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How many children’s lives will Tony’s jets cost?

Despite the tragedy of gun crime and the seemingly never-ending massacres in the USA, most Americans are against any changes to their gun laws. Even the most moderate individuals believe they must own a gun to defend their family and property regardless of the fact that they have never had to actually use it. The fact that they have a gun sitting there is security for them and a deterrent for would be attackers. Perhaps their society has deteriorated so far that this is their reality – it is certainly their mentality.

They have the same ‘deterrence’ mentality when it comes to their defence forces. They are the biggest and the best. They see themselves as the world police and this is no doubt true to a large degree, even if you disagree with their policing methods and targets.

The Washington foreign policy establishment is accustomed to the authority, prestige, and privilege of being the overwhelmingly dominant power on the planet. There are politically powerful military contractors that also have a voice in U.S. foreign and military policy. But is it really necessary?

The U.S. lost most of its influence in Latin America over the past 15 years, and the region has done quite well, with a sharp reduction in poverty for the first time in decades. The Washington-based International Monetary Fund has also lost most of its influence over the middle-income countries of the world, and these have also done remarkably better in the 2000s.

There is a widespread belief that if the United States does not run the world, somebody worse – possibly China – will. Using a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China will displace the U.S. as the world’s largest economy this year. The money that China needs to build a fighter jet or pay military personnel is a lot less than the equivalent in dollars that the U.S. has to pay for the same goods and services, and they have 1.3 billion people.

So should we be worried?

China is a rising power, but the government does not seem to be interested in building an empire. Unlike the United States, which has hundreds of military bases throughout the globe, China doesn’t have any. The Chinese government seems to be very focused on economic growth; trying to become a developed country as soon as it can. Their standard of living is generally lower and they have a long way to go to become a rich country so are most unlikely to start a war that would cut off their markets and supply chain.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2012 the US spent over $682 billion or 4.4% of GDP on defence. Globally, $1.756 trillion was spent on defence with Australia contributing 1.4% of that – some $26.5 billion or 1.6% of GDP.

Even though we have been told that the country has a budget emergency and that everyone must face cuts and contribute to improving our fiscal position, there will be no cuts to defence spending. Quite the contrary, the Coalition wants defence spending to be doubled to $50 billion a year within a decade and have commissioned yet another white paper.

Senator Johnston 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. However, the appointment was never confirmed and “The Prime Minister’s Office” decided that the white paper would be written within the Defence Department as John Howard had done previously.

Senior sources have said that even a defence budget of $50bn by 2023 could not afford the defence force outlined in the 2009 white paper, and confirmed in its 2013 successor. I doubt this year’s effort will suggest any cutbacks since Tony got a chance to sit in a fighter jet. Asking the defence forces how much they need is like giving a kid the keys to the candy store.

And what do we get for this huge expenditure? Do we really need to send tens of billions of dollars out of our economy to the US for fighter jets or to the Japanese for submarines or to South Korea to say thanks for the Free Trade Agreement? What do our submarines and fighter jets actually do? Why would China invade us when we are happy to sell them the country for a fraction of what a war would cost?

Whatever the internal political systems of the countries whose representation in the international arena will increase, the end result is likely to be more democratic governance at the international level, with a greater rule of international law, fewer wars, and more social and economic progress. There will be more negotiation and less orders.

In 2010, 15.1 percent of all persons in America lived in poverty. 16.4 million children, or 22.0 percent, were poor. In Australia, 17.2% of our children live in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world.”

Homelessness, poor health, hunger – poverty’s consequences can be severe. Growing up in poverty can harm children’s well-being and development and limit their opportunities and academic success. And poverty imposes huge costs on society through lost productivity and higher spending on health care and incarceration.

Some theorists have accused the poor of having little concern for the future and preferring to “live for the moment”; others have accused them of engaging in self‐defeating behaviour. Still other theorists have characterized the poor as fatalists, resigning themselves to a culture of poverty in which nothing can be done to change their economic outcomes. In this culture of poverty – which passes from generation to generation – the poor feel negative, inferior, passive, hopeless, and powerless.

The “blame the poor” perspective is stereotypic and not applicable to all of the underclass. Not only are most poor people able and willing to work hard, they do so when given the chance. The real trouble has to do with such problems as minimum wages and lack of access to the education necessary for obtaining a better‐paying job when unemployment is increasing.

I once saw a t-shirt that said “Definition of a Canadian: an unarmed American with health care”. Whilst there is much to admire about America, they are a very different country to us with a very different mentality to us. Letting them dictate to us about defence capability is no more sensible than following their lead on gun laws. We have universal healthcare and free education. They don’t. Let’s not swap our priorities for theirs.

Tony Abbott was in the habit of counting Labor’s deficit in lost “teaching hospitals”. How many children’s lives will Tony’s jets cost?


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  1. Matters Not

    The fact that they have a gun sitting there is security for them and a deterrent for would be attackers

    Well they certainly have their guns (89 per 100 residents in 2007), but it certainly doesn’t provide them with security, evidenced by the death rate. The more guns the more deaths, but most (not all) the Americans I meet in my travels cannot and will not entertain a serious discussion on the issue.

    By and large Americans do not trust ‘government’ and that mistrust extends to personal protection. It’s a type of rugged individualism writ large.

    Yet, Gillard wanted to model our education system on the US and now Abbott et al want to model our total society on what is a social disaster.

  2. mars08

    Something worth considering… the F35 JSF is a strike aircraft. It’s primary mission is to accurately drop bombs on targets. The “fighter” aspect of this jet serves to complement it’s primary purpose. Since it is not an air-superiority fighter or interceptor, it would be preferably deployed with fighter cover or in a theatre where the enemy lacks an effective air force.

    When being used as a strike aircraft, the JSF’s stealth capability is used to it’s greatest advantage in “surprise” attacks. Even then, given our geographic remoteness…. a strike package would include Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft, and tankers to refuel the aircraft en route. Since refueling tankers aren’t particularly stealthy or maneuverable, they may need to be protected by fighter aircraft.

    Not exactly Maverick and a handful of his Top Gun mates saving the world for democracy, is it? It’s really, really, really messy.

    Soooo… why not merge the RAAF with the USAF and be done with it?

  3. Kaye Lee

    Why not just wait to see if another war happens and then the US has all the resources to make more planes and we can send them some of our top guns. It’s all just too silly. We could eliminate hunger, provide shelter, fresh water, eliminate diseases through vaccination and illiteracy through education, all with one year’s global defence budget.

  4. mars08

    Why not just wait to see if another war happens…

    Wars don’t just “happen” and… if our dear Tony gets a chance, I suspect he’d jump at the chance to be a brawny “wartime leader”. Does wonders for the polls, don’t ya knoooow….

  5. Kaye Lee

    Let’s hope the Liberal Party wake up to themselves and replace him before he forces other countries to take action against us. I’m surprised the UN hasn’t called for sanctions already. I am fully expecting to hear about penalties for inaction at the climate change conference next year.

  6. mars08

    Despite all the banging on about justice and peace… it’s fairly obvious that 21st Century Australia has an exceptional lack of respect for the UN.

  7. Kaye Lee

    They don’t make a profit and keep banging on about health, income inequality and climate change. They’ll get no credence from this regime.

  8. Don Winther

    Why are God fairing religious people so obsessed with lying, steeling and killing?

  9. donwreford

    Tony’s infantile return to childhood when he used to play with planes, now he is in front row of the jet, sending a boyish thrill his bandy legged body, and the pensioners and welfare can pay for the macho thrill of the boy becoming of age, Iv’e made it, better than a priest taking confession, and millions squandered on what is or will be soon outdated technology, it’s all enough to make one return to drugs, the problem is their is no escape nor any relief from these tyrannical retards that control our lives.
    those that commit suicide on can envy taking a escape route? if only my greatest fear is to be reincarnated as someone like Abbott, a fear worst than the fear of death.

  10. Matters Not

    Let’s face it. It isn’t the adults in charge. It’s the kidultson the charge.

    Speaking of Pyne, how else could you describe him other than a kidult?

    Notice also, Abbott et al is obsessed with solving (self identified)’problems’ by resorting to the ‘military’, broadly defined.

    Need to negotiate with Indonesia? Moyland is your man. (Not sure of his KPIs but a complete failure by any measure.) Need a new Governor-General, then Cosgrove is your man. Need to find a missing plane, then Houston is the one.

    Need to make the punters feel secure, then spend, spend on Defence. Realistically, if China wants to invade then the best investment is a recorded phone message along the lines of “We surrender”.

    Need to create unifying ‘myths’ then go metaphorically to Gallipoli and reify the Anzacs. (BTW, anyone who’s actually been there and not realised the complete stupidity of Australians trying to invade the Ottoman Empire which presented absolutely no threat to Australia’s ‘sovereign borders’ is completely thick.)

  11. Stephen Tardrew

    Matters Not I think not.

    Gorilla warfare in a huge country like Australia would be a nightmare and they know it. It certainly isn’t that easy to invade a country especially the size of Australia. We have some prize US intelligence assets and you don’t think they would be handed over to China without massive resistance. That’s one theory you can forget very quickly. This country would be an absolute bitch to defend and the losses for China would be substantial.

    I am completely against war however there is no such thing as strategic isolation these days. Its not worth the worry and angst even considering it unless the US and Europe go to hell in a hand basket. The strategic importance of Australia in Asia mitigates against invasion by a foreign entity.

  12. Dan Rowden

    Gorilla warfare in a huge country like Australia would be a nightmare and they know it.

    If only Charleton were still with us … 🙂

  13. Matters Not

    Gorilla warfare in a huge country like Australia

    Stephen, we don’t have too many Gorillas in Australia outside of zoos, and most I’ve seen here and elsewhere aren’t too interested in ‘warfare’. But that’s just my take. As for ‘guerrilla warfare’, I don’t think that the Chinese would be interested in the least in that type of ‘warfare’. Take out Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and the white flag would soon be up. (Notice I left Canberra out of the equation because the Chinese would realise the need for someone in authority to raise that white flag.)

    BTW, my post is somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’. China has its own internal problems which will keep it occupied for a decade at least.

    China is not a ‘democracy’ in the sense that the ruling elite is there by the expressed ‘will of the people’ but it is there by the ‘consent of the governed’, however difficult that is to determine by ‘outsiders’.

    Spend some time in China, keep a low profile, travel around, and you will appreciate some underlying tensions of which the central government is well aware.

  14. Matters Not

    BTW. there’s a new position for

    an editor for our new online Labor Herald?

    And while there’s many here who could fill that role, I just wonder whether that’s the best way to go.

    (Sorry Michael to be off topic).

  15. doctorrob54

    Well Iv’e heard it all now,securing ourselves from the Chinese invaders. FFS it is a joke I hope.
    There are over a million ppl employed in the American Military Arms Industry and we are here to
    to keep them afloat.Another hoax on the nations people.Get use to it.

  16. Stephen Tardrew

    Matters Not

    Missed the tongue in cheek. Bit thick ya know.

    My son speaks Chinese fluently and has spent some time in China. Also a friend who used to be Ambassador to China so understand the political dynamics quite well. The huge and burgeoning ethnic problems. They certainly have their hands full. There are plans within plans. That’s why the US move to Asia. Pretty damn complex set of imperatives. The other Asian countries would not appreciate any move by China into their backyard. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Japan, Vietnam while Cambodia is stepping back fast. If the Chinese moved on South East Asia these countries would throw a fit because many rely upon the US/EU alliance for protection. Also too many important trade agreements would be compromised. Upsetting Muslim countries could backfire dramatically. China is not that popular in Southern Asia and though they want their investment capital they don’t want their domination.

  17. Kaye Lee

    Matters Not,

    Re Jim Molan, I am worried about him. We gave him over a million to be our “Special Envoy” and then he disappeared never to be heard from again.

    ”I am as happy as a pig in shit – you can quote me on that – doing what I’m doing at the moment.” – Jim Molan

    Re his KPIs

    “I have a good understanding of the region . . . and I have many friends up there. I will be the troubleshooter, I will be the fixer.”

  18. diannaart

    Kaye Lee

    I once saw a t-shirt that said “Definition of a Canadian: an unarmed American with health care”. Whilst there is much to admire about America, they are a very different country to us with a very different mentality to us. Letting them dictate to us about defence capability is no more sensible than following their lead on gun laws. We have universal healthcare and free education. They don’t. Let’s not swap our priorities for theirs.

    After my first six months in the USA I went into a state of culture shock (I was very young). Thought I was a politically moderate sort of person until I lived there. In the States I discovered I was a heathen commie – which was news to me. We have far more in common with Canada apart from the Commonwealth, there is an inherent ideology between our countries.

    On QANDA Monday night – yes the “student protest” episode, Mark Trevorrow asked Pyne if he could reduced the number of jets – “surely 28 jets are enough?” and use the money saved on youth programs. Natch, Pyne just grinned maniacally. Well worth watching just for Mark and Anna Burke – recommend singing “la la la la la” with hands over ears whenever Pyne or Roskam uttered predictable rhetoric – why don’t these guys just send in a tape?

  19. Stephen Tardrew


    I follow US politics fairly closely and its like a totally foreign culture driven by some strange sense of individual self-interest in which personal responsibility rides above communitarian necessity. They scream at government when they do stuff and they scream when the government does nothing. This visceral hate of government is pathological when considering the necessary services expected from government. Rugged individuality means the right to sprout any nonsense as if it was soundly based in some vague concocted formula of incoherence.

    The US is no longer a democracy it is now a true oligarchy and to look towards the US as an example is just insane. Money is speech is an abomination. The Supreme Court is a joke. There are many great Americans I admire and respect however the general cultural construct is driven by gross inequality and appalling denigration of the underprivileged and poor.

    As far as I can see the thing to do about the US is be very wary and follow our own pathway to the future. Australia must become an independent nation and stand upon its own values, history and future.

  20. mars08

    Mark Trevorrow asked Pyne if he could reduced the number of jets – “surely 28 jets are enough?” and use the money saved on youth programs. Natch, Pyne just grinned maniacally…

    The commitment to the F35 is just the latest (and most expensive) step towards our armed forces simply becoming a de facto appendage to the US military.

  21. strobedriver

    This article raises some good points however there are some tensions within it that I would like to address. Whilst I have no genuine problem with the comparison of the cost of the JSFs and that it could be better spent there is the issue of an air force. The real problem for me is that the JSFs were bought by the Howard government without a proper due process essentially and that in fact there are vastly superior aircraft for less and/or similar price tag. Dassault for instance make a vastly superior aircraft the Rafale and there is of course the Eurofighter Typhoon. These would have and could have been utilized by Australia however, the obsequiousness and sycophancy of the Howard regime to the Bush administration is somewhat legendary, and here is the end result: stuck with an aircraft that is going to have enormous ‘blowout’ costs, has massive software issues and will not be delivered on time and on budget. This aircraft is a aerial-lemon. Also the argument regarding China (and its rise) which will come to meet Australia in the very near future however, China is progressing militarily as well as economically. Currently it is establishing bases in Pakistan (which despises the USA due in part to the war on terror which has left the populace deeply resentful of America due in no small part to drone-strikes) and in Burma as well as moving to establish bases in Africa. China is now setting about accomplishing what the USA once did: establishing a long term plan for it to become a global power. Australia should take heed and plan for this happening as America is not our neighbour, nor is it in our region and nor will it come to our aid if there is a clash with China and America is a war-weary nation.
    If further interested regarding the above you can visit my blog: geo-strategic orbit.

  22. Matters Not

    Stephen Tardrew said:

    follow US politics fairly closely and its like a totally foreign culture driven by some strange sense of individual self-interest

    Yep! And it’s a ‘totally foreign culture’, but that should be no surprise.

    They scream at government when they do stuff and they scream when the government does nothing

    Yep again. Their ‘logic’ or ‘common sense’ in many ways escapes my ‘meaning making’.

    Last year, we did a trip through the ‘Balkans’ with an FBI guy and his ‘brother-in-law’. Nice people, one and all. The FBI guy admitted to owning six firearms, justified in terms of ‘part of his job’ and his relative by marriage owned more than five, justified in terms of being a ‘hunter’.

    They were amazed that I’ve never owned a gun and felt no need to purchase one.

    I note also you speak of ‘rugged individualism’ which Herbert Hoover evoked some decades ago. I think that’s crucial in understanding American ‘common sense’.

  23. Pingback: A reply to : How many children’s lives will Tony’s jets cost? | Geo-Strategic Orbit

  24. donwreford

    The article is on American guns, your comment is the threat of invasion of China attacking Australia? have you got the wires crossed? or is their a relationship between guns in America and Chinese invasion?
    Are you suggesting in Australia, we should arm Australians to arm themselves to not only arm the good guys against the bad, but to deter Chines invasion? as a possibility.

  25. strobedriver

    Hi Don, the issue for me is the rise of China and the dangers for Australia in keeping with America in the process. China will be the ultimate force in the Asia-Pacific region in the next 2 decades, whether we like it or not and what have we bought for our RAAF (although I too would much prefer the $s spent on schools) pieces of junk that will not in any way offer any protection to Australia. My point being if we are going to buy fighters they should be at least value for money, and capable of whatever job the RAAF allocates them. Nevertheless, China is on the rise and this will confront Australia in no uncertain terms, may I offer that you read Jaques book ‘When China Rules the World’ for a true depiction of the coming storm for Australia.

  26. doctorrob54

    110% correct.Simple as that.

  27. Buff McMenis

    How many children’s deaths will one of Tony’s Strike Fighters cost?? ONE would be one too many, Kaye Lee!!! Just one! 🙁

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