Letters-to-the-editor by the Australia Defence Association 01 January - 31 December 2014
While the Burchett-Hicks loophole is finally closed, our modernised treachery laws need to proscribe reckless as well as intentional acts of treachery. There is no danger to free speech or legitimate dissent, not least because treachery involves acts of betrayal that go well beyond the exercise of democratic rights - and indeed involves acts that undermine those rights.
Debate on CIA abuses 2001-06 has become so polarised ideologically that key facts and legal principles are being ignored. In particular, other US agencies which did not torture prisoners, and which spoke out against such abuses, are being wrongly accused of torturing. The role of the US Supreme Court in restoring the rule-of-law is also being wrongly ignored.
Criticism of CIA abuses should not necessarily be extended to the US overall or indeed the US military
While CIA abuses are undoubted, the US military has a generally good IHL compliance record. Moreover, both US Supreme Court rulings over the last decade, and the recent Senate Committee Report into CIA abuses, demonstrate that the eventual self-correcting mechanisms of a liberal-democracy continue to advance international humanitarian law.
Reversing the abolition of several longstanding conditions of service is welcome but wider reforms are needed to stop such arbitrary mistakes re-occurring. And to stop the ADF as a necessarily apolitical institution being misused, or perceived to be misused, for partisan purposes.
If ADF personnel want to stop further unfair pay determinations they need to join the Defence Force Welfare Association and help the DFWA to represent them independently at the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal. The DFRT also needs to be made truly independent.
Determining ADF pay using commercial or public service productivity measures is as silly as it is unfair. How productive our defence force is, or needs to be, may be difficult to work out at times, but it certainly cannot be measured by inappropriately applying most commercial and public service administrative standards.
Islamist terrorism, for example, must be countered intellectually and correct terminology is part of this effort. Correct terminology prevents confusion by disproving Islamist propaganda that counter-terrorism measures applying to all Australians - and aimed only at the terrorist minority and their sympathisers - are somehow directed instead against only or all Muslims. Using correct terminology also helps counter false claims of legitimacy for any extremist cause generally.
Islamic community leaders must stop denying the basis for Islamist terrorism and stop blaming the victim
Blaming the victim - the Australian community generally - by scattergun allegations of supposed "Islamophobia" is surely the last refuge of scoundrels. Leaders of Australia's Islamic community, and many Australian Muslims generally, need to stop blaming their fellow Australians under actual attack from Islamist terrorism. They need to focus instead on the denial and equivocation prevalent among so many Muslims as to why Islamist terrorism is occurring and the basis the Islamists claim for their terrorism in Islamic theology (no matter how incorrect or bigoted such interpretations are).
Informed public debate on defence issues is again being side-tracked by polemics based only on ideology and emotion. Once again, extreme Left-wing micro-groups, such as the so-called "Medical Association for Prevention of War", refuse to debate the actual issues, conceptual frameworks or arguments raised, and resort instead to just red-herring and straw-man arguments.
A foreign aid charity has absurdly reversed the annual comparative costs of foreign aid and the F-35 fighter. Such apples and oranges polemics do not contribute to informed public debate. Moreover, there is no contradiction or zero-sum game anyway between national investment in both defence capabilities and development assistance to other countries. Both contribute to Australia's strategic security, regional strategic stability and the implementation of our moral ideals and practical help.
Only cognitive dissonance, ignorance or polemics can explain invalid claims that defence investment somehow threatens people's pensions, healthcare or education. The accompanying false assumption that necessarily long-term focused defence investment can or should be substantially turned on and off, year by year, depending on the temporary economic circumstances (and subjective short-term wants) of individual voters, is just as dangerous. Both inter-generational equity (financially and with strategic security) and ADF operational efficiency are instead maximised by sustaining defence investment each year, even at a lower level over the long term, to insure Australia properly against general strategic security risk over the next half-century.
Moaning about the likely personal effect of this year's budget whilst not hesitating to inflict inter-generational inequity on our descendants
The odd view that defence investment can or should be substantially turned on and off, year by year, depending on the temporary economic circumstances (and subjective wants) of individual voters, is skewing objective consideration and debate concerning current budgetary priorities. Surely it is better for the nation as a whole to instead maximise both inter-generational equity (financially and with strategic risk) and ADF operational efficiency. Especially by sustaining such investment each year, even at a lower level over the long term, to insure Australia properly against general strategic security risk over the next half-century.
Given government warnings of a tough budget, the timing of the decision to purchase more JSFs has sparked much uninformed criticism. Especially from those who ignore that defence investment is essential, not discretionary, and is anyway dwarfed by the eight-fold higher national spending on social security, health and education. Critics are also ignoring that defence is the only major area of government spending that is wholly funded federally, making such huge differences in national funding even starker.
The notion that our Army somehow does not need modern equipment is being dishonestly and immorally regurgitated by those who ignore recent and other operational lessons. It particularly avoids objective analysis of the ADF's hard-won recent experiences in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also ignores commensurate objective analysis of Australia's future strategic risks and responsibilities over a largely unpredictable future. It is also worth noting that the principal proponents of the light-scales army notion are retired Department of Defence officials whose flawed theorising and policymaking throughout the 1980s and 1990s resulted in the ADF eventually having to deploy to East Timor so unprepared in 1999.
Projected cuts to US defence spending puts an even greater onus on allied burdensharing. As we are in a healthier economic and fiscal position than the US, we should help pick up the strategic security slack.
James Brown's new book has provoked knee-jerk reactions. It should be provoking considered thought. Every Australian shares a universal civic responsibility to concern themselves seriously with strategic security and defence issues. Instead, many only think about defence issues on Anzac Day and then only in an historical sense, and even then mostly via ahistoric misunderstandings and mythology.
Recent Chinese naval exercises south of Indonesia need to be kept in perspective. It is peacetime, the exercise was in international waters, the number and type of ships involved indicated a limited capacity to operate in the area, and Australia was easily able to monitor such an exercise anyway. Such activities, at worst, demonstrate some potential, and increased, strategic risk over the long term, but one that can be deterred or countered if necessary. They do not constitute a specific "threat" to Australia's stategic security now.
As well as a noted former diplomat and respected Secretary of the Department of Defence (1979-84), Bill has been much valued member of the ADA for many years.
The Grattan Institute needs to do its homework. Suggesting defence investment could somehow be slashed by 12 per cent is economically invalid and strategically irresponsible. Not least because our defence capabilities are the only major area of government to already have been slashed.
The documentary selectively showing ASIO surveillance footage from the 1960s and 1970s has excited much commentary. Much of this, however, has ignored the film's historiographical flaws, flawed assumptions and unbalanced analysis.