The government recently announced an extra $20 billion in military spending over the next 15 years. When the greatest threat to our sovereignty comes not from war and terrorism, but from unaffordable housing, health and education, how can we justify this?
Military spending hasn’t changed much over the last 15 years, but the government has announced an extra $20 billion for upgrades to frigates, aircraft, cyber security, and maybe its light armoured vehicles, which will approximately double military spending for the next 15 years.
Why do we need this? Because America needs New Zealand and Australia to support its ‘Pivot’ strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. The defence white paper doesn’t actually give a breakdown of costs, but focuses more on drumming up paranoia about ISIL and cyberterrorism. Signed by our venerable prime minister, it promises to “protect our national security interests” and warns that “Recent terror attacks are a tragic testament to the fact that terrorism remains an enduring global problem.” And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by our apparent geographical isolation, because “Physical distance bears little relevance to the threats associated with terrorism and cyberspace that New Zealand… is facing.” Nor does he forget to tug on our heartstrings by repeatedly mentioning earthquake relief. He doesn’t mention the fact that his own government has badly neglected Christchurch in terms of properly funding the rebuild. Nor does he mention that this and previous New Zealand governments helped create the terrorists in the first place by supporting the US in its invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
It’s a pretty outdated idea that it should be the military’s job to provide search-and-rescue and disaster relief services. The reason they do is to justify their own existence while they’re sitting around waiting for a war. We’d be better off funding civilian-run disaster relief units, minus the expensive weapons systems.
I was told while protesting the international weapons conference (sponsored by Lockheed Martin) on Auckland’s waterfront a couple of weeks ago that it was the military that won us our right to protest. No it bloody well wasn’t. Our protesting is what won us our right to protest, and it’s all that ever will.
New Zealand does not face any real military threats, and ‘terrorist’ threats are equally unlikely, unless we keep sucking up to State Terrorist Number One and helping to create the international tensions that led to the current wars, terrorist attacks and refugee crisis in the first place. Ramping up our military spending and kissing US arse is what will make us a target. It’s well established that if you carry a gun you’re more likely to get shot. The same goes for the international arms race.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves, I’m saying we should stop making ourselves a target, bow out of the escalating tensions and be seen as non-threatening and neutral. The only people who benefit from this perpetual war are the multinational weapons manufacturers. Let’s not fool ourselves: if New Zealand was under threat from a foreign military force, those countries with whom we are currently allied would either come to our aid or not, depending on if it was in their interests to do so at the time, regardless of established alliances.
Admittedly, the increase in military spending is only a small part of the problem, at roughly 1% of GDP. A larger problem is the fact that this National government is very good at convincing everyone that they have sired a rockstar economy, all the while widening the economic gap and avoiding talking about any concrete policies. Vague hints about maybe allowing YOU to pay less TAX (because those are the two words that seem to win elections) do not policy make. Where’s the opposition?
Housing, health, and education are all suffering as a result of successive government budgets. We are told we are in surplus. Oh cool, let’s spend it on tax cuts and military. Meanwhile healthcare is underfunded – by $248 million below what is needed for the 2016/17 budget year, according to the CTU. We allow our children’s future to be scuttled from day one, by not ensuring our kids are supported in their learning. The Labour Party estimated in 2012 it would cost up to $19 million a year to ensure every child in deciles 1 to 3 had one good meal a day. $19 million! Nope, can’t afford it.
Once those kids reach university age, it’s no less grim. The Victoria University Students Association claimed last year that there had been a $1 billion drop in real terms in tertiary spending from 2009 to 2015. This included cuts of $19 million in just one year (2014-15) to student allowances.
Yet the lack of strong opposition to the extra military spending is also alarming. The defence industry insists we face an imminent threat of attacks, throwing around words like ‘ISIL’ and ‘terrorist’ and ‘cyberthreat’ to make us paranoid and acquiescent. That in itself is the real terrorism.