Formal comment by the Australia Defence Association: 2012-13
Asylum-seeking in its current manifestation is primarily a strategic policy issue with domestic ramifications, not vice versa. Not appreciating this strategic context continues to cause most of the misunderstandings so undermining informed and effective public debate. Even more importantly, it continues to hamper the implementation of effective solutions for combatting people-smuggling, the processing of asylum-seekers and the protection of genuine refugees. We have also long lamented that both sides of politics tend to put perceived short-term electoral advantage ahead of their responsibility to protect the long-term national interest regarding Australia's strategic security and national sovereignty.
While the Department of Defence has put considerable effort into the new Defence White Paper, its essentially partisan motivation in an election year has detracted from these efforts. The large reductions in defence investment over the last three years, and the absence of an investment plan in the paper, also detract from the credibility of the document. Ministerial waffling about such issues also emphasises the considerable and unjustified risks being taken with Australia's future strategic security.
Public discussion about the lack of cruise-ship infrastructure in Sydney Harbour, and renewed calls for greater dual-use of the naval base at Garden Island as a supposed "solution", avoid that this issue is actually another manifestation of the faltering federal-state compact.
Royal Commission or judicial inquiry now needed to test allegations of harassment and abuse in the ADF
Not long after the last vestiges of public hysteria about Lindy Chamberlain were finally lanced there is both considerable irony and tragedy about an outburst of public hysteria on another issue. There are therefore seven principal reasons why a Royal Commission or a judicial inquiry is now the best way to resolve untested allegations about the past prevalence of bullying, harassment and, in some cases sexual abuse, in our defence force.
Cuts of $5.5bn in defence investment over the next four years announced in the 2012 federal budget have generated more heat than light on all sides. A fresh concern, however, has been the re-emergence of particularly uninformed commentary from economists, politicians and others who should know better.
Media coverage of bad and criminal behaviour in our defence force has led many Australians to assume, incorrectly, that problems such as alcohol abuse, sexual harassment and youth suicide are prevalent in our defence force and occur at rates far higher than community norms or in other professions and industries.
Since June 2011 ("Defence Brief" 144 refers) the Australia Defence Association - as the relevant independent, non-partisan, public-interest watchdog - has been warning of a burgeoning problem with Stephen Smith’s approach to his responsibilities as Minister for Defence.
By fixating on the recurrent symptoms, not the causes and cures, most public argument on asylum seeking continues ineffectively. Politicians are addicted to electoral point-scoring. Refugee advocates are prone to discuss factors selectively.