Moore: And so the poor will pay

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 SO pensioners and the poor will be slammed by Joe Hockey to pay for shiny new jet fighters!

Michael Moore
Michael Moore
After months of complaining what a poor Budget position Australia has been left by Labor, the government has announced the purchase of an additional 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at a price of $12.4 billion. There has never been a clearer indication of the priorities of the ultra-conservative Treasurer of the Abbott government.

In the same week, former Liberal Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, is publicly demonstrating what thinking, genuine liberals see as options for our international relations.

While our ultra-conservatives purchase these (yet to be proven) jets on the never-never from our close allies and friends in the US, Fraser is preparing to lecture at the Crawford School at the ANU on his new book “Dangerous Allies: Australia’s role in the Pacific”.

He will examine Australia’s history of strategic dependence on “great and powerful friends” – namely the US and the British empire – and question the continuation of this position.

And Hockey continues to talk about means testing, co-payments and the cost of the aged pension. No mention of asking the mining industry, which earned $51 billion in pre-tax earnings in 2009-10, to pull its weight from what should be our shared natural resources.

In 2012, the Australia Institute estimated that taxpayers in Australia subsidised the mining industry to the tune of $4 billion through things such as the fuel rebate, roads, rail and other infrastructure. This government axed the mining tax.

And the poor need to pay.

“It is appropriate,” the Treasurer told a meeting, “that those who use government services should contribute towards their cost.”

Hey, Joe, what do you think our taxes do? They contribute!

And then he turned on the age pension: “Of the 15 programs, the (Audit) report observes that the age pension is the largest by a fair margin. The $40 billion we spend each year makes it our single biggest spending program.

“It is 10 per cent of all Commonwealth spending.”

And Joe’s solutions: stronger means testing; push the age of entitlement to 70; force co-payments at GPs and outsource aged care where possible to the private sector.

“Nothing is free. Someone always pays,” is the Treasurer’s mantra. Hospital costs grow at 10 per cent per year – the third fastest of the identified programs. So the government is considering a GP co-payment despite no evidence of widespread misuse of doctors. The likelihood is to see a movement towards hospital emergency, which is free and where treatment costs are much, much higher than in a primary health care setting.

The other two big programs are the National Disability Insurance scheme at 46.2 per cent growth and Tony Abbott’s baby the Child Care and Paid Parental Leave Scheme at 11.5 per cent growth. How long before this Treasurer starts picking on people with disabilities and begins taking candy from babies?

The government simply showed awful timing with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter funding in the middle of softening up the community for a horror Budget, which looks like cutting at the most vulnerable.

Even if it was just before Anzac Day! Which raises another question: Who is such a threat to Australia that we need to buy such toys? Well, nobody. However, the way diplomacy is going with our near neighbours – they might be needed by 2020 – the earliest they will be able to be deployed.


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Michael Moore
Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health in the Carnell government. He has been a political columnist with "CityNews" since 2006.


  1. How true and the F35 would become our first single-engined front-line fighter since the 1950s. If an F35 gets an enginge failure like that plane leaving Perth yesterday it’s goodbye $100M plane.

  2. Simple fact is that Australia needs to replace its 71 aging – and increasingly costly to maintain – legacy hornets, along with those prior 35 F-111, with 72 F-35s and the gap-replacement of 36 super hornets, of which likely only 24 will be kept. Those planes need to be replaced. That’s 118 planes of 3 types for 96 of 2 types: 3 fighter squadrons; 1 EW squadron and 1 conversion squadron. A net loss in platforms and types equals more efficiency and long-term savings.

    Whether the F-35 was the right choice is a different argument – and a very long one at that. Simply, I would argue that Australia needs to maximise its long range strike capability – meaning speed, electronics and large-payloads are more useful than slow stealthy aircraft with only 2 air-to-air and 2 strike weapons. Such a capability would actually increase Australia’s independence by increasing deterrence. What we actually need aircraft to do is air-superiority and, especially, naval strike – which the F-35 is not suited for nor for which a naval strike weapon has been developed for its small internal weapons bays. Plus it only has one engine. Plus the F-35 only has one engine. Over water with an engine failure one can say goodbye to a very expensive plane. This means we will likely restrict training over maritime environments, where we actually need to hone our skills. Additionally, the F-35s are designed to work like a network and thus work in fours. What happens when one ‘node’, or even two, of the network have engine or electronic faults – goodbye to air capability and survivability!

    Most likely the 24 F-18E/G Growler will take over the maritime strike role. A combination of electronic warfare and harpoons on a Growler will target surface vessels and will be backed up by stealthy F-35s with AIM 120Ds (120-160km range) for air-superiority from extreme distance aided by Australia’s AW&Cs for targeting. Rather than use force multipliers to enhance capability, however, the F-35 rather relies on them for its capability and survivability.

    Are there any other choices? Considering the F-15, F-16 and F-18 will all cease production in 2016, joining the F-22,… not really. A Dassault Rafals or Eurofighters would necessitate different weapons, supply and support chains and a range of other additional things. The Grippens have an additional disadvantage of only one engine. Considering our investment thus far, there was no other choice, but Australia should not be happy about this and should not embrace such a tragedy so fool-heartedly.

    Australia should also not get F-35Bs in the future as Abbott alluded to. upgrading our 2 LHDs to accommodate them would cost more than buying the extra aircraft carrier that the UK is building, cannot afford, will not use, and will try to sell straight away (that does not mention the extra 3 destroyers, four frigates and 4 submarines on top of existing plans to protect carriers). I hope I didn’t give anyone ideas about Australia buying an aircraft carrier…

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