About Me

My photo
The Author Erik’s family emigrated from Britain to the island State of Tasmania then lived in the woods. The family home schooled, helping to pioneer the home education movement in Australia. The Blog …explores ways to create a sustainable and just community. Explores how that community can be best protected at all levels including social policy/economics/ military. The Book Erik’s autobiography is a humorous read about serious things. It concerns living in the bush, wilderness, home education, spirituality, and activism. Finding Home is available from Amazon, Barnes&Noble and all good e-book sellers.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Gay Marriage Bill – where were the children’s rights?

I admire anyone who is good at their craft.  While the religious conservatives remained distracted with internal conflicts on everything from ordination of women priests to the war in Iraq, the gay movement ran a long term strategic, incremental, intergenerational campaign.  As a former campaigner (on other issues) I give them credit.  They came within a handful of votes, and succeeded in framing the issue as one of love and tolerance verses bigotry and hate.  They have captured the agenda, the momentum and the media.  Having done so, they were able to create a wedge issue that forced conservatives into a corner; and then shouted them down.

Shouting them down: homosexual activists denying freedom of speech and assembly in Brisbane

For friends finding this site from the USA please note that homosexual couples can register a civil union here.  This provides them legally with all the same rights to financial settlement as heterosexual couples, e.g. assets on separation of death of partner, superannuation, spousal pensions if insured for the death of a partner, probate, etc.  What they cannot do is call the union “marriage” and, as a married couple, adopt children. The marriage bill sought to change that.

I opposed the Bill simply to uphold the principle that children have a right to be raised by a mother and a father.  Both genders contribute different and complimentary things.  Both are necessary for the raising of well adjusted and resilient children.  While that is not always possible in the messiness of real life, the law should as far as possible safeguard that right.  For that reason it should be unlawful for anyone to access IVF who is not a married heterosexual – and yes, we really do need to stop subsidising a culture of intergenerational illegitimacy.  Single parenthood on welfare  is an accepted career option where I grew up.  Having lived with and seen the social consequences of welfare without obligation, I can say that it is high time we put the brakes on. 

Of course some homosexuals can be better parents than some heterosexuals.  Bad parenting and social dysfunction crosses all boundaries of gender, orientation, ethnicity, nationality and religion.  Some kids are better off raised by wolves than by their parents.  That doesn’t change the argument.  It’s not about bigotry, it’s about making society work.  I have married heterosexual friends who have chosen not to have children because, for various reasons, they didn’t feel they could be responsible parents.

Key to this debate is the appropriate role of the State.  On the whole laws should not tell consenting adults how to live their lives unless there is an overwhelming public interest argument.  Children, animals, and the intellectually disabled don’t get to choose and we are compelled to choose for them.  The State therefore does have a role in setting boundaries.  The marriage boundary is an appropriate one.  I vote we keep it.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Gay marriage bill and the fork in the road

Greco Roman sexuality was fluid and celebrated in art.

Now that the dust is settling after the defeat of the gay marriage bill it is time for all parties to reflect.  For the record I did not support the bill, about which, more later.  However, before I am written off as a homophobic anti gay bigot allow me to indulge in a little heterosexual bashing.  Whose sexual conduct does the greatest harm over-all?

It was not long ago that a 12 year old girl in State care was prostituted by her mother and step father.  Perhaps 100 men paid for sex with her.  They got off on a technicality (it was dark apparently).  One prominent politician was prosecuted – the victim came to his home and it was not dark – but he also got off.  Apparently his med’s made him do it.  I like to think that if I took some medication that made me sexually incontinent I would do what every self respecting 15 year old boy in the country does and jerk off with a copy of the Myer lingerie catalogue.  I am fairly confident that no medication would cause me to rape 12 year old girls, but we digress.

The only positive thing about the whole sordid saga is that it is still considered shocking.  It was not always so.  In ancient Rome if you wanted a 12 year old girl or a 9 year old boy you just had to go to the slave market and buy one.  Indulging in prostitution was considered a religious and civic obligation which is why the State provided a temple prostitution service.  Paedophilia was socially acceptable as was bestiality.  Homosexuality was celebrated in art.  Promiscuity was OK and unwanted babies were left out to die.  Cruelty and violence were celebrated at the games – paid for variously by the State or wealthy patrons.  Indeed, so foundational was violence to the Roman identity that arenas were build as far away as Wales.  The entire social hierarchy depended on the crassest forms of class exploitation.

None of the Greco/Roman gods had a problem with any of this, nor on the whole did the classical philosophers so beloved of the new atheists (see Grayling et al).  Only Jehovah, the god of a small oriental cult, had a problem with it for which reason he and his devotees were considered intolerant, uncultured and bigoted.  

Dawkins et al imagine that an enlightened humanism will rise phoenix like from the ashes of Christianity.  Basically he imagines a Christian society without religion and with a more relaxed view of sex and sexuality.  Unfortunately Rome’s social policies were a lot more consistent with Darwin than Dawkins’ are.  Unsurprisingly, as the culture turns its back on Christianity, we are drifting back to the moral and social mores of Rome. 

We are rapidly approaching a fork in the road and it is high time the church stuck a sign in the middle saying ‘wrong way, go back’.  The question is ‘go back to where?’ When people today think of the church and sex they think of paedophile priests, and a social policy that kept women in the kitchen, gays in the closet, denied sex education and contraception to teenagers, then when they got pregnant put a pillow in their face and stole their baby.  Partly informed by these policies rape within marriage did not become a crime in Tasmania until 1986 – because the wife was the property of the husband.  This nonsense didn’t work then, won’t work now, and we can’t go back there.  Somewhere between secular debauchery and 1950’s repression there has to be an answer that results in happy well adjusted people and families.  If we (Christians) are to find it we are going to have to have a frank and (for some) painful conversation, and we are going to have make theology the servant of facts and evidence.  On the other hand, that is the conversation we need to be having with our teenagers anyway.  I intend to begin a conversation - but not on this blog.

Tag line: marriage equality, Greco Roman erotica, Christian responses to LGBT issue

Friday, 12 October 2012

Submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Review of the Defence Annual Report 2010-2011

To the secretariat, Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Review of the Defence Annual Report 2010-2011

Please find attached a submission to this review.  You will note that it takes the form of my previous submission to the Defence White Paper in 2008.  I present it here with comments in brackets to bring it up to date.  Tellingly, all the predictions made in that paper have come to pass and all the observations are still relevant.  Below are some points addressing specific issues that have progressed since 2008.  Accordingly I include this cover letter as part of the submission and ask that it be made viewable on the review website. 

In addition I refer the Committee to my previous submission to the JSCFADT inquiry into Australian Defence Force Regional Air Superiority available here: http://www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/jfadt/adfair/subs/sub32.pdf

All the statements and observations in that submission are still true and relevant to the current review, excepting that the Joint Strike Fighter performance is now far less than I envisaged in 2006.  You may consider that submission to be part of this submission also.

Both these submissions heavily reference research by Air Power Australia.  I wish to stress that I do not represent Air Power Australia, nor do I have any factional interest in Defence matters.  My concern is solely the security of Australia and her near friends and allies in our arc of influence – PNG, Fiji, New Zealand et al.  I reference Air Power Australia (APA) analysis for the following reasons:
  1. APA comprises career engineers, pilots and air power planners, and defence scientists, many of whom have invested their working lives in building Australia’s defence capability from the inside;
  2. APA has no financial stake in the outcome of any acquisition program within Defence;
  3. No one at APA has a career to protect within Defence;
  4. APA is linked to a deep and extensive international network of air power experts;
  5. APA analysis takes the form of peer reviewed scientific papers;
  6. Taken in total this published material represents much of the analytical work that Defence should have done as a matter of course over ten years and failed to do, or actively supressed;
  7. APA has done this work ex gratis and made it available to the world; and
  8. APA has made the connections between an understanding of the physical capabilities of air power weapon systems (planes, SAMs, radar systems etc), tactical matters, and strategic policy.  I am not aware of any other open source that has attempted this with similar rigour.

Note that the commercial value of this work would be hard to estimate but Australia owes the APA community a considerable debt.

I have not referenced analysis by the Department of Defence for the following reasons:
  1. I could not find any.
  2. Public statements by Defence usually take the form of unsubstantiated claims and an appeal to secrecy.
  3. In relation to the Joint Strike Fighter and related matters Defence ‘analysis’ often replicates verbatim public statements by the Lockheed Martin publicity office.
  4. These statements are not adjusted to reflect known realities, for instance the Department still talks about “affordable stealth” in relation to the JSF.
  5. The Department and Ministerial Offices continue to repeat known untruths some of which are addressed below.
  6. Defence has never publicly, in closed session with any minister, or else-where, and with evidence, refuted any of the claims of APA that are in direct contradiction to statements by Defence.
  7. Defence in their public pronouncements and through the Minister have not acknowledged the existence, let alone the profound strategic shift, brought about by the T-50 and J-20 Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft designs, proliferation of advanced SAM systems, counter stealth radars, or evolution of the Sukhoi design.

F-111 Capability and Availability
Since the attached submission was written the F-111 has been removed from active service and the Sole Operator Program closed.  This was in itself a travesty since at that time the Commonwealth Audit Office had stated that the airframe was safe for another 10,000 flying ours.  Independent testimony stated that with a virtually infinite supply of spare parts in the USA, the F-111 could be maintained almost indefinitely and evolved into a modern interceptor.  This would leverage the significant investment already made in the aircraft and pay significant dividends to Australian industry.  The F-111 represented a third of the strike capability provided by the RAAF.  There is no other aircraft that currently has the same capabilities apart from the Russian SU-34.  This matter deserves attention by the Committee since it goes to the heart of what drives decision making within the NACC program office.  It illustrates the cavalier approach taken to hugely expensive and profoundly important decisions by Defence, and says much about the profoundly dysfunctional imbroglio that air power planning (or non-planning) in Australia has become.

F-22 Capability and Availability
Defence has stated directly and through the Minister’s Office, and in correspondence to me, that the F-22 Raptor has never been available for export, that it is only suited to a niche role and that it is prohibitively expensive.  Further, the F-22 assembly line has closed and some sources have stated that it cannot be re-opened. All of these statements are false. 

An export version of the F-22, dubbed the F-22A, was offered for export to Australia in 2001.  The delegation from the USA was turned back at the airport on arrival in Australia because Defence had already decided on the JSF.  At that time the JSF was a concept program and the F-22 was a proven operational capability.  Defence did not examine the F-22 offer.

The F-22 carries guided DJAMs and operates as a multi-role fighter, bomber and interceptor. 

At the time the assembly line was closed the unit price of the F-22 was circa US$120M.  The final unit price of the JSF is now climbing above US$160M.  On both a unit procurement and cost for capability basis the F-22 is now the more affordable plane even if Australia pays the full cost of re-opening the F-22 assembly line.

The F-22 assembly line has been shut down following a massive and dishonest campaign.  One consequence of shutting down assembly is to increase unit cost of future aircraft and increase pressure Congress to buy the JSF since the better rival is out of production.  

Australia paid US$300M for an option to purchase the JSF.  US$300M is the estimated cost to re-start F-22 production.  It would make good sense in light of a looming A$50 billion JSF purchase to pay the cost of re-starting the F-22 production line and purchase new Raptors for the RAAF.  The manufacturer has photographed and documented every part of the production process in order to ensure that production can be re-started.  The reason for this is clear.  Once the fog of marketing propaganda and diplomatic arm twisting has dissipated that material reality will emerge that the US cannot remain relevant in the Pacific without the Raptor.  The JSF and Superhornet are simply not survivable.  When this reality becomes undeniable the F-22 program will be re-started.  It is a ‘when’ question not an ‘if’ question.  Export of the F-22 requires Congressional agreement to a formal request from Australia.  Such a request should have been made years ago and must now be made as a matter of urgency.

I also attach for the Committee’s review correspondence from (then) Air Commodore John Harvey in 2005 which includes the following statement:

“Defence has up to 40 DSTO scientists working full time on detailed technical analysis of the JSF and how it will perform when integrated into the future networked ADF.  In addition, RAAF pilots are involved in high fidelity simulation exercises to assess the capability of the JSF against advances (sic) threats – both from the air and from the ground – including threats that won’t be fielded for many years to come.  All this activity reinforces Defence’s view that the JSF, integrated into the future networked ADF, will provide the air combat capability that Australia needs well into the future.”

This statement reveals an astonishing level of intellectual vacuity that says much about the NACC program office.  Consider the following:

Defence has up to 40 DSTO scientists working full time on detailed technical analysis of the JSF….but none working on any comparison of other aircraft that might perform better against known reference threats.  Note that in 2005 the JSF was still a ‘paper plane’.

…and how it will perform when integrated into the future networked ADF.  Note: “when” not “if”.  So by 2005 Defence had already chosen the JSF. Why?  Why were 40 scientists studying a plane after it had already been selected?  What did they hope to discover?

In addition, RAAF pilots are involved in high fidelity simulation exercises to assess the capability of the JSF against advances (sic) threats ….this is true, and the simulations showed that the JSF was not survivable.  The following is a quote from one of the scientists working on the JSF simulations:

“My colleagues and I do simulations of future military conflict as consultants to international clients, and my colleagues and I have done detailed studies of the JSF F-35A vs Su-35S. The result is clear but stark: the F-35As are annihilated in each engagement. (Note: we did the same work inside Defence using classified data and got the same result—which the Senior Defence Officers noted (up to Chief of Defence Force level), did not challenge, and proceeded with the JSF purchase. So they know the truth.)”[i]

All this activity reinforces Defence’s view that the JSF, integrated into the future networked ADF, will provide the air combat capability that Australia needs well into the future.  So Defence is sees its own enthusiasm for the JSF as proof that it is the right aircraft.  That is the kind of institutionalised groupthink that one would expect to find in a religious cult, not in a professional organisation.

I also draw the Committee’s attention to the statement that the F-22 is three times more expensive than the JSF.  The F-22 is now the cheaper aircraft.

It was in an attempt to cut through this institutionalised irrationality that I spoke to then Defence Minister John Faulkner and presented him with a submission at a community Cabinet in 2009.  In essence I asked him why there was no contestability in the advice given him by Defence on any issue.  He made a personal commitment to me to establish an independent expert reference group to critique Departmental advice on air power issues.  Faulkner failed to do this.  Given that Defence and the NACC program office still refuses to engage with anyone who disagrees with them, including prominent experts within Defence and outside it, it is vitally important in the national interest to get contestability across the board, but most urgently with air power planning.

I can only urge the Committee in the strongest possible terms to make that a key recommendation of the current review.



Tag line: ABC Four Corners Joint Strike Fighter, JSF, Sukhoi, Defence Force Reform, RAAF, Lockheed Martin, Thana Marketing, F-22, stealth fighter, fighter aircraft, networking, Superhornet, air power, Australian defence force.

[i] Wing Commander Chris Mills RAAF (Retd) BSc, MSc, CEO Eagle Vision, simulations representative at REPSIM Pty Ltd, pers comm.

Save the RAAF – it may save you

Sukhoi 35S - the reference threat that the Joint Strike Fighter has never been compared to.
Ever wanted to borrow thousands of dollars to buy a dud aeroplane?  Don’t worry, the government plans to do that on your behalf. 

This debate finally got some traction in the mainstream media with the recent ABC Four Corners program confronting the myths of affordability, performance, and supportability (http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/). This plane will cost upwards of US$35billion and it is already irrelevant and over matched in our region.

This isn't really news. Experts in the air power community have been saying it for years. This issue has taken up a lot of time at the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in their review of the Annual Defence Report, and their earlier review of RAAF air superiority.  As usual, on the one hand the debate featured detailed technical analysis from acknowledged industry experts showing that the Joint Strike Fighter is a gold plated lemon.  On the other hand, the debate featured a series of motherhood statements, shifting goal posts, and appeals to secrecy, from the project proponents and their cheer squad in the Defence Department. Now proponents claim is has a "secret weapon". How convenient. No it doesn't, but it can destroy defence budgets and capabilities across the Western World. Really it is a very expensive form of disarmament.

Special thanks to Dr Dennis Jensen MP, committee member, for his balanced and insightful contribution to the report– and thus devastating critique of the project.  See here for the Committee’s report. 

It is common knowledge in the air power community that the JSF capability was analysed only against baseline late 1980’s/early 1990’s vintage Russian designs, not the modern air power environment of 2020-2030. Tellingly Defence and the project proponents refused point blank to reveal what the reference threats were that the JSF was analysed against. In other words, they refused to reveal the baseline data but demanded we accept their predictions on faith.

I feel that the Committee’s report misrepresents my submission somewhat, though doubtless only for the sake of brevity. It said that I advocating purchase of the F-22 but noted that the F-22 is not available for export.  In fact I spent some time explaining in my submission that the F-22 is available for export but only on request, and only by agreement of Congress.  Yes that is a tall bar.  No, Defence has never explored that option.  Yes, the F-22 was offered to Australia.  I have consistently argued that all alternatives should be explored.  The report also said that I argued for retention of the F-111 but noted that it has been retired from service.  Actually I noted that Defence dug holes and physically buried the F-111.  I included this to provide some history for the Committee on the ongoing attempts by Defence to destroy the RAAF as a war fighting machine and turn it into an expensive flying club – suitable only for counter insurgency operations and benign airpower environments like Afghanistan, oh – and rent seeking defence projects that fail to deliver.

Please read my submission and decide for yourself.  You will find it on the Committee website and their is another submission on this blog spot. You will find a great deal of material on the Air Power Australia website: www.ausairpower.net if you really want to get into the nuts and rivets. Check out Eric Palmer’s blog too.

Tag line: ABC Four Corners, Joint strike fighter, JSF, Lockheed Martin, sukhoi, raptor, F-22, Superhornet, Defence reform, RAAF, new air combat capability, air power, fighter aircraft, stealth fighter.