There is no contradiction or zero-sum game between our investment in defence capabilities and our development assistance to other countries

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.


Letter to The Canberra Times
Monday, 05 May 2014
(published Wednesday, 07 May 2014) 

Paul Ronalds (“Boost aid not defence - and we all reap the rewards”, Times2, May 5, p4) offers an invalid and unnecessary apples and oranges polemic in trying to compare the 30-year lifecycle investment for the F-35 fighter with our annual foreign aid allocation.

The annual cost of the fighters over three decades will be under $1 billion (in today’s dollars), not the supposed five times the yearly aid budget Paul wrongly claims.

Indeed our annual aid budget of $5 billion or so is instead five times the yearly cost of the fighters’ long-term contribution to Australian and regional strategic security.

Moreover, military assistance to help liberate or protect vulnerable peoples and societies remains one of Australia’s most noble and practical foreign aid contributions over the long term anyway.

And as Anzac Day again reminds us, such help cannot and should not be measured in just monetary, bureaucratic or other short-timescale terms.

Just ask, for example, people from South Korea, Malaysia, Namibia, Somalia, Cambodia, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, East Timor, Tonga and Afghanistan.

And in a long-term context, even about less successful attempts to help in South Vietnam and perhaps Iraq.

Our defence budget also covers Australia’s proud record of international aid through military contributions to multinational peacekeeping globally and to regional disaster relief specifically.

Informed debate recognises preserving long-term strategic security at home and regionally, and offering development aid to other countries, are the opposite of mutually exclusive responsibilities or ideals.

Informed debate also uses facts and objective contexts, not emotion or ideology.


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