Spend on climate and housing not war, activists say

April 23, 2024
From left to right: Denis Doherty, Greens Senator David Shoebridge, Pip Hinman and Peter Murphy on April 23. Photo: Peter Boyle

New South Wales Greens Senator David Shoebridge spoke alongside anti-war activists on April 23 against the global rise in military spending. He said global military spending of US$2.4 trillion is “obscene”.

“Imagine if the world spent that amount of money on fighting hunger, on fight the climate crisis and on bringing the world together.”

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released new figures the previous day showing military expenditure had risen for the ninth consecutive year in 2023, reaching a total of US$2443 billion.

United States military spending rose by 2.3% to US$916 billion in 2023. The US accounted for 37% of global military spending in 2023, by far the largest spender. Total spending by NATO member countries amounted to US$1341 billion in 2023 or 55% of global military spending.

“The world faces problems that cannot be resolved by military action,” said Peter Murphy from the Sydney Anti-AUKUS-Coalition (SAAC).

“While the government loudly asserts that Australia is sovereign, in fact US marines, navy and airforce personnel are today able to launch attacks on China from Australian soil without the knowledge of the Australian government,” said Denis Doherty from the Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition (ABCC).

Defence minister Richard Marles said on April 17 that military spending will rise to 2.4% of gross domestic product, up from the current 1.9%.

Pip Hinman, representing SAAC and Sydney Stop the War Coalition, said Labor is spending more on the military than it does on education.

“Excessive spending on ‘defence’ is a product of a bipartisan approach to the US military presence in South East Asia.

“A government which truly had our interests at heart would allocate our taxes to help ease the cost-of-living crisis and fix our broken public health, housing affordability and welfare.

She said the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal alone contributes to this, with the allocation of $53 billion in the next budget and $100 billion over 2033–34.

Hinman said a US war with China could rapidly become nuclear and would be a “war no one can win”.

Shoebridge said Australia spends more on weapons than Brazil, Canada and Spain. “Australia is adding to the arms race by spending nearly two times, on a per capita basis, than Russia. Moreover, this country spends more than double on military expenditure as Taiwan!”

Australia is “directly involved in Israel’s war on the people of Gaza through Pine Gap”, he said. The spy base is an “important agent” for the targeting of weapons systems of US allies, like Israel.

“The thought that Pine Gap would be used to better target weapons being splayed against Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, is horrifying.

“Given the level of secrecy from both the [Anthony] Albanese government and the Joe Biden administration, it’s a credible and realistic threat that’s happening in the centre of Australia.”

Shoebridge said Australia has “no geopolitical interest in going to war against China” and AUKUS is “not about defending continental Australia, but about enmeshing Australia into the US military’s China war plans” and “its military’s power projection in the region”.

Most of trillions of dollars in global military spending boosts the profits of a handful of global arms manufacturing companies, he added.

“Australia has committed some $4.6 billion of public money to the US nuclear submarine [building] base, which be used not only to build attack-class submarines, like the Virginia-class, but will also be used to make the next Columbia-class submarines which are doomsday weapons, which will carry multiple warhead ballistic missiles.

“Each of these designed to kill millions of people in an instant.”

Hinman said Australian universities are being used to support military research and development. The government is subsidising this and weapons corporations to produce parts for Israel’s death machines.

“Australia aspires to be among the top 10 arms exporters in the world,” she noted. “At number 16, it is not there yet and we must use these figures to step up our campaigns for peace and justice.”

She pointed to polls showing a majority do not want Australia to go to war with China. “We’re saying this money is needed on the climate transition, the cost-of-living crisis and affordable housing, not new wars.”

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