Contributed by Joe Montero
The cost of Australia’s new military expenditure is much more than most of us think. Attention is on the AUKUS submarine program. It doesn’t stop here though.
But let’s start with the submarines. We were told that they would cost $368 billion. They didn’t tell us that an extra $122 billion have been committed. This means that the expectation of escalating costs has already been factored in. The estimated real cost is up to $490 billion, and this is only the current estimate. The cost could go higher still.
This is for the delivery of the three Virginia-class submarines in the early 2030s at best, and the rest of the order to come in in the 2040s and 2050s. By then the current models will be obsolete. The second concern is that the estimated cost only covers the first five submarines. There are another three to be paid for. This is about another $294 billion. The real cost of the submarine contract is therefore $784 billion.
Photo from AP: The USS Colorado is a Virginia-class submarine like the ones the Australian government is buying
These submarines are the biggest item on the shopping list. We know that the government has committed to spending $29 billion on the proposals of the Defence Strategic Review. This is on top of the $270 billion commitment by the former Morrison government, which is still going ahead. Now there is a further $4 billion to be spent on long new HIMARS range missiles.
All this is being sold as necessary to defend Australia. Calling out this lie is that the Australian armed forces are being refitted to be deployed overseas as a contingent of the United States armed forces and that nation’s global ambitions. This is not for the protection of the Australian land mass. This is preparation or war and not defence.
Expenditure on this scale must reshape the federal government’s budget. When put together with the $19 billion a year tax cut for those with an income over $120,000 a year. It’s obvious. There will be major cuts in government spending on services that are important for maintaining living standards and investing in infrastructure and the economy. The revenue shortfall will make this inevitable.
Average Australians are going to be made to pay the price. And for what?
It’s no secret that the military build-up is designed to be directed against China. Not because China is threatening military attack but because it has the fastest growing economy and challenges western dominance. The tax cut is a continuation of neoliberal orthodoxy and the illusion of the trickledown effect.
In day to day life this means defunding of hospitals and schools., and poorer service in many other areas. For those depending on JobSeeker, disability support, or pensions, continuing to be left behind and falling into ever deeper poverty. It means the lack of resources to meaningfully tackle the crisis in housing affordability. Little will be left to ensure Australia upgrades technology and build new sustainable industries, and the drift away from an economy that benefits everyone will continue.
Imagine if the $1.25 trillion cost of the new military expenditure and 10 years of the stage three tax cuts, was invested in the above instead. This would make Australia a much better and fairer place to live in. And this doesn’t even include the even larger amount tied to the massive tax evasion industry.
Instead of this we get to cling onto an empire failing because of its own internal contradictions. This is a dead end. It’s time to let go. A new world is emerging, and Australia’s interests are served by recognising this and adapting to it.