- by Dr Hannah Middleton
- The Guardian
- Issue #2005
The 2022-23 budget confirms and expands the criminal madness of the last seven months, when the Morrison government has committed unbelievable billions of dollars to militarise Australia to support US efforts to contain China.
The Defence Department will receive $48 billion for the year. This includes:
- $5.5 billion for nothing – compensation for the cancelled French submarine project.
- $9.9 billion over ten years to support the Australian Signals Directorate’s cyber capabilities.
- $14.3 billion in new naval bases to support the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines and to build and maintain larger warships.
- $1.3 billion to expand space warfare and peaceful purposes.
- $38 billion through to 2040 to increase the number of defence personnel by 18,500.
- $875 million to upgrade military bases around the country.
- $3.5 billion for a package, including air-to-surface missiles with a 900 km range for the air force and missiles to double the strike range of the navy’s warships.
- $3.5 billion on upgrades to tanks and $1 billion to buy self-propelled howitzers.
- $148.4 million over the next five years to protect against terrorists and violent extremism, including money for a National Convicted Terrorist Offender Register.
The $120 billion cost of building nuclear-powered submarines over the next thirty years remains, we are told, a matter for later budgets.
Defence Minister Dutton on 5th April announced that the giant armaments corporations Raytheon and Lockheed Martin will lead the nation’s $3.5 billion plan to build guided missiles.
With homegrown defence contractors complaining the build up in military spending has not flowed through to them, the government will provide $151.6 million over five years in grant programs to help small and medium merchants of death.
The AUKUS partnership, announced in September 2021, is a trilateral security pact between the US, UK and Australia.
The deal’s first priority is to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines intended to be used to contain and control China.
Parliament has already adopted legislation allowing the US to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia.
Paying for the nuclear submarines will be extraordinarily expensive and will mean that other departments will be raided to finance them. Welfare, education, the environment and the important health budget will suffer.
Cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and additional undersea capabilities are other focus areas of AUKUS, with almost $10 billion in the current budget for cyber warfare and also plans to develop undersea drones, with initial trials planned for next year.
AUKUS has already seen US military personnel further embedded in Australian military establishments.
Agreements signed in July 2020 at the annual AUSMIN talks paved the way for a stronger American military presence in Australia, including establishing a strategic fuel reserve in Darwin and carrying out maintenance on US military assets.
The US has also made a commitment to build $2 billion worth of defence-related infrastructure to strengthen its presence in northern Australia.
The Australian government plans to spend $10 billion over twenty years to develop an east coast submarine base in Brisbane, Newcastle or Port Kembla, once a site is selected.
However this may not be so easy with local councils in Wollongong and Newcastle re-affirming their nuclear free status and local communities developing feisty opposition campaigns, including rejecting the distribution of iodine pills.
The government has promised $4.3 billion to build a large-vessel dry dock berth in Perth, which will help construct and sustain naval warships.
The Federal Government is also planning to secure additional land to build a construction yard for the nuclear submarines, including land adjacent to the existing Osborne North Shipyard in Adelaide.
The increased military aggression created by AUKUS is destabilising and seriously undermines the possibility of US-Chinese and broader international co-operation to reverse the threats of nuclear weapons, the climate emergency, and pandemics. It also includes the danger of a great war which could well destroy the planet.
In the recent Federal budget, Treasurer Frydenberg committed an enormous $9.9 billion over ten years for cyber operations.
REDSPICE, The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – the agency responsible for foreign signals intelligence, cyber warfare and information security – will get $680 million in 2022-23 and $1.2 billion in each of the following two years, and then $1 billion in 2025-26.
However, only $588 million is new money. The bulk comes from cuts to other defence acquisitions, although the budget papers do not say which projects will be hit.
The funding will triple the offensive cyber capability with the ASD doubling in size with 1,900 new staff members.
REDSPICE is a real increase in the ASD’s ability to strike in cyberspace and it increases the ASD’s presence overseas fourfold, allowing for closer collaboration with key allies, especially the US and UK, Australia’s partners in the aggressive anti-Chinese AUKUS pact.
Despite rhetoric about a defensive role for Australia’s cyber capabilities, it is clear that the new funding is an expansion of an ongoing development of cyber warfare capabilities aimed first and foremost against China.
Australia’s cyber offensive capability was outlined in the government’s 2016 cyber security strategy and it is likely Australia has had this capability for even longer.
The Federal government is planning to spend $7 billion over the next ten years to fund a new Defence Space Command and triple the size of Australia’s space activities. Further costs are hidden behind claims of “commercial-in-confidence.”
Defence Space Command was set up on 18th January, 2022. Its new head, Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, said “It is central to how we will fight and win in the future across multi-domain operations, using advanced hypersonics, precision strike missiles and guided weapons.”
The new agency’s members will come from Australia’s army, navy and air force, and will include private contractors. The agency will come under the Air Force.
The Australian Defence Ministry states: “Space is becoming more congested, contested and competitive with over 7500 satellites currently orbiting the Earth, and thousands more being launched every year … and an estimated 128 million pieces of debris smaller than 1 centimetre.”
Defence Minister Dutton was more open when he said space will take on “greater military significance” in this century.
In 2018 the Australian government chose Adelaide as the location of its newly established national Space Agency. The city had an established history of space related industries and is already the base for more than sixty organisations and 800 employees in space-related sectors.
The increased investment into space related military technologies by the Australian government is dangerous, given Canberra’s intimate links with US military ambitions. Space Command must be seen in the context of the Australian US military alliance and the plans for interoperability between the Australian and US military.
In 2018 President Trump said that “space is a warfighting domain” and claimed that the “we must have American dominance in space”. The US Space Force was launched in 2019.
British writer Harold Pinter, in his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, said US policy “is now defined as full spectrum dominance” which “means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources”.
How nations use space is governed by the Outer Space Treaty which entered into force in October 1967. Developed primarily as an arms-control treaty for the peaceful use of outer space, it declared that space is the province of all and banned weapons of mass destruction.
The US has been putting nuclear devices in space, including first strike and anti-satellite weapons. However, these are defined as weapons of selective [not mass] destruction.
The 1967 treaty said space belonged to all humanity, However, in 2016 Obama allowed corporations to claim ownership of asteroids.
For many years China and Russia took a draft Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) treaty to the UN but this was regularly blocked by the US and Israel.
In December 2014, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution which calls “on all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the peaceful use of outer space, prevent an arms race there, and refrain from actions contrary to that objective.” 178 countries voted in favour to none against, with the United States and Israel abstaining.
The US is determined to be the “master of space” and now Australia has joined this exorbitantly expensive and terribly dangerous project.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison joined his American and British counterparts on 6th April to announce a new AUKUS deal to build hypersonic missiles and defence systems and radars that can take out an enemy’s hypersonic missiles.
The US and Australia already have a hypersonic weapon program called SCIFiRE and the new deal will see the three AUKUS partners work together on further research and development.
Currently China is in the forefront of hypersonic missile development, closely followed by Russia while the US is reported to be concerned that it is falling behind on a military technology considered critical for its continued domination of the Asia Pacific region.
Hypersonic missiles can travel at least five times the speed of sound, which is around 1.6 km per second. They have a range of more than 2000 kilometres and can carry a conventional explosive or a nuclear warhead. They can be fired from land, sea and air.
Land-based missiles would be stationed in Australia, while air and sea based missiles could be deployed on our country’s jet fighters and warships.
There are two types of hypersonic missiles. The cruise missile variant can be launched from an aircraft and hit a target more than 1,200 miles away. The glide variant is launched up into space from where it then glides down to earth on an unpredictable path.
They are hard to defend against because of their speed – just minutes warning time. They fly at low altitudes, beyond the line of sight of ground-based radars, and can manoeuvre mid-flight, making their flight path, especially that of a glide vehicle, so hard to predict that it makes interception virtually impossible.
Currently China is in the forefront of hypersonic missile development, closely followed by Russia. The US is reported to be concerned that it is falling behind on a military technology it considers critical for its continued domination of the Asia Pacific region. Australia’s decision to develop hypersonic weapons risks accelerating an arms race with China.
Kate Hudson, leader of Britain’s major peace group CND, says the extension of AUKUS will “further escalate global tensions at a time when the threat of nuclear war is at its highest in decades”.
DESTROYING SECURITY, STEALING JOBS
Frydenberg’s 2022-23 budget confirms an exorbitant spend on Australia’s military capabilities that is unjustifiable from every angle – strategic, economic, environmental, political and social.
A McKinsey report in 2010 found Australia’s military spending was among the least efficient in the world. In a list of thirty-three major countries, Australia tied with the United States for worst at getting value for our military dollar.
Australia is acquiring a military capability grossly disproportionate to its defence needs. The planned capability will work as a provocation and destabiliser, undermining national and regional security.
Security is often interpreted to mean military security but Australia’s true security would be enhanced by attention to economic recovery, social cohesion, diplomacy and humanitarian issues.
Resources committed to developing the military mean less money for the environment and the health, education and housing needs of Australians and our neighbours.
A country that does not feed its aged pensioners properly should really not commit $120 billion or more to buy nuclear powered submarines.
Military spending is less effective at creating jobs than virtually any other form of government activity.
The Australian government plans to spend $48 billion on the military. If ten per cent of that were transferred to healthcare, something like 64,000 jobs could be created, including thousands of nurses, and we could be better equipped to combat this pandemic and future pandemics.
If another ten per cent went to clean energy, it would create about 45,000 jobs and could help address the nation’s major security problem, the environmental crisis.
The budget has delivered a massive setback to the people of Australia which will make us poorer but not safer or healthier.