Upping military spending
by Dr Hannah Middleton The Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Minister for Defence, John Moore, launched the government's paper on military spending, "Defence Review 2000 — Our Future Defence Force", on June 27. A Community Consultation Team (CCT), made up of Andrew Peacock, Stephen Loosley, Dr David MacGibbon and retired Major General Adrian Clunies Ross, will visit capital cities and regional centres during July and August to listen to community opinion. However, it is clear that the government has already made up its mind. Prime Minister Howard gave the show away when he said: "I think a process that gives the public an opportunity to express a point of view is bound, in most cases to produce an outcome where the public will embrace what the Government has done a lot more readily... I simply make the point that we have to spend more on defence" It is clear from these comments that the Community Consultation is, in fact, a con job intended to win public support for increased spending. To underline the fact that nothing is really going to change, Mr Howard said that "the alliance with the United States is still the cornerstone of our defence position." Most Australians do not believe military spending is a priority nor is involvement in overseas wars any longer acceptable. What's important? The three most important things identified by participants in a Morgan Poll in January this year were hospitals, schools and unemployment. Inter-operability with the United States in aggressive wars in the region requires the expansion of hi-tech strategic strike weapons, maintaining a 'knowledge edge' over regional states and remaining a substantial maritime power and this is the path already mapped out by the Government. It has bi- partisan support from the Labor Party. Australia simply cannot afford the astronomical price of such an approach which is primarily aimed at China and North Korea. The Blue Paper Project, an initiative of non-government organisations founded in 1993 to generate discussion of Australia's political and military role in the 21st Century and of government defence philosophy and policies, commented: "At stake is not only what kind of military, political and economic role Australia will play in the new millenium, but also how much this will cost Australian taxpayers. "There is no threat of invasion to Australia. Instability and conflicts in the region are predominantly internal. They are not directed against Australia and they cannot be solved by military means. "Real security comes with jobs, steady food supplies, homes, clean water, warmth, education and health care, democracy and human rights. "We hope that thousands of Australians will make submissions to the government to tell them the goal must be to minimise military expenditure as far as responsible defence strategy allows. More arms make Australia poorer, not safer." Submissions Submissions of any length should be sent by August 31 to: Community Consultation Team Defence Review 2000 R1-5-A137 Department of Defence Russell Offices. Canberra ACT 2600 Email: email@example.com
* * *The Guardian will make a detailed analysis of the Defence Review 2000 and comment at greater length as soon as possible.