The Whole Thing Is A Fraud

by on 11 May, 2013

A. Essery

Australia’s Defence White Paper is not anywhere close to what the government wants us to believe writes Allan Essery.


When Labor took over government in 2007 Kevin Rudd promised to continue the Howard government policies of long-term defence investment.  Rudd even went so far as to guarantee an increase in defence spending to a level of 3 per cent of GDP.  Another broken promise, or did he just bite off more than he could chew because he didn’t understand the question, let alone fathom an answer?

To give the Howard government its due, they recognized that the Australian Defence Forces were in a decaying state and started a process of correction.  The now well-recognised mismanagement since 2007 has meant that many of the gains made in the Howard years have been lost and more will be lost because of Labor’s incompetence.

What is wrong with Australia’s defence policy?  Stephen Smith, Minister of Defence, that is what is wrong.  Although initially viewed as someone with great potential he has turned out to be not only a complete failure, he has actually done untold damage to the relationship between the ADF and the government.

In his book and during a video interview a well respected ex-army General, John Cantwell, blasted the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith, saying that he obviously didn’t like the ADF, didn’t have any respect for Australian servicemen and women or the job they were doing and didn’t trust its senior officers.

The criticisms of Smith are damning and could be summed up as him being an unacceptable liability.  When criticized by the US for Australia’s pitiful defence spending Smith laughably tried to equate Australia’s defence spending with that of the US.  That confirmed that he didn’t understand defence and believed that responsibility began one rung down the ladder from him.

So, what of the latest ‘White Paper’ on defence?  Well, it talks about our strategic outlook in a less than completely honest way and fails to explain how it is to be funded.   Alan Kohler has highlighted Labor’s pathetic view of defence funding in an article when he said, “the defence budget and finance runs to 17 paragraphs and 676 words out of 148 pages of waffle.”

What is it about the latest ‘White Paper’ that is wrong?  Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute says, “Because we cannot afford all the insurance we would like in the form of weapons systems, we have to take on slightly more risk and, to some extent, we compensate by substituting diplomacy.” Is it dishonest?  Yes, because the government is trying to create the illusion that with this latest promise of additional funding it is now prepared to procure more military hardware while all the time it is leaning further toward diplomacy and a depleted defence capability.

Despite its promise to maintain defence spending the Labor government last year cut defence spending to the lowest in 75 years at around 1.56 per cent of GDP.  The defence establishment was appalled.  This year we see the government promising to return to a level of 2 per cent of the GDP.  That is an increase in defence spending of about $7 billon per year. 

A return to 2 per cent of GDP is presently the stuff of fairy tales.  Ask yourself where the money is going to come from.  The Labor Government has already lumbered us with debt exceeding $230 billion and counting, then we must add to that $24 billion defence spending plus $7 billion additional funding for defence, around $43 billion and counting for the NBN, $6.5 billion for the Gonski reforms, another $5 billion and counting for NDIS, a great big hole in the budget of around $17 billion and $6.5 billion for asylum seeker welfare and processing and God knows what else we will find in their upcoming budget release.  All of this without a penny in the bank!

To be fair I suppose, I should acknowledge that the opposition has also said that it will return defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP.

The worrying thing about Labor’s defence thinking is a denial that the situation in our region, and in fact the world, is confused and dangerous.  The government is either completely incapable of, or wilfully refuses to, publicly acknowledge that our defence capability is in terminal decline and unless we acquire a government that is prepared and capable of delivering on the defence front then Australia will continue to be at risk in what has become a government “strategy & funding-free zone”.

Alan is an ex-RAAF officer retired from active duty. He was a flight instructor and charter pilot. He also writes on matters political and is a staunch battler for ex-service superannuants. He is also rumoured to be a savvy fossicker for the yellow stuff.

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