Wednesday 24th of April 2024

the ever blind vassal ...

the ever blind vassal ...

The current election cycle presents a golden opportunity to have a serious discussion about Australia’s defence and foreign policies. These have been notably lacking from both major parties.

In a recent article in The Australian newspaper (3 April 2019) their foreign editor Greg Sheridan in an article entitled “Feeble Defence is Still our Nation’s Shame,” Mr Sheridan remarks that “once again we have embarked on a federal budget and an election campaign without the single most important issue – the defence of Australia – playing the slightest role”.

With that, I respectfully agree, although the reason why that debate is lacking would take a book in itself. In fact, such a book has been written. It is the excellent Island off the Coast of Australia by Professor Clinton Fernandes (2018).

Mr Sheridan correctly points out that Australia has committed $50 billion for 12 new submarines, $38 billion for nine new frigates, and $17 billion for 72 joint strike fighters (the F-35).

The submarines will not be fully deployable until the mid-2030s. The first of the nine new frigates will not arrive before 2030 and all nine not before the mid 2040s.

Perhaps the most significant point in Mr Sheridan’s article is when he states that (Australian forces) “are not designed to generate war fighting capability or any independent strategic effect. They are designed to slide into the US order of battle in the hope that in return the Americans will always look after us.”

Mr Sheridan never examines the validity or wisdom of that assumption. Taken together with the opening quotation about the invisibility of serious debate on defence and foreign affairs in both the budget and the current election campaign, it is a serious deficiency in the national discourse.

James O’Neill

Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst.  He may be contacted at [email protected]