In January, the Turnbull government announced plans to massively increase military spending. In addition to funding for the armed forces, they also announced a $3.8 billion gift to the private Australian arms industry.
The increased funding for the armed forces will constitute the largest increase in military spending in Australia’s peacetime history, with $200 billion being poured in over the next 10 years. This comes at a time of increased tensions in Asia, as the imperialist ambitions of the United States and China clash.
While the government is concerned about the rise of China, their actions are also designed to give the private arms industry a boost. The $3.8 billion investment will be used to provide finance for export deals that banks would otherwise not touch.
Australia already exports nearly $2 billion in advanced military technology to close allies, and is currently the 20th largest arms exporter in the world.
The government’s plans are designed to lift Australia into the list of top 10 world exporters. The government wants to first increase exports to its close allies, and then to countries in the Middle-East and Asia Pacific, where increased tensions have driven a massive increase in arms spending.
Despite cloaking this plan in rhetoric about “jobs and growth”, facilitating the growth of the arms industry in Australia is not in the interest of working people. Only a select few big business owners will profit from the death and destruction the military equipment built will cause.
The number of jobs that are created from the military industry would be dwarfed by the tens of thousands of jobs that could be created if similar amounts of money were invested into green energy solutions, public transport expansion, building public housing, or other socially useful projects.
In other words, a plan that would actually benefit people!
Instead, the government is set upon securing a piece of the pie for Australian capitalists set on profiteering from the murderous weapons market.
Capitalism thrives on military conflict. The global arms trade is exceptionally large, with military expenditure worldwide reaching $1.7 trillion (USD) in 2016. Between 2002 and 2017 at least $5 trillion worth of weapons were sold by the 100 largest arms manufacturers.
According to Amnesty International, in 2016 “the aggregate economic and financial cost of violence … was estimated to be $14.3 trillion, or 12.6% of the global economy”.
What an indictment of this sick system that such extraordinary amounts of money are spent on war. The entire arms industry is such a gross waste of resources. Billions are spent at the drop of a hat while increasing amounts of ordinary people go hungry, homeless and poverty stricken.
Imagine what could be done if the resources wasted on making war were instead used to meet human needs? We could eliminate poverty and address climate change for a mere fraction of the cost of military spending.
In fact, every dollar spent on weapons is not just a dollar wasted, it is a dollar stolen from the world’s working class and poor. It is in the interests of all the ordinary people of the world to oppose the arms race. Not only do we not see any of the profits made but we are the ones most likely to die or be injured during armed conflict.
Only a system with perverse priorities would seek to develop a large arms industry, at the expense of people’s needs. We need to oppose all military spending in the service of imperialist ambitions while fighting for systemic change. Only a system that prioritises people’s needs will be able to end this global theft and take back the wealth misused in procuring weapons.
By Dane Letcher