Senator Eric Abetz is a former Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Chair of the Senate’s prestigious Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and a member of the Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.
Shelling facilities where mothers are giving birth is a truly ugly and depraved act. It doesn’t get much uglier nor more depraved. Yet this is what recently happened as part of Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and completely unjustified invasion of Ukraine.
War is brutal and should be avoided but not at all costs. There is such a thing as a just and necessary war. Imagine if it was our mothers and children being shelled and massacred. Would we want people around the world to wash their hands of us and use the excuse “Australia – it’s so far away it’s no concern of ours” or “we can’t make a difference anyway”?
It is that lethargy, this lack of commitment to defend our fellow like-minded peace-loving peoples, indeed callous disregard to the plight of others, which gives heart to the dictator bullies on the world scene. History is full of examples and reminds us this is the case.
So the coming together of so many freedom-loving countries of the world offering aid and defence materiel is heartening. Australia’s contribution to Ukraine is principled, timely, needed and well-targeted.
To a certain extent, it is limited, but it is real support to a people who are valiantly fighting off an unjustified aggressor.
While clearly outnumbered in personnel and equipment, the Ukrainians are holding off a force far superior in both. Where the aggressors don’t have superiority is in the vital area of justice, resolve, and determination.
The Ukrainians are inspirational and it’s a lesson to all, including here in Australia. Whilst having justice on your side, combined with resolve and determination, does not count for much if there is no physical capacity, i.e., equipment with which to take on the aggressor.
Which is why defence expenditure is always so important and ignored at our collective peril. In peacetime, lazy governments slip into defence cuts to fund more short-term populist causes. But this is where shallow short-term populism needs to give way to true leadership.
Allowing the defence budget to be hollowed out for short term popularity saw Labor defence expenditure slashed to 1.56% of gross domestic product (GDP), bringing it below the dangerous 1938 levels.
Today under firm, strong, solid direction and guidance, the Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Peter Dutton have seen an uplift in defence expenditure to 2.09%. That’s a real uplift providing confidence to our men and women who volunteer in the cause of defending us that they will be properly equipped while also sending a message to would be aggressors that whilst small in number, we are determined to protect our borders and national sovereignty.
Combined with strategic investments in our equipment, the Liberals are committed to expanding our defence force whilst also engaging in targeted strategic agreements with our friends and neighbours. For years we have rightly considered the ANZUS alliance as a supportive shield. It is.
More recently, we’ve added further layers to that layer of protection with ties to India, Japan, and South Korea, not to mention our AUKUS alliance with the United Kingdom and the United States, giving us vital nuclear submarine capability.
History is littered with examples of the consequences of countries whose leadership didn’t provide sufficient support to defence and suffered the foreseeable consequences.
Defence expenditure is often ignorantly seen as wasted money. If spent well, it will be “wasted” in the sense the product of the expenditure won’t be called upon because the deterrent effect has worked for the protection of the people.
Ultimately the defence of the nation is the prime task of any national government. If a country has lost the capacity to defend itself, it has lost the capacity to govern itself and therefore forfeits the right to call itself a sovereign nation-state.
In these uncertain times, we need a laser-focused emphasis on ensuring our nation’s strategic, defence and security interests are in safe hands. The Prime Minister and Minister Dutton stand head and shoulder over alternate approaches on any objective analysis.
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Senator Eric Abetz is one of the longest serving federal parliamentarians in Australia, representing Tasmania in the Liberal Party since early 1994. He emigrated to Australia from Germany with his family at a very young age, and his father worked alongside many other immigrants on the Tasmanian Hydro Schemes. He worked as a part-time taxi driver and farm hand while studying Arts and Law at the University of Tasmania, and has been a member of the Liberal Party since 1976.
His Parliamentary career is long and distinguished, and the full details can be read here.