AABCC Blue Paper

Submission for the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition (AABCC)

PO Box A899
Sydney South, NSW. 1235
Phone (02) 9517 9425
Mobile 0418 290 663
Email aabcc@aabcc.org


To: Community Consultation Team,
Defence Review 2000
R1-5-A137
Department of Defence
Russell Offices
Canberra ACT 2600
Prepared by: Denis Doherty

Introduction

The prospect of reviewing the expenditure on the military must take into account that the expense takes place within an Australian context as it is. This context has a social component as well as any geo-strategic environment issues.

Australia Today

Australia today, in the wake of various experiments with economic rationalism from both sides of the political fence Australia is a much poorer country. We used to be able to expect good medical care, free education, shelter and if we were unlucky enough to loose our jobs there was a dole or pension. All these features have been consistently undermined or totally taken away in the last 10 years.

A few relevant figures from Australia today, which point to growing poverty and general impoverishment of the population.

The unemployed are now caused even more embarrassment using the cover of 'mutual obligation'. This concept is being extended for the disabled and single mothers. Today (August 14 2000) Hobart charities are refusing to cooperate with the Federal Government on extending the work for the dole and 'mutual obligation' to the disabled and single mothers.

In pursuing the privatisation of health, private health cover has received over $1 billion in subsidies while ordinary public hospitals have been starved of the funds.

In other words, Australia today is a place where there are many disadvantaged people.

In a poll where Australians were given an opportunity to list their main concerns, the military or defence did not make the first 5 of Australian concerns.

The military just managed to sneak into the top ten and scored number 9. The very things that Australians consider important like health services and employment are the very things that the Government is cutting. The military less important to Australians is having its budget raised.

In a country, which is experiencing some social dislocation and general decline in services, the prospect of increasing military spending at the cost of essential services is an entirely insupportable position.

GDP at 1.8

The cost of Australia's military at 1.8 of GDP has been mentioned as being meagre and insufficient.

In order to get a fairer picture of the level of spending it is necessary to compare our figure with other countries.

Figure one from SIPRI

A complete list of all countries expenditure on the military is available from the AABCC. We have been given the figures that are from SIPRI 2000

Countries of OECD

   
Country
   
% GDP spending
on the military
1998
    Country     % GDP spending
on the military
1998
   
Australia
   
1.8
   
Japan
    1.0
   
Austria
   
0.8
   
South Korea
   

3.1

   
Belgium
   
1.5
   
Luxemburg
   

0.8

   
Canada
   
1.3
   
Mexico
   

0.6

   
Czech
   
2.1
   
Netherlands
   

1.8

   
Denmark
   
1.6
   
Norway
   

2.3

   
Finland
   
1.5
   
Poland
   

2.1

   
France
   
2.8
   
Portugal
   

2.2

   
Germany
   
1.5
   
Spain
   

1.4

   
Greece
   
4.8
   
Sweden
   

2.2

   
Hungary
   
1.3
   
Switzerland
   

1.2

   
Iceland
   
N/a
   
Turkey
   

4.4

   
Ireland
   
0.8
   
UK
   

2.7

   
Italy
   
2.0
   
USA
    3.0



Assessment of these figures shows that:

In other words the spending on the military by Australia is on the high side among our peers in the OECD grouping especially as we do not have any conflicts or internal armed rebellions.

We suggest that Australia is already a big spender on the military and we submit the time has come to spend less!

Another way to compare our figures is to look at our near neighbours and compare them.

Regional spending on military

 

Regional country

%GDP 99

 

Australia

1.8

New Zealand

1.3

Papua New Guinea

1.00

Indonesia

1.0

Singapore

5.1

Vietnam

No figures

India

0.9

China

1.0

Japan

1.0

Korea South

3.1

Korea North

No figures

Thailand

2.1



These figures are taken from a report published by the Australian Defence Intelligence Organisation and reported on in the Sydney Morning Herald 6 January 2000.

Even from a regional perspective there is no need to see this figure of 1.8 as being paltry and insufficient. The above figures back this statement.

In fact if we push up Australian spending then we are quite likely to start a regional arms race. Some commentators have stated that the increase in the numbers of submarines in the region was a result of the Collins class construction in Australia.

Internal comparisons.

Australia spends 6% of its GDP on education. This figure covers all education from preschool to university. The education sector of Australia is huge, comprising of hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and parents. The 1.8 GDP represents about 1/3 of all we spend on all education in Australia. Compared with the numbers and importance of the education, the military is getting well over its entitlement. As well we know that education produces and generates good citizens and people able to earn a living and contribute to society. A submarine in comparison will just suck up resources and not produce anything, the F/A 18's at a cost of several billion $'s have never been used in anger or made a positive contribution to the nation's well-being or success.

External comparisons

The UK, with a figure of 2.7 has been suggested as an ideal that Australia should aim at. However, the UK has several wars on its hands (Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq, Sierra Leone and others). Even so, the Australian figure is 2/3's of the UK figure.

In comparison to the US figure of 3.0, there are many wars/conflicts in the Middle East, South America and Europe where the US is involved in or threatening war. As well, while good economic figures have been the norm in US over the last few years this has not translated to the ordinary people. Take one indicator, the level of US youth suicide is relatively much lower than Australia's. This can be explained rather easily by stating that youth depression in the US results in the young killing each other rather than taking their own lives.

All countries of the world could benefit by cutting rather than increasing their military spending. The peace dividend just did not arrive instead more enemies and rogues states were invented.

Conclusion to this section

The AABCC maintains that Australia already spends too much on the military and we have included the figures in this submission, which proves our contention. Australia can quite safely drop to 1.6 and later to 1.3 or 1.2 of GDP.

Whose's interests /Australia's interests

The video that was shown at the beginning of the 'Sydney consultation' stressed Australia's interests, which would have to be protected in the region. Whose interests are we protecting when we have gone into war in the past fifty years?

Take some examples:

Vietnam

There was no compelling reason to be engaged in what was essentially a civil war. It was a war in the interests of the US and not in Australia's interest.

Bougainville

Whose interests did we protect when we supplied the arms etc to PNG to continue the war in Bougainville? The answer is simply Rio Tinto the most disgusting, human rights abusing mining company in the world. The end result was the death of 8,000 people and a confused situation that still exists on that island. The only Australian interest was that of a rich mining company not the ordinary Australian.

East Timor

This was a humanitarian crisis where after years of aiding and abetting Indonesian oppression of the East Timorese, the Australian Defence Force participated in an appropriate action. The interests served on that rare occasion were the interests of all humanity, which is in all our interests. In contrast for the other 25 years we served the interests of the rich and selfish of the Indonesian society.

World War 11

Of course we were in danger of being invaded and in the white history of Australia this is the only time where our interests were being served by the armed intervention of Australian troops.

The majority of the wars and conflicts Australia has been involved in were in the interests of the United States and its major companies.

The interests of Australia

The interests of Australia are the interests of the security defined in a broader way than the way described in the handout from the defence department. Security comes from a feeling of well being brought about by good jobs, health and shelter. This security does not only extend to Australia but extends out to the region. This type of security does not come from guns and weaponry but from resources of the country and the region going to offset any disadvantage. Instead the resources are being ripped out of the region and going to enrich the 'well off' in the west.

Admiral Barrie

Admiral Barrie in his confused and inadequate way is trying to say much the same when interviewed by the World Today recently. The interview took place shortly before August 16 2000.

Well the Australian Defence Force has signalled a shift in military operations, working more closely with aid and development agencies to prevent regional conflicts.

The chief of the Defence Forces, Admiral Chris Barrie, was keynote speaker this morning at an international security conference held in Canberra. He warned that the security environment has changed and is becoming much more complex.

Admiral Barrie explained to Fiona Reynolds that security can no longer focus just on military threats and conflict between countries.

CHRIS BARRIE:I think we're now being challenged in every way that we can think about. New threats to security are rising from all sorts of what I call sub-national groups. We see international crime. We see - both in drugs, smuggling of people - so I think a wider definition, a broader definition of security as a whole must be taken on and addressed, because in many senses this is going to be our future world we're talking about.

Security is much broader term than just equipment issues.

Interoperability

This concept is the basic flaw in the Australia's military thinking. As a result of the US -Australian military alliance Australia's policy is skewed and ill equipped to meet Australia's needs. The US has even intervened in the process of the so called 'community consultation' by sending the Defense Secretary Cohen out to Australia who tried to apply pressure for increased spending in a bullying fashion.

There is no way that Australia can keep up with US strategic aims in the region. In order to go on station off China or India with military equipment the cost will be horrendous! The way our navy has been formed has been to build ships that will fit into coalition Navies with of course the US in charge. This is the reasoning behind the ANZAC Frigates and the Submarines. The US battle groups, which comprise of Aircraft carriers, as the centre of the group with many support vehicles of smaller size is the US model.

This is where Australia fits into US plans.

Australia's contribution is in the destroyer, frigate, and corvette level. These ships are not appropriate for Australia's maritime needs. These needs in the absence of military threats are more on the level of illegal fishing, smuggling and people smuggling. The many ships of the Australian Navy are not designed for Australia's needs but for US needs. Our military thinking, planning and expenditure are all skewed by the US-Australian military alliance which only aids the war mongers amongst the Australian population and gives some military top brass feelings of power. Tragically it does not help Australia and Australians; in fact it robs the country of valuable resources and achieves nothing.

A telling example of this policy is the PC Orion aircraft, which was bought to hunt for Soviet submarines in our waters. Each day a PC Orion left Adelaide RAAF base and flew around the coast to Townsville. After a few hours it continued its flight circumnavigating the entire Australian coast. This process continued for decades and not one Soviet sub was seen or discovered however, in the process millions of dollars were consumed in the fuel, spare parts, and training costs. After some 25 years the PC Orion came into its own, it was able to locate Tony Bullymore of the upturned yacht fame in the southern ocean. While this may have been good for Tony and one other intrepid adventurer it is hardly an excuse for buying such an inappropriate plane. The plane was bought because of the alliance.

The subsidies and assistance to the US and its arms companies has been scandalous. The level of subsidies to the US so they can use our 'Joint Facilities' to spy on our industries and our dissidents is inexcusable. We provide Pine Gap for free and pay millions to support the base. The use of Australia for training exercises by the US armed forces and the other bases is an annual bill of at least $100 million. This level of support for a country, which spends 36% of the world's total military expenditure, seems to be excessive sycophancy.

US Bases

The presence of US bases in Australia, deeply affects Australia's standing in the region and world. These bases look as the Prime Minister Mr. Howard said as the US Deputy Sheriff in our region. Our statements and diplomatic actions are seen as expressions of US policy rather than the work of an independent country. The Indian Government's complete dismissal of our protests about their nuclear weapons was based on our adherence to US nuclear war fighting and their nuclear 'umbrella'.

These bases are war-fighting bases and have no justification to be in our country. They were used in the Gulf War and other conflicts often without the expressed permission or agreement of the Australian Government. Australian Parliamentarians are not allowed any access to theses bases yet US Congress Reps are given full and detailed briefings.

The next generation of war and war generating machinery is called the National Missile Defence (NMD) or 'Star Wars'. These US bases are involved and the Australian Government intends that this process should continue. In order to work for world peace the Australian Government should be working to eliminate NMD not aiding and abetting its development. NMD has the potential to take us back to the days of mutually assured destruction and the whole nuclear war scenario. Australia could choose through the mechanism of the Canberra Commission to be part of the campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons. Australian Governments of both persuasions however, have been very supportive of US nuclear war fighting capability by giving the US both political and material assistance.

Australia needs an independent and non-aligned foreign policy. This would include the ending the US-Australian military alliance. The time has come for closing US bases in Australia and showing the world we are a mature independent country interested in creating justice in our country and region.