Following the public consultation process of which this submission is a part, the Federal Government will release a Defence White paper which will have a major impact on the economic, political and military role Australia plays into the 21st Century. The alternatives before us are clear:
Australia can maintain its current aggressive "defence" philosophy, using its military strength for economic leverage, pursuing the high technology path with reliance on the United States for advanced systems and logistics support, and maintaining a military advantage over the Asia-Pacific region with a consequent rise in instability and insecurity.
Alternatively, we can rethink what we mean by security, develop different relationships with regional states, reassess the weapons systems required to satisfy our security interests, and increase aid to our regional neighbours.
While Australia's security is important, the cost to our economy, environment and political rights cannot be too high or we will have little or nothing left worth protecting. What point is there in devoting so many resources to defence if the very society we are trying to protect is seriously undermined by industrial and rural decline?
The first point we wish to make is that the Green Paper and the video shown at the beginning of the community consultations are fundamentally flawed.
We are disappointed that there appears to be no effort in the public discussion paper to examine the fundamental assumptions underlying Australia's defence policies.
While the current debate necessarily focusses on defence matters, the failure to properly and fully consider these in the context of the wider security issues leads to an approach which is conceptually flawed.
This in turn leads to the presentation to the community of policy choices which are actually restricted, skewed and unrealistic.
It is essential to examine the complex nature of security and the interconnections between its various dimensions.
Security is multi-dimensional and it is bad policy to analyse defence in isolation. The period of public consultation and discussion should have been a time to assess the best way to balance and integrate our responses.
If Australia's security in the new millenium is to be secured, the Australian Government must adopt a foreign policy commitment to friendly and mutually beneficial relations with all countries. This must be combined with an independent and non-aligned defence policy which will be efficient, affordable and genuinely serve the security needs of our country and the need for peace and stability in our region.
The belief that security can be enforced by ever greater numbers of more sophisticated weapons is no longer accepted. More and more people understand that real security comes with jobs, steady food supplies, homes, clean water, warmth, education and health care, democracy and human rights. Solving unemployment, poverty, homelessness, pollution of our environment and other problems in our community is necessary for Australia's security.
Security is often interpreted to mean military security -- the capacity to identify and meet perceived threats to a nation by military means, by the use or the threat of the use of force. However, the over-emphasis in casting the military as Australia's guarantee of "security" has not engendered a true culture of national security.
A feature of military expenditure is its "opportunity costs", that is, the opportunities which are foregone for alternative consumption and investment.
Resources committed to developing the military have meant that less are available for constructive work such as, to give just two examples, preventive diplomacy and confidence-building measures.
Resources committed to military defence also mean less money for developing strong social cohesion and stability within the nation through employment programs and meeting the health, education and housing needs of Australians and our neighbours.
The World Bank has stated that high military spending contributes to fiscal and debt crises, complicates stabilisation and adjustment, and negatively affects economic growth and development.
Military expenditure reduces public and private investment, diverts funds and personnel from civilian research and development, increases the current account deficit, and tends to retard the rate of economic growth.
There is no readily identifiable threat to Australia of major direct attack. This has been so for decades and there is no evidence it will change in the foreseeable future.
The regional strategic environment is clearly complex and changing, - the so called "arc of instability" - but this does not necessarily mean it is more dangerous for Australia. It is a profound error of judgement to assume that instability is necessarily or inherently threatening and that the problems it poses can be resolved by the use or the threat of use of military force.
Another factor in assessing the possibility of threat or danger to our country is that our geography makes us a particularly safe place. Australia is a vast island and invasion of such a place is extremely difficult.
Only a well-resourced force, with excellent sea, land and air forces, and the ability to cope with long distances and climate zones, would be capable of invading Australia.
The logistics of such an event would be colossal. There is only one country in the world today which has such resources - the United States of America. At present there does not seem to be a desire from that quarter to attack us militarily.
The reality is that conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region are predominantly internal. They are not directed against Australia and they cannot be solved by military means.
Regional engagement requires that we rethink what we mean by security and develop different relationships with regional states.
As just one example, we point out that overseas aid can assist recipients to cope better with their conflict-inducing social and economic problems. Aid is a cost effective means of contributing to reducing the problems of people in our region, yet Australia's contribution is minute compared to defence spending.
We cannot afford a continued cold war paradigm which defines regional engagement as interoperability with the United States in potential high intensity conflicts.
Instead of responding to Australia's defence and security needs, Australia has developed a policy of projecting power in our region, buying long-range weapons delivery systems that threaten neighbouring countries rather than focussing on defending our continent.
Australia follows the power-projecting model because of the desire of successive Governments to be an attentive ally of the US in the Asia-Pacific region. The military equipment which Australia has at its disposal is designed to fight high-intensity conflicts overseas in co-operation with the US.
During his recent visit, US Defence Secretary Cohen said Australia needed to boost its defence spending to make sure its forces were on a par with the US in case of future joint missions.
The US has planned a role for Australian forces in any conflict in North Asia, particularly the conflict with China that the Pentagon clearly expects and is planning for.
Armed forces need to practice so they are ready for a variety of eventualities. However, Australia's participation in war games is less for Australian interests than for those of the US.
Involvement in exercises for "interoperability" mean Australians training with the US military, learning to take orders from the US command and to do things the way the US military does.
Interoperability requires expanding strategic strike and force projection capabilities, maintaining a 'knowledge edge' over regional states, remaining a substantial maritime power and greater dependence on the USA for equipment and technology.
Australia simply cannot afford such an approach economically, politically and socially.
Far from aiding Australia's position in the Asia-Pacific region, the US alliance hinders us and costs valuable trading opportunities and political contacts and influence. Australia is regarded as being too close to the US and too much a part of the Western alliance to be independent.
The commitment to interoperability has significant negative effects. These include:
Navy: Because Australia is an island, the Navy plays a significant role in the protection of our country. External threats to Australia are largely small scale, yet the most recent major item purchased by the Navy has been the Collins class submarines. These are extremely costly but of little use against the vessels used by poachers, drug traffickers and "people smugglers".
The ANZAC frigates and maintenance of Australia's cruisers and destroyers are decisions which assist the formation of a naval battle group based around an aircraft carrier. The Australian Navy has no aircraft carriers but the United States does. Such battle formations serve US war-fighting interests but they do nothing for Australia's security.
Naval purchases made to meet Australia's real security needs should see an increase in small, fast vessels with basic armaments.
Airforce: The purchase of FA-18s by the Airforce was another decision made with an eye to high-intensity warfare far from our shores in coalition with and under the direction of the USA
Even the PC Orions which have been used so effectively for sea rescues were purchased to search for Soviet submarines in the Southern Pacific in the cold war era.
The prospect of buying bombers to replace the F-111s reflects the dominance of those forces who want Australia to be the US deputy sheriff in the region.
The better alternative would be planes with a range of less than 2,000 kms, which can operate in remote areas, using basic airfields and maintenance. These planes would be genuinely defensive rather than offensive, and would help wind down the possibility of an arms race in the region.
Army: Billions of dollars have been spent on Army equipment but the needs of soldiers and their families have been neglected. This must be remedied.
The number of personnel has been cut to the extent that there were problems in providing enough people for service in East Timor. Behind this problem lies the reliance of the Government on high-tech weapons, which are extremely expensive and absorb a disproportionate percentage of the defence budget.
Intelligence - reliable information - is essential for every state's security. However, the collection of intelligence needed by Australia in undermined because the USA controls what intelligence is collected at the United States military bases on Australian soil, the so-called "joint facilities", and where it is distributed.
The intelligence needed by Australia would be cheap to obtain, yet the money spent to entice the US to share its secrets is massive.
It is a matter of deep concern that US military facilities around the world have spied on their host countries for economic, political or industrial espionage reasons.
The hosting of Pine Gap and other United States' military facilities in Australia should end. Advances in satellite technology and data communications mean the need for such bases is rapidly decreasing. The facilities can therefore be relocated to their country of origin and the land returned to its original Aboriginal owners.
The use of Pine Gap for the planned United States National Missile Defence (NMD) program should not be permitted.
NMD is not a benign, defensive nuclear umbrella. It is a controversial space battle system, an offensive program which aims to provide a shield behind which the US could fire its nuclear arsenal at an enemy. In other words, it is intended to allow the US to attack other countries with impunity, without fear of retaliation.
NMD will destroy the existing international arms control and disarmament regime, provoke a new nuclear arms race, trigger a wave of destabilising events around the world, and once more open up the prospect of nuclear war.
The CIA itself has warned that deployment of a national missile defence scheme could trigger a regional arms race by raising insecurity in the region.
A decision to deploy the National Missile Defence program is expected to force Russia and China to retain their nuclear weapons on high-alert, making the world a more dangerous place.
US Defence Secretary William Cohen said in Australia on 16 July that Pine Gap had been "very much" involved in NMD since October 1999. Yet two days later on 18 July, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the Australian Government did not know if Pine Gap had been involved in National Missile Defence tests.
This echoes the complaint in 1999 by the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties that MPs were kept in the dark about information that was given to the US Congress or was publicly available.
Members complained that although US Congress officials had visited Pine Gap and received classified briefings about its functions, the Treaties Committee was "entrusted with less information than can be found in a public library".
This abrogation of Australia's sovereignty should not any longer be tolerated.
Over the years Pine Gap has quietly been converted into a front-line base for the controversial National Missile Defence system.
During a May 1992 visit to Australia, the then US Defense Secretary Dick Cheney confirmed that the US bases in Australia were playing a role in the Strategic Defence Initiative or "Star Wars".
A rational reassessment of our security priorities would lead to a number of conclusions which may be at odds with the Federal Government's stated intention of increasing defence spending.
However, they would contribute to an independent policy which would make a major contribution to Australia's security. They include:
- using more defensive and less costly systems as opposed to the long-range, aggressive capabilities currently in use; developing a proper coastal protection system;
- committing Australia to possess enough military force to defend our territory but not to threaten the territory of other states;
- focussing on dual-use equipment (for example, aircraft which can be used for water bombing bushfires as well as for coastal surveillance and interception);
- investing time and effort in regional arms control through bodies such as ASEAN;
- working to develop transparency and confidence building in the region and to restrict a regional arms race;
- increasing the share of GDP allocated to overseas aid;
- contributing to the elimination of the foreign debt problem;
- expanding trade, co-operation in the development of science and medicine, educational and cultural exchanges.
These are strategic positions we believe should be taken and should underpin decisions on defence spending if Australia and the region are to be genuinely stable and secure.
Non offensive defence
The Australian Government must adopt an independent and non-aligned non-offensive defence policy which will be efficient, affordable and genuinely serve the defence needs of our country and the need for peace and stability in our region.
A non-offensive defence policy is the best way to ensure our nation's security. This will take advantage of cheaper but efficient alternatives, contributing to national security without diminishing military capability.
Non-offensive defence requires that armed forces and military postures should be (re)structured by simultaneously maximising their defensive and minimising their offensive capabilities.
A meaningful distinction can be made between offensive and defensive postures, strategies and tactics. This is not a distinction between offensive and defensive weapons, but between the nature of delivery systems and, more importantly, between complete formations and postures.
Non-offensive defence is intended to facilitate arms control and disarmament by eliminating one element in competitive arms build-ups, namely reciprocal fears. If a state's armaments are strictly defensive, they will constitute no threat to its adversaries.
Non-offensive defence strengthens peace and security by ruling out pre-emptive attacks and preventive wars. If a state can strengthen its defensive capabilities in times of crisis without posing an increased threat to other states, the vicious circle of competitive military escalation can be avoided.
Non-offensive defence provides effective, yet non-suicidal defence options. Every state has an inalienable right to defend itself and it is preferable that this should be done without risking suicide or global conflagration. Eliminating this risk is also important since it could deter a state from defending itself at all.
Non-offensive defence should be based on affordable low to medium technology as compared with the current high tech and expensive models being used by the Australian Government and encouraged, through arms transfers, in the Asia-Pacific region. Ideally, dependence on arms exports should be replaced by self-sufficiency.
Australia should develop a naval force suited to our needs and entirely within our budget. What we need most is a large fleet of very fast, heavily armed vessels, capable of being swiftly relocated from one port to another so they are never collectively exposed to possible enemy action.
Non-offensive defence would permit a reduction in Australia's military budget - currently $13 billion annually. This could in turn generate a "peace dividend" which would provide major financial resources to satisfy the needs of the people for jobs, housing, education, health care, welfare services, environmental protection, transport and communications, culture and leisure, as well as for social, economic and environmental projects that can help build peace, confidence and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Blue Paper Project is a national NGO initiative which was established in 1993.
It represents over 60 peace, environmental, religious, trade union, women's and
political groups from across Australia.
The Project works to inform and stimulate community discussion
about our country's security and foreign policies