Australian Strategic Defence Review sacrifices jobs, industries for US patronage
Written by: Nick G. on 8 May 2023
One of the first acts of the incoming Albanese Labor government was the commissioning of a review of Australian Defence requirements. The review was headed by former Labor Defence Minister (currently the Australian High Commissioner to the UK) Stephen Smith, and former Chief of the Defence Force, Sir Angus Houston.
It should be said from the outset the “defence” here is a misnomer: with the exception of that stage of World War 2 when the defeat of fascism was on the agenda, and when the Japanese imperialists threatened invasion of Australia and bombed our cities, the Australian military has never been deployed in conflicts to defend Australian sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is owned by the ruling class, and used to serve whichever imperialism that ruling class is required to support.
To deceive the people into supporting its acts of loyalty to imperialism, the ruling class develops narratives maintained by the mainstream media. The current narrative features an external threat, the “threat of an aggressive China” and an internal benefit, the “jobs bonanza” from the defence industry.
Because they are basically lies, more and more people start to see through them. Unions, anti-AUKUS mass organisations, and rank-and-file members of the Labor Party are rejecting the AUKUS arrangements. The Electrical Trades Union, for example, in adopting an anti-AUKUS policy, stated quite clearly that “The newly announced AUKUS deal will reduce Australian jobs and sovereign capability and could be a dangerous step towards lifting Australia’s prohibition on nuclear.”
But it is not just amongst the people that opposition develops. A section of the national bourgeoisie speaks out against the cancellation of military contracts in order to more firmly attach the Australian military to US supply chains.
This section of the national bourgeoisie is prone to vacillation and switching loyalties. So long as the Defence Department lays the golden eggs of defence contracts, they could not be happier. They have world class high-tech and advanced manufacturing skills and sell them to the highest bidders, including overseas regimes that use them against their own people. However, once those contracts are cancelled and all-too-obviously replaced with contracts going to US suppliers, they cannot conceal their disappointment.
And this replacement of Australian suppliers by US contractors is at the heart of the Smith-Houston Australian Defence Review.
Thus, the online Australia Pacific Defence Reporter (APDR) editor Kym Bergmann lashed out today against the decision to spend over $A307 million “to buy towed array sonar systems that could – and should – be made locally.” His article was headed “Latest AUKUS outrage – buying towed array sonars from the US”. He said the decision to buy the sonar systems from the US rather than from Australian industries already supplying the equipment to the US, UK and French Navies “has left local industry totally gobsmacked”.
This follows April’s reaction by Australian companies to the release of the Defence Review. The Defence Teaming Centre said that the Review “may cost the industry millions of dollars in lost investment. This has the DTC predicting a decline in the number of businesses working in the Defence sector due to the continued lack of commitment and certainty from government.”
The Australian Industry and Defence Network (AIDN), a peak body for national bourgeois elements seeing to gain from contracts with the military, said of the Review that “The references to Defence Industry appear cursory at best. Of concern is the statement that Australian industry content and domestic production should be balanced against timely capability acquisition.”
It went on to say:
Allowing Internationally owned large Defence contractors the ability to provide advice to Defence on ‘speed to capability’ without due regard or requirement for work to be transferred to Australian Industry, means that these overseas companies will simply use the ‘speed to capability’ mantra to employ their existing overseas supply chain. And there will be no development, enhancement or creation of an Australian Indigenous sovereign industrial capability, a capability our national requires in order to achieve national strategic resilience.
Another commentator said of future Australian defence contracts, “if you’re not from the U.S. no need to apply.”
In a separate comment, Bergmann said “the pro-U.S. faction only want things with the stars and stripes plastered on them – and AUKUS will make that mentality even worse”.
Other examples of decisions to bail out US industries at the expense of the local capitalists include the decision to scrap the building of more than 300 Infantry Fighting Vehicles and 45 Self-Propelled Howitzers and resupply vehicles worth about $A15 billion to local industry and instead spend $A4 billion on 30 year old U.S. Abrams main battle tanks with zero Australian content.
This led one reader of the APDR to respond: “This Review (so far) is nothing more than an excuse to tie the ADF to U.S. Supply Lines and Manufacturing Bases at the expense of Australian Industry and Sovereignty.”
Australian workers do not need to sympathise with the vacillating national bourgeoisie.
What they must do is understand that the pro-US narrative is based on deception and falsehood, and that there is no future in tying employment opportunities to an imperialist power that only seeks to serve its own interests.
An anti-imperialist independent and socialist Australia must be fought for.
Our future depends on smashing the existing machinery of state and taking control of an economy without capitalists.
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