Labors decision 15 years ago

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