Most readers would be aware that I’m a retired Army officer and may be surprised when I say I agree with Carr in his criticism of ‘Colonel’ Kelly. When I first read of the ‘Colonel’ I was embarrased that a professional Officer would put aside his duty to be apolitical and publically critisize a politician. What is the world coming too? I ask myself. Next we will have military officers critisizing the Government about the conduct of the war. Todays letters in the Australian make much of this matter with statements like “Soldier should stay clear of politics” and “what is serving army officer like Colonel Mike Kelly doing sending a letter…….? Norm Barnwell from Merriweather says, and I quote in full; When we have professional soldiers meddling in political affairs we have serious problems. As a lesson Colonel Mike Kelly should be brought home and made to face either a court martial or at the very least be returned to Duntroon to learn the politically correct behaviour for a soldier in Australia’s army Norm is dead right……except it is unlikely that Colonel Kelly is a professional officer, he is a lawyer. Lawyers don’t graduate from Duntroon, they don’t even go to Duntroon. They get their law degree from a main stream university and then volunteer for a commission. They do an extremely short course that teaches them how to salute and how to wear a uniform and are then let loose on the soldiery with all their uni days baggage. Notwithstanding this, he is expected to act as if he was a professional officer and he has made a professional gaffe. He should be brought home and his resignation called for so he can be free to stay with the ALP (he is a member) and play politics at the bar and at the club on friday night. Having said all of the above, there are exeptions to the rule and I do know of officers who have graduated from Duntroon and then subsequently studied for a law degree. You will never hear from these guys as they are professional officers first.
Labors decision 15 years ago to place some emphasis on locating defence units in the North has credit but it’s greatest strength is in backing up the Defence of Australia strategy. Dibbs says there is a groundswell of opinion that the Defence of Australia has had it’s day and he might be right but in any military appreciation one cannot rule out the required ability to protect the homeland. The war against terrorism has thrown some problems into an otherwise ‘easy to plan for’ defence strategy. You see, there are no targets of sufficient political import for terrorists to consider in the North. So on the one hand a defence strategy that has combat elements in the North is fine but on the other hand, some of these elements will be needed down south where the political targets are. The Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Parliament House, Russel Hill ADF HQ can’t all be defended by Special Forces. I could be wrong here but in light of current deployments, I doubt if the Sydney battalions are anywhere near full strength. If anyone can advise me on this matter, please email. We literally need a force capable of handling a lot of possibilities and that means more battalions. Deployment to the Solomons could quickly be complicated by a need to have muscle on the ground in PNG. This need fits into the War against Terrorism strategy as well as Defence of Australia. At the same time we need to troops to defend political targets supplementing the splendid work that Special Forces do. Once again we are dependant on the Special Forces being able to do everything and be everwhere at the same time. Pushing the edge here. We also need a force deployable and able to work with coalition type forces such as recently required in the Iraq war. Defence needs new tanks, more APCs and better technical equipment across the board to provide a viable force that will do Australia proud; that will show we are prepared to put ground troops in place and that we really are still impacting internationally and helping in practical terms. Even a small force of a Battalion with its supporting tanks, APCs, Engineers and logistics would be seen as putting our money where our mouth is. It is a cop out to continually deploy just SASR Squadrons. Unquestionably they do us proud and do impact on the campaign but they are being flogged to death and were never designed to be the sole force. Besides their strategic role, they have a roll of supporting the main stream Australian combat units. The reasons behind us not sending main stream combat units to the gulf is a question you, the Aussie voter, should be asking of Howard. The answer is both parties have been quick to strip battalions of expensive troops and even taking some battalions off the Order of Battle (ORBAT).The salaries of one battalion could well balance a budget and in the past there has been more votes in welfare than defence. There is one downside to this strategy – one day the rent falls due. Well it’s due now. You need to be aware that every time Dibbs come up with a defence white paper it could always be summarised in one phrase – ‘less combat troops’. I look forward to his bottom line after the the Darwin Conference on Northern Australia
The RAAF F111C are still flying after 38 years but in todays Australian they are reaching their use-by date. Non military readers may be concerned that our bomber force is comprised of middle-age aircraft but don’t believe that everything old is bad. (The conservative in me loves saying that). The USAF’s B52s enlisted in 1955 and you could have meaningfull conversations with Saddams Republican Guards as to how effective they are. Menzies, the Prime Minister in the 60s, placed orders for the F111s to combat Indonesia’s rumblings as ‘Bung’ Sukarno tried to deflect public opinion from economic worries by overworking the ‘War’ word – as you do. They worked. Just sitting on the tarmac at RAAF Amberly was a sufficient deterrant to all expansionists in South-East Asia. And get this; The aircraft was unpopular with officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs who lived with criticism from diplomats that, in all South-East Asia, only Australia possessed a warplane which could reach foreign shores. Get real, chaps, that is what it was all about. I hoped they smiled smugly when this obvious point was raised. Not only can it reach foreign shores but it was developed to fly from mainland US to China, drop a nuke and then fly back home again, so it’s umbrella covers all of South-East Asia. The USAF has demobbed their F111s giving Australia a ‘Cash Converters’ type shopping mall that will enable us to keep the fleet airborne for years at ‘competitive’ rates. In the article much is made of new ‘stealth’ technology the US have deployed with their new strike aircraft but it is expensive and I can tell you an aircraft flying at mach 2.5 with ground hugging radar is a difficult target; considering that when the enemy are first aware of the bombs, the F111, using ‘smart bomb’ technology, is half way home. The Australian Defence Forces struggle as politicians and defence heads try and get more bang for the buck. In this article what isn’t mentioned, is the years of bludging as Australia’s decreasing spending on defence was rationalized by multi-coloured’ papers, most common – White Papers. These papers promised no-one was about to attack and therefore we can cut back on Infantry battalions, new tanks and new aircraft. Us proffessional officers argued ‘one day the rent will fall due’ and it has. No-one anticipated the world as it exists today and if they did, they were laughed out of the conference room. Now, where are the Infantry Battalions, new tanks etc when we need them? Circulating from Government coffers to Arts funding, dole payments, single mother supporting pensions and a host of other social necessities that are needed in a caring society but have we balanced all our expenditure responsibilities? No! For every year we didn’t spend responsibly on defence we need to make it up. If for ten years our defence expenditure was 1.5% of GDP when 2% is reaonable, then lifting 2004 to 2% doesn’t begin to catch up. We need a big hit of 10 time .5 to get back in the game. Yesterday in Jakarta, Jemaah Islamiah announce that they are still playing the game, are we?
AUSTRALIAN sailors had sex on the beach, streaked through military buses and pranced naked with rolled-up burning paper stuck between their buttocks in a wild, drunken romp at a US outpost in the Indian Ocean. And their point is…? The article by Natalie O’Brien, Investigations editor, and Michael McKinnon, FOI editor in this Weekends Australian bemuses me. The sailors have been at war, have been deprived, for months, of any type of civilization that Natalie and Michael would demand as their daily due, they are given leave on a military base and then allowed to cut loose. It would be news and responsible reporting to write an expose of drunken sailors ‘On duty’ but not this. If in a town and civilians are involved maybe yes – if crimes are committed, but please spare me ‘Sailors get drunk on leave” stories. ‘Prancing naked with rolled-up burning paper between the buttocks’ is called the ‘dance of the flaming arseholes’ and whereas it’s not particularly smart it can be funny if you’re there and as drunk as everyone else. I’ve seen it performed in soldiers messes from Saigon to Sydney, from Hawaii to Bangkok and I bet my Father would have seen it done in the RAN in the Pacific during World War 2. My Grandfather would have seen it performed in Egypt in World War 1 and maybe in South Africa during the Boer War. We just didn’t talk about it. What you do when on leave and drunk never makes for good stories to people who weren’t there. So my point is, it happens and in the past we haven’t gone on about it. Most probably the journalists of the time thought there was a lot more to report on in whatever war they were covering and having some sense, let it be. Young civilians on holidays do the same silly drunken things but I have yet to see any news coverage of this. If the article started with…. AUSTRALIAN sailors, after months at war facing death everyday, had sex on the etc….I might have treated it as a human interest story but the article was presented in such a manner as to make the sailors look bad. And don’t say they were bad unless you can say you never had sex on the beach or got drunk, or did something silly to de-stress after bad days. (If you truly have never done these things then get a life!)