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If you are wondering why we can’t afford schools and hospitals….

In the 2015 budget and the 2016 Defence White Paper, the Government remains firm on its commitment to increase Defence spending to two per cent of GDP within a decade regardless of what that might be and if they, in fact, even need the money.

Kevin Andrews gleefully announced in May last year:

Since its election, the Government has invested more than $22 billion in Defence capability projects.

The Government will provide Defence with $31.9 billion in 2015–16 and $132.6 billion over the Forward Estimates. This is an increase of $9.9 billion over the Forward Estimates when compared to the 2014–15 Budget and represents record expenditure on Defence.

Considering, in the 2014 budget from hell, defence had already seen a nominal increase of $2.3 billion, or a real (corrected for inflation) increase of 6.1%, any further increase in a time of “fiscal constraint” would surely be hard to justify.

But no.

On top of that spending, the White Paper released in February revealed that Defence will go on a $200 billion spending splurge over the next 10 years buying new aircraft, ships, submarines and vehicles for Australia’s fighting forces.

Among the acquisitions are nine new frigates, 12 offshore patrol vessels, seven surveillance drones, an extra seven maritime surveillance planes and new armoured vehicles.

Special Forces like the SAS will also get new helicopters including small “Little Bird” aircraft for counter-terrorism measures.

The submarine fleet will be doubled to 12 to replace the Collins Class.

Bases will be upgraded including RAAF Base Pearce and HMAS Stirling. The US is shifting an optical telescope to the Harold Holt Communication Base at Exmouth.

The number of uniformed personnel will be increased by 2500 to 62,400, the largest number in more than 20 years.

And let’s not forget the $110 million so far committed for the Sir John Monash Centre at Villers-Bretonneux.

Global military spending has begun rising in real terms for the first time since the US began its withdrawal of troops from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Defence budgets rose 1 per cent to $US1.68 trillion ($2.2 trillion) in 2015, making up about 2.3 per cent of the world’s gross domestic product.

With the presumed aim of smaller government and reducing duplication, one of Abbott’s poorer decisions was to subsume the Defence Materiel Organisation with the intent of outsourcing functions under a “smart buyer” banner and in so doing, lost an enormous amount of very knowledgeable and successful expertise.

The appointments in 2004 of two pragmatic, no-nonsense outsiders – Steve Gumley and Warren King – to run DMO were responsible and effective choices. By the end of their tenure, projects were brought in on average at 95 per cent of budget; in respect of capability, 96 per cent are delivered with the requisite capability; and in respect of schedule, the average time overrun was reduced substantially from a decade earlier. These are metrics recognised as not only world class for the defence sector but also for the private sector in general.

In January this year, the Australian National Audit Office acknowledged these improvements, noting “that 73 per cent of the total schedule slippage across the major projects relates to projects approved prior to DMO’s demerger from Defence in 2005”.

In all likelihood, much of what DMO finally achieved in terms of professional project management tradecraft will need to be replicated. If not, it’ll have to be relearnt. The measure of success here is not plaudits from defence contractors but rather the delivery of materiel on time, on budget and according to specification.

The 2015 budget increased Operations funding to $910.7 million in 2015-16 and $1,071.8 million over the Forward Estimates, even though, as the White Paper concludes, “a military attack on Australia is a remote prospect.”

And don’t expect any “savings” in Defence to come from this budget . . . terrorism, China, cyber warfare. The only saving they came up with in the last budget was to cut $5.8 million from the Defence contribution to the Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda. So much for innovation.

The 2014-15 financial statements for the Department of Defence showed net assets of over $72.5 billion. Perhaps someone should have a chat with them about “living within their means.”

So if you are wondering why we can’t afford schools and hospitals . . .


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  1. Jack Russell

    No, I’m not wondering…I know. I just wish more voters knew too.

  2. Keitha Granville

    why ? why ? why ? as far as I am aware we are not currently threatened by/threatening any other country so WHY do we need so many planes/vehicles/ships ???? it’s just absurd.

    As soon as you say this to anyone who doesn’t think for themselves you are accused of being anti-Australian.

  3. Otto von Heidelberg

    At this rate, there just might be be a growing support to privatize the Defence Conglomerate, cancel the Subs (now that the boats are stopped remember) and Planes and there is more than $200-300 Billion in savings! Outsource the Civil Servants, Public Service (to India), Schools and Hospitals and there you have it. The Utopia Society of Pay for what you get, as contrast to Get what you Pay For in our present Politicians. If we still cannot afford Education, who needs it to understand Government Policies anyway? They’re there one day and GoneSki the next. If a Tax Haven can be created as well and illegal drugs can be legalized, then EVERYONE will be a Millionaire whether they want to be or not, by just passing on a few packets of mind-altering substances and then taxes can be wound down to zero and we can all just go to the races. The Government will have NO responsibilities for picking up the pay-cheque each week and with musical chairs ALL Ministers can have a turn as Prime Minister and retire happily afterwards.

  4. Miriam English

    The only country we could conceivably be threatened by is Indonesia. With all the words of aggression by Prime Idiot Abbott and targeting of Muslims for scapegoating (Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim nation) I can almost understand that our witless government might be looking a little nervously northwards. But even if we do spend all that money on military equipment and troops we would still be hopelessly outclassed.

    So we can fall back on the protection of good ol’ USA? Somehow I doubt that, considering the number of chips I see in computers that are made in Indonesia.

    As far as I can see our only hope is to get along with our neighbors. But try telling that to the current bunch of arrogant authoritarian pricks in our government.

  5. johnlward010

    A central pillar of the Abbott government’s fledgling environmental plans – the $300-million Green Army – has been hobbled by a High Court ruling.

    In June the High Court ruled that the Commonwealth did not have power under the Constitution to fund the school chaplaincy program through direct funding as proposed.

    The case has meant the types of projects approved for the Green Army must now be of a national focus and “ Directed towards meeting Australia’s relevant international obligations” or “conserving matters of national environmental significance”.

    Constitutional law expert, George Williams from the University of New South Wales, said the impact of the chaplaincy ruling was rippling through government.

    “What the High Court has now made absolutely clear is the Commonwealth can only provide money for programs over which it has authority under the constitution,” he said.

    He said the list of federal powers under section 51 of the Constitution “don’t include the environment – there is no environment power, there’s no general education power and health power”.

    He said it was possible the first tranche of Green Army projects was unconstitutional but it would require a challenge to prove.

    Professor Williams warned the chaplaincy ruling “is going to have an enormous impact in a lot of areas”.

    “The Commonwealth was of the view for decades that it could spend money on whatever it wanted,” he said.

    “It used that for a variety of legitimate through to pork-barrelling reasons and moved into areas such as education and the environment, arts – all sorts of things without any visible power to do so. And now the High Court has hauled them back again, and this is a big problem for the Commonwealth.”

    The States could end up with the power to take on all education,health and environment matters ; taxes paid to the commonwealth should return to the states with no strings attached. The Commonwealth should then provide the funds and manage defence, trade and ports, plus marriage and lighthouses.

  6. Jaquix

    So, in the matter of spending on fighter jets, uniformed brass wearing personnel, submarines and other militaristic items totalling 200 billion dollars, there is no mention of the need to “live within our means” ??? No mention of where this money is being taken from (just guessing, perhaps the education budget?).

  7. Wally

    The toys the adults have ordered for our military will be like the NBN, beyond there use by date before they are built.

    If a large portion of this expenditure creates employment for Australian workers it may not be a total waste of money but even that little glimmer of rationale seems unlikely. The majority of the money is destined to be spent off-shore, this expenditure is more about pleasing the USA than being about what we need.

  8. jim

    Great post again, , in 2002-03, spending under the Howard government also reached 1.62 per cent of GDP.The lowest defence spending in any of these years was in 2012-13, at 1.62 per cent of GDP. BUT….

    These two instances represent the lowest defense spending since it was 1.5 per cent of GDP in 1938-39 The LNP has also abolished the Dept of defense round table and the dept.. of defense financial services and big cuts to the armed forces entertainment board while the suicide rate among the armed forces is rising, so while the defense spending is rising the take home pay of it’s personal is falling under the LNP also ADF under this LNP government has seen a 25% CUT o it’s tech dept and last budget the LNP slashed almost $300 million this resulted in around 350 of it’s staff sacked . In 2009 labor granted 141 approvals for personal equipment and invested millions in AFD mental health programs the LNP has CUT this back NB… no country has ever prospered by making CUTS ever. ……..

  9. John Kelly

    I have no quarrel with increasing our budget for defence spending to 2% of GDP. Overall spending is around 25% of GDP and could be increased significantly so long as the money was spent in Australia. It’s not the spending or the rate of spending that matters but how the money spent advantages the nation as a whole.

  10. Kaye Lee

    I have a huge quarrel in spending a fixed percentage of GDP on defence. It is a ludicrous way to allocate money.

    From 2014: “Every day Australians spend more than $87 million on defence and that figure will climb to a staggering $100 million per day in six years.”

    They have so much money they are LOOKING for things to spend it on. Why do we need strike force capability?

  11. John Fraser


    Turnbull has failed at everything and hasn't got anything left so he has to ramp up the terror and defence of Australia.

    At the expense of Australian children's education.

    Looks like they will be the next group for cannon fodder.

  12. Florence nee Fedup

    Against fixed amount. Surely what we pay, should be based on what is needed. Yes, and spent in this country.

  13. Florence nee Fedup

    Has there been any breakdown of the cost of Border Force and Sovereign Borders under this government. Along with extra cost to Defence Force?

    Including the bribes paid to PNG, Cambodia, Indonesia and other countries.

  14. PC

    My calculations show that the amount we spend on defense is proportional to our contempt for international law on human rights.

  15. Greg

    well if the thousands of job created by all this was for Australians then at least some good would come out it (just looking at the bight side of a dark situation ) but we are talking about the LNP here. The LNP are currently and openly advertising for foreign members of other armies around the world to come here at the ADF expense to join the Australian armed forces .. think this is a joke .. read for yourselves
    looking at the government tender page (and some private sites setup for fast tracking tender applications) within the last few years the government has been rebuilding and extending bases and re-opening old bases across the country , the ADF white paper counts for 5000 new personal while the work and extensions can accommodate up to 20,000 , so once again this government is pulling the wool over our eyes and selling us more lies

  16. ImagiNation

    Will someone please stop this planet, I want to get off. No no, if I get off I wont know what happened next. Would be a bit like missing the last episodes of The New Statesman. Hang on, there it is. It’s all Rick Mayall’s fault! He created a role model for today’s politicians though I think Tony Abbott gets the prize for best Alan B’Stard look-a-like.

  17. Jexpat

    Kaye Lee wrote: “Why do we need strike force capability?”

    Because we’ve not developed an integral or comprehensive strategic plan as a sovereign nation.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Federal funding for universities has become a key election issue, with Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham confirming the Government is sticking with its plan to cut university funding.

    “The growth in higher education spending over the last 20 years or thereabouts has essentially gone at double the rate of the economy, so that is not of course a sustainable trajectory for higher education to continue on,” he told Sky news.

    Senator Birmingham confirmed the Government intends to implement the university deregulation plan announced in the controversial 2014 budget from next year.

    “We only ever said that we were deferring implementation of those reforms by 12 months,” he said. “That is what is reflected in the mid-year economic update [and] has been crystal clear ever since I made that announcement.”


    But defence spending can grow at a phenomenal rate and is quarantined from any cuts. Which investment would bring a higher return?

  19. stephentardrew

    Facts as usual Kaye. Most appreciated.

  20. Dame Lacey Bra

    Are we preparing for a war with Indonesia or maybe the US wants to go after China or Russia….

  21. Miriam English

    More likely USA has told our obsequious politicians that sales are down so Australia needs to pick up the slack and buy more weapons from them. Our idiot politicians probably think they can con Australians into voting for them by looking strong and doing a bit of sabre rattling. And they might be looking for a war they can fight in to try to pull the country into line behind them.

    I don’t think it will work. Love of war has been declining for ages in Australia. People used to willingly go to war, thinking it was heroic and brave and a great adventure. Now most people are under no illusions that it is horrible and usually fought for the greed of a few already absurdly wealthy people.

    I hope the LNP get a very nasty surprise this election. Weapons and war may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

  22. diannaart

    @Dame Lacey Bra 🙂

    US wants to go after China because there have been reports of Chinese activity in seas bordering China – and we can’t have that now can we?


  23. Reg

    If the danger and fear is so high (especially from boat people) Australia must negotiate the right to protect itself by concealed nuclear capacity and then invest its wealth in local infrastructure, education, health. Forget the subs, drones and strike fighters (bit like Israel).Why send more soldiers to overseas wars?

  24. Wayne Turner

    It’s what FASCISTS do – Over support and hide behind the military. It’s these Libs for you.

    The sad part is,that GUTLESS Labor said “Me too”.

  25. Möbius Ecko

    I heard a stupid discussion on ABC Breakfast this morning where they stated Labor governments overspend on education and it’s always left to a Liberal government to take the fall and cut the overspending back.

    The spokesperson said that though this was not entirely factual it had some merit to it.

    This follows on the discussion here. Apparently you can spend too much on education and that always needs to be reigned in, but you can never spend too much on Defence.

  26. townsvilleblog

    Imagine if everyone including companies paid what they are supposed to pay in income taxation to the federal government http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/dec/17/ato-report-shows-nearly-600-big-companies-paid-no-tax-in-2013-14?CMP=share_btn_fb#_=_ including the 800 people mentioned in yesterday’s panama papers and you very quickly see the outrageous state of our economy and how our infrastructure could be so much better, better roads, better schools, better hospitals, all denied to us so the few can live a life of unchallenged luxury, well I’ve had a gutful and so have many Australians. Out of a population of 24 million, 2.5 million Australians living in poverty, why? This is why, we must take a stand, 62 people now own a half of the earth’s wealth, is that not enough to make people stand and ask, “what about me, I’ve had enough, now I want my share”!

  27. David

    Its not only defense of the continent from armed to the teeth invaders. This obscene Govt led? nay fronted by a weak as a new born rat spineless loser, spends billions of dollars ensuring 2000 harmless, often sick and fragile Asylum Seekers including little baby’s, are caged up on a dirt bag of an expired fertiliser heap Nauru and a hothouse island from hell Manus.
    Meanwhile health and education budgets are cut to the bone as this train wreck of a corrupt excuse for a democratic administration continues to act like crazed economic and humanitarian terrorists . This morning CNN gave the bastardy full exposure to the world and it was not pretty. I was filled with shame.

  28. johnlward010

    Australians accept, we are all living on this ancient continent as a people, whose history may go back as far as 150,000 years.
    And, that we are all one as Australians; Then reconciliation would have happened.
    We can’t force it, like we can’t force Australians that live in remote communities to concentration camps away from their home country.
    It is Government’s duty, for instance, to deliver education to Australian children where ever they live. Also to preserve the language and cultural histories of our peoples in our Universities and schools as our rich heritage.
    That is the true “outcome” we need. Not people making widgets that go bang.
    We may yet allow a rich heritage for mankind slip into history and that would be shameful.

    There is no them and us; only us!

  29. kerri

    Not to mention the lessons unlearned from 911. All of the US military might, pre-emptive strike policies, nuclear warheads, and countless enlisted persons. All of the intel from CIA, FBI, NSA, NRO, NGA, DIA and Department of Homeland security to name a few, all of this could not stop a few men with rudimentary flying skills?

  30. diannaart

    Excellent point, kerri

  31. seawork

    It was Eisenhower I believe who warned against the military industrial complex.
    Now we are being taken over by our own.
    Abbott will have cost us more than embarrassment while he was “in”.

  32. susan

    This LNP government hides behind the military because it has absolutely no conception of diplomacy in international relationships.

  33. ImagiNation

    can’t for the life of me think why we need to protect Australia from international threats. All we have done is help bomb Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria to name but a few into oblivion and killed thousands in the process but it wasn’t our war.

  34. Random

    If only more Australian industry benefitted from all this defence spending, it would have a silver lining. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the ‘international Partners’ who get the contracts to build this equipment (a promissory note included in the TPP negotiations?), ended up being potential future aggressors? As it stands, I believe the planes on the shopping list (that the USA is kindly selling to us – because nobody else wants them) can be destroyed by drones which cost a fraction of the price…would like to see an analysis on this gear before the dollars are committed.

    I’m also with Jim on another point, hoping in all this increased spending that some gets put toward taking better care of our uniformed personnel, or “boots on the ground” or whatever other desensitising term they wish to apply to the men and women, who are willing to sacrifice everything for their country. The remuneration needs to reflect their service, and if these soldiers are lucky enough to make it home, the appropriate support should be a given, not something else they need to fight for.

  35. ImagiNation

    … the men and women, who are willing to sacrifice everything for their country. Excuse me but I have been led to believe the men and women sacrificed everything for another country, one we were not at war with.

  36. bossa

    One nuclear missile with a multiple warhead delivery system (MIRV) could take out every major city in Australia.

    It’s time for the boys to put away their little toys and get on with saving the environment and the world in the process.

    WTF are we spending all this money protecting a country that we no longer own anyway?


  37. ImagiNation

    bossa whatever makes you think it’s about protection?

  38. ImagiNation

    Not even sure why it’s called a defense budget. Clearly we attack more than we defend.

  39. Miriam English

    ImagiNation, it is an Orwellian term, like Newstart having nothing to do with giving the unemployed a new start at anything. Border Protection has nothing really to do with protecting borders, but everything to do with the application of racism. Refugee Processing is no longer about processing refugees, but avoiding processing refugees.

    This what most politicians do par excellence: they mess with language. Think of how they talk when interviewed. A lot of what they say either means the opposite of what it sounds like, or means nothing. Often long phrases or even paragraphs could be replaced by just a single word. Every next time I hear a politician say “at this point in time” (now), or “in the fullness of time” (eventually), or “we are taking it under advisement” (we don’t care) I feel like screaming. I remember one particularly creepy and slimy politician of the Howard government, Peter Reith, who actually brought an ABC interviewer (was it Jennifer Byrne?) to tears of frustration on late night TV when, during the interview, his responses never actually answered anything.

  40. Jaquix

    Another of my bugbears. The LNP are masters of it. They rarely actually answer the question. They spin, repeat the mantras handed out in cabinet that week, blame the Labor party for everything despite being in charge themselves for nearly 3 years. A good case in point was this morning on the ABC the sports commentator was interviewing a Lib who just went on and on NOT answering the question. The interviewer should have stopped him and repeated the question, and done so until an answer was given. No point in going on to another question, if you havent had a meaningful response to the first. Where is Sarah Ferguson? She is one of the best. Perhaps she could set up an Interviewers School to teach them how to deal with these wily liars.

  41. Miriam English

    I was thinking this morning…
    It really says something about them, that they want the tools to destroy civilisation instead of the tools to build it.

  42. diannaart

    There is plenty of evidence for your thoughts, Miriam.

    Where did the money from the Great Mineral Sell-Off go, Mr Howard, Mr Costello?

    Not into schools, hospitals, environment, public & road/rail transport – necessary foundations for a civilisation.

    Just money into wrecking the joint.

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