- by Hannah Middleton
- The Guardian
- Issue #2031
Photo: Matt Hrkac (matthrkac.com.au) – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)
The Labor Government plans to spend $48.7 billion on the military this financial year, in line with the policies of Morrison and Dutton. There is nothing new here, just the same subservience to US efforts to keep its dominance in the region.
Australia is subservient to US foreign policy objectives and as a result, military budgets are skewed to suit US military and economic objectives. This has meant that the Australian governments outlays on the military are both astronomically expensive and inappropriate for the Australian people’s needs.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers said military spending would increase eight per cent over the financial year, rising above two per cent of GDP over the forward estimates.
Budget papers show military funding, which includes funding for the Australian Signals Directorate, is planned to rise to $52.162 billion in 2023-24 (2.12% of GDP), $54.2 billion in 2024-25 (2.11%) and $56.6 billion in 2025-26 (2.1%).
The budget includes $9.9 billion over ten years on defensive and offensive cyber warfare and intelligence capabilities and $38 billion through to 2040 to increase the number of military personnel by 18,500 to 80,000.
The Navy will get a ship costing $155 million which the budget papers say will support undersea warfare and surveillance systems.
$976 million is allocated in 2022-23 to pay for the disastrous Lockheed Martin F35 planes, $5.1 million for research and development of biofuels and $32.2 million for a training simulator in Townsville
After years of arrogance and neglect, the budget includes $13 million to deepen engagement with Southeast Asia, including appointing a special envoy to Southeast Asia and establishing an Office of Southeast Asia within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Ominously, however, the 2022-23 budget excludes new spending on key capabilities with the government awaiting the recommendations of the Military Strategic Review, due in March 2023.
And all this exorbitant spending comes after revelations that at least twenty-eight military projects are behind schedule by a cumulative ninety-seven years and that the costs of at least eighteen projects have blown out by at least $6.5 billion.
The government is also facing the coming cost of the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarines, expected to be about $170 billion.
The navy-led taskforce has yet to decide on what type of boat, where it will be built, when it will be delivered, and measures to avoid a capability gap, including an interim submarine.
“What confidence can Australians have in the soundness of this opaque, overpriced, strategically unjustifiable, and massively underspecified project?” is one question being asked.
This is reinforced by a recent Washington Post investigation that recently exposed the role played by retired US admirals and former senior US military officials in the Australian decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, revealing the extent to which the Australian submarine procurement decision has been compromised and corrupted:
“Two retired US admirals and three former US Navy civilian leaders are playing critical but secretive roles as paid advisers to the government of Australia during its negotiations to acquire top-secret nuclear submarine technology from the United States and Britain.”
“All told, six retired US admirals have worked for the Australian government since 2015, including one who served for two years as Australia’s deputy secretary of defence,” the Washington Post revealed.
The budget papers reveal that since March, Australia has added $213.3 million to its contribution to Ukraine, including $185.6 million for armoured vehicles including Bushmasters, $18.4 million for temporary visas for Ukrainians and $8.7 million for Ukraine’s Border Guards to improve cybersecurity.
The government is expected to add to all this when it unveils a fresh package of military assistance.
The exorbitant waste of money does not make Australia safer. Instead, it robs funds needed for wage increases, flood and bushfire mitigation, climate change prevention, the NDIS, Close the Gap, and much more.
In contrast, Australian military spending is delighting and enriching international military contractors who are rushing to grab the billions of dollars on offer.
Agreements with Lockheed Martin, Thales, and Raytheon have been extended, Lockheed Martin Australia has opened a new research and development centre in Melbourne, and Northrop Grumman is investing $50 million in a centre at Badgerys Creek.
Instead of filling the pockets of the merchants of death, Australia needs a peace budget now.
The $1.98 trillion spent around the world on militaries in 2020 did not provide peace or security. Ever-growing militaries have only brought us more human and ecological devastation. More of the same will not change the situation.
It should be obvious that countries trying to outspend one another by buying more and more deadly weapons does not create peace or security. It has not worked in the past and it never will.
The enormous military budget must be redirected to a peace budget for healthcare, housing, education, social services, and sustainable development. That is the road to security and peace.