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ozzydazz Go to The Daily defence 19 Jul 2012 By Ben Eltham

Regardless of what sympathetic think tanks might want to hear, we don’t have a spending crisis in defence. Ben Eltham on Tony Abbott’s latest gaffe

Tony Abbott is worried about the government’s cuts in defence spending. That’s what he’s told the conservative pundits and wonks at influential US policy institute, the Heritage Foundation. The Opposition Leader is in Washington on a whistlestop tour of US political scenery, in which a fawning speech to a friendly think-tank is de riguer. The speech itself was classic boilerplate, indeed almost pure cliché, complete with references to Ronald Reagan’s “city on the hill” and General Pershing’s doughboy soldiers in the trenches beside Australian diggers in 1918. But, as often happens, it was Abbott’s less prepared remarks in subsequent question time that have provoked interest back in Australia. When asked about Australian defence spending, Abbott told his hosts that “I do think that it is irresponsible to save money in defence in a way that compromises your military capability given that Australia’s military capabilities are not vast to start with.” “As a result of defence cuts in the recent budget, Australia’s defence spending as a percentage of gross domestic product is now at the lowest level since, wait for it, 1938,” Abbott continued. “So that is quite a concern given we do not live in a benign environment. We do not live in benign times.” Abbott’s remarks are not without context. In recent weeks, a number of senior US military and political figures have been sounding the warning bells on Australia’s recent cuts in defence spending. Veteran Republican hawk Richard Armitage has been giving interviews to the

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Australian’s Brendan Nicholson and Fairfax’s Peter Hartcher. “Australia’s defence budget is inadequate,” the former top State Department official told Hartcher. “It’s about Australia’s ability to work as an ally of the US. I would say you’ve got to look at 2 per cent of GDP.” While on a recent visit with his task force, Samuel Locklear, an Admiral in the US Pacific Fleet, made similar remarks. “Your defence is not something you can turn on and off with a switch from year to year based on how bad the economies are, because you make investments in the military that are long-term investments, that require a lot of planning,” Admiral Locklear told reporters last week in Canberra. “If you’re going to build a submarine force, you can take years to figure out how to make that cost effective and get what you need out of it.” Prime Minister Julia Gillard promptly criticised Abbott’s remarks, but let’s leave that aside. Are Abbott and the Americans right? Is Australian defence spending being cut to dangerously low levels? There is no doubt that defence has suffered in recent budgets. As we observed in June, defence has born the brunt of the Gillard Government’s efforts to return to fiscal surplus. More than $5 billion was slashed from the defence budget in May. The delivery of a squadron of Joint Strike Fighters was postponed and an order for self-propelled artillery cancelled. The cuts come in the wake of a string of leaner budgets for the Defence Department, which on some counts total up to about $20 billion in “savings” (always nebulous in a department which struggles to certify its accounts). As a result, defence spending has fallen to its lowest level as a share of GDP since before World War II. But does this mean Australia’s defence forces are missing out on critical new equipment? No. These cuts have to be seen in the context of the last decade, in which Defence has enjoyed massive increases in spending in excess of inflation. The post-2001 years of the Howard government saw a marked uptick in capital investment, and the first two budgets from Kevin Rudd weren’t too shabby either. As a result of this, Defence saw a huge inflow of money for more than a decade. The ADF used that money to beef up. In the last decade or so, Australia has added two extra battalions to the regular Army, plus Abrams tanks, new helicopter gunships and Bushmaster infantry vehicles. The Navy has embarked on a huge ship-building program to construct three Hobart-class air warfare destroyers and two Canberra-class troop ships, costing well over $10 billion in total. The Air Force received 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets worth $6 billion as a backstop, while it waits for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to enter production. It has also bought C-17 transport planes and Wedgetail airborne early warning and control radar planes worth several billion. All of this has occurred in a time of relative peace, in which the ADF’s engagements have all been in theatres far away from the Australian mainland. These small wars have been of dubious strategic value to our national interest. Nor have any of neighbours suddenly developed aggressive urges or embarked on massive arms build-ups of their own. Australia’s near-neighbours are remarkably peaceful and harmonious; while some countries to our north are modernising, there is no region-wide arms race. According to defence analysts at IHS

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Jane’s, south-east Asian military spending last year was about $24 billion. That sounds like a lot, but it is spread across many countries. In total, it doesn’t yet equal the defence budget of the south Pacific’s true regional power: Australia. What about the so-called “China threat”, which so worried the authors of the 2009 Defence White Paper? So far, it’s yet to eventuate. Yes, China has been active in the South China Sea. Yes, China is spending more on its military as part of a long-term strategy to build up regional power. And yes, China’s rise will have to be carefully managed in the long-term interests of all of Asia. But none of this means China is a military or security threat to Australia now, or will be in 2030. Many of China’s strategic interests in fact coincide with Australia’s: open sea lines of communication, for instance, and continued access to Australian raw materials like coal and iron ore. So to argue, as Tony Abbott did in Washington, that our strategic environment is “not benign”, is disingenuous, at best. At worst, it’s simply scaremongering. What about the argument that Australia is not pulling its weight in the US alliance? This argument is not backed up by the facts either. Australia’s relationship with the US remains one of the closest and strongest of any of America’s allies. We stayed the course in Iraq and Afghanistan. Australia is home to many US military bases, and we will soon host more, as the US pivots to the Pacific and US Marines begin regular rotations through Darwin. If the US is really worried about its Pacific allies, it should worry about Japan, which has been regularly spending less than 1 per cent of its GDP on defence for years, in a time when its GDP has been shrinking. The truth is that Australia spends plenty of money on defence. Given the peaceful circumstances we find ourselves in, there’s a solid case for arguing that Defence can’t spend the dollars it already gets, as the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Mark Thomson has repeatedly observed. Take the Joint Strike Fighters: one of the reasons they are not being purchased is that they’re not ready yet. It’s also important to note that, while defence spending is low as a percentage of the whole economy, Australia’s economy is growing strongly, unlike some of our northern hemisphere allies. This means Australia’s defence spending will continue to grow in absolute terms. Further, many of the so-called “spending cuts” are really just deferrals. The ADF will still plenty of shiny new toys, just a bit later than it expected. This helps the federal budget now, while still ensuring that the ADF continues to buy new gear in future years. In summary, there is no crisis in Australian defence spending. Australia retains the most powerful Navy and Air Force in our region, and we face few if any credible threats of a military nature. Guns or butter? Australia has both.

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ozzydazz Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 1:46PM Again, another piece of rubbish written with the complete unbiased view of Australian politics. And as for “Australia’s economy is growing strongly” where Ben where? Take mining out of the equation and what do you have left? And if as you say the Australian economy is going that well, why then is Swan cutting the defence budget in the 1st place?

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I will guarantee one thing and that is people like Ben Eltham will be the 1st to hide under his mothers skirt if Australia’s security is ever at risk. The thing with this government is even when they do make cuts they tell everyone who is a potential enemy what our defence strengths/weakness are. Defence is the 1st line of respect for a nation, just ask Russia.

davidstephens Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 2:17PM David Stephens In Australia, combined revenue in 2010 for the top forty defence contractors plus the top twenty small and medium-sized defence enterprises was $A7.257 billion. Australia in 2010 was also the second-largest arms importer in the world (behind India) with imports worth $US1.677 billion. (Sources: Judy Hinz Katherine Ziesing, “ADM’s top 40 defence contractors: Strong performance sees revenue top $7 billion,” Australian Defence Magazine (December 2010-January 2011), p. 26; “Arms industry,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_industry.) Haven’t done the numbers for 2011 but probably much the same. A lot of the literature on arms sales notes how easily arms dealers in third world countries are able to sell arms to defence forces which are never likely to be used and are probably the wrong stuff anyway. I suspect we in Australia probably count as third world if you are BAE, Lockheed or Thales.

davidstephens Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 2:21PM David Stephens Just read Ozzydazz comment. Isn’t it strange how, no matter how hard posters like OD try to be rational, there’s always a bit of personal abuse in there (see para 4)?

Grumpy293

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Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 2:24PM What’s all the fuss about, Rabbott is at his usual self by not putting brain into gear before opening mouth and embarrassing not only his guests but worst than that, all Australians. A spoilt brain dead brat wanting friends (which he has none) at the expense of making a complete fool of himself off shore and people want this idiot with a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock to run this country, doesn’t say much for those that follow him.

Bennite Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 2:40PM “Yes, China is spending more on its military as part of a long-term strategy to build up regional power. And yes, China’s rise will have to be carefully managed in the long-term interests of all of Asia.” Gee sounds like something arch appeaser British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin would have come up with about Hitler in 1934. “Sure Germany is re arming but it’s only building up regional power. We will have to carefully manage the rise of the Germans but that does not mean we have to spend anything more on defence.” A lot of the time I agree with Ben but this apology for China is not something I can agree with at all. China is a brutal dictatorship. It has no compunction in denying its people basic rights so why should it care about the rights of any other countries? A brutal dictatorship is quickly arming. One that supports the Assad regime. That’s all we need to know. Tibet, forced abortions, brutal treatment of democracy activists, rampant bullying and corruption by local party officials sometimes leading to riots, support of North Korea, the list is a long one. In addition the current leadership transition is in disarray. To say we can predict the outcome of that as a benign one is utter tosh, yet you are saying there is nothing likely to worry about all the way up to 2030!!! And at the rate China is destroying its environment, wars on neighbouring countries for resources in the next 10 or 20 years are not out of the question. As for the island China is claiming in the South China Sea – Huangyuan Island – have you seen how close to the Phillipines it is? Very close and China is deploying naval vessels there. The island is directly north of Darwin and China are claiming it. Look how close it is to the Phillipines and far away from China!! http://www.holidaychinatour.com/tour_guide_view.asp?id=370 I find your characterisation of Chinese bullying as “being active in the South China sea” as a fantastic apologia for aggression. Is that like saying the Syrian army has been active in Homs? I

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can see Chamberlain and Halifax saying the same thing about Hitler and the Czechs. “Germany is active in the Sudetenland.” Active – I love the use of that word. It’s a sort of neutral word that could mean anything but clearly in this context it is designed to mean nothing. And to reassure us all that the Gillard Govt defence policy is spot on. It is not. The 1938 Munich crisis – never ever never again.

Neil James – Aust. Defence Assn. Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 5:13PM The best way to study Australia’s strategic security challenges is to leave the politics or the ideology out of it. Not least because governments of all political persuasions have tended to neglect defence investment. Chiefly because there are few or no votes won or lost over defence issues, but plenty to be bought by diverting defence investment elsewhere. Ben’s viewpoint is based on several commonplace but false assumptions and he either forgets or is unaware of the relevant history. First, defence capabilities are national infrastructure, just like highways, ports and reservoirs. Cutting the investment does not save money over the long run because it has to be invested eventually otherwise the capability becomes unusable and strategic risk increases dangerously. In fact, fluctuating levels of defence investment (the Australian norm) end up costing more in the long run than lower levels of sustained investment would, even ignoring all the operational and opportunity costs inflicted. Second, national defence capabilities fall into two broad types of strategic insurance policy: - the defence capabilities you need and use now, often low-level ones for strategic contingencies that arise more frequently (UN-endorsed collective security actions, peacekeeping, piracy, disaster relef, etc); and - the defence capabilities you need over the long-term to deter or protect against major but often less likely contingencies (but which would be catastrophic if they occurred), such as defending against serious interference with our seaborne foreign trade, full-scale attacks on our cities or invasion. Third, it is never an either/or choice because you must cater for both types of contingency. The only thing that changes is the balance of the investment needed at any one time. Furthermore, warfighting capabilities can be scaled down to handle lesser contingencies, but low-level contingencies cannot easily be scaled up to handle more serious crises. It takes time (which you probably don’t have), is difficult in terms of developing expertise and capacity from scratch, and

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is very expensive. Fourth, basing your capabilities on perceived threats at any one time – as Ben does – is short-term thinking and is conceptually and practically a long-disproven fallacy. See http://www.ada.asn.au/faqs/ada-public-interest-watchdog-role/what-are-pe… Instead Australia always needs to develop and sustain flexible and adaptable defence capabilities to maximise our chances of coping with what a largely unpredictable future might throw at us. Fifth, Ben is factually incorrect and conceptually flawed in his analysis of defence investment. Mainly because he tries the climate-change denialist ploy of selectively citing the period involved. You have to go back to the early 1970s to track the actual tend-line of defence investment in modern times. After our big strategic shock of the 1999 East Timor crisis, when Australia almost failed to mount and sustain a relatively simple and close-by operation because our defence capabilities had become so run down, defence investment was increased to cancel out the neglect that had taken hold since the early 1970s. All the increased investment since 2000-01 has been catch-up investment to eradicate the equipment bloc obsolescence and hollowing out of the force structure that occurred duriing three decades of prolonged neglect. Moreover, the increased investment would have occurred under any government (Labor or Coalition) from 2001 onwards because there was no choice. The situation was so bad it had to be fixed. Finally, many of Ben’s examples are incorrect or cited out of context. For example, the Army restored, not added, two battalions to its understrength manouvre force. Several battalions were cut in the ill-thought through 1991 Force Structure Review (purely a budget-driven political expediency rather than resulting from a robust strategic analysis process). It was this particular cut that caused us so much trouble in East Timor and subsequently. Another example, is the Abrams tanks. In 2006-07 a small number of them (69) replaced the 105 Leopards procured in 1977 to replace 200 Centurions procured in the mid 1950s. The Leopards should have been replaced in the mid 1990s, but were not because of insufficient investment. It is also worth reading the analysis of ten myths about tanks on our issues index poage at http://www.ada.asn.au/commentary/issues-index.html Neil James Executive Director Australia Defence Association (02) 6231-4444 execdir@ada.asn.au www.ada.asn.au

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citizenH Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 6:25PM You know you are in for a laugh when someone like Bennite comes along and drops the Chamberlain bomb. Bennite, maybe when our intelligence agencies agree with your assessment of China- that she’s about to invade at any second – then I won’t think you skipped your meds for a day. But of course evidence is never a prerequisite for you and your ilk is it? You just go on the emotion of it- reds under the beds, Iraq has WMD, the Chinese are coming to take our land etc As for China supporting Syria’s brutal dictatorship. you might want to look a bit closer to home lest you leave yourself open to the charge of hypocrisy. For as long as Australian taxpayers are coughing up dollars to send our troops to prop up a brutal Islamic dictatorship in Afghanistan which practices torture and legalizes the rape of women, what gives us the right to lecture other nations about supporting similar regimes? Answer: nothing. Involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has completely undercut the moral high ground we once occupied.

citizenH Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 6:31PM Why would we give the military any more money than it already gets? It’s proven to be utterly incompetent at what it does. It may have escaped people’s attention that for the last 3 major ground wars we have been in we have been on the losing side. Our military cannot win wars. It’s hopeless. Yet we still revere it as some sort of awesome institution of greatness. Has losing now become something we should strive towards as Australians? It seems so! We even mark the military’s biggest loss each year as if it were a crowning achievement. LOL It’s absolutely hilarious. Our standards could not be lower in this country. It’s no wonder a television show like ‘The Shire’ is possible.

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fightmumma Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 8:43PM Why are people so worried about defence spending? We are being sold…no war needed here…just a price ticket

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jackal01 Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 9:55PM Bennite, I thought you had a fair understanding of History, i can see I was wrong. How hard is it to read a history book and arm yourself with some facts instead of dribbling on stupid Myths and lies used to vilify and demonize so that you could get your bozzos to kill their bozzos. Have you ever heard this. “(Re-armament is treated by some economists as a specialised form of government intervention to stimulate the economy.)” You said: Gee sounds like something arch appeaser British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin would have come up with about Hitler in 1934. “Sure Germany is re arming but it’s only building up regional power. We will have to carefully manage the rise of the Germans but that does not mean we have to spend anything more on defence.” Then you go on without noting that the Americans too used btutality to put down student protests. Now look at the facts: Students guide to World History 1789-1979 1st (vi) League of Nations Efforts. Many attempts were made in the League to ease the crisis, but national suspicions frustrated these. Only when the lowest point of the Depression was passed did the League manage to call together the hopeful World Economic Conference of 1933. But the nations became deadlocked over the issues of lowering tariffs and restricting producction, so the conference adjourned with next to nothing achieved. Attempts to remedy the Depression were only partially successful. On the whole, these attempts were mainly made late in 1932 or in 1933 after the curve of economic activity reached its bottom and had begun to move upward as it had done in earlier depressions.

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Certainly, the stimulation by government spending then hastened the upswing. There was a notable improvement in 1934, but unemployment remained considerable for most of the 1930’s. From 1937 massive, general re-armament further stimulated economic recovery, and from 1940 the great armaments spending for World War II at last brought full employment. (Re-armament is treated by some economists as a specialised form of government intervention to stimulate the economy.) 4. SOCIAL AND POLITICAL EFFECTS Enough has been said to present a picture of the social suffering caused by the Depression – the unemployment, the wage cuts, the fear of spending, the anxiety about the future. Every life is precious; the Depression blighted millions of lives, injuring the self-respect of the sacked worker and frustrating the youth who left school in the early 1930’s. Understandably, such conditions produced mass discontent in the midst of which politieal extremism flourished. Up to 1930 Fascism attracted little mass support outside Italy where Mussolini had taken power in 1922; Communism was scarcely more effective. But both Fascism and Communism became powerful international movements in the 1930’s. 2nd The bulk of industry was in the hands of the ‘big four’ – Britain, Germany, France and the United States. They had controlled 80% of the world’s manufacturing output in 1870 and still controlled 72% of it in 1914. Even within this privileged group there was extreme unevenness: France fell badly behind the others in the 1870’s; and between 1870 and 1914, while Britain’s manufacturing output doubled, that of Germany increased fivefold, and that of the United States sevenfold. The astonishing progress in the United States meant that by 1900 the industrial centre of gravity of the world had shifted away from Europe. RANK IN INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION, -1900 1860 Britain France U.S.A. Germany 1870 Britain U.S.A. France Germany 1880 U.S.A. Britain Germany France 1890 U.S.A. Britain Germany France 1900 U.S.A. Germany Britain France Within Europe, unevenness of development can be further observed by means of two interesting comparisons. Thus, the relatively ‘old’ industrial country, France, whose industrial ‘take-off’ began in the 1830’s, was being overhauled by Russia, whose ‘take-off’ did not begin until the 1880’s: in the period 1870~1914, France’s coal production grew from 13 to 40 million tons, but Russia’s from less than one million to 36 million; France’s pig-iron production grew from 1.2 to 4.6 million tons, but Russia’s from .5 to 3.6 million. Even more significant was the success of Germany in overhauling the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution, Britain. While Britain’s coal producction grew from 112 to 292 million tons between 1870 and 1914, Germany’s grew from 34 to 277 million tons. The corresponding figures for pig-iron were: Britain’s from 6 to 11 million tons; Germany’s from 1.3 to 14.7 million tons. Moreover, by 1914 Germany was producing 14 million tons of steel compared to Britain’s 6.5 million tons.

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Germany was making much more effective use than Britain of the new industries of the ‘Second Industrial Revolution’, especially steel, chemicals and electricity. From the 1870’s the industrial countries were troubled by acute competiition – competition between one another and competition within each national economy. Their rapid industrial and agricultural growth produced serious economic strains. Indeed, the period 1873-1896 is sometimes called the ‘Great Depression’. The term is unfortunately over-general, for it seems to contradict the fact of a huge overall growth of production and consumption which took place in the period. However, the use of the term can be justified because within each country individual firms felt the impact of competition more keenly than ever before; they had to struggle, often bitterly hard, to maintain prices, profits and rates of interest, and a large number of them failed to survive. Within the general period of this depression firms felt the ‘squeeze’ most when sharp ‘cyclical slumps’ occurred, as they did in 1873, 1882, 1893. Slumps were not new; they had been a feature of the European economy since 1825. But now they seemed to recur with added severity. The causes of the general and the cyclical crises need not occupy us here,7 (iii) Overproduction – or Underconsumption. One part of the cyclical theory was given more prominence than the rest – overproduction. More goods had been produced than the market could absorb: as factories, wareehouses and shops filled with unsold goods, the machines stopped producing and would not start again until the goods were bought – which may mean months of idleness. Meanwhile workers were stood-down, and, being unemmployed, they had little or no money to spend; but it was precisely the workers who made up the bulk of the market. Thus, like a snowball, the depression gathered weight, for overproduction led to dismissals which reduced the purchasing power that was the very thing needed to get industry going again. This explanation seemed to account for a great deal; it suggested that as production-power became greater, depressions would grow worse. American production had leapt forward by 20% in the boom years 1924-29 but the number of industrial wage-workers actually declined by 7% in this period owing to mechanisation and rationalisation of production – more goods could now be turned out by fewer workers! And though the incomes of many workers and middle class people rose in these years they nevertheless lagged behind the rise in production. Some economists preferred to use the term Underconsumption to describe the insufficiency of the resources of the industrial wage-earners, farmers and middle class who could not buy up all the goods poured forth by industry. Others spoke of Overcapitalisation, meaning the unbalanced investment of huge sums in better and better machinery while the market – the consumption capacity of the people °developed at a snail’s pace. Pay the people higher wages and they will be able to consume more, argued the trade union leaders. Issue more money and credit, urged the money-reformers. And many other solutions were offered. But President Hoover went on believing that business, on its own, would solve the problem – prosperity, he liked to say, was ‘just around the corner.’ (iv) Economic Nationalism. Economists knew that every country needed exports – partly in order to unburden itself of surpluses, but also to make use of resources with which it happened to be richly endowed or for which it could efficiently tool-up an industry. The interdependence of national economies increased with every passing year; a criss-crossing of international trade was vital to the prosperity of all. But every country wanted to export rather than to import goods, to be a creditor rather than a debtor. This was especially so because during World War I most

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countries of Europe had become indebted to other countries, particularly to the United States. They carefully limited their imports so that the volume of international trade was much less than it would have been in free conditions. As soon as the Wall Street slump occurred, American bankers, in financial difficulties themselves, began to call in loans they had made abroad, and this induced other countries to restrict as much as possible their imports from the United States. Then in 1930 American manufacturers, demanding protection against cheap goods coming from abroad, secured the passing of the Hawley-Smoot tariff which was so high as to make it practically impossible for other countries to send goods to the U.S.A. This started a terrible tariff-war, with every country trying to raise a tariff wall against foreign goods. By 1932 international trade had slumped to 40 % of its 1929 value and to 74% of its physical volume. In a vain bid to look after their individual interests the nations had embroiled themselves in a generally disastrous situation. (v) Protracted Agricultural Crisis. The prosperity of the 1920’s never reached the farmers. It was apparent from 1920 that the world was experienccing overproduction in agriculture. This certainly did not mean that the world’s hunger problem had been solved; it meant only that saleable crops did not bring reasonable prices on world markets. Economic nationalism operated here, too, with every government striving to reduce imports of food and raw materials. Countries which had mechanised their agriculture and Thos are some of the facts according to a Historian who told it as it was, if you can’t or don’t want to understand or read then please do not comment, we have enough idiot who have opinions based on Holiwood bull.

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jackal01 Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 10:03PM Ben Eltham good article Humans especialy the male of the species are nothing but brain dead Penises, we breed too mucch and then we got to kill, but to do that we need excuses and Hollywood is great for those. Man what a Circus.

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jackal01 Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 10:10PM

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Go to http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2012/07/09/3538740.htm see what you think then.

citizenH Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 11:00PM “Why are people so worried about defence spending?” Because we’re under attack! From China! Right at this very moment! According to the rightards anyway. And obviously defence always wants money seeing as it’s the biggest welfare whore in the country. Time to cut the apron strings and make them all get real jobs I say. Why should we have to fork out for these clowns can spend their days playing with guns, intercepting refugee boats and propping up dictatorships in far away countries that were no threat to us?

citizenH Posted Thursday, 19 July 12 at 11:05PM @ Jackal01 ” Go to http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2012/07/09/3538740.htm see what you think then.” I don’t think I’ll be clicking on that. Geoffrey Garrett once said that Obama had ended all of Bush’s War On Terror policies. Serious. A grown-up who can read actually said that. No joke.

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Happy Heyoka Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 12:22AM I realise that some people find the whole concept of military solutions to problems as distasteful – I’m far from a hawk myself. Unfortunately the world has a way of presenting situations where only force or the threat of it can be used as a solution. We need a highly trained, well equipped defence force to deploy in those situations and I fear that in the next twenty or thirty years we are not going to need it any less. The USA can criticise our defence spending all they like, but it would be nice if occasionally they got around to delivering their product (*cough* Brendan Nelson, Andrew Peacock, JSF *cough*) The USA also have a history of billions of dollars of other defence projects that failed to be delivered. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of Australian Tax Payers to expect better value for money (or at the very least the money is spent developing our own military-industrial complex instead of theirs).

citizenH Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 2:53AM @ Happy Heyoka “Unfortunately the world has a way of presenting situations where only force or the threat of it can be used as a solution.” When has Australia or America employed that solution to stop conflict in the last 50 years? We’ve only seen the contrary- abuse of power. Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan….. How many more dirty wars, dead bodies and wasted billions do we need to have before you realize that our government cannot be trusted with such responsibilities, Happy Hayoka? As far as I can see, the only thing ensuring this country will be involved in a conflict in the future is not a lack of defence spending, but from: a) continuing to mindlessly follow America’s utterly insane middle east policies

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b) continuing to accommodate and encourage American provocation of China by hosting their military presence in the region and doing whatever else they tell us to

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guywire Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 7:20AM Abbott’s “we do not live in a benign environment. We do not live in benign times.” If the times or the Environment are not benign a comparison between the US and China’s recent attacks on other nations would reveal much. Grumpy is right and Abbott is just vying for the top job “”Australia’s defence budget is inadequate,” the former top State Department official told Hartcher. “It’s about Australia’s ability to work as an ally of the US. I would say you’ve got to look at 2 per cent of GDP.”” For Australia its about the US’s ability to work as an ally of Australia. If the US doesnt like Australias Contribution it should consider leaving and finding a more compliant ally. To spend more we would be in the position of the US, running out of cash for more war. Anyone who listens to Armitage is listening to a guy who over many years has depleted the US budget on ‘Defence’ to the degree now that the US must pressage Armitage himself to pressure Australia to increase Australias defence spending. He is an ageing hawk trying to get Australia to support longtime warmaker US, against a China which has not invaded anyone major in recent times he needs to be put out to pasture for the rest of his lamentable life. “A brutal dictatorship is quickly arming. One that supports the Assad regime. That’s all we need to know.” Bennite a little more information! Which Administration supported and armed Saddam, Invaded that country on lie about Nuclear weapons, pretended to win that war and tried and executed Saddam in a secret trial? “Defence is the 1st line of respect for a nation, just ask Russia.” Ozzy, Gigantic Defence spending is the first line of Fear of Attack just ask any nation in the Middle East and now we are expected by hawks like Armitage to cough up, go broke like the US is doing and risk our diggers on the US’s failing Imperial Strategies. No thanks! Neil James laments peace too.

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ben_eltham Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 11:35AM Thanks for all your comments. I’ll respond briefly to Neil James as we do enjoy his contributions here. I think we agree that there has been a spurt of defence spending since 2001, and that the ADF had been run down in the late 1970s and 1980s. I think it’s a long bow to draw from that, though, to argue that the ADF is still catching up. The two extra battalions may well be restoring a force strength we had in the 1980s, but it still means in the Army is growing. The Abrams tanks are far more capable armoured vehicles than the Leopards, the Tiger helicopters represents brand-new capability, and in general the Army is far more hardened and mechanised than it used to be. Similarly, the Navy has never had Aegis-class destroyers before, and the Canberra-class ships will be the most capable expeditionary vessels in the region outside of the US Marines. In terms of the RAAF and the Navy, it’s hard to argue that the current situation is catch-up. The ADF is adding capability — as you’d expect it to given the extra funding. As for “the situation was so bad it had to be fixed”, that hasn’t been a winning argument in other areas of public policy, such as university funding, or raising the rate of Newstart. We all agree defence is a necessary public good that can only be provided by the government. I would argue, and I think most Australians would agree with me, that Australia is pretty well catered for in terms of defence capability at present, and that our nation is in fact building a bigger and more capable military in the next decade. I agree that you can’t fixate on present threat levels to plan for the future; having said that, national security is larger than the military. It is my belief that there are far more pressing areas of national expenditure that will be in our nation’s long-term strategic interest: investment in Asian language education, investment in “soft power” through expanded diplomatic, cultural and tarde missions, and investment in capacity to deal with natural security threats such as climate change, water and food security. But we do enjoy the debate here at New Matilda, so please keep your comments coming Neil

Bennite Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 3:41PM

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“Bennite, maybe when our intelligence agencies agree with your assessment of China- that she’s about to invade at any second – then I won’t think you skipped your meds for a day” Citizen H perhaps when you don’t indulge in personal abuse of me in order to win an argument, your own may have more validity. As it stands carrying on like that does your argument we dont even need a military no favours whatsoever. Ditto for engaging in hyperbole to ridicule my arguments. I didnt say China was abt to invade any second. And if you are so scathing of our military, it’s interesting you have such faith in our intelligence agencies. Fascinating contradiction there. In any case they support my argument. “Then you go on without noting that the Americans too used btutality to put down student protests.” Jackal yes there is a great parallel between America’s response to student protests and human rights in China. The number of American students wishing to defect to China is enormous. I for one will never forget the hundreds of American students who died at the hands of the American Government and who could forget the footage of the American student standing in front of a tank. That’s right, isn’t it?

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GarryB Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 4:23PM Australia’s economy is doing badly if you take mining out of the equation. Brilliant logic. I’m dead of you take away my oxygen. But who’s planning to? Der! And in spite of and totally contrary to Abbott’s domestic scare-mongering, mining is going great guns. Just take a peak at the share market and investment levels. Surely the flat-earthers must run out of an audience and disciples soon.

ozzydazz

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Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 4:48PM Bennite: You have put things absolutely right in your 1st post here and your spot on. Glad to see at least some rational thinking and logic of history put into this Abbott bashing (again) of an article and show that just because one can quote anything and everybody means jack sh#t when it comes commonsense and the way the real world works. Thats part of the problem, too many desktop experts with opinons that are based on wishful thinking and assumptions. And for all those who think America is the evil one, past and present, lets make China, Russia or perhaps Nth Korea the world policeman and lets see how quick you are to pray for the re-emergence of the US influence and morals. Most of the cheer squads for any Ben Eltham articles are really people living in a vacum and not the real world. They are prepared to link to or quote some academic’s article or are so convinced they hold some moral high ground that Bennite is so correct when he refers to past history of appeasers and the results that came from using the same irrational logic of the time. WW1 – 20 mil dead, WW11 – 50 mil dead and on it goes. Lets just cut the defence budget and spend the money on strengthening the union base by hiring more Canberra based public servants, something Labor are very good at.

ozzydazz Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 4:51PM GarryB – and your point is?????????? Who pays your wages the tax payer! certainly you are not of the real world that’s for sure

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Stripling Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 5:56PM “I do think that it is irresponsible to save money in defence in a way that compromises your military capability given that Australia’s military capabilities are not vast to start with.” Australia is listed as the world’s thirteenth largest economy and has the 13th largest military

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expenditure-Given the history of the world that is probably fair enough-but in terms of our military capability we are an allied nation-we don’t start wars, nor do we want to become some military superpower. Mr Abbotts speech was not all too inspiring to look at, but his idea about defence is like some singular island in the middle of the pirate age, if things were like that then I’d say aircraft carriers at 250kms pitch all around the territorial border would be in order. In terms of the budget, firstly it is his party that is screaming about the deficit, secondly I think the government has over reacted it is not just the cuts its the fact that they seem to think they can fill the hole in one shovel, “You cannot have a war without paying for it” consider the budget blowout of Afghanistan and Iraq and you have the straw that broke the camel’s back not just here but everywhere.

citizenH Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 7:06PM @ Bennite “Citizen H perhaps when you don’t indulge in personal abuse of me” How are you going to defeat the Chinese invaders with a skin that thin? Australia’s intelligence agencies haven’t been as wrong as the boofheads in our military, so no contradiction there old chap. Your contention that our intelligence community supports your belief about some kind of imminent sino-threat is just more evidence of your delusion and lack of knowledge: “DEFENCE strategists have ignored the advice of Australia’s most senior intelligence chiefs and rejected the view that China’s military expansion poses little threat to the nation’s long-term security.” http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/spy-chiefs-cross-swords-over-china/… It’s telling that your revulsion towards support for brutal dictators begins and ends with China and conveniently ignores similar behaviour from Australia and the US which is in order of magnitudes greater than our Asian neighbours has ever been. Clearly your loyalties aren’t couched in principles.

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jackal01 Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 10:51PM citizenH thank you for your comment I’ll study that one. I don’t think I’ll be clicking on that. Geoffrey Garrett once said that Obama had ended all of Bush’s War On Terror policies. My point was to Bennite, i was so much saying that this bloke is the Jesus christ of our time, no he merely had a different opinion. I should imagine he must have done some studying and I certainly didn’t mind his logic. But thank you for your take, on the matter.

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jackal01 Posted Friday, 20 July 12 at 10:54PM ozzydazz, when are you running for Prime Minister, your almost as bent as the mad Monk.

ozzydazz Posted Saturday, 21 July 12 at 10:48AM I’ll take that as a compliment given jackal01 made it. If Abbott is bent then what category is Gillard and her Gilligan Island crew come under!

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GarryB

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Posted Saturday, 21 July 12 at 8:03PM OZZYDAZZ can’t work things out, so he or she just resorts to personal abuse. Soooo Coalition! Let me help him or her. The claim was, “Take mining out of the equation and what do you have left?” Sooo??? Who’s going to take mining out of the equation, other than illogical bombasts? Australia’s economy is in trouble? Ask a Spaniard! That was the point. And where do taxpayers come into the formula? Man you are off the planet. No wonder you love Abbott!

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fightmumma Posted Saturday, 21 July 12 at 9:54PM “we do not live in a benign environment. We do not live in benign times.” Trust Abbott to say something so…um…benign! Isn’t this artilce about two things…1) Some sectors of the community believing we don’t spend enough on defence, some politicians/commentors from USA and Abbott…and 2) Abbott already puckering his lips up to a few American buttockseses or whatever the plural of buttock is…and basically what? Telling us we should run our nation, our policies, our “defence”, our social values…like USA? Why? Who says that it works so well for the USofA? In 2008 US defence budget was $623 billion…with next closest being China with $65 billion. Top defence contractors receive $69 billion (Lockhead Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumman) with Aeropsace Industries Association (100 defence and aerospace corporations) claiming to contribute $97 billion to exports and employing 2 million people (when the US Bureau of Labour Stats puts the figure at 472,000). And the industry spends $149 million a year on lobbying firms… The US gives foreign aid with conditions such as Egypt ($3 billion) but Egypt has to buy American weapons with $1.3 billion of it!! (figures in book published 2009). Meanwhile 46 million Americans have no health coverage with 25 million having inadequate policies…insurance companies fund political campaigns and lobby groups…so where’s democracy for its people…all those ones going bankrupt because of medical bills?

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Clinton’s welfare “reforms” 1996, removed 6 million from welfare and added to the homeless to work in jobs for $6 an hour. 2.3 million US citizens are in prison (that’s 1 in every 100) and with a 5% global population USA has almost 25% of the world’s prisoners…36.2 million experience daily hunger, 50 million in poverty, many millions close to it… So yeah – if you’re a corporation..go for it! Make Oz like USA…if you have eyes that see and you’re in the working or middle classes of this nation…have a look what has happened to your kinsfolk in USA and say NO WAY!! And remember…Abbott wants THAT type of America for us!! All figures from Empire of Illusion by Chris Hedges

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guywire Posted Sunday, 22 July 12 at 4:00AM Commenters on both sides of the Less money for defence/More money for defence debate stemming from this article of Ben’s should consider that We may have democracy, we may not. Howard was chucked out for reasons known only to the Electorate but the big issues of the day other than the staples (Health Education Welfare Transport etc) were Climate Change and War in Iraq and Afghanistan. Defence spending may have been an issue but not in winning the Election. Labor won, the Liberals lost and to ram the point home Howard lost his own seat and the resulting consequences leading to the next election was that Labor after Julia stabbed Kev in the back had a significantly less majority, enter the Greens. Now Labor a La Swannie, has decided to attempt to return to their roots with a Green anchor around their necks so onward they go with a Green Hammer and Sickle in hand. Not your cup of tea? Too bad, its what you voted for, More Health, Education, Welfare and possible military spending cuts. The Australian public may be forced to rely on a hopeless Media (present company excepted), but they aint that stoopid. If the only alternative to the status quo is a guy seeking help from US hawks to win the Australian election then his Democratic Credentials are in question. According to the Museum of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba’s revered and popular General, Che’ Guevarra was tortured to death by the CIA in Bolivia and that organisation was involved in the Weapons of Mass Destruction lies about Pre-invasion Iraq and popular General Colin Powell lost his hard won credibility as a result. The US President (according to some) after ferrying the Bin Ladens out of the US after 9/11 (when US airspace was shut down) was so dim

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he later chose the wrong country to bomb. After torturing and killing Millions in the Middle East Hillary Clinton is always there to tell us who the good guys and the bad guys are. Be careful what you want, because you may actually get it

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jackal01 Posted Sunday, 22 July 12 at 11:54AM If Abbott is bent then what category is Gillard and her Gilligan Island crew come under! let me tell you ozzydazz, Gilligans crew is trying to get up some ? Yanks Butt and so is Abbott, because the English Empire went broke and just sells or deals in Gold to make an Income, your crawling up Abbott’s butt hoping he’ll spend Government spending on you rather then, THEM ???? , whilst others crawl up Gillard’s Butt hoping she will do the reverse, why, we all like being the chosen once, religions have played that game for Centuries, we are good at it. Listen to fightmumma, she’s got the right ideas. guywire great comments. fightmumma, them babies are facts. America is like an Australian Company trying to import fully trained workers and or casuals to fuel inovation and economic growth, but unfortunately you have to have a business model to start with, selling Ice Cream to Eskimo’s doesn’t cut it. I suggest most people with an I.Q have gone to the U.S because their greedy grubs and the not so smart come here. It is what happens to the children, the cute and cuddlies once Daddy is a Yank, thats the problem. Because America wants to keep importing I.Q, inovation, somebody elses, so what happens to the locals. Australian Companies Head hunted Government Depts for the best and brightest Aprentices in the past but that well has dried up somewhat since this stupid privatise and rationalize bull, so off to the rest of the world to Head Hunt. As a Farmer would say, the best fruit goes to export, the not so good goes local and the rubbish goes to pigs. That people is the new worlds labour market. Why is anybody the best fruit, right side of the tree, right tree, location ?????. Go figure.

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guywire Posted Monday, 23 July 12 at 6:48AM A response for Neil James. “First, defence capabilities are national infrastructure, just like highways, ports and reservoirs”. They may be infrastructure but the similarity ends there. Highways, Ports and Reservoirs are used for their intended use. The truly unfortunate thing about ‘defence’ is that if they are not used for rare, actual defence, they get bored at home and are sent into slaughter other nations at the request of (usually) the US. In other words they rarely get used for other than attack. Recent Strategic risk only increased when we help the US go round shooting up the natives, most recently in the Middle East and this (US Foreign Policy) may have been the reason for 9/11. Bali may have also been in this category. If it could be guaranteed that the ADF doesnt get used for joining posses on the lies of the CIA and does use weaponry designed and built in Australia and I admit this is changing, then we might have a better reason to build it up. When this comes to pass, (and I’m not holding my breath) you may have a better argument. Relying on the good will of US Administrations and seeing fallen US troops returned secretly in body bags to the US in recent jaunts, not to mention torture to death of captives and drone strikes on innocents, does not impress me as to the transparency of their intent and therefore does not impress me as to the collusion of Successive Australian Governments in the slaughter of plenty by us as a deputy, posse outrider, most probably for the further enrichment of the richest few. Our diggers deserve better consideration and better treatment while in the ADF and I am proud of them and their contribution despite utterly dense decisions made by us to prop up a dated ‘alliance.’ I wont say more because if you are reading this you may already be vomiting. Suffice to say that arguing for Australias defence in the dated attacker mode is arguing for a return to conservative ways of containment. A policy largely flawed and futile in the strategies of the past. China waited long for its present Economy, while the US with our help ignores its own interior darkness.

ozzydazz Posted Monday, 23 July 12 at 3:02PM Talk about throwing petrol on a fire! … and who’s bent for heaven sake. We will just see how more people loose their jobs in industries that don’t get 10’s of millions of dollars thrown

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at them. Can’t wait for Swans next budget and then we’ll see how the piper and his hypnotised follows here on NewMatilda explain things and I am absolutely sure they will come up with an Abbott blame game excuse. Thank god Labor are only representing 30% or less of the population, it still gives me hope that not all Aussies are brain dead with ignorance. You know it’s quite easy to spend other peoples money when there is a surplus, it’s like giving a drunk a free credit card. It often amazes me when Swan and his motley crew take credit for saving us from financial disaster when even the drunk can handout money when there is enough to spare, Thank you Mr Costello, Swan should be saying.

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jackal01 Posted Monday, 23 July 12 at 8:14PM ozzydazz Go to The Daily Reckoning You said: You know it’s quite easy to spend other peoples money when there is a surplus. My Take: There was no surplus in Howards application of the word, smoke and mirrors, thats all it was. He threw the baby out with the bath water. Howard and Costello sold our Gold, which normaly Gurranteed our debt, when ever bad times hit the value of gold would increase so therefore the country would always be safe. Its called the Gold Standard. Howard sold it for 325 an ounce and it then went up to 1700??? we lost 1375 odd dollars an ounce. So please, you are going to have to do a lot more studing before you call Aussies brain dead with ignorance. This might just apply to you. There are more then 2 sides to a coin. Anyhow Go to The Daily Reckoning and read some of the stuff there, mind blowing.

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