How to destroy the Australian Defence Force:

Peter Lloyd writes: Re. “How to destroy the Australian Defence Force” (yesterday, item 4). In 1941 we fought the Japanese with thoroughly obsolete Wirraway and Buffalo aeroplanes, as related yesterday. We didn’t even send tanks to Malaya, because as every good politician and senior army officer knew, they couldn’t operate in the jungle. Nobody told the Japanese, and their little tanks drove through successive defence lines creating chaos and defeat. Subsequently, the Australian army operated obsolete but appropriate tanks in the Pacific- British Matildas and American Stuarts- and in Vietnam the superb, venerable Centurion was deployed to great effect. The greatest post-war practitioners of armoured warfare, the Israelis, only withdrew their last Centurions recently. The just-replaced Leopards fitted well with the historical use of armoured vehicles by Australia- compromising heavy armour to gain mobility, but with a reliable diesel engine, and the 105mm gun that has won Israel all its wars and which can be seen on tanks from the USA to China. While they were cheap, the M1 Abrams, designed for a confrontation with the Warsaw Pact in central Europe and thus heavily armoured, will crush most of the bridges in the region. Indeed, the army is struggling to obtain trucks to haul them across Australian roads. It’s noisy, thirsty engine is designed for acceleration — as so often with recent arms purchases, a large compromise for an esoteric benefit. Labor and the Coalition are squaring off on the choice of regional defence versus joint operations, but Howard-era arms purchases have reduced the ability of the ADF to fight a regional conflict.

Cameron Sharrock writes: In the 1930s Australia’s Air Force was stymied in its quest for top-notch equipment by a Canberra insistence on British gear as opposed to the far superior American planes that Sir Lawrence Wackett wanted to buy. I think our current masters’ refusal to get good stuff can boil down to a similar kow-towing albeit to a different King. King Surplus delivers elections, or at least he has done until this year, but nasty little inconveniences like national infrastructure and defence modernisation deliver nothing but non-election-friendly long term prosperity and stability. No contest really.

Humphrey Hollins writes: Re. “Australia the losers in the Asian arms race” (yesterday, item 3). Your “expert” claims that there were better aircraft available to fight the Japanese early in WW2 – this is crap. Whilst the AVG were impressive in China pre-WW2 equipped with the P40 fighting against mostly Oscars and even later against Zeros over Rangoon, we had no aircraft that matched the Zero for another two years. Even then, it was our tactics learned the hard way not just the aircraft available that produced results. We were very stupid in that we had heard about the Zeros’ performance in China and especially its incredible range but we chose not to believe the facts. Only after a complete Zero was captured in the Aleutians and flown in the USA did we design a Zero killer and that aircraft was the Hellcat which was designed and manufactured in about nine months. Everyone should read the book Zero fighter by Japan’s highest scoring surviving ace Saburo Sakai and learn about the incredible pilots turned out pre-WW2. Most students were failed by a brutal system that would only accept the crème de la crème, luckily for us. The Zero was a true WMD; even by the end of the war no other fighter could match its combination of speed, range and dog fighting ability.

Geoff Croker writes: Extending the life of the existing F111s to 2030 by purchasing all the spares and aircraft from the US moth-balled fleet seems like the most reasonable decision. This means we could field 100+ fighter bombers that could reach anyone in our region. Then negotiate the release for purchase of the F22 Raptor. You would need four squadrons of Raptors and spares for twenty years. So that way we keep a lethal strike capability and have a long range, stealthy, support fighter. The US could supply us a missile shield for capital city defence.

Benjamin James writes: Considering the first P38 weren’t delivered to US forces until 1941 and didn’t enter service until 1942 it is highly unlikely they would have been an option for the RAAF in 1939 (before the first prototype had flown no less). Funny that he should mention the P38 though as it was called ‘Lightning’, the F35 is of course the ‘Lightning II’. The Mitsubishi Zero circa 1941 was as good as any naval fighter in the world. Certainly better than anything Australia could realistically get their hands on. To equip with a locally built fighter, not dependent on a third party for spares seems a reasonable direction under the circumstances. Furthermore he is confusing the P38 with the P51 Mustang when it comes to being the savior of the USAF daylight bombing missions in Europe. Or something. Probably.

Reflecting myth not fact on defence spending:

Neil James, executive director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Re. “Who decided we should become a military power?” (Yesterday, item 10). Charles Richardson’s uninformed, emotive and context-free descriptions of current levels of defence spending reflect myth not fact. For much of the 20th Century (factoring out the obvious aberrations of the world wars and the Great Depression either way) for every dollar we spent on defence we spent at least one dollar each on social security, health and education. This 1:1:1:1 ratio has changed dramatically since the early 1970s and certainly not in Defence’s favour. Defence is also the only major area of governance that is wholly funded federally. Education and health in particular are major State responsibilities. We now spend eight and a half times more on social security than we spend on defence, four and a half times more on health and just on four times more on education. Defence spending has remained around 7-8% of the federal budget (and around two per cent or less of GDP) for decades. Over the same period federal and state spending on social security, health and education have simply rocketed, often at an increasing rate. Charles’ odd claim that taxpayers might want to divert defence funding elsewhere completely ignores that this short-term view is exactly what has been happening over the last 30 years. The resulting sustained neglect of our defence capabilities is why the current phased renewal and rebuilding of our much depleted, and in part obsolescent, defence force is so needed. Most Australians across the political spectrum who bother to keep up with current affairs realise this and support this essential regeneration. Investing in our defence is not “pouring money down the military drain” but paying the insurance premium for our way of life in an uncertain region, an unstable world and an unpredictable and often unknowable future. If you can read and understand this comment, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier as well.

The ludicrous surgeons’ monopoly:

David Beattie writes: Re. “Competitive doctors: more means less” (yesterday, item 17). The Federal Court action is a hopeful sign that something can be done about the ludicrous surgeons’ monopoly. With median taxable incomes for many surgeons now above the 600k mark (and many above a million), and the self imposed shortage meaning many months waiting time just to get an appointment, the time has come for something to be done. What they are doing is far beyond ‘maintaining standards’, it’s rigging the market totally in their favour. And overstretched health dollars can’t make it. Unfortunately, the media in general have a love affair with doctors, running every press release uncritically, and supporting the ludicrous argument that doctors ‘need to talk’ to organise holiday rosters. What tosh! The ACCC have only ever targeted the obvious restricted number rorts! It’s time ordinary Australian taxpayers and patients worked out how much this closed shop is costing them in money — and in health!

The elephant in the free trade room:

Tony Barrell writes: Re. “Some country people are more equal than others” (yesterday, item 20). The elephant in the free trade negotiating room is, of course, the cash doled out to farmers affected by drought in Australia. According to Geoff Robinson the total is $1.4b since 2001. Australian politicians and trade negotiators are relentless in their excoriation of European, Japanese and US agricultural subsidies, but, somehow, cash given to farmers to tide them over dry periods is not regarded as a subsidy. Why would that be?

GetUp! and go jump:

David Lenihan writes: Re. Tim Le Roy (yesterday, comments). Hang on; what’s the big deal here? So GetUp! openly supports and is a front for Labor, according to Tim Le Roy. Do I take it then your indignation also applies to Shanahan at The Australian and that paper. The Howard mouthpiece Akerman at The Tele and not forgetting “there is no global warming” Bolt of the Herald Sun. Where does Mr Le Roy assume the greater influence is exerted from? GetUp! is not in the hunt. Methinks sir, you protest too much.

Deborah Hurst writes: Tim Le Roy believes that GetUp! has some kind of secret pro-ALP agenda on the evidence that they have never campaigned on a state (Labor) issue. Mr Le Roy might be interested to know that it is the members of GetUp!, not the management, who decide what issues the movement will address. Regular and extensive surveys are conducted by the management and GetUp!’s priorities are set accordingly. Members also contribute to how campaigns are run and what methods are used. Furthermore, GetUp! runs a small number of campaigns simultaneously, so members are free to choose those that they wish to get involved with and from speaking to other members; it is obvious that not everyone takes the same progressive line on all issues all the time. It might seem as though GetUp! have taken the ALP’s place as the nation’s opposition party simply because it is superbly run, professional and effective. Yet, with the Federal ALP’s “me too” stance on a broad range of issues, I bet that GetUp! will be busier than ever with or without a change of Government in Canberra this year.

Julia and the bull pit:

Karen Cook writes: Re. ‘Orange not-so-roughy” (yesterday, item 13). I resent the Australian obsession with commenting on Julia Gillard’s hair or indeed visual appearance in an attempt to undermine her as a politician. I thought she looked great on the cover of The Australian on the weekend. She is a thoroughly modern woman with intelligence, compassion and tenacity and I admire how she has to grin and bear the bull pit that is Australian politics and the old boys club of the Australian media landscape.

Our Aussie Olbermann:

Ross Whitby writes: Stop worrying Carl Maxwell (yesterday, comments). We have Alan Jones and Piers Akerman to keep us informed about truth in politics. Who needs Keith Olbermann?

Cough up the dough:

Matt Hardin writes: Re. “Racing industry and Catholic church at odds” (yesterday, item 25). Bugger the state or federal government paying for the Church’s knees up at Randwick! Why can’t the Church cough up the dough? Everyone else is on user pays.

It was light-hearted entertainment:

Maire Mannik writes: Re. Glenn Dyer’s comments” (yesterday, item 27). “How bad was the final episode of Robin Hood?” asks Glenn Dyer. Not particularly. Silly yes; but no more so than the much beloved Errol Flynn classic with Maid Marian in bias-cut satin and nonsensical history. And that didn’t have the walking pheromone Guy of Gisborne. Come on it was light-hearted entertainment.

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