The Coalition places enormous emphasis, and invests eye-watering sums of money, on defence.
It should be asked, but never is by the me-too Labor Party or the lazy media, is this the best use of our resources, both physical and financial?
In May we were informed that “the Government will provide Defence with $32.3 billion in 2016-17 and $142.9 billion over the Forward Estimates.”
That’s a lot of money, but it is also the tip of the iceberg as it doesn’t include capital acquisitions – Pyne’s baby.
Over the past 12 months the Government spent around $13.1 billion on new hardware including 1,100 Hawkei protected vehicles and more than 1,000 trailers, 49 Pilatus PC-21 training aircraft and seven Flight Simulators, two additional Airbus KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft to add to the existing fleet of five, four additional Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance and response aircraft, and new Austeyr EF88 rifles (the enhanced F88).
But it is the navy who reaped the most benefit from the election vote-buying.
“The Government’s naval shipbuilding strategy will invest around $90 billion in our naval capability and shipbuilding industry, creating more than 3,600 direct jobs and thousands more through the supply chain.”
That amounts to $25 million per direct job.
And as we are slowly finding out, supply chain jobs will largely be in other countries.
If you read the overseas press, French shipbuilder DCNS chief Hervé Guillou said the submarine deal would “create around 4,000 French jobs, benefiting shipyards and industrial sites in Lorient, Brest, Nantes and Cherbourg.”
An Australian submarine team will now set up an office at the DCNS submarine yard at Cherbourg in northern France to “finalise plans for the infrastructure that will be needed”.
The submarine contract alone is worth an estimated $50bn in the construction phase and a further $100bn over the vessels’ lifetime.
Christopher Pyne just signed a $500 million contract with DCNS so they can “get on with designing Australia’s new submarines.”
Say what? We just committed to spending $150 billion on something that hasn’t even been designed yet and we are going to give the successful bidder half a billion to come up with a design?
What the hell did we buy? An idea?
Defence company Lockheed Martin Australia has been awarded a $1.4 billion contract over the life of the submarines project to perform combat systems integration.
That means 200 jobs at the Lockheed Martin facility at Mawson Lakes in Adelaide. That amounts to only $7 million per job.
We will not see these submarines for decades and the government is already suggesting they will be outdated before they arrive.
“The first submarines likely to begin entering service in the early 2030s. Construction of the 12 new submarines will extend into the late 2040s to 2050 timeframe. The length of the construction process will mean that Australia will need to be planning the follow-on submarine well before the last new submarine enters service.”
It should be noted that China already has 70 submarines, five of them nuclear, and they just launched their newest nuclear-powered attack submarine code named 093B which has surprised analysts with the rapid strides China has made in design and development. This sub is much quieter and carries an assortment of weapons including the cruise missiles with a vertical launch capability.
It is ludicrous to think that our subs, designed today but not delivered for several decades, can even hope to keep up with the technology of the future. Compare 1975 to now and ponder what 2055 might look like.
Also of concern, detailed technical plans — totalling some 20,000 pages — which outlined in minute detail the capabilities of a Scorpene-class vessel purchased by India, were leaked from DCNS. The leak revealed crucial information, such as diving times, torpedo ranges, and above all noise profiles while operating underwater so China already has these supposedly secret specifications.
The Government has also announced First Pass Approval for both the $3 billion Offshore Patrol Vessel and the $35 billion Future Frigates projects which will no doubt continue to be used to patrol for Indonesian fishing vessels carrying a few refugees.
And of course there is the $24 billion set aside for Tony’s fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Earlier this year, Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation, said the plane would struggle mightily in a “dogfight”.
“The F-35B Block 2B aircraft is not capable of unsupported combat against any serious threat,” Mr Gilmore said, according to Aviation Week.
So why are we buying 72 of them?
We are not at war and are very unlikely to ever engage in a large scale conventional war again. You don’t create “stability in the region” by engaging in an arms race.
Imagine the good that just a fraction of this money could do both here and abroad, educating people and lifting them out of poverty, providing shelter and clean water, microfinancing small enterprises – all the things that could contribute to harmonious relations and social cohesion.
Imagine if the ADF was used for disaster relief, evacuations, search and rescue, humanitarian aid and rebuilding, peace-keeping, policing, emergency response to epidemics, skills training for our young people – all those things they are so very good at and that are crucial to our region.
Australia should keep right out of this posturing by the US and China – leave them to their pissing contest. The military are always going to ask for more money because the arms manufacturers are continually coming up with new weapons of destruction, big new toys for the boys to play with, because that is basically all most of this hardware is ever used for – war games.
What a waste!