Decisions about national defence should be long-term national interest matters and well above party politics, political expediency and day-to-day politicking. As with this year's federal budget slashing defence investment (at greater eventual and long-term financial and operational cost), so the decision to allow even more cruise ship access to national defence infrastructure at Fleet Base East in Sydney Harbour demonstrates another classic example of a government that puts the quest for short-term political advantage above any apparent thought for the needs of actual governance in the national interest.
Letter to The Australian
Sunday, 15 July 2012
Following on from massive cuts to defence investment in this year’s federal budget, the decision to allow cruise ships even more access to the already over-crowded naval facilities at Garden Island is yet another disgraceful example of sacrificing long-term national interests for short-term party-political advantage.
As with the budget destroying the Government’s own 2009 Defence White Paper, the cruise ship decision contradicts the detailed conclusions of the independent Force Posture Review in only March this year.
It ignores that Fleet Base East is long-established and specialist national infrastructure operated on behalf of all Australians, not just Sydneysiders.
It ignores enduring strategic principles derived from the geographic, oceanographic, economic and maritime trade constraints of the Australian east coast
It ignores Sydney’s central location strategically and that there is no other large deep-water harbour, with immediate deep-water access, for such a base on the entire east coast of the continent.
Even if there was, the base’s huge dry dock and engineering facilities built up over a century, and Sydney’s supporting industrial infrastructure, could not be replicated elsewhere without the national taxpayer having to fork out tens of billions of dollars.
ADF bases are not somehow a cheap fix for decades of poor planning and insufficient investment by private industry, state governments and the city council.
With some 317km of shoreline there is plenty of space elsewhere in Port Jackson for the state government, the city council and the tourism industry to invest in appropriate cruise ship facilities without trying to steal our biggest naval base from the taxpayer.
Even within Sydney Harbour itself, more investment by the state government on deep-water wharfage for cruise-ships, and less emphasis on reaping stamp duty from harbourside townhouse development and casinos, is what is needed.
[This issue in particular, and the Force Posture Review in general, were analysed at length in Defence Brief, Number 146, February 2012]Back to Letters: 2012