The Guardian 18 May, 2005

Budget 2005-06:
Militarising Australia continues

Denis Doherty

For the first time in many years, the military did not get its usual fanfare in the Budget speech and following media coverage. Despite this low-key approach, the military budget remains unacceptably high and is still primarily directed towards protecting US interests and projecting US foreign policy objectives.

The Howard government has signed up Australia as a front line collaborator with US global war plans, providing specialist military forces and a secure base for US electronic and satellite spying activities. These policies are making Australia poorer, not safer.

The Budget allocates $17.5 billion for military spending next year. This is 1.9 per cent of GDP or eight per cent of the government’s disposable income. This is a massive amount considering that Australia faces no threat of attack. This does not include money spent on so-called “security” and “anti-terrorist” measures or military spending which is always hidden in other parts of the Budget.

When the February 2004 Defence Capability Plan for $50 billion to be spent on military equipment projects over the next ten years is added to the current budget allocation of $17.5 billion, it becomes clear that the Howard government will be spending at least $60 million every day on the military.

About 40 per cent of the $17.5 billion will go on personnel costs and 30 per cent to operating costs. The other 30 per cent includes new cruise missiles for the RAAF and unmanned tactical aircraft for the army. It also covers the costs of the 13 deployments of Australian troops throughout the world.

The largest and most costly deployment is to Iraq. The cost of the additional Australian troops recently sent to Al Munthanna province will bring the total for this year’s commitment to Iraq to $402.5 million.

Since 2001, the Howard government has spent over $1.25 billion intervening at the behest of the US. This commitment has not brought peace to Iraq or credit to Australia. The security budget for Australian embassies has been increased to forestall the enemies Australia is attracting.

An increased budget for ‘spooks’ includes a package of $43.3 million for “the collection … of intelligence on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”. This, of course, will not be looking at new nuclear weapons or space weapons being developed by the Bush administration.

Australia, like other capitalist states and in particular the USA, is using the existence of terrorism, much of which they have created and promoted, to justify new wars and far-reaching anti-democratic measures against the Australian people. This will be paid for by the “security” budget.

Commentators are urging the government to continue its three percent annual increase in military spending. They suggest that if this is not done, there will be a gap between Australia’s strategic ambitions and its capabilities. In other words, it will not be able to follow US orders, impose itself on its neighbours and project Australia’s interests into the region.

An annual ten per cent cut in military spending would generate a “peace dividend” which could be shifted into socially useful programs. The government is spending the same amount on education as on the military. Australians would benefit from a change in the government’s defence policy and military capability to one of defence of our own territory, ruling out aggression against other states.

Unfaltering support for US aggression, illegal invasion and occupation of other countries cannot ensure security for Australians.

Australia needs an independent, non-aligned foreign policy which is effective, affordable and genuinely serves the defence of our country and the need for peace and stability in our region.

Instead of a military alliance, Australia needs friendly and mutually beneficial relations with all countries, particularly with other, non-aligned and independent, nations.

An independent, made-in-Australia policy for reduced military spending and respect for the sovereign rights of nations to their independence, equality and self-determination would best serve the interests of Australia and our neighbours.

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