The Guardian • Issue #2100

Budget Military Spending

Arms corporations win, People lose

NZ soldiers in creek playing war games.

Photo: NZ Defence Force – (CC-BY-2.0)

Australians will be poorer but not more secure as a result of the massive increase in military spending in the next financial year outlined in the 2024-25 Budget.

The figures are astounding. Most analysts put spending on the military next financial year at $52 or $53 billion or 2.02 per cent of GDP. Last year’s spend was $42 billion.

$50.3 billion for the military (which brings overall Defence spending to $765 billion over a decade) includes funding for a “larger and more lethal” fleet of surface ships and a long-range strike and autonomous weapons systems.

Why the big leap forward?

Treasurer Jim Chalmers claims: “In a world of rapid economic change and heightened strategic competition, investing in modern defence industries serves our economic and national security interests.” 

This is doublespeak for rearming Australia to be used by US imperialism in its struggle to defeat China and to intimidate other countries including Russia, Iran, and the DPRK. Australia is part of the supporting crew for the US imperial project which seeks to retain its empire.

However, recent developments make it clear that the US imperial system is in freefall – a reality that the Australian government cannot or will not recognise. In addition, history has repeatedly shown that the United States will act in the interests of its own elites, and theirs alone.

If Australia is to develop in peace and security, the first step would be to untangle itself from this catastrophic alliance and to abandon AUKUS which the budget estimates will cost $53 to $63 billion in the next financial year and eventually a total of at least $368 billion.

Just imagine how many homes, hospitals, and schools could be built for $368 billion!

However, the Albanese government shows no wisdom or foresight; it just continues the old Australian ‘all the way with the USA’ style of politics.

The only winners of this massive overspend are weapons corporations such as Lockheed, Raytheon and BAE Systems.  BAE’s troubled Hunter Frigate program has consumed $4.3 billion without any steel being cut for the first hull. The project is not working and massive cost overruns are piling up, but there is no suggestion that it be cancelled and BAE asked to return some of the people’s money.

The headlong rush to acquire numerous weapons systems assumes all will be completed on time and on budget, yet Defence is notorious for bad planning and cost over runs. 

The military budget sets aside $18 billion to upgrade the Australia’s northern bases in Darwin and Katherine, while the amount spent on bringing some economic justice to First Nations people is pitiful. Based on deliberately exaggerated assessments of China’s intentions, the Albanese government is splashing cash in all the wrong places.

Besides the poor acquisitions activities of some of the highest paid senior military officers in the world, Australia’s armed forces are suffering from a lack of recruits. There is even talk of using New Zealanders or Pacific Islanders for our defence forces.

The budget outlines plans to bribe workers to become involved in the development of the aggressive new military policy.

Defence workers will be offered a $101.8 million workforce boost, including a pilot apprenticeship program for shipbuilding. A $165.7 million grants program will help “scale up” businesses that deliver what’s seen as “sovereign defence industrial priorities.”

As the world watches with horror the misery inflicted by military means in Gaza, Ukraine and elsewhere around the world and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that last year the world spent $2.44 trillion on ways to kill, it becomes even clearer that constantly increasing spending on war and preparations for war must be stopped.

These outrageous amounts of money must be redirected toward human needs and climate repair. It is time to get active and resist this destructive and wasteful spending.

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