Reading in the Australian today Greg Sheridan. Now, Greg is pretty clearly a hawk on defence, he is reasonably convinced that Australia needs a serious warfare capability.
Leaving that aside, it’s interesting to see the debate that is underway. Whereas NZ debates whether we should have an airforce at all (and whether that air force should have any planes that can, well, project force), in Australia the discussion is whether the air force should have 50-odd 5th generation joint strike fighters and 50-odd F-18 super hornets, or whether it makes more sense to go for a fully JSF airforce of about 100 planes.
What that says to me is that Australia is still serious about having the ability to project force, and to defend the Australian shores in a meaningful way. You can argue about how much defence is really needed in the 21st century, but it remains true that Australia (and NZ) are cutting defence capability at a time when our region is becoming less stable rather than more.
In NZ’s case our inability to contribute the collective security of our allies marginalises us, Singapore has vastly more defence capability than we do.
In Australia, major defence commitments are being reduced, and the Labor government seems to view Defence as an arm of their union/industrial policy, that is to say as a way to invent jobs for Australians. This leads to debacles like the suggestion of building another generation of conventional submarines in Australia instead of buying vastly more capable and larger nuclear powered submarines with a maintenance contract from the Americans. It’s the equivalent of buying a sailing ship when there are diesels available.
Anyway, interesting the contrast in level of commitment and discussion.