3.6% surge in global military spending
The announcement by the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that the world’s military expenditure for 2019 has gone up by 3.6% — the largest annual increase in a decade — is an indictment on the world’s priorities. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit there were not enough medical supplies to deal with the crisis yet there were plenty of submarines, warships, missiles and guns.
Australia too has been slow to get itself equipped to deal with the virus. Across the country, there are still shortages of personal protection gear, intensive care equipment and testing kits. We were poorly prepared for a pandemic, despite many warnings from epidemiologists of the inevitability of a pandemic in the near future. The last rehearsal for the nation’s response to a pandemic was 2008.
In contrast, Australia is preparing energetically for war, primarily for fighting alongside the US Armed Forces. SIPRI’s estimate of Australia’s military spending for 2019 is US$25.9 billion, 2.1% higher than in 2018 and 23% higher than 2010.
Recent comments of Australian Defence Force spokesperson Brigadier Kahlil Fegan are refreshing: “We just have to rethink how we certify ourselves for the most prevalent threat, and at the moment the most prevalent threat is coronavirus.” https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-08/australias-largest-military-exercise-cancelled-coronavirus/12134068. However, it took Defence to 1 April to announce Operation COVID-19 Assist and according to the latest report (21 Apr), only about 2000 ADF personnel have been deployed.
“It’s worrying,” said Denis Doherty of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign, “Brigadier Fegan’s wake-up call has not spread to the ‘establishment’. Key figures in Australia urge the Government to embark on a weapons-led recovery for after the virus. The arms producers’ think-tank ASPI is pushing the Government into increasing its annual military spending from 2% to 3.2% of GDP.This is a bad idea. Big military spending is wrong on all grounds: security, economic, environmental and justice.”
“Already Australia has contributed to extending the misery of war in the Middle East by supplying Saudi Arabia with the weapons that can be used in the war in Yemen. But on top of that the Government is supporting weapons producers with a subsidy fund of $3.8 billion (the Government’s Defence Export Strategy).”
“We condemn the Morrison Government’s continued support of the arms industry. See Minister for Defence Industries Melissa Price’s 24 April media release: The Morrison Government is continuing to invest in Australian defence industries to ensure they are in a strong place to deliver new innovations in the post COVID-19 era.
This media release exhibits the abject failure of the Government to resist the arms trade lobby.” (https://www.minister.defence.gov.au/minister/melissa-price/media-releases/multi-million-dollar-innovation-boost-australias-defence)
We call on both State and Federal Governments to reject any suggestions of a weapons-led recovery after Covid-19.
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Contact: Denis Doherty