Why we should defend our defence

A very brief outline of the problems presented by the cuts to Australia’s defence spending

Greg Sheridan’s weekend column yesterday:

Our forces reduced to impotence | The Australian.

After the first few budgets radically breached that commitment [to increase defence spending], Smith took to using a post-facto justification that it was meant to be an average increase and not apply to any individual year. That equivocation now lacks any shred of credibility.

This is the big, historic story of this budget. As one senior military commander puts it to me: “We now have a lightly armed militia, with certain areas of competence and expertise, but which could not meet any significant military challenge without years of notice.”

So what are the results of these dramatic cuts to Australia’s defence capability? Australia has had it good for a long time, however we live in a region that is rife with unresolved conflicts and it is getting increasingly wealthy, which means our neighbours are stocking-up on military capabilities. China is clearly the best example of this, however we cannot afford to ignore the other Southeast Asian states, especially as skirmishes over offshore oil fields increase.

We now have hundreds of US marines stationed in Darwin – this is a sign both of the awareness that America has of the increasing strategic importance of the South Pacific, as well as the strong alliance between our two countries. That said, our defence cuts could be a strategic liability for America in that it no longer has a strong military ally in the South Pacific. With our diminishing capability, the US will be compelled to send more of its own forces to our shores in order to compensate. It will have the dual effect of making us more dependent on America and America having less respect for us – a bad look overall.

The idea that “hard power” no longer counts is wishful thinking. “Soft power” is a luxury that comes with having the ability to use hard power and choosing not to. The reality is that cutting our defence budget and allowing our military to further deteriorate will serve only to diminish Australia’s influence in the world and leave us far more beholden to others. That is not a situation that I want to see.

Defence of the nation is a core responsibility of the Federal Government, it is far more important than most of areas that the Government is currently endeavouring to blow the budget on; not least the shameless pork-barrelling designed to mitigate the adverse effects of the Carbon Tax. It is also something that cannot be easily undone – developing military capability is something that takes years, if not decades.

The current Government recognised the importance of defence in 2009, yet it has done the exact opposite of the commitments that it made then. To me, this is the most serious of the so-called “broken promises”, one that could have severe repercussions on Australia’s geostrategic standing in the years to come.

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  1. More on defence spending and the South Pacific « Major Karnage

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