It’s not really a surprise to me that a minister from the Howard government, who took us to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, would claim that we have to make deep cuts into the public sector (including cuts to scientific research) while pulling $12B out of a hat for new planes to defend against an invisible enemy. That’s about 4 times the budget of the Australian Research Council, CSIRO and NHMRC combined. It represents a grand change in the focus of the government from promoting development to defending what we have currently.
For the sake of this ludicrous argument that “we need to defend ourselves” let’s look to the north for this invisible enemy. There are 230 million Indonesians (10x our population), 1.2 billion Indians and 1.3 billion Chinese (56x our population each). When you rank Australia in terms of density, we’re 266 out of 280 countries. Our north is either not worth stealing, or we’re not capable of defending it even with fancy planes. What will protect our sovereignty is acting as an ally not just to the US but also to major partners in Asia. Last time I checked arms races are not part of being good neighbours.
It is a false premise that 23 million people will be able defend our fronts simply through technological superiority. It assumes, most importantly, that we are more technologically capable than China. Hate to break it to you guys, but we don’t make microchips. We don’t design microchips. Let that sink in for a little while.
This is probably going to be the most unpopular thing I ever say, but we should really just assume that if it came down to a fire fight between Australia and China that we would have our arses thoroughly whooped. Even if you think that somehow our army is smarter or whatever false glorification you give to the Australian military, they have the bomb. They have nukes attached to ICBMs. We don’t and it would be a violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty if we were to obtain them.
Even accepting the “big army” mindset, Abbott’s just spent 3.3% of our current budget on a single piece of equipment. That doesn’t include weapons, pilots, engineers etc needed to service these planes. And it doesn’t include the rest of the cost of the armed services. “But it’s over several years” you claim. That just means we don’t have any capacity to buy new technology in the future. One thing about war is that the modes are never the same, and heavy commitment to a single type of military technology leaves us wide open to attack if that technology is not relevant to a future war scenario.
Not only is this decision a bad decision in terms of the raw cost involved. It is also a bad decision in terms of the type of equipment purchased. These fighter jets are US produced. The US have bases all over the world, control of GPS systems, aircraft carriers and a country with hundreds of medium sized cities. Australia has basically no appreciable overseas presence, no control over GPS systems, no aircraft carriers, and 6 medium/large sized cities with basically nothing in between over distances measured in the thousands of kilometres. What makes anyone think that a jet optimised for US use would be any good for an Australian setting?
It’s a good thing that we aren’t a European nation, otherwise Abbott would take us to war with Russia this winter.