Letters-to-the-editor by the Australia Defence Association 01 January - 31 December 2013
Craig Emerson's call for manufacturing more submarines in place of Holdens has not been thought through. More broadly, it reflects the type of shallow, short-term and politically expedient thinking on strategic security issues by our political class and commentariat that has bedevilled adequate national defence planning over recent decades.
While 65 per cent of the federal budget is allocated to social security, health, education and defence (in that order), defence is only 8 of the 65 per cent, is the only one wholly funded federally, and the only one already subjected to deep cuts. Discretionary spending should be cut instead.
Leading economists continue to ignore that defence investment has already been cut savagely in recent years. Australia's structural budget deficit should be solved by instead tackling discretionary spending, not further cutting already insufficient investment in essential national infrastructure such as our national defence capabilities.
Australia's structural budget deficit is due to discretionary spending rather than our defence capabilities where investment is essential but has already been cut savagely in recent years.
Investment in our national defence capabilities has already been cut savagely in recent years. In targeting Australia's structural budget deficit it is surely time to tackle spending in discretionary portfolio areas instead.
Mistaken public attacks on the ADFA Commandant have continued, despite the trial of of those charged over the April 2011 "skype" incident again proving that many public beliefs about the circumstances are untrue. And despite Commodore Kafer having long been exonerated by an independent inquiry by a respected QC.
The intervention into NT Aboriginal communities was never a military operation. Despite scaremongering by its opponents, and the resulting mythology, the Commonwealth intervention was always a civil function and operation - and always undertaken under civil law. The ADF only provided some logistic and administrative support to the civil agencies concerned. There has never been a "military intervention" of any sort into an indigenous community anywhere in Australia.
There have always been two victims of the April 2011 incident at the Australian Defence Force Academy. First, the female cadet wrongly filmed without her apparent consent during consexual sex with a fellow cadet. Second, the Academy's commandant wrongly scapegoated by the Minister for Defence at the time - and then subsequently denied an apology by the Minister - even after an independent inquiry by a QC had found the commandant acted appropriately in his handling of the incident.
Whether foreign boats smuggling people into Australia can be turned back, or not, is a different issue to whether they should be turned back. Unfortunately, politically-polarised, narrow or emotive views regarding asylum-seeking generally mean this important distinction is often lost in public discussion. No matter whether such boats should be turned back, or not, the ADA notes that proper debate on the issue is advanced if it based on the following six-point summary of military professional judgement concerning the matter.
Indonesia has again escaped criticism for recent outrageous posturing by the Indonesian Vice-President and their Ambassador to Australia. This is largely due to public debate on asylum-seeking in Australia once again mistakenly assuming that this is an Australian domestic issue alone when it is integrally a strategic policy issue with domestic ramifications. The situation has been exacerbated by the usual emotive sidetracking into irrelevancies that dwell on the symptoms of Australia's dilemma rather than address the real causes and the actual solutions needed. The hypocrisy and contravention of international law and international good citizenship of Indonesian posturing needs to be robustly challenged rather than naively accepted at face value.
Former NSW politician Andrew Tink's new book on repercussions of the August 1940 air crash in Canberra ("Air Disaster Canberra: The Plane Crash that Destroyed a Government", New South, Sydney, 2013, 308pp., $A45.00), concentrates on the political ramifications of Prime-Minister Menzies losing three of his senior Cabinet ministers and closest political supporters within the United Australia Party. But the longer-term and more enduring detrimental effect was surely the death in the same crash of the universally respected Army Chief, General Cyril Brudenell White. If White had survived, the whole modern history of the strategic-level, politico-military relationship in Australia, and of real rather than often nominal joint-Service command of our defence force, is likely to have been quite different. Particularly in being less difficult structurally; being free of so many aberrations and misunderstandings constitutionally, professionally and culturally; being reformed decades earlier and more effectively than it eventually has been; and evolving much more in conformity with the tried and tested Westminster-System conventions and institutional processes practised sucessfully elsewhere.
As an island continent permanently situated in a maritime region Australia remains primarily dependent on the sea and our maritime lines of communication and commerce. Our surrounding oceans also comprise a large part of the ten per cent of the Earth's surface that is some form of Australian sovereignty, conservation or international search and rescue responsibility. Prominent critics of the new amphibious ships being procured for the ADF invariably ignore or obfuscate these factors and their implications. Just as they tend to ignore or selectively cite hard-won strategic and operational lessons from recent experiences and longer ago.
Australia's strategic situation and its commensurate responsibilities and implications do not somehow vanish by the exercise of political spin, short-term political expediency or wishful thinking. Our current political leadership has chosen to plunder defence investment, and ignore the long-term damage caused, because there is no electoral backlash to them now from the future Australians (some perhaps not even born yet) seriously affected by this government's neglect of the first responsibility of any government.
Maximising Australia's strategic security is a primary-level national governance responsibility but is being seriously neglected by the Gillard Government. Criticism of this irresponsible neglect has come from across the range of defence expertise and indeed from across the political spectrum. The criticism cannot be discounted as party-political disagreement, as the current Minister has tried to do, not least because some of the more concerned and informed critics are experienced members of the Labor parliamentary caucus. They are rightly furious that Labor's reputation for national security management is now being trashed for no valid reason.
Much public argument on replacing our Collins-class submarines is confused and nugatory through not using a common basis of facts and assumptions.