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Fatuous Defence: Australia’s Guided Missile Plans

Even in times of pandemic crises, some things never change. While Australia gurgles and bumbles slowly with its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, there are other priorities at stake. Threat inflators are receiving much interest in defence, and the media is feeding on it with a drunken enthusiasm. We live in a dangerous environment, and think-tankers, parliamentarians and commentators are starting to get a sweet taste for imminent conflict.

The latest instalment in this pitiable train towards conflict was revealed in Canberra last month. Australia, it seems, wants to make its own guided missiles. In a joint statement, the Prime Minister and Ministers for Industry and Defence outlined the enterprise. “The Morrison government will accelerate the creation of a (AU)$1 billion Sovereign Guided Weapons Enterprise, boosting skilled jobs and helping secure Australia’s sovereign defence capabilities.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison outlined his views in a media release on March 31. “Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe, while also providing thousands of local jobs in business right across the defence supply chain.”

In making the announcement, he opted for a chalk and cheese comparison. “As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, having the ability for self-reliance, be it in vaccine development or the defence of Australia, is vital to meeting our own requirements in a changing global environment.” That specious idea ignores the point that the weapons are going to be made, not by Australian arms companies (they can barely even manage any credible local production) but by foreign entities.

Australia’s Department of Defence is on the hunt for a “strategic industry partner,” which, in all likelihood will be one of the giants such as Raytheon Australia, BAE Systems Australia or Lockheed Martin Australia. The mere fact that such companies have tagged Australia at the end of their antipodean corporate base is no reassurance about a local killing capability. But the newly appointed Defence Minister Peter Dutton gives the impression that the selection will be somehow competitive and balanced, promising to resort to a “Smart Buyer” process in picking the said partner. Such smartness is bound to be bereft of any intelligence, as with previous procurement deals that go pear shaped within a matter of months. (At this writing, the Australian-Naval Group future submarine contract is sinking under incompetence, disagreement and cost.)

Dutton praises the idea of having an Australian base for the manufacture of such guided weapons, as they will “not only benefit and enhance our ADF operational capacity but will ensure we have adequate supply of weapon stock holdings to sustain combat operations if global supply chains are disrupted.” Given Australia’s poor performance in coping with disruptions to the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, despite the propaganda about sovereign capability in that field, this is actually mildly amusing.

We already know from government mutterings that the US will be crucial (when is it not?) in feathering the Australian project, giving it a faux independence. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, heavily commercialised, compromised and bound to the US-Australian insecurity complex, prattles constantly about the need to get involved with useless machinery that only serves to inspire the arms manufacturers of other countries.

Take this number from Andrew Davies from last month, thinking that it might not be such a bad idea to get on board the hypersonic weapons bandwagon. Australia, he suggested, “might well join” the major powers in acquiring them. The country, he claims, has “some world class researchers.” The nub: Australians have been “in joint programs with the US for over 20 years.”

The announcement about guided missiles excited ASPI’s director of defence, strategy and national security, Michael Shoebridge, a man who has been salivating for a proper war for some few years now. The latest initiative was “being driven by the two Cs, China and COVID.” Shoebridge fantasises about long-range anti-ship missiles and new vehicles with missile capabilities. In June last year, he warned of “a glaring gap we must close in our ability to supply the Australian Defence Force with precision munitions – notably missiles. Advanced missiles give the militaries the edge in combat.” His nightmare: Australian impotence in the face of supply disruptions; a slow production rate from overseas sources; abandonment. This is particularly more acute given that Australia is no longer interested in peacekeeping missions. Blame, he says, “the deteriorating strategic environment in our region” – a real favourite expression in the Prime Minister’s office and ASPI.

With Canberra making it clear that it wishes to continue a hissing and booing campaign against China even as it ingratiates Washington, the entire process has a heavy tang of needless stupidity. As to whether it actually benefits Australia in any concrete sense, a clue is offered by Dutton. “We will work closely with the United States on this important initiative to ensure that we understand how our enterprise can best support both Australia’s needs and the growing needs of our most important military partner.” If that is sovereign capability and independence, one hates to think what vassalage looks like.

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15 comments

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  1. Jon Chesterson

    Just one thing to say to Dutton, he is the guided missile…. “Boooom!”

    Guided Letter in the post from his lawyer…. “Boooooooom!”

    There seems to be an elongated fatuous echo in the House…. “Booooooooooooooooooom!”

    …or will it be just a guided whimper?

  2. DrakeN

    “Beware the enemy within.”
    We are in greater danger from internal forces such as the major political Parties than we are from external invasion.
    Foreign influences, such as the Murdoch media, transnational corporations and wealthy ‘investors’ are destroying our communities more surely than any military attack.

  3. leefe

    If local capacity for such production and development are so important, why do they keep gutting education and research programs?

  4. Harry Lime

    We’ve got a long way to go,the US currently spends about $750,000,000,000 per annum on producing armaments.
    I wonder where this money comes from? Could it be the great unwashed?I wonder if this money could be spent more wisely?Has anyone got Benito’s number?
    At least getting his boof head at the top of the story is a break from constant shots of Stupid.A bit like adding insult to injury.

  5. Lawrence Roberts

    Any announcement by this Muppet parliament I view sceptically as to what the sub plot might be. We could just buy guided missiles from the yanks or even cheaper from China but this looks like yet another money laundering scam. Lots of consultancy fees to mates, just for starters.
    I have always wondered about the new submarines which will be obsolete by the time the first one gets here. Drone submarines don’t need crews. We could park them all over the Indian pacific and make them ourselves. Indeed if we made them ourselves no one would know how many we had.

  6. Pete Petrass

    Rather than having “adequate supply of weapon stock holdings” would Australia not be better off having, at the minimum, ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF FUEL HOLDINGS????????????????????????????????
    If the shit hits the fan sure we (allegedly, but since Angus bought it, it may not even exist) have $90 million worth of fuel in the USA but other than that we do not even have the required 3 months supply available. And I think events like COVID-19 are more likely to occur than someone we want to shoot missiles at.

  7. Old bloke

    If memory serves me correctly, didn’t Randolph Hearst and Teddy Roosevelt have a hand in starting the American-Spanish war in 1898, with a view to selling newspapers? I think they even hired a boat so they could witness the sea battles first hand and then report the conflict. I raise this because one of the things that the media really loves is WAR. Lots of newsprint acreage to be filled and money to be made. I wonder if that is why the likes of Sheridan et al are frothing at the mouth over the wished conflict with China. Would sell a lot of papers.

  8. Old bloke

    Nigel, you rightly refer to the enemy within. I keep saying that the greatest threat to the security of Australia and its people is the Liberal Party. The Labor party has in a lesser way endanger us by its slavish following of USA policies since the Viet Nam war. Wasn’t Bill Shorten once accused of being a spy for the Americans in that he reported to them on a regular basis? And of course Gough was a victim for not being a slave to them. Or am I just being a conspiracy theorist?

  9. Canguro

    Meanwhile, back at the farm, while the fantasists insist on indulging in their white-supremacy wet dreams about military superiority against the yellow peril over the horizon to the far north and pay sycophantic homage to Great Satan across the Pacific, shamelessly brown-nosing while pretending that the stench of hegemonic ruthless domination at all costs is a smell worth bearing for the brownie points it brings to those who lap in the redolent stench of buddying up to the planet’s greatest exemplars of hypocrisy, sanctimony, cruelty, environmental rape, destruction of any who oppose its rank ideologies, worship of mammon, adulation of autocrats and dictators for expiditious outcomes and so on without a hint of irony or self-awareness, the harsh light of reality gets barely a mention.

    A little nation of around 25 million, with military personnel less than 60,000, sitting in the shadows of the inept Great Satan and relying on Beelzebub’s bluster for its courage, dares to poke and prod and throw the off stone northwards as if it’s schoolyard antics will scare the boogeyman into some sort of rethink and late-breaking recognition of the preferred natural authority of whitey and the English language as God’s ordained credo per ‘how it ought to be’, and don’t you forget it!

    And as for the harsh light of reality; well, there’s global warming for starters, restoration of food security and its ongoing maintenance in the face of the challenges posed by GW, economic stability for the citizens, maintenance of resource and market supply chains (why kick the major client, for Christ’s sake?), preservation of water resources on the planet’s driest continent, limiting the ongoing massive ecological destruction that seems to be the stock in trade of these times, restoration of some semblance of sanity within the body politic and much much more.

    But no, we’d rather scratch our balls and tug at the old fella and mumble idiotically about the need to establish a missile production facility to sit aside our laughable submarine manufacturing farce and and our wasted billions on the F-35As.

    Fuckin’ Hanrahan, a man before his time. Who needs saints & prophets when you’ve got a lowly bloke like him, with his barnyard wisdom. We’ll all be ruined, alright, if these jokers continue to get to rule the roost.

  10. Brozza

    “Creating our own sovereign capability on Australian soil is essential to keep Australians safe, while also providing thousands of local jobs in business right across the defence supply chain.”
    Keep Australians safe from what exactly?
    Revisiting old ways to channel (steal) Billions of taxpayer money to give to mates who may provide board positions post politics.
    This is just another of many ‘announcements’ from the head ‘freckle’
    Bovine excrement I say.

  11. Harry Lime

    Canguro…You bet your arse. The Liar, Barnyard Joke,Benito and the rest of those self important sycophants are but chaff in the wind of global politics.Boys in short pants way out of their playground league.

  12. Peter Oseckas

    Well I hope these missiles are going to be manufactured away from populated areas, cause that’s the first place the Chinese are gonna bomb….

  13. RomeoCharlie29

    Have just read ‘play by the rules’ by a guy named Pembroke which compares US and Chinese influences across the globe noting US proclivities for creating wars has increasigly alienated countries while China, through economic largesse is extending its influence absolutely everywhere. I found it profoundly scary because while China’s activities look benign, I can see them using their biggest Navy in the world, their biggest standing Army in the world or their biggest Air Force in the world to ‘defend’ their interests against any state which might get uppity enough to say ‘thanks for all that but goodbye’. It’s hard to trust a Dictator who arbitrarily extends his control not for a few years but for a couple of decades. So while I don’t want us to cosy up to China it’s clear that by aligning ourselves so strongly with the US we are not making a lot of friends elsewhere, faux independence or not.

  14. DrakeN

    RC29

    Please post references to your claims.

    …and remember to take into account the fact that China has a vastly greater population (x 22.5) than the USA and that it spends significantly less, (about half) as a proportion of GDP on military activities.

    Then consider the number of foreign military bases that the USA has.

  15. Goog

    So will ADF uniforms still be made in China? I bet all the bombs and missile have to come from the US

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