Federal Budget: Defence vs Climate Action

Radio Program for CICD’s Alternative News broadcast on 3CR

Contrasting the Level of public expenditure on the military with that spent on climate change disasters

(MUSIC Fades in and out)

ANDREW 1: My name’s Andrew and I have with me Bevan Ramsden. We’re from IPAN, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network. In today’s CICD Alternative News we contrast the 250 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money being spent on defending against an illusory, invented military threat with the miniscule amount allocated for preparations to deal with the all too real threat of climate change and the disasters resulting from it which are now ravaging our communities with increasing frequency. We ask, has the Government got its priorities wrong? Bevan how do you recall the impact of recent climate change disasters?

BEVAN 1: We are all familiar with the apocalyptic scenes from the 2019-2020 Black Summer fires – walls of flame engulfing entire towns and the evacuation centres full of bushfire refugees who fled for their lives whilst their properties were burned and, for many, their livelihoods destroyed. The climate change enemy struck again recently with huge downpours causing unprecedented flooding in Australia’s eastern states. Again we gasped at the devastation. Homes flooded up to gutter level, rescues from roof tops by helicopter, cars washed down the river and, when the waters receded, the heartbreaking clean up, with houses covered in stinking mud and ruined possessions piled in the street. In both cases, many people faced the heartbreaking battle to rebuild their lives with very little help from the Government, which seems content to let exhausted volunteers shoulder most of the burden.

It is not much different to the impact of wars on civilians as we have seen in Ukraine and indeed we should view these disasters in that light.

ANDREW 2: Just now you referred to climate change as the enemy and the aftermath of climate change disasters resembling war zones. Can you elaborate on these comments?

BEVAN 2: When one looks at the results of these disasters and their effect on people, one sees a great similarity with the aftermath of war. In both cases homes, businesses and communities are destroyed and people forced to flee for their lives. Yet these so-called natural disasters are really not so natural at all, but are ever more obviously the result of human-induced climate change resulting from the burning of fossil fuels over the past 300 years. Climate change has become an enemy just as dangerous as any hostile military force. It’s becoming ever more obvious that we need to end climate-damaging activities such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels and change over to renewable energy in order to limit the damage resulting from human-induced global warming. Yet the Morrison government, riddled as it is with climate denialists and heavily influenced by the fossil fuel lobby, has responded to this accelerating crisis in a way that can only be described as lethargic, desultory and short-sighted.

ANDREW 3: It’s very instructive to compare the Government’s response to the real and immediate climate change emergency with their obsession with an imaginary military threat, an obsession the ALP also shares. Any military threat we face is a direct result of successive Australian governments slavishly following U.S foreign policy and allowing our territory to be used as a forward base for the U.S military. It is inevitable that this short-sighted policy will make us a target for the enemies of the U.S and ensure that its enemies automatically become ours.

Projected spending on this imaginary threat is expected to exceed $250 billion dollars, in addition to the annual recurrent expenditure on the ADF. Let’s look at some of the ways in which the Morrison government is squandering hard earned tax-payers’ dollars.

(Music fades in and out)

BEVAN 3: Here are some of the major items:

1.1 billion dollars for upgrading and extension of RAAF Tindal in the Northern Territory to take U.S nuclear-capable B1 bombers.

1 billion dollars to upgrade HMAS Stirling near Perth to accommodate U.S and UK warships, which may carry nuclear weapons.

3.5 billion dollars to purchase 135 U.S made M1A2C Abrams Tanks.

9.3 billion dollars to purchase high Speed, long range, missile defence systems.

38 billion dollars for an 80% increase in ADF personnel to 80,000 by 2040.

ANDREW 4: What about the proposed purchase of nuclear powered submarines?

BEVAN 4: The Morrison government proposes to buy 8  U.S made nuclear-powered submarines at a cost of $70 billion dollars. It has been estimated that this will blow out to $171 billion and Michael Shoebridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute says the total cost will be more like $250 billion. It was recently announced that porting facilities for these submarines costing 10 billion dollars will be built on the east coast and Prime Minister Morrison has stated that these facilities will be available to the U.S and U.K nuclear-armed submarines, as part of the AUKUS war pact.

ANDREW 5: There’s also the 72 F35 fighter/bombers costing 140 million dollars each for a total cost of 10 billion dollars plus.

Another substantial amount is the 35 billion dollars for 9 frigates  costing, an amount which commentators say may  blow out to  45 billion.

Bevan, what’s the annual cost of having over 2,000 US marines stationed in Darwin?

BEVAN 5: This figure is undisclosed although undoubtedly large. IPAN has written to the Defence Minister asking about the cost to the Australian taxpayer of stationing the US Marines here and she replied that this could not be disclosed because it is supposedly a national security matter.

ANDREW 6: What does this all add up to?

BEVAN 6: It totals 168 billion dollars, which if the blow out on nuclear subs and frigates is correct will end up at 287 billion, or over a quarter of a trillion dollars.

(Music fades in and out)

ANDREW 7: One has to ask whether there’s any real threat which would justify this eye-watering spending splurge. Or, looking at these expenditure items in relation to the timing of their announcement, are they in fact aimed at setting up Australia as a southern war base for AUKUS and for U.S and U.K military operations aimed at containing and confronting China, behind a smokescreen of fevered national security rhetoric?

BEVAN 7: Do we know how much the Government plans to spend on dealing with the climate change enemy and mitigating its impact on Australian communities?

ANDREW 8: The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements was established on 20 February 2020 in response to the unprecedented 2019-2020 Black Summer fire disaster, which had such a massive impact on human life, property, wildlife and the environment. One of Australia’s longest-serving fire chiefs, former commissioner of Fire & Rescue NSW Greg Mullins, says it’s clear the Morrison Government has consistently failed to heed the advice of experts on climate change and the need for better preparation to respond to the growing threat of floods, droughts and bushfires. “Time and again this government fails to listen to expert advice. There are 80 recommendations of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements gathering dust” Mr Mullins said.

BEVAN 8: A group of 37 former fire and emergency service chiefs formed the Emergency Leaders for Climate Action Collective and issued a statement saying that the Morrison government had been warned of the potential for major flooding events during 2022 but had failed to take any actions to prepare for this emergency. They said that if the federal government had acted on the findings of the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements called in the wake of the 2019-20 bushfire season,   the flooded communities would have been better prepared. These preparations would have entailed better preparation of first responders, reinforced critical infrastructure and stronger telecommunications networks, the former service chiefs said.

ANDREW 9: Former Chief of the Defence Forces, Admiral Chris Barrie AC has stated:”As ex-service members and experienced practitioners of national and international defence we recognise that climate change is a fundamental threat to all Australians. The first duty of Government must be the safety and security of its citizens”.

Instead, we find an Australian political leadership fixated on spending over one quarter of a trillion tax-payers dollars on war preparations as part of the AUKUS pact while ignoring the very real and immediate climate enemy ravaging our communities.

BEVAN 9: It doesn’t take much intelligence to recognise that government spending priorities are severely distorted. A re-direction of a significant proportion of that $250 billion would be of huge benefit to the Australian people in the crucial areas of health care, including combating pandemics, education, housing, as well as the planning and implementation of measures to address the climate change enemy and mitigate its impact on Australian communities. Motivated by a deep concern with the direction Australia’s leaders are taking us, on 20th March a national meeting of representatives from peace, environmental, community, faith organisations and unions from across Australia launched a broad national coalition campaigning against the AUKUS military pact, and the acquisition and stationing of nuclear-powered submarines in Australia.

The national coalition is called the Australian Anti-AUKUS Coalition and aims to build a united front against AUKUS, nuclear submarines and a broad movement for peace and a nuclear free Australia.  The Australian Anti-AUKUS Coalition opposes Australia’s involvement in US wars and preparations for war with China and calls on the Federal government to divert the $100 billion earmarked for nuclear-powered submarines for expenditure instead on urgent social and economic needs in the Australian community, including tackling the climate crisis and natural disasters which are the real enemies of the Australian people.

ANDREW 10: That’s all we have time for today. However, we will continue to produce radio programs on the topic of AUKUS and welcome listeners comments and suggestions which can be emailed to:peacecentre@cicd.org.au,  that is peacecentre@cicd.org.au. Good morning and thanks for listening.

(Music Fades in and out)

Please comment down below