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The Forum > Article Comments > Unrealistic expectations of Australian defence spending > Comments

Unrealistic expectations of Australian defence spending : Comments

By Tim Pascoe, published 4/4/2013

Moreover, the ambitious goals of the 2009 White Paper were railroaded by the 2012–13 Federal Budget that slashed defence spending to 1.56% of GDP, the lowest since 1938.

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I wish that the euphemism, defence, would be abandoned. Armed forces attack, threaten, occupy and do many other things besides defend. If all armed forces were genuine defence forces there would be no wars as no one would attack. The word, defence,sanitises the armed forces and denies many of there functions. I certainly would not want an armed force that never did anything but defend.

Let's return truth to language by calling the army, navy and air force what they are - the military.
Posted by david f, Thursday, 4 April 2013 10:21:10 AM
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Failing to learn the lessons of history, needs must, ensure they are eternally repeated.
Praise providence we had a functioning military, when the axis alliance, decided to declare war on the rest of the world.
Praise the courage of too few civilian soldiers, who turned back the ruthless yellow tide, on the track at Kakoda; at huge personal cost.
Praise the courage of far too few Royal air-force pilots, who turned back the German air armada, against all odds.
Praise the courage of an under resourced American navy that turned back the Japanese armada, threatening these very shores, at huge cost in both personal and equipment!
We face a future that comes with food, water and resource shortages, and nations willing to take what they need or annex whole nations!
It's more a case of when rather than if!
Our only defence is to be strong enough to remain unbeatable and undefeated, regardless of what a potential enemy throws at us.
This very strength, will likely ensure we never will have to fire a shot in anger, to defend ourselves or our interests. Or make us an extremely formidable foe, if we ever do!
We also need to further develop and broaden common interest alliances.
We could do a lot worse than development a common defence strategy with populous nations like democratic India and Indonesia.
We already have an alliance with Japan and Korea.
A very powerful and populous country like a rapidly military building up China, might eventually seriously threaten a near neighbour, over say diminishing energy resources?
But not more than two, at the same time?
Given our current alliances, that action could then also threaten us.
We are a very large lightly populated country, with quite massive energy and mineral resources!
We need to seriously upgrade our defence self reliance industries!
And the only way we can actually afford to actually do that now, is through serious tax reform, that finally ends current and massive tax avoidance!
Posted by Rhrosty, Thursday, 4 April 2013 12:14:16 PM
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An excellent article Tim. One thing did jump out at me though, and that was the reference to defence spending being slashed to 1.56% of GDP, the lowest since 1938. This is quite misleading and was cooked up by pro-defence spending lobbyist on the department's drip in Canberra.

Australian defence spending plumeted as a result of the Depression. In 1926-27 it was Pounds 7.8 million and by 1932-33 Pounds 3.1m. From 1933-34 it rose steadily from Pounds 4.1m to 1937-38 Pounds 11.5m and 1938-39 Pounds 16.7m.
It was quite misleading for these lobbyist to use a figure out of context to prove a point.These figures can be verified by reference to Paul Hasluck, "The Government and the People, 1939-1941". pp 41,102/3.
Your point is quite right, it is not the expenditure which counts but how and what it is spent on.

Bruce Haigh
Posted by Bruce Haigh, Thursday, 4 April 2013 12:27:09 PM
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You raise several issues on which I feel compelled to comment:

1. Increased defence spending in the Indo-Pacific hemisphere is partially a reflection of increasing prosperity and a desire to catch up to the capabilities of developed countries and/or to redress decades or centuries of past humiliation or colonial exploitation. This is inevitable and should not be interpreted as a deliberate process of militarisation. However once the military capabilities are established then if the geopolitical environment changes then those capabilities may be brought into play. It was ever thus over past millennia. The real question for Australia is not whether to match the trend but rather what do we need to provide a reasonable capability to defend our own interests, which are geographically extensive!

2. Abandonment of competitive tendering is always an option for any government (or commercial purchaser) if there is perceived benefit in sole-source procurement. This applies in all fields, not just defence

3. The cost of the Future Submarine is entirely affordable. By your own statement the cost of say $40B over say 20 years is $2B per year, which is not only affordable but great value for money considering the disproportionate strategic effects that submarines provide
Posted by CJSkinner, Friday, 5 April 2013 12:22:47 AM
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I've just come across this article and I am surprised at the authors ignorance of defense matters. It is almost a superficial commentary devoid of any understanding of the systems or capabilities he is talking about.

First he mentions our need to "enhance Australia’s ability to secure the northern approaches and critical sea-lanes of communication" and then goes on to suggest we should abandon a submarine system specifically designed and optimized for this task for some not-mentioned "off-the-shelf foreign submarines". If I knew what submarines the author was referring too I could explain why he is wrong. At this point he is 'not even wrong'.

Second, the author states "Australian defence planners must abandon the inefficient big-ticket capital purchases in favour of a more sustainable and balanced defence force structure." Then suggested we buy F/A 18 Superhornets, which are a 4th generation jet that are no where close to the capabilites of 5th generation jets under development. Some will try to compare 2 aircraft in a dogfight and look at single stats such as low speed maneuverability to try and argue that the F35 will get shot down. These people fail to understand that the F35 will be firing at their enemies before they are even visible on 4th gen radars, as well as communicating with sea, land and space assets that can also track and fire upon their enemy.

Additionally FA18s will require significant expenditure to keep them in the air for another 30 years (think F-111). Providing significantly less capability at only slightly less cost does not sound efficient or sustainable to me.

Third, the author states that we need to prioritize for potential regional deployment, without even mentioning the Canberra-class landing helicopter dock (LHD) that will be the largest vessels ever operated by the RAN and are designed specifically for amphibious/regional deployments. If the author really cared about self reliance and sustainability he would be arguing that we should be purchasing more of these.

Does the center for independent studies mean writing pieces independent from studying the topic?
Posted by Stezza, Saturday, 6 April 2013 8:24:25 AM
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