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Defence White Paper: From a budget emergency to South China Seas emergency?

Greens spokesperson for Defence Peter Whish-Wilson provides the following comments on today’s announcement that Australia is joining and contributing to a regional arms race, with a massive blow-out in expenditure in the Defence White Paper.

Senator Whish-Wilson said “The target of 2% of GDP for defence expenditure is totally arbitrary given the almost total absence of direct threats to Australia right now. What’s more, the government appear to have decoupled the spending so that if GDP slows they will still spend this exorbitant and obscene amount of money.

“The government has made a stark choice today, to spend hundreds of billions of dollars of tax payer dollars on weapons and military hardware, rather than investing in our communities, critical national infrastructure gaps and a clean energy future.

“The Greens believe it is not the job of Australian taxpayers to spend up on military hardware to intercede in a proxy war between our two largest trading partners over 4,000 kilometres from our shores. We need a defence force that protects Australia, not one that exists to play gate-keeper between two regional powers.

“This White Paper appears to rapidly escalate Australia’s military technology to play a role in the South China Sea. Equally, the Defence White Paper seems to be as much about industry policy as it is about sensible risk management for Australia’s future.

“The difference between buying 6 submarines and 12 is equivalent to funding the NBN shortfall. The difference between buying 75 Joint Strike Fighters and a smaller air-wing of tried and tested planes could deliver transformational investments to make our cities more resilient to climate change.

“Defence policy should be about keeping Australia safe for the lowest possible cost, not about industry policy. We can employ people whether we are building submarines or building wind farms.

“Climate change is the major existential threat to Australia, not the military threat from China, our biggest export destination. Climate change is hurting Australia here and now. Worsening heatwaves, bushfires and droughts are costing lives and damaging our economy. This is the issue that should dominate the minds of our politicians not the idea that our greatest trading partner might become our military enemy,” he concluded.

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