Sunday, July 3, 2011

Go West Sailor!

The always interesting demographer Bernard Salt has a take on the move to bolster Australia's northern defence:

"consideration of military establishments across the continent reveals a gaping hole in the Pilbara and the Kimberley. We have Lavarack Barracks in Townsville to protect the northeast (and possibly a hangover from the threat imposed by the Battle of the Coral Sea) and Robertson Barracks in Darwin to protect the top end and which was beefed up during the Timor Crisis. And then we have nothing on the coast all the way around to Perth."

Salt is referring to the Force Posture Review which inspired the recent enthusiasm for an expansion of HMAS Cairns to rescue the local economy. There may be merit in some expansion, however it is evident from the Ministerial PR (Smith is a West Australian who slammed the Audstralian cricket selectors for dumping Simon Katich) that the primary focus is really on the North West. We posted recently (below) on the massive resource expansion from the North West (LNG and Iron Ore) which are now dominant economic assets.

"Force posture" refers to the strategic distribution of military assets relative to critical infrastructure and population centres. There has been no significant change in Australia's population distribution in the past 50 years (the eastern seaboard still dominates), but there has been a dramatic shift in the location of strategic assets, and this of itself warrants a military response.

Salt has also previously commented on this and in historical context even queries the prominence of the Townsville army base, which has only recently been expanded. Salt envisions Karratha and Broome as cities of 50,000 to 100,000 people.

As previously posted Defence has a poor record for management efficiency, especially  the current naval expansion, and waste can't be afforded. Expansion of HMAS Cairns may have more to with politics and the US Alliance (also doing a global review) that any national strategic objectives.

The Cairns Cargo Cult are like a group of boys down on the inlet with their model boats waiting for their ship to come in and deliver prosperity. In a similar vein I note the recent comments at Queensland Economy Watch on the proposal to relocate public servants.

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