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Issue #1582      February 20, 2013

Culture & Life

Selling war and selling justice

Boy, did I miss out on a thrill? With a bit of finagling (and a degree of luck) I could have been enjoying a pretend flight in the Yanks’ latest fighter plane, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. Where? At the Hilton Hotel of all places. Where else would you go to play at destroying Arab or African villages full of “hostiles” or to teach the Chinese who really rules the world?

Yes, “advanced technology systems, products and services” that only incidentally kill people, usually poor people.

Lockheed Martin issued a general invitation to Australian journalists to attend a demonstration of the “interactive cockpit demonstrator” of the hideously expensive F-35, which the company modestly describes as “the world’s most advanced multi-role fighter aircraft”, so that the journos could get the “feel” of the plane, could familiarise themselves with it, even claim to have “flown” it in a variety of “mission scenarios”. Then of course the company could confidently expect them to repay the favour by “talking up” the plane in their columns. Instead of bemoaning the aircraft’s not inconsiderable cost they could talk knowledgeably about its combat capabilities and its “stealth, fighter agility and integrated sensor-technology”.

Lockheed Martin describes the version destined for Australia, the F-35A, as a “vital choice for Australia’s Defence Force long-term air-combat capability”. But then, Lockheed Martin is an arms dealer and like second-hand car dealers, they will say anything to secure a sale. Listen to the spurious way the company describes itself: “Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 120,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services.“

Yes, “advanced technology systems, products and services” that only incidentally kill people, usually poor people. And they do it for money, of course – lots of money. The company’s net sales for 2012 were a mere $47.2 billion.

Like all high-end armaments programs in the US, the development and manufacture of the F-35 fighter is big business. As the company boasts, it “supports over $300 million in high-technology manufacturing and skilled employment generation across the country, particularly in small to medium-sized enterprises.” But that is corporate flimflam: it has been shown time and again that if that same $300 million were spent on renewables and other green projects it would generate at least 50 percent more jobs and put much more money into the general US economy.

But then it wouldn’t help them to gain control of other countries’ resources, like oil, diamonds, minerals. And how could the capitalist powers retain their leadership of the world if they did not constantly threaten other countries with wholesale death and destruction?

However, that is not how Lockheed Martin sees it: “The F-35 Lightning II is the world’s most advanced military aircraft and for over a decade, the US and our allies have invested in developing this fifth-generation, international, multirole fighter aircraft that will serve as a cornerstone of global security in the 21st century.” Apparently, “global security” and protecting US imperialist interests are one and the same thing.

I see it’s not just unemployed single mums and handicapped people who are having to struggle on reduced money these days. The Federal Court itself had its funding cut from $93.5 million in 2010 to $89.7 million in 2011. It regained part of that in 2012 when its budgeted allocation rose to $90.2 million. But that still leaves the court three million short, without making any allowance for inflation or all the other rising costs that have inflicted themselves on all institutions over the last few years.

The Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Patrick Keane, complained this month that not only had the Federal Court’s budget been slashed over the last three years, but its workload had gone up by 20 percent in the same period. At the same time, the number of judges had been reduced from 50 to 44.

I admit that when the term “exploited workers” comes up, Federal Court judges are not usually the first people that come to mind. But when a government is making such a mess of the national economy that even sections of the establishment are being treated shamefully, and the Court system is being used as a convenient milch cow, then you know that something is rotten in the system. Chief Justice Keane, who moves to the High Court in March, clearly thinks so.

He berated the federal government for raising court fees. Warning that it could push justice out of people’s reach, he said: “User pays theories are great for the ministry of finance but, for a long time – since Magna Carta – to no one will we sell justice.

“The idea that one of the essential things that a state provides is justice is one of the core values of our tradition,” he said. “And to have to pay very substantial fees to get in the door of a court is a matter of concern. [The Federal Court] does not impose the fees and we don’t keep the money.”

Michael Legg, Associate Professor at the University of NSW School of Law, commented that “fees have usually increased annually to keep pace with inflation, but the most recent changes look like the federal government has gone ‘here is a cash cow – let’s milk it’.

“My biggest concern has been the way that it impacts individuals and their ability to pay.”

Australia’s image of itself as the “lucky country” has taken something of a battering lately, and it looks like it’s going to take more of a battering in the not too distant future, with people from all walks of life, not just workers, copping a beating. Approached properly, this should provide opportunities for broadening the strata that are prepared to struggle for a better life, a different – better – society.   

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