Nov 14, 2012

Defence spending: the most expensive ‘free ride’ in history

Australia is not "free-riding" on the US. Instead, we're doing what everyone else, including the US itself, is doing and cutting unnecessary expenditure. Only US contractors lose.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

One of the biggest disasters to befall the world’s major arms companies was when, entirely without meaning to, the United States won the Cold War.

That victory was an appalling accident that not merely prompted dramatic cuts to defence spending, but deprived an entire generation of intelligence officers and defence officials of the excuse of an apocalyptic conflict to justify their behaviour. The clash of freedom and communism, as it turned out, didn’t quite measure up to the biblical loading it had received for so long, when our opponent was revealed as a hollowed-out bankrupt whose own controlling party was desperate to reform it.

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30 thoughts on “Defence spending: the most expensive ‘free ride’ in history

  1. Wombat

    What about the $40 billion put aside to spend on locally-built submarines? I’d rather see those sourced cheaply from a country that actually knows a thing or two about building submarines rather than South Australia.


  2. zut alors

    That the US believes they have the right to dictate to an Oz government how to apportion taxpayers’ money is deeply disturbing. No doubt the average Aussie would appreciate the US minding their own business.

    And it convinces me that Assange has absolutely no hope if they get their nefarious claws into him.

  3. Gavin Moodie

    Great piece, thanx.

    As I was reading I was wondering whether BK would mention the ‘military-industrial complex’, and I’m glad he did. Incidentally, Wikipedia gives this origin of the term:

    ‘The first public use of the term was by the Union of Democratic Control, formed by Sir Charles Trevelyan in the United Kingdom on 5 August 1914. Point Four of their pacifist manifesto declared: “4. National armaments should be limited by mutual agreement, and the pressures of the military-industrial complex regulated by the nationalisation of armaments firms and control over the arms trade”.’ (DeGroot, Gerard J. Blighty: British society in the era of the Great War, 144, London & New York: Longman, 1996, ISBN 0-582-06138-5).

  4. mutatedwombat

    Pretty sure people were saying the same things in 1938, which coincidentally is the last year that our defence spending was this low as a percentage of GDP.

  5. Gavin Moodie


    Good point. But it depends whether you actually want the subs or not. Since I don’t think they’re needed one might as well spend it locally on an activity which might have some incidental benefit.

  6. Bill Hilliger

    For all the spend more on defence people out there; don’t worry, there is now a never ending spend on national security from terrorists, illicit drugs, and demonising Iran thereby ramping up a reason to start a war with Iran. Luckily for the U.S. the terrorism and illicit drugs thingy will never go away; they have finally found the perfect enemy. To me, the greatest impedance to world peace and economic well being is our so called best friend, the United States of America. The US has nominated by default China as our new possible enemy in the SE Asia region and we as a nation foolishly accept that notion. We will keep spending our dollars to placate American insistence to spend on military hardware and help their economy. Just think – the cost of one state of the art fighter jet equals one well equipped hospital or school. We Australians know, it is very expensive to kill people in foreign lands, especially if we’re seen as the invaders. Remember Vietnam, still a Communist country since the 1960’s despite our involvement in that war, we go there for great holidays nowadays – but we lost the war. Just as well the Vietnamese government forgives and maybe forgets. I wonder if the Iraqis and Afghans will?

  7. John Bennetts

    I have said it before…

    Spending less on war and more on peace makes very good sense to me.

    Australia must have the reputation of being a difficult neighbour – in which case, it has well earned, especially due to the “turn back the boats” fanatics which we harbour.

  8. klewso

    “What are mates for if you can’t use them?”?
    The US was in the squirrel grip of the GFC, we weren’t as much – who better to give their financial bottom line (underwritten by ordnance production) a fillip, buying that product?

  9. Mike Smith

    WHo would want to serve in a noisy submarine if war did break out? Kit them for automation, oops I forgot, the software doesn’t work properly either. Perhaps we could sell them to Waterworld for tourists?

  10. klewso

    “The Search for Red October”?
    Jaws – with a nuclear head?

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