‘This government needs to stop militarising our biggest challenges‘, Canberra Times, 7 September 2020 (pdf from our subscription)
Criticises the focus on using the Australian Defence Force to deal with domestic emergencies, including the current pandemic.
The risk is that civilian agencies will continue to be under-resourced to do their job, while funding and priorities are skewed even further towards military “solutions”. Military spending in Australia is already sacrosanct, with the PM recently confirming an additional $270 billion over 10 years (over and above the annual defence budget). More far-reaching roles for the ADF could serve as a further pretext for prioritising military defence over other needs, including health and bushfire preparedness …
If our health and emergency agencies were properly funded and equipped, there may still be occasions in future where ADF personnel and resources are needed in civil emergencies, but such occasions should be rare and non-controversial.
Other points: a further concern with the proposed government legislation on ADF deployment is the serious risk of abuse, especially for a “khaki” electoral advantage; a repurposed ADF could be used against protesters, as has happened in the United States; ADF deployment in military causes already includes the sorry story of the Iraq adventure; the current government has been slow to acknowledge climate change threats and how they relate to bushfire emergencies and affect the future of Pacific countries.
* Dr Sue Wareham is president of Medical Association for Prevention of War and a member of the Heritage Guardians committee leading the community campaign against the $498m extensions to the Australian War Memorial.