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Issue #1923      July 13, 2020

Politics of fear

Inside the $270 billion defence funding

In announcing $270 billion for the military on 1st July, Prime Minister Morrison had the task of convincing Australians that the exorbitant spending was necessary. He turned to fear as his chief weapon, evoking the rise of Nazism and World War II and describing the post pandemic world as “poorer, more dangerous and more disorderly.”

The Prime Minister said: “We have not seen the conflation of global economic and strategic uncertainty now being experienced here in Australia in our region since the existential threat we faced when the global and regional order collapsed in the 1930s and 1940s.”

The implication that China is like Nazi Germany hellbent on conquests and control is dangerous. For a government to make such a deliberately provocative statement about our most important trading partner in a time of domestic economic crisis is beyond belief.

When Morrison made his announcement he carefully prepared the scene with military figures and civilian supporters such as Peter Jennings from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a group funded by both the Australian and US Governments as well as huge US arms manufacturing companies which are the only ones who will profit from this military spending splurge.

It is clear why the Australian government has been conducting a scare campaign about China and Chinese cyber warfare. Clearly it is intended to build up a fear of China which will allow Australians to acquiesce in the exorbitant spending proposed.

Tensions in the Indo-Pacific region are being exacerbated by the actions of the Morrison government in partnership with US. They are being used to rush Australians into accepting the purchase of destabilising and unnecessary weaponry.

Scott Morrison has deliberately ignored the positive role of China in the COVID crisis. This socialist country has aided many millions with free medical equipment. It offered assistance to the State of New York, to Italy and to many developing countries including those suffering from US sanctions such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran.

Provoking an arms race

Australia is embarking on the 21st century version of a Cold War weapons build-up, emphasising submarines and other naval assets, intelligence, satellites and long-range missiles for use beyond Australian shores.

The Prime Minister said: “The Indo-Pacific is where we live – and we want an open, sovereign Indo-Pacific, free from coercion and hegemony.”

The Prime Minister is right. We have lived under the hegemony of the US for decades and one of our Prime Ministers was evicted from his post by US action. If you do not do as the US says, you will suffer a coup. Both Liberal and Labor know their limit.

“The strategic competition between China and the United States means that there’s a lot of tension in the cord and a lot of risk of miscalculation,” Morrison told Channel Seven. Provoking an arms race and taking an aggressive stance can only make this situation worse.

Change the system

Spending $270 billion on war preparations will not make us safer but it will make economic recovery even more difficult.

Morrison and his capitalist mates don’t really care. There are profits to be made from armaments production and from coercing influence and trade in the region.

Australia’s capitalist masters have continued to spend on the military even when in the depth of the COVID-19 economic crisis. New contracts have been signed and Australian ships are joining war games in the South China Sea and RIMPAC, the giant US organised international naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii.

It’s time to divert money from these wasteful and unnecessary events to the needs of the Australian people.

It’s time to say out loud that poverty kills, neo-liberalism kills. Its time to throw capitalism out and to build an alternative just, democratic, people and environment centred system.

We need socialism to save our lives.

Public housing

In The Saturday Paper Mike Seccombe wrote :

“... the government could have done what a wide range of organisations – the Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Australia, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, welfare groups and some progressive think tanks – have advocated, and put the money towards building up Australia’s depleted and degraded stock of public housing.“

Instead the government listened to its US arms corporation mates and the ASPI. The ASPI has campaigned for Australia’s military spending to be raised from nearly 2 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

Australia has 116,000 homeless people each night. There is a waiting list of 150,000 people for public housing. Many people on the waiting list are heads of families which means the need for public housing is even greater.

Instead of wasting $270 billion on death and destruction, the federal government should rescind last week’s exorbitant military announcement and start cutting military spending back to one per cent of GDP.

The money allocated to war preparations should be spent instead to fund a public housing boom which would meet the policy goals of stimulating the economy, providing jobs and providing permanent homes for the vulnerable.

Insecurity

Security is often interpreted to mean military security. However, Australia’s true security would be enhanced by attention to economic recovery, social cohesion and humanitarian issues.

Resources committed to developing the military mean less money for employment programs and the health, education and housing needs of Australians and our neighbours.

Blind to realities

If the Morrison government is planning on a weapons-led economic recovery, they are wilfully blind to the realities. The avoidance of deep recession will require massive stimulus spending on people and projects, not weapons.

A McKinsey report in 2010 found Australia’s military spending was among the least efficient in the world. In a list of 33 major countries, we tied with the United States for worst at getting value for our Defence dollar.

Loss of jobs

According to Ray Morgan in the second half of March unemployment jumped a staggering 1.4 million to 2.4 million (16.8 per cent) and under-employment increased 374,000 to 1.52 million (10.6 per cent).

But spending on the military rather than civilian areas of the economy results in a net loss of jobs. This is because military spending is less effective at creating jobs than virtually any other form of government activity.

US research reveals that, for example, a billion dollars spent for military purposes creates one and one-half times fewer jobs than spending on clean energy production and two and one-half times fewer jobs than spending on education.

Environment

Australia is set to spend $270 billion on buying sophisticated weaponry which will add about $8 billion per year onto the current annual military budget of around $42.2 billion. The decision is a disaster for many reasons. High on the list is the ramping up of the negative effects of militarism on the environment. Military spending amounts to a war on the environment.

Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “The environment has long been a silent casualty of war and armed conflict. From the contamination of land and the destruction of forests to the plunder of natural resources and the collapse of management systems, the environmental consequences of war are often widespread and devastating.”

Australia has one of the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide in the world, with its 0.3 per cent of the world’s population releasing 1.07 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gases. Emissions per capita for Australia are still well above the OECD and developed world average.

The federal budget tells a clear story of Australia’ misplaced priorities. The money that Australia spends on environmental protection is $3.4 billion. The money spent on the military is $42.2 billion.

The situation with climate change is at a critical stage. Current studies show that Earth temperature is one degree centigrade above pre-industrial levels and clearly on the way to 1.5 degrees within ten years. If nothing changes to business as usual, we face the possible extinction of humanity.

Next article – Editorial – Keneally uses HK residents as political pawns

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