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Tag Archives: defence spending

The forgotten poor – until we need a few bucks

imageTony Abbott has vowed to lift the poor of India and China from their poverty by selling them coal.  But what about poor people in Australia?

Various ministers tell us that education, health and welfare are no longer affordable.  Others tell us that we have been too greedy and that the “wage explosion” and “toxic taxes” are the root of our problems.  Joe Hockey assures that “a rising tide will lift all boats” while the girlinator tells us we must “live within our means” to fix “Labor’s debt and deficit disaster”.

All of this is crap of course as can easily be shown by reference to the facts.

As a percentage of GDP, Australian government spending on health is the tenth lowest of the 33 countries in the OECD database and the lowest among wealthy countries.

The 8.3% of GDP spent by the US government, for instance, is higher than the 6.4% spent by the Commonwealth and state governments in Australia.

Nor is it true that total health expenditure – government plus private spending – are unsustainable. Australia spends about 9.5% of GDP on health services; the United States spends 17.7%.

As discussed on The Conversation, the real reason for co-payments appears to be ideological – a dislike of communal sharing even when it is to alleviate the financial burden of those already disadvantaged by illness.

Australia spends 19.5% of our GDP on social welfare, whereas some European countries like France and Belgium spend upwards of 30% of their GDP on the welfare system.

Australia ranks 25th of 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development with data available in terms of expenditure for unemployment.

The largest slice of our welfare payments goes towards the age pension. According to OECD Pensions at a Glance 2013, Australia’s public spending on the age pension is much lower than pension spending in Europe.

Australia spends 3.5% of GDP on the age pension, while Italy spends 15%, France spends 14% and the United Kingdom spends 6%.

A recent OECD report stated that Australia spends slightly less on education as a percentage of GDP (5.8 per cent) than the OECD average of 6.1 per cent. Although it also found that Australia’s total spend has increased relative to GDP over recent years, up from 5.2 per cent in 2000.

And as for a wage explosion, official figures show wage growth remaining at a historic low in the September quarter.  The Bureau of Statistics data shows the annual pace of wage growth remained at 2.6 per cent for the second straight quarter, as expected.

The index peaked over 4 per cent shortly before the financial crisis and has been on a downhill trajectory ever since, now running at its lowest level since the records started in 1997.

Abbott and Hockey also emphasise the need to increase productivity.  What they fail to mention is that, between 2003-04 and 2012-13, capital productivity shrank 23 per cent while labour productivity increased 14 per cent.  It would appear that the workers are doing the lifting while the owners of capital are very much leaning on them.

Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Social Service released a new report revealing that poverty is growing in Australia with an estimated 2.5 million people or 13.9% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line with 603,000 or 17.7% of all children living in poverty in Australia.  Over a third (36.8%) of children in sole parent families are living in poverty.

“Most of the poverty we found is concentrated among the groups of people facing the most disadvantage and barriers to fully participating in our community. Those most likely to be in poverty are people who are unemployed (61.2%) and those in a household that relies on social security as its main source of income (40.1%), particularly on the Newstart Allowance (55.1%) or Youth Allowance (50.6%).

This finding brings into focus the sheer inadequacy of these allowance payments which fall well below the poverty line. The poverty line for a single adult is $400 per week yet the maximum rate of payment for a single person on Newstart – when Rent Assistance and other supplementary payments is added – is only $303 per week. This is $97 per week below the 50% of median income poverty line.”

Since 1996, payments for the single unemployed have fallen from 23.5% of the average wage for males to 19.5%. Furthermore, the level of Newstart for a single person has fallen from around 54% to 45% of the after-tax minimum wage. Newstart has fallen from 46% of median family income in 1996 to 36% in 2009-10 – or, from a little way below a standard relative income poverty line, to a long way below.

Before the last election, the Greens had the Parliamentary Budget Office cost an increase of $50 a week to the Newstart payment.  It would cost about $1.8 billion a year.  Not only would this help lift about 1 million people from poverty, it would provide stimulus to the economy as every cent would be recycled, spent on survival.  It would lead to better health and education outcomes and facilitate more people finding employment.  It’s much easier to look for a job if you have an address and enough to eat and a little left over to buy an outfit and get public transport there should you get an interview.

Give low income earners more money, demand increases, creating more jobs and more profit – an upward spiral instead of the depths to which Hockey would like to send us (aside from a few polaris missiles like Gina and Twiggy).

$1.8 billion is how much we gave up by repealing the changes to the FBT requiring people to justify the business usage of their cars by keeping a logbook for three months once every five years.  Abbott and Hockey would much rather protect tax avoiders than help the poor.  Instead, they want the poor to carry the burden of finding the money to pay for their war games whilst delivering a surplus.

Let’s not forget, in April Tony Abbott decided to spend $12.4 billion ordering 58 more Joint Strike Fighters in addition to the 14 already on order.  The first Joint Strike Fighters will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service in 2020.

As part of the announcement, more than $1.6 billion will be spent on new facilities at air bases in Williamtown in New South Wales and Tindal in the Northern Territory.

But a specialist in US defence strategy has questioned whether Australia’s purchase is good value for money.

If Australia wants to be able to have aircraft that can go up against what China might deploy – in way of not only its own fighters but advanced air defences in years and decades [to come] – then I think you want something… like the F-35.

[But] if you think more about your military needs being the Afghanistan-style operations, the troubled waters of the South China Sea, counter-piracy, peace operations, keeping some degree of regional calm with some turbulence in the ASEAN region but not necessarily China, then frankly it’s a debatable proposition whether the F-35 is the best bang for your buck.

“If you think that that kind of high-end threat is not realistically where you’re headed with your military requirements, then it’s more of a debatable proposition.

In August, defence minister David Johnstone announced

HUNDREDS of millions of dollars will be spent bolstering the RAAF’s fleet — and the prime minister is in line for a new long-range jet, promising uninterrupted global travel.

The government plan — scheduled to be delivered as part of next year’s Defence White Paper — includes the purchase of up to four new aircraft: an additional two Airbus tanker-transport planes and one or two Boeing C-17 heavy lift aircraft.

One of the Airbus KC-30A multi-role tanker transports would be converted to a VIP configuration and would service the prime minister’s international travel needs.

It would carry the PM’s entourage and the travelling media pack, who are currently forced on to commercial planes as the government’s existing Boeing 737 BBJs are too small.

Since handing down its budget in May, the Government has given national security agencies an extra $630 million over four years.

The Government has also estimated that the military deployment to the Middle East will cost about $500 million per year.

Then we have submarines and unmanned drones and patrol boats and more – a seemingly endless display of military hardware – but we ask our defence personnel to take a pay cut.

I await Joe Hockey’s MYEFO with a sense of anticipation and trepidation.  Will the poor be asked to shoulder more of the burden or will Joe admit where the big bucks are to be found and have the guts to go after them?

Budget emergency?

Six months of Abbott’s idea of belt-tightening …

February 25

The Abbott government has spent $2.5 million on lifeboats to send asylum seekers intercepted at sea back to Indonesia.

The figure, revealed in letters tabled in the Senate by Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash, indicates the government is paying more than $200,000 per lifeboat, each of which is understood to be used only once.

Fairfax Media understands the government has so far bought about 12 of the boats.

March 13

The Abbott government has confirmed plans to buy Triton surveillance drones that can watch vast stretches of the seas to Australia’s north.

The program would mean about $100 million in new facilities and infrastructure in South Australia as well as about $20 million a year in ongoing work.

The 2012 Defence Capability plan flagged the purchase of up to seven Tritons at a cost of between $2 billion and $3 billion.

April 22

Australia will make one of its biggest ever military purchases with a $12 billion order for 58 Joint Strike Fighters in a move that will lift the nation’s air combat power to among the world’s most advanced.

May 13

The Government will provide Defence with $29.2 billion in 2014-15 and $122.7 billion over the Forward Estimates – up $9.6 billion increase on the figure provided by the previous Government.

Reinstatement of the ADF Gap Year Programme will cost $18.3 million in 2014-15 and $191.8 million across the Forward Estimates.

June 7

Two new Navy supply ships will be built overseas, sparking a political fight over the Federal Government’s commitment to local manufacturing.

The Federal Government says Spain’s Navantia and South Korea’s Daewoo will compete for the tenders to replace HMAS Success and HMAS Sirius.

However, the union has welcomed the Government’s decision to build 20 new Pacific Class patrol boats at home.

Senator Johnston says he wants the local industry to build the next fleet of frigates and has allocated $78.2 million for design work.

But he says he will send the work offshore if the local industry does not lift its game.

June 10

The Australian government has set aside almost $90 million for the search for missing flight MH370— expected to be the most expensive in aviation history — but it’s possible that figure could increase.

“The government has allocated $89.9 million. I think about $25 million of that is to go the defence force for the visual search they conducted,’’ former defence force chief Air Chief Marshal Houston told the ABC.

“There’s another $60 million that’s been allocated for the underwater search.

August 4

Australia’s spy and counter-terror agencies will receive a $630 million funding boost to fight the threat of home-grown terrorism, which Prime Minister Tony Abbott says ”has not changed” and is still ”as high as it has ever been”.

August 14

HUNDREDS of millions of dollars will be spent bolstering the RAAF’s fleet — and the prime minister is in line for a new long-range jet, promising uninterrupted global travel.

The government plan — scheduled to be delivered as part of next year’s Defence White Paper — includes the purchase of up to four new aircraft: an additional two Airbus tanker-transport planes and one or two Boeing C-17 heavy lift aircraft.

August 15

THE nation’s most troubled defence project — the $8 billion Air Warfare Destroyer — is now running $500 million over budget and will be delivered at least two years late.

It is understood that the latest cost increase — estimated at $150 million — has only just been revealed by the alliance building the three warships — Adelaide-based government owned shipbuilder ASC, US giant Raytheon and Federal Government’s Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO).

September 1

The Australia Prime Minister has ordered a fleet of bombproof BMWs to protect leaders during the G20 summit this year.

BMW Group Australia confirmed the Government purchased nine BMW 7 Series 760Li security vehicles. The vehicles are BMW armoured security vehicles with identical engineering and performance specifications.

The $6.2 million fleet can withstand AK47 fire, attacks with explosive devices or armour-piercing weapons.

September 7

A local consortium is preparing to tender for the 20-plus vessels to be built for the $2 billion Pacific Patrol Boat Program

September 8

In one of the biggest and most contentious defence equipment decisions in decades, the Abbott Government will select the Japanese-built Soryu Class submarine to replace locally built Collins Class boats as the navy’s key strike weapon beyond 2030.

A decision to spend more than $20 billion on up to 10 of the Japanese vessels will be announced before the end of the year.

September 16

Australia’s military involvement in Iraq is likely to cost half a billion dollars each year, Tony Abbott has revealed

In contrast …

September 17

The Federal Government has been embarrassed over its $7 million response to the Ebola virus with an international medical group rejecting the money and demanding Australian doctors be sent to Africa instead.

“We have been very clear with the government for two weeks now we are not asking for financial support, we are asking the government to evaluate Australia’s emergency medical capacity and mobilise it on the ground in West Africa.”

At least 2,630 people have died in the worst outbreak of Ebola virus in history, which has so far infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.  Despite this, our government could only come up with the same amount it spent on Tony’s new car.

 

Sitting on defence

tony-abbott-in-afghanistan-e1409361578289$80,281,391.78

This is how much we will spend every single day this year on defence.  And this figure is conservative.  It does not include funds appropriated to the Defence Housing Authority, those administered by Defence for military superannuation schemes and housing support services, nor the additional funds provided directly to the Defence Materiel Organisation to buy equipment.  Equipment investment will grow from around $3.5 billion last year to $6.1 billion this year.

This year’s federal budget was dominated by budget repair. Yet amid the spending cuts and tax increases, Defence did very well. Nominal defence spending will grow by $2.3 billion this financial year (2014-15) to $29.3 billion, representing 1.8% of GDP. In real terms, the year-on-year increase amounts to a 6% boost.

Tony Abbott has also promised to increase defence funding to 2% of GDP in 2023-24.  To meet the target on the basis of the funding disclosed for the next four years, expenditure will have to increase at a rate of 5.3% above inflation for the six years after that.

If the government wants to spend 2% of GDP on defence it’ll have to find a way to convince taxpayers to accept the higher taxes and/or reduced services necessary to fund the venture.  Every extra dollar allocated to Defence meant deeper cuts to social programs and higher increases to taxes than would have otherwise been the case to achieve its fiscal goals.

2% of projected GDP in 2023-24 is a lot of money; around $52 billion ($42 billion in today’s terms). Extrapolating current trends in personnel and operating costs, there’ll be around $112 billion available for capital investment in the forthcoming decade as a consequence, compared with only $66 billion for the decade just past (both measured in today’s dollars). It appears, therefore, that the ADF will need to grow to accommodate the additional money that’s been promised.

Key initiatives in this budget included the bringing forward of $1.5 billion funding previously planned for 2017-18 to “address immediate pressures”.  I assume the ‘immediate pressures’ include the unending search for the missing Malaysian plane on which we have already spent about $50 million with another $90 million set aside for the search over the next two years.  They probably also include Scott Morrison’s war on asylum seekers which is costing defence $60 million this year on top of the $6 billion allocated to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Like other departments, defence has had an increase to the efficiency dividend.  Unlike other departments, according to the budget night press release, ‘$1.2 billion in back office savings over the Forward Estimates will be reinvested into Defence capability’.

On current estimates, each of Australia’s roughly 10 million workers will be contributing around $5,000 a year each to sustain the promised defence budget in 2023-24. Yet, according to opinion polls, support for higher defence spending has fallen from 60% in 2001 to less than 40% today.

Despite massive military spending the Australian Defence Force has a wide range of serious problems and may have great difficulty defending Australia in the near future.

Much of this relates to the attempts made by Liberal – Labor governments to cast the ADF in the role of ‘Deputy Sheriff’ – a bit player in distant US conflicts with limited independent capability.

New Australia recommends that Australia maintain a ‘defensive only’ armed forces. This does not threaten our neighbours and so will not trigger an arms race with them.  Maintaining a defensive-only force could save billions of dollars and leave Australia better defended than it is at present with a force oriented towards supporting US-led operations.  They make the following suggestions.

  • Cancel the Joint Strike Fighter Program.  Replace with far cheaper and more capable aircraft such as F-15SE ‘Silent Eagle’ or Sukhoi Su-35 ‘Super Flanker’. Savings up to ~$10 billion.
  • Discontinue Surface Combat Vessels.  Surface naval combatants have been obsolete for decades due to the ever-improving capability of anti-ship missiles. Australia should cancel the new Destroyers, Frigates & Corvettes and replace all vulnerable surface combat ships with more survivable and cost-effective diesel-electric submarines. Savings: Over ~$20 billion.
  • Cheaper Submarines.  China recently bought eight ‘off the shelf’ super-stealthy diesel-electric Submarines for $US 1.6 billion while Australia is considering spending $3 billion on each of its new submarines. Australia should buy off-the-shelf submarines saving $1 – $2 billion each.
  • Cancel the Large Assault Ships.  Instead of the slow and vulnerable large assault ships Australia should buy the much cheaper and faster Tasmanian-built INCAT catamarans. These are quite sufficient for operations like helping East Timor. Savings: ~$1 billion.

The population of Australia represents 0.33 percent of the world´s total population yet, in 2013, we provided 1.4% of the world’s total military expenditure ($1.747 trillion).   However, all this spending has not bought us security. Because the spending is all on the wrong sorts of equipment, Australia is becoming more vulnerable than ever before according to some experts, including a former Defence Department analyst, Liberal MP Dennis Jensen who launched an extraordinary attack on the Abbott government’s multibillion-dollar purchase of fighter jets, suggesting his colleagues lacked the competency and the courage to stop the order.

I do not pretend to understand all the nuances of military interaction around the world but it seems such a ridiculous waste of resources.  I will leave the final word to John Lennon.

I can make you a General . . .

Image by smh.com.au

Image by smh.com.au

First we are greeted by the image of Joe Hockey and Mathias Corman kicking back looking very pleased with themselves as they sucked on fat cigars.  The imagery is wrong on so many levels – a satisfaction enjoyed by the rich after a fine meal or a more intimate dalliance, which leads inevitably to ‘we just got screwed’.  It sends the wrong health message to kids and the wrong message to workers who I thought couldn’t smoke within a certain distance of a building.

Then we see Hockey dancing around his office.  I can certainly understand him being happy to see his family but one would have thought that he may not be in a ‘dancing’ mood considering what he was about to deliver.  If he was expressing relief that the process was over, I think that may have been premature.  This is going to be a hard sell and we must all keep the pressure on as Sarah Ferguson did with Christopher Pyne on the 7:30 report last night.

As Hockey was making his Budget speech in Parliament I watched Tony Abbott.  He was like a naughty kid in school assembly, talking behind his hand, smirking, looking around, paying no attention to what was being said and showing no respect to the speaker (Hockey, not Bronwyn).  Straight afterwards he went to have a beer with the Murdoch boys from the Telegraph.

I then watched a very serious Joe Hockey being interviewed by Laurie Oakes.  Gone was Jocular Joe.  In a remarkably similar performance to his tearful “no child will be sent offshore on my watch” speech in Parliament, we had immigrant Joe who, with quivering lip, refused to saddle his children with Labor’s debt.

Every day, in fact every hour of every day, new information emerges from the budget, all of it bad.

Except for defence.

As job losses keep mounting up in mining, manufacturing, the public service, and countless agencies and charities, defence are in fact recruiting an extra 2744 people.  Whilst new jobs are crucial, so is productivity and I want to know, since we are investing such huge amounts, what does defence add to productivity?  Surely research and education and health initiatives and infrastructure like public transport and the NBN provide better for our future than more soldiers and armaments?

Many people seem convinced that we must increase defence spending and that we need a stronger armed forces.  Why?  We all know the power of global corporations.  The armament guys might be happy but they can’t make their stuff without resources.  China can’t get rich without markets.  There are still terrorist organisations active in the world but huge armies don’t fight them.  They are defeated through intelligence gathering by computer nerds and targeted unmanned drones.

As they cut spending on health and education, they bring forward an extra $1.5 billion for defence spending from 2017-18 to earlier years.  What’s the rush?  Are we under threat?  Has there been another fishing boat with 15 refugees on it spotted?  Why must defence spending keep increasing to 2% of GDP?  Is getting the military to do their own white paper wise?  How will spending $50 billion a year on defence improve the lives of Australians?

As they increase the efficiency dividend for the public service from 2% to 2.25% every year for the forward estimates, any efficiencies found in Defence costs will be reinvested back into Defence.  I am not sure how that represents a saving.  It must be like the PPL levy where a 1.5% surcharge on some businesses coupled with a 1.5% decrease for all businesses is supposed to raise $22 billion in revenue.  I guess I must be missing some nuance here.

We meet with John Kerry and all of a sudden billions is going out of our economy to buy lots more American planes.  Not only are these things very expensive to buy, they are very expensive to maintain and very expensive to fly.  Exactly what contribution is this huge investment making to our country?  How is it helping us transition our economy or get the debt and deficit down which I though was the number one priority and only promise that mattered?

South Korea jumped on the bandwagon making Tony agree to buy their guns.  These two transactions will not have gone unnoticed by China.  I wonder how much of their military hardware we will have to buy to get their signature on a Free Trade agreement.

For those who say we need the protection, I ask from who?  Our Navy is currently employed guarding against asylum seekers and searching for missing planes.  War is different nowadays.  I seriously doubt that we will see a navy attack force heading for the Coral Sea with our submarines patrolling the reef.

This predilection for the military shows in so many areas of the Coalition – appointments of people like Jim Molan, Peter Cosgrove, Angus Houston, using the armed forces for civilian operations, naming the Operations, warlike secrecy, photos in cockpits.  Even our slave labour ‘work for half the minimum wage’ workforce is called the Green Army.

Slashing Foreign Aid and supporting regimes who commit human rights abuses such as those in Sri Lanka and West Papua, seems very short term thinking if you want less asylum seekers and a peaceful world.  But perhaps Tony wants to emulate his Thatcher/Reagan models in more than just economics.

Having these people in charge is truly terrifying.

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 behavior. 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?

General Alert

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

Despite diplomatic convention dictating otherwise, in a press conference in Seoul, Tony Abbott continued his bad habit of publicly criticising the previous government for several issues, including their decision to cancel a gun order from South Korea. He has apparently promised, in his obscene haste to sign a free trade agreement, that we will buy armaments from them in the future.

Now I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to spend our money on education, health, action on climate change, the NBN, the NDIS, job creation – those sorts of things – than on buying weapons to help Korea’s economy.

Total world military expenditure in 2012 was over $1.75 trillion. This is equivalent to 2.5 per cent of global GDP. The US spent about $700 billion alone.

China announced a defence budget for 2014 of $132 billion, a generous increase of 12.2% on the year before. That was the official figure, though the real one may be 40% higher still. Japan, Vietnam and South Korea are raising their military expenditure in response to the Chinese military build-up.

Russia’s defence spending will increase by 18% in 2014, and another 33% over the next two years. This is projected to be about 3.4 percent of Russia’s GDP but over 20 percent of government spending.

Defence experts estimate the current Australian defence spending at about $26.5bn this year – or 1.6 per cent of GDP. The Coalition wants to double this to $50 billion a year within a decade and have commissioned, you guessed it, yet another defence white paper.

Minister for Defence, Senator Johnston, originally 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. ‘Tony Abbott’s office’ (have you noticed how often that phrase comes up) overruled him deciding that the white paper would be written within the Defence Department, as was the case with the Howard government’s 2001 defence white paper. What Defence Department in the history of the world has ever said we need less money?

While we are being told that Labor ambushed the Coalition with unaffordable spending commitments on education and the NDIS in the years beyond the forward estimates we hear this:

“THE Abbott Government is set to give the green light to the nation’s biggest ever military purchase allowing Defence to order up to 86 American made stealth fighter jets for the RAAF.

The planes will cost about $90 million each when they roll off the assembly line between 2018 and 2020 and the overall project will cost some $14 billion during the 30-year life of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

and this:

“THE Abbott government will spend $4 billion buying eight highly-sophisticated P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol planes for the Royal Australian Air Force. The US-built aircraft will be delivered in 2017 to replace the Cold War-era P3 Orion aircraft. The Poseidon will come equipped with torpedoes and harpoon missiles to destroy submarines and warships.”

and this:

“Australia announced plans Thursday for a fleet of giant high-tech unmanned drones to help patrol the nation’s borders, monitoring energy infrastructure and attempts to enter the country illegally.  A report in February said seven of the US-made drones would be purchased for Aus$3 billion ($2.7 billion), but Abbott said the details of how many and when had yet to be finalized.”

It seems we have money to buy planes and drones from the US and who knows what from South Korea, but we have no money for locally made submarines.

“Senator Johnston told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute conference this morning that he was “still working (on) the problem” of what sort of submarines should be built in SA. He also confirmed that building 12 submarines was no longer a Government policy…and that the specific number was now an “aspiration”.

Senator Johnston also echoed Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s stance that building boats was about Defence capability not job creation.”

This seems to be at odds with their previous stance recognising the need for ship building in South Australia.  Perhaps the election result changed their minds.

“The Abbott government is also aware that it needs to make decisions quickly to address the looming so-called “valley of death” in the shipbuilding industry. This refers to the gap in shipbuilding work that will come about when the Air Warfare Destroyer project is complete.”

I am just wondering what we intend to do with all these weapons of war since the only people we are at war with is unarmed asylum seekers. I mean, seriously, does anyone truly believe that China is going to invade us using military force when we are giving them the country without firing a shot? And just what would Tony do if his unmanned drones detected an invasion fleet?

I have respect for our military and the job they do but when we are all being told we must help with the heavy lifting (instead of rising on the promised tide) how about we spend some of those billions on productive things rather than new toys for generals and admirals.

 

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