It's nice to know that Australia's much-praised and constantly touted close relationship with the United States is worth more than six or seven billion dollars in questionable war industry purchases from Boeing.
Or is it?
Cancellation of the controversial $6.6 billion contract to buy 24 F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter-bombers could hurt Australia's diplomatic and commercial relationship with the US, a national security think tank has warned.
...Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon yesterday reaffirmed his Government's pre-election pledge to review the purchase announced without warning in March by then defence minister Brendan Nelson.
At the time, Dr Nelson said the deal was made after advice from the Defence Department and RAAF that the US-built Super Hornet offered the best solution to a looming air combat capability gap.
Deliveries of its intended replacement, the state-of-the-art but unproven F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) are not expected until 2013 and, at a starting price of $15.6 billion, the project is running over budget and embroiled in production delays.
Andrew Davies, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute warns :
So is Australia only so highly valued by the US because we spend billions of dollars a year buying 'product' from their war industries, and pouring billions more into American owned war machine corporations based in Australia?
...that any decision to axe the Super Hornet contract would carry "precipitous" consequences. It would require "careful management in Washington", he said, and would result in fraught commercial ties with Boeing...
"The very first question you have to answer is: what sort of stoush do you think you are going to be in when you need something like that?" he said.
It's not often the public gets such insights into the politics and blackmail of war industry business between the United States and Australia. And as usual, it's ugly and more than a little seedy.
Brendan Nelson is one of the more spectacular war industry whores Australia has produced in decades. Under Nelson, and the Howard government, Australia's 'defence' budget was set to roar beyond $30 billion in 2008 (including the "extra projects" never announced in budgets).
It remains to be seen whether the new Labor defence minister will stick to all the deals and promises Howard and Nelson made to international war industry corporations, mostly American ones.
Outside of the United States, Australia under Howard had one of the largest defence budgets of any country in the world, with Russia and China only spending a few billion more in the past few years than Howard did.