$50 Billion Spent On Massive Arms Build-Up
The above image is one of the most famous in Australian war history. It shows two Australian soldiers crossing a river in New Guinea during World War 2. One soldier is clearly wounded, and his mate is helping him.
It exemplifies everything that Australians hold dear about what it means to be Australian. You don't leave your mates behind, you help them. This is the Anzac legend in action.
It is widely regarded as the iconic image of Australians at war.
But not anymore.
Too much reality, perhaps?
The image, from a series of newsreels, was considered to be included in a series of ads that will form part of massive $1 billion advertising splurge aimed at swelling the ranks of Australia's military, but it was deemed "inappropriate" and "overdone".
The Australian government is desperately trying to ramp up recruitment numbers, to meet a target of 57,000 full-time soldiers by 2016. An increase of more than 8000 on present numbers.
At the same time, the Defence Department is the process of spending more than $50 billion on new Naval ships, aircraft and second-hand Abram tanks from the US Army. Tens of billions of dollars from massive outlay of taxpayers dollars will go to defence industries in the United States and Israel.
Per head of population, Australia's annual military budget is now soaring beyond even that of the United States.
More than $20 billion is expected to spent on defence in 2007, to 'defend' 21 million Australians.
A military spend that almost equals the official defence budget of China, a country of more than 1.3 billion people.
The purchase of dozens of 'refurbished' M1A1 Abram tanks from the United States proved particularly controversial, as they are virtually useless for deployment in the heavy tropical jungle terrains of countries in the Australian region, such as East Timor, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Pacific Islands nations.
The tanks were designed, and refitted, for desert warfare. Which would make them handy to have if the Australian government is expecting to see major action in the next decade in Iraq, or Syria, or Iran.
Or the Australian outback.
Being a "close friend" of the United States does not come cheap.
From the Sydney Morning Herald :
The military faces an enormous challenge to reach the target set by the Government of boosting defence numbers by 8000 to 57,000 in 2016.
To meet targets, entry standards are being relaxed to allow in overweight recruits, former recreational drug users and the heavily tattooed.
Up to $700 million will be spent improving wages and conditions.
From next year, $306 million will be spent on a "military gap year" scheme for school leavers to spend 12 months in the Defence Force with incentives to join up after completing their studies.
Foreign military are also being snapped up. In the past two years 125 British ex-soldiers have joined the Australian Army, 103 ex-Royal Navy have joined the RAN and 56 ex-RAF have joined the RAAF.