The Guardian December 13, 2000


More money on military no benefit to security

by Denis Doherty

Spending on the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will increase by $500 
million  immediately with additional hikes over the next ten years, which 
will add up to an enormous $23 billion by the end of the decade. On 
December 8, Prime Minister John Howard issued a new White Paper on the 
military ("defence") which contains little of surprise for all those who 
watch our military policy.

All sections of the ADF will get increased funding. The Army gains a lot of 
basic equipment, an increased budget of $3.9 billion over ten years and 
more personnel at a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

The Navy gets an increase of $1.8 billion over ten years and the Air Force 
$5.3 billion.

With a three per cent increase annually, military spending will grow from 
$12 billion to $16 billion per year. At the moment Australia spends 1.9 per 
cent of GDP on the military. This will rise to over two per cent.

This figure is high compared to other similar countries.

The highly militarised US spends three per cent of GDP and the UK 2.8 per 
cent  countries actually engaged in conflicts.

Why is Australia spending so much on the military when the strategic 
situation is secure and there is no threat of invasion from any country?

"The lessons of East Timor" is a convenient peg to hang an increase in the 
military budget. In reality, the ADF did not have enough troops and 
equipment to conduct a "peace making operation" in East Timor because there 
had been exorbitant spending on unnecessary submarines, destroyers and 
fighters.

So-called "arc of instability"

A major argument used to defend the increase in military spending is the 
talk of an "arc of instability" to our north. This generalisation is 
nonsense  there is no generalised instability which threatens Australia.

The problems in Indonesia are the result of years of oppression by the 
dictator Suharto, supported by Western and Australian governments.

The problems of Bougainville are the results of colonisation and a ruthless 
and destructive Australian mining company supported by Australian and Papua 
New Guinea Governments.

In Fiji, the conflict is an internal one, which has been aided and abetted 
by a North American forest products company, which was upset by a refusal 
by the legitimate Fiji Government to grant it a licence.

In summary these conflicts require understanding, resources and other forms 
of assistance to resolve. Increasing Australia's military forces and 
firepower is a totally ineffective and inappropriate response.

Aggressive posture

A major reason behind the billion dollar increased military is pressure 
from the US which requires Australia to be the "southern anchor" of its 
strategy in the Pacific.  

Embedded in the White Paper is the idea of that Australia will "defend" 
itself by attacking. It says:

"Australia would take a highly proactive approach in order to secure a 
rapid and favourable end to hostilities .... We would seek to attack 
hostile forces as far from our shores as possible, including in their home 
bases, forward operating bases and in transit. We would aim to seize the 
initiative and dictate the pace, location and intensity of operations."

Behind this aggressive posture lies the truth that Australia is expected to 
"pull its weight" in any conflict the US may begin with China.

This is the reason for such a huge commitment of resources to the military 
in peacetime and in a secure environment.

The Communist Party of Australia maintains that less resources should go to 
the military and more to social needs. Australia's needs for military 
spending are modest.

Trade, cooperation and aid with our neighbours would be more effective in 
promoting peace and security. Security is a much broader concept than 
military might. Embracing such things as environmentally sustainable living 
and mutual understanding.

The policies of the Defence White Paper will make the people of Australia 
poorer not safer.

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