It is rare that a critical article on Australia's military spending appears in one of the corporate newspapers but on October 25, the Melbourne Age published such an article by senior correspondent Daniel Flitton entitled “Does Australia's military need such tentacles of defence?”.
Flitton argued that while Australian governments have “talked the good talk of regional co-operation and engagement for decades” their “staggering shopping list of new military hardware was signalling a very different message to the region.
“The air force will get stealth fighter-bombers, at least 72, but maybe as many as 100, costing anywhere up to $24 billion to buy and operate. The army wants a fleet of new armoured fighting vehicles with more potent guns, with a price tag somewhere around $10 billion.
“The promise of 12 new subs for the navy could cost as much as $36 billion. Add to these boats the three new 'air warfare destroyers' and a pair of towering amphibious assault ships, one already on the water and the other, moored at the Williamstown docks, expected to be launched in the coming months.”
This lethal shopping spree is justified on the basis of a long-standing official “defence” policy of preserving the Australian state's military advantage over other states in the region, but its purpose is offensive not defensive. Australia's military engagements have all been in other countries, including Papua New Guinea, Korea, Malaya, Vietnam, Solomon Islands, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Only the first of these interventions could be argued to be defensive.
Australia's aggressive military policy may soon become clearer. A report in the October 28 Wall Street Journal says the Australian military is preparing to join the US in a provocative naval sail-through in the South China Sea to “test” Chinese territorial claims.
All this follows the stationing of US marines in Darwin and agreements for expanded US military access to Australian naval and air force facilities signed by the former Gillard Labor government. These agreements have made Australia a giant US aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific.
Australia's latest $70 billion arms shopping spree is great news for the global arms industry but it is morally indefensible. The United Nations estimates just $30 billion a year could eliminate starvation all around the world. Meanwhile, global spending on arms in 2014 was $1.8 trillion!
Bolivia's indigenous and socialist President Evo Morales recently urged the world's “imperial powers” to use the money they now spend on the military to address climate change.
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