I hear a lot of woohoo and excitement about a new 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan – but where’s the substance?
FILE PHOTO (2015): HMAS Stuart. Photo by Able Seaman Kayla Hayes.
According to the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Defence Industry, today’s announcement is ‘about jobs’, with the pair issuing eight seperate press releases – about jobs and opportunities in New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT (released in that order, over the course of three hours, if you want to read anything into that).
Surely our Minister for Defence should be concerned first and foremost with defence of the nation?
If she was, wouldn’t her first press release be about the defence of the nation (or even about today’s announcement), instead of being about jobs?
But then, this announcement was the Prime Minister’s baby. So what did he say?
Well, first, his press release starts with a photo of him holding up his two new Defence ‘bibles’ – to which there were no links offered, so that we might read the details ourselves (the links were only provided in the Ministers’ seventh and eight press releases, after 3pm – here, if your interested).
His press release leads with “new long-range strike capabilities” specifically, followed by a bunch of diplospeak that says nothing new.
In fact, almost half of the PM’s press release was about ‘long-range strike capability’ generally and one particular new missile specifically.
Yet, even if this weapon was new to budget considerations (which it isn’t), it only amounts to $800 million of the reported $270 billion capability spend over the next 10 years.
So why was this the only spend example included?
And what of the 800 new personnel touted in some reports?
Not even mentioned or hinted at by the PM.
One very surprising thing the PM did mention (in his second-from-last sentence)(and all the more surprising for the lack of media attention to it), was about budget – which, for me, casts serious doubts and questions on the whole announcement…
“…investment in the acquisition of new capability will grow from $14.4 billion (34 per cent of the budget) to $29.2 billion (40 per cent of the budget).”
The first serious doubt this raises for me is – if you increase the proportion of your budget spent on capability, which areas of your budget are you going to cut back in compensation? Personnel? Accomodation? Electricity? Lollypops? Which area(s) of your budget are earmarked for a 6% cut, Mr Prime Minister?
But then there’s the maths more broadly…
- if $14.4 billion is 34% of your budget, then your budget = $42.35 billion
- if $29.2 billion is 40% of your budget, then your budget = $73 billion
- $73 billion is around 3.5% of last year’s GDP in an economy in recession
If a man who has made a political song and dance around raising Defence spending to 2% of GDP suddenly, without notice or a headline, pledges 3.5% of GDP – then, either our PM has done his maths wrong – or the threat from China is a WHOLE LOT WORSE that he’s telling us.
Either way – we’re probably screwed 😉