Defence Investment: Australia has inescapable strategic responsibilities that need to be funded sustainably

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.

 

Letter to The Sydney Morning Herald
Thursday, 31 January 2013
(published Saturday, 02 February 2013 

Peter Hartcher is correct to note that Australia — as the world’s only island continent and the only continent occupied by only one sovereignty — cannot just wish the world away strategically (“Defence is headed for its own crisis”, January 29).

New Zealand, Ireland and, to an extent, Canada often ignore their defence responsibilities only because a larger neighbour permanently protects them geo-strategically.

We have the opposite situation. Although our nearest neighbours are strategically benign, our wider region is subject to growing, often unpredictable and increasingly unstable great-power tensions.

Australia also has internationally designated sovereignty, conservation and search & rescue responsibilities for some ten per cent of the Earth’s surface that do not somehow go away.

More importantly, we have an economy, political system and whole way-of-life totally dependent on seaborne trade over sea-lanes that always need to be secured by a balance of international law, diplomacy and, in the final analysis, military force applied by us or with maritime-power allies.

Finally, the current crisis is caused only by the current Prime-Minister, Defence Minister and Treasurer plundering the long-term and sustained defence investment needed as a supposed “magic pudding” for short-term factional and careerist purposes.

It is not a Labor problem per se. Labor defence experts, across all party factions, are rightly strongly opposed to the burgeoning under-investment in our defence capabilities and the needless gambling with the security of future Australians involved.

Only minority government in an election year — and simmering leadership tensions — prevent these loyal Labor figures from commenting publicly.

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