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Commander Bill

What does Shorten’s submarines policy say about his grasp of the potential future threats facing our country?

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

The Coalition win in NSW produced a typical media reaction, with Fairfax warning a ‘Baird win could prove awkward for Abbott’. Yet in reality it is Bill Shorten who now requires serious analysis. How would he, for example, fulfil the first duty of any Australian Prime Minister: the defence of the realm?

Mr Shorten has just announced his proposal for a new submarine fleet. But instead of being about defence, it is fundamentally an old-fashioned industry policy; designed to protect not so much the workers, but Labor’s trade union bosses.

Nowhere does Shorten canvass the threshold and fundamental issue whether our submarines should be powered by nuclear or conventional energy. That decision should of course be made on the basis of our defence needs and not because of some juvenile prejudice.

Shorten argues that we should follow exactly the same process which led to Labor’s Collins class submarine disaster, even though expert advice – which he challenges – tells us that the Collins class route will cost up to $80 billion, while buying off-the-shelf would cost $25 billion.

Nor does he explain how he’d reform our ruinous trade union culture to avoid the Collins class debacle. We have seen time again how union bosses prefer the destruction of an industry rather than accepting sensible work practices which prevail in modern economies where, incidentally, the workers are very well paid.

An egregious example of this was the disgraceful tactic used recently against Qantas, which involved publicly announcing industrial action but then calling it off at the very last minute. The result was massive losses for Qantas and the potential loss of custom, while the miscreants went unpunished, even by a loss of wages.

The message was that absent a surrender, our national carrier would be destroyed as so many other firms and even whole industries have been.

Mr Shorten has also yet to explain how the Collins Class Mark II fleet would be deployed and how it would be integrated into our defence forces. We cannot know the extent that Australia will be involved in the future in any of the present and potential flashpoints across the world, but perhaps the most worrying is the potential acquisition of nuclear arms by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the curious approach of the Obama administration to reaching a deal with the mullahs. If some people think that because of Iran’s actions against Isis that ‘the enemy of our enemy is our friend,’ a glance at Benjamin Netanyahu’s persuasive speech to Congress should dissuade them. And as if to fulfil Netanyahu’s warning, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ranted, as late as 21 March 2015, that chilling mantra, ‘Death to America.’

We have no idea what this dangerous regime, dedicated to the destruction of at least Israel and America, will do and how we might be involved. Australians have always relied for our defence on our allies, our ‘great and powerful friends’. At times we have overdone this, as we did in the ‘30s when we ran down our defences, assuming the British Singapore fortress alone would be sufficient.

The truly surprising thing is that the previous government − in which Mr Shorten was a minister − did exactly the same, running down defence expenditure and treating the US as the new Singapore.

This was the same government who in the 2009 White Paper preached a new policy of defence ‘self-reliance’, stating that we would only ‘expect’ the US to come to our aid in very limited circumstances. While we may well ‘expect’ such an outcome, the most the ANZUS Treaty guarantees is consultation.

Understandably, America will always act in her own interests. Thus in 1962, with the disgraceful connivance of the UN, the Kennedy administration went against our wishes and handed the unfortunate West Papuans to the former Japanese collaborator and subsequent Indonesian dictator Sukarno, notwithstanding the fact that he was closely allied with the Communist Party. Then the Americans had to be persuaded to at least consult if our troops were attacked by Indonesia, as they were during the Konfrontasi War where we lost 23 soldiers.

Australia can of course point to the fact that we have contributed to the alliance by our frequent deployment of a number of first rate expeditionary forces. Unfortunately this may well carry less weight with the Obama administration, something which Australian leaders − especially a prime minister − must factor into any considerations of our defence readiness. As soon as he came to office, and in order to placate the Russians, Barack Hussein Obama scrapped plans for a new missile defence system to protect Europe, especially Poland and Czechoslovakia. More recently he seems inclined to do a deal with the Iranians on nuclear enrichment the good sense of which even the Socialist French doubt.

On top of which is his gradual abandonment of America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, Israel. The latest example was the extraordinary unilateral release of a crucial document giving considerable detail about the development of Israel’s nuclear deterrent. (Information on other allies was pointedly blacked out.)

Prior to the presidential election, there were warnings that Obama’s close and long association with extreme radical elements, especially his pastor of 20 years, the anti-Semitic and anti-white radical, the Rev Jeremiah Wright, indicated that he was sympathetic to such views. But when Wright’s shockingly inflammatory outbursts were published prior to the election, Obama feigned surprise. Writing recently in the National Review, author Stanley Kurtz says the real Obama today is far closer to the radical Obama of the mid-1990s than the ‘post-partisan’ Obama who sought the presidency in 2008.

The prominent American economist Arthur Laffer told the Sydney Institute recently that he expected a Reagan-like republican to emerge in the presidential election. Perhaps, but Obama shows every sign of using, or misusing, his executive powers to enfranchise increasing numbers of illegal welfare immigrants to build a pro-left constituency.

The point of all this is that an Australian Prime Minister must be ready to lead a self reliant nation in defending ourselves. It is for Australians to decide whether that person should be Tony Abbott or Bill Shorten.

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