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Issue #1636      April 30, 2014

People to suffer for Abbott’s war plans

Prime Minister Abbott and his Cabinet probably thought the approach of ANZAC Day and the jingoism added to commemorations in recent times would provide the perfect cover for the announcement. The government is to buy an extra 58 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft at a cost of $12 billion. When spares, maintenance and other costs are added the total bill will be $24 billion over the next 12 years. But rather than rally that ANZAC spirit, the federal government got a hefty backlash from the public. The same week that the military cash splash was announced, Treasurer Joe Hockey was telling us that we will all be feeling the pain of the Federal Budget to be announced on May 13.

Stories about the F-35 purchase – with photos of Abbott giving the thumbs up from the cockpit of a mock version of the stealth fighter – sat on the same front page as the news that the retirement age will have to be lifted to 70 to allow the government to meet its commitments. The outrage was instantaneous and justified. The debt “crisis” rhetoric was called into question and the build up to the belt-tightening Commission of Audit report due to be released this week fell flat. Claims that the money for the F-35s has been set aside in a kitty kept for such outlays have been questioned. The answers have not been persuasive.

Abbott and Co will press on with its attacks on the gains made by working people over many decades. And the government will certainly not be diverted from the massive expansion of the Australian military. The PM has his orders. The US economy is still struggling and can no longer support the massive military infrastructure needed to maintain its global reach. Australia is not buying up to 100 F-35 multi-role stealth fighters, spending $8 billion on new Hobart class air warfare destroyers, talking to the Japanese about replacements for the current fleet of Collins class submarines, hosting more “joint” facilities (i.e. US bases) like the Marines base in Darwin, raising the spectre of conscription and so on, for nothing.

Who is the enemy?

The build up is not being carried out to defend the country from aggressors; it is the Australian taxpayer’s huge contribution to the Pentagon’s “Pivot” to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions where the US feels its economic pre-eminence being challenged by China. The Pivot is preparation for war with China and the F-35 is the sort of equipment that will be required.

“The fifth generation F-35 is the most advanced fighter in production anywhere in the world and will make a vital contribution to our national security,” Abbott said last week without identifying where the threat to our national security might come from.

“Together with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains an edge. The F-35 will provide a major boost to the Australian Defence Force’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities,” he continued.

The Defence Minister, WA Senator David Jensen, sounds even more hawkish in his support for the weapons purchase. “This aircraft is peerless,” he said. “It has no identifiable rival in the air at the moment. We see it dominating the skies for the next at least 10-15 years.”

“Dominating” is, indeed, the name of the game; dominance in support of US economic and military interests. It was the sub-text of Abbott’s recent tour of east Asia. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter announcement underscores it emphatically.

Doubts

The federal government is spruiking the jobs benefits to flow from the F-35 purchase. Some of the tail fins for the aircraft are being made in Victoria, which is haemorrhaging manufacturing jobs in the wake of the imminent departure of US car-making transnational Ford. RAAF bases at Williamstown in NSW and Tindal in the NT will need additional infrastructure to house and service the stealth fighters. Military jobs or no jobs is the message for those struggling communities.

The enthusiasm for the aircraft is not universal even among defence experts. Some point to delays and cost blow outs in the project that carries a mighty US$400 billion (A$425 billion) price tag.

Partners in the Joint Strike Fighter project include Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Norway, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands and Canada and it seems Canada is having second thoughts about the aircraft. Nervousness about the ultimate cost of the F-35, the reliability of the 2018 delivery date and the aircraft itself are understandable. But it is a safe bet that the workers and other exploited people, whose governments are lining up with the US for further military aggression, will pay lavishly though unwillingly to fix the troubled F-35 project.

They will pay for it with their tax dollars, with the privatisation of public assets, the loss of services and entitlements including the right to a secure retirement in old age. That’s the calculation that has been done by the US Administration and its servants in Australia. It’s way past time for the victims of this dangerous waste – and there are billions of us – said “No more! Reduce military spending! Scrap your war plans!”.

Next article – Editorial – March for workers’ rights

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