’ level of $200billion. According to Swan, we needed this increase because China and India were going to ‘‘slow markedly’’ and the mining boom was ‘‘unwinding’’.

The mining boom didn’t, but we not only hit our new debt ceiling but it is now at $215 billion, or over $17,000 for every Australian taxpayer. Our next ceiling is at a quarter of a trillion dollars. This debt does not include state government debt (heading towards $250billion), the debt of fully owned government entities, such as the National Broadband Network, or the debt of local governments.

To make a budget based on blue, sunny days is not only fraught with danger, it is naive. It is the old adage of keeping money aside for a rainy day. School halls and ceiling insulation are not the only reasons we now have so much debt, it is generally just poor day-to-day cost management. Labor talks of budget cuts now but why did they ignore people such as Productivity Commission chairman Gary Banks and former Reserve Bank board member Dr Warwick McKibbin, who both said Labor should have been cutting spending two years ago?

Those with the purse strings either don’t have the strength, or don’t have the competency, to remain within our means. Labor’s cabinet is lacking the real business experience where what you bill or sell is what you earn, and the cheques you write over the long term better be less than that.

What happened to the $11billion that Labor borrowed in six weeks? Are there new aircraft carriers in Sydney Harbour with the Australian ensign fluttering? Is there a big new freeway somewhere that I am not aware of? Are there big new dams in Northern Australia delivering water to vast new agricultural areas to feed the world?

If you were to go searching for this money, the place I would humbly suggest you start looking is Canberra. Not the people of Gungahlin, but generally to the ministers who are in charge of departments that are just not controlling costs.

Barnaby is right:

Commonwealth Government Securities Outstanding | Source: Australian Office of Financial Management (AOFM)

Double Double (Labor) And Trouble

25 May

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
from Macbeth

Scene: A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.

Enter the three Witches…

ALL:

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

Yes, double Labor equals trouble alright.

Business Spectator’s inimitable Rob Burgess peeks in on a witches brew quietly a-boiling within Federal Labor ranks, now that the detritus of a decimated NSW Labor party machine has begun belly-crawling into Canberra (emphasis added):

Before the NSW election, a senior Labor figure told me of his grave fears for the party nationally once the most important Labor state machine imploded. Suddenly unemployed NSW MPs, and their long-standing staffers – the real machine – would be turning up on Capital Hill in their droves, creeping from chamber to chamber, seeking new power and influence in the federal sphere.

The NSW model of Labor politics would infect Canberra, he warned me, and it could destroy the Labor Party for good

…Labor’s battles are, so far, silent – like faceless men in the night. Bill Shorten, Greg Combet, Kevin Rudd (in the mind of Kevin Rudd) and Wayne Swan all get a mention from time to time. Of these, only the first two look at all likely to succeed Gillard. Privately, some Labor figures mention Tony Burke, though he has some major battles looming on the Murray Darling Basis to take care of first.

But the point is this: with so many displaced NSW, and now Victorian, Labor operatives on the loose, and with Julia Gillard’s opinion poll figures taking the low road, it is only at a matter of time before we begin to see as much leadership intrigue spilling over on the government benches as we are now seeing on Tony Abbott’s side of the house.

To my mind, a challenge to Gillard’s leadership before the next election would all but finish the Labor Party. But then Labor pessimists tell me that the pent up ambition in the Labor’s factional units is too great to contain. The Bracks/Carr/Faulkner review of Labor’s appalling 2010 and the party’s ‘undemocratic’ structure is yet another source of conflict within the party – a good half of the party wish it had never been conducted.

Certainly the knives are being sharpened for a time when, if miracles do happen, Labor scrapes home to form government again. But that is two years away at least. In the meantime, watch for fault lines – now on both sides of the house.

UPDATE:

From the Age:

Labor in crisis as disenchanted desert the party

Labor fears up to one in four of its Victorian members will not renew their memberships after last year’s devastating state election loss and disenchantment with the Gillard government.

And union heavyweight Joe De Bruyn warned that Labor – and civilisation itself – could cease to exist if the party overhauls its platform later this year to accept same-sex marriage.

Mr De Bruyn, national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Union and a powerful figure on the Labor Right, has criticised his party for allowing debate on gay marriage to ”fester”.

About 4700 of state Labor’s 12,000 members have not renewed ahead of a deadline on Tuesday. Labor insiders are predicting less than half will make the effort…

One Labor source blamed the federal government for ”trashing the Labor brand”.


Soros: ‘Very Cautious’ On China

27 Feb

International financier George Soros has confirmed concerns expressed by leading international economists on the possibility that the Chinese economy is in a “bubble”:

A hard landing for Chinese markets could come, Soros said, due to a significant increase in supply offset by falling demand. China’s regulatory authorities have managed the situation well thus far, he said, but he’s concerned about how various countries are maneuvering in the face of global imbalances…

I’m very cautious, until the economy cools off a little“…

“The overheating, the inflation, the harsh policy tightening is happening right now and it will continue to happen until the economy cools off. And with this explosion of credit, there are bound to be non-performing loans in due course. The extent depends on whether it is a hard landing or soft landing…”

Speaking about the global economic recovery, Soros commented:

“The recovery has been anemic; this was to be expected. But now, the increasing concern about rising sovereign debt is working against continued stimulus. And that increases the threat of a double dip. The rising concerns on sovereign debt increases the prospect of a double dip.”

Asked whether he thought that the major economies have taken sufficient action to address fundamental problems of the world economy in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis, such as global imbalances, Soros responded:

No. The global imbalances have continued to increase. Notably, China continues to run a very big current account surplus. That is one reason why an appreciation of the renminbi would be desirable. The task of correcting those imbalances hasn’t yet begun to be addressed.

Meanwhile, in Australia all our economic leaders remain convinced of a China-funded economic miracle, confidently expecting that the Chinese economy will give us up to 4 more decades of “unprecedented prosperity”.

It seems only Barnaby Joyce has his head out of the sand.

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