About Me

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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.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Australia Indonesia Espionage Controversy

For those interested in the recent diplomatic fracas between Australia and Indonesia I would like to offer some perspective.

I was a youth ambassador to Indonesia with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade AIYEP program during the twilight years of the Suharto regime. One of the most important things learned through that experience was the high value placed by Javanese society on the concept of gotong royong. Indonesia’s civic values come from the reality of village life – everyone is interdependent and everyone has to get along. Gotong royong means coming a decision through respectful dialogue with the aim of reaching the broadest possible consensus. The final decision may be made by the village head (Pak Raja) and there may be strong disagreements along the way, but once the decision is made everyone is expected to fall into line and get along. It is rather different from the adversarial approach which developed in the West as a way of mediating unresolvable conflicts between the monarchy, the Parliament, and the different orders of society.

Under Suharto gotong royong was used in a perverse way to stifle dissent (as I am sure the occasional Pak Raja has done too) but although Indonesia is now a democracy gotong royong  remains a core value of the society.

Indonesia doesn’t really care how rude Australians are to one-another. Westerners can’t be expected to behave properly, but Indonesia does expect maturity in international relations – which is why you can’t announce that you are going to “turn the boats around” if the country you are sending them back to hasn’t been part of that discussion as an equal partner.

Abbott is the antithesis of gotong royong. Indonesia had already rebuffed him over boat people. Revelations of phone tapping simply added injury to insult. So what does SBY gain from ramping up the rhetoric? After-all, the relationship is worth half a billion dollars in aid money to Indonesia each year alone.

Well, actually SBY gains a lot. ASEAN countries correctly perceive Australia as North America’s lap dog in Asia. Indonesia is the world’s biggest Muslim country. By humbling America’s lap dog in Asia Indonesia gains status within ASEAN. It says “we are here, we matter, we are a player”. It sends a message to both Australia and the US that Indonesia will not be dictated to. It also sends an important message to Australia: “We matter. You may be Europeans in Asia but you are in Asia and you must do things the Asian way. There is a big country to your North and you need to consider it carefully.” There is also another, perhaps unintended message: “you just elected an amateur for PM.”

In the nearly 20 years since I was in Indonesia Australia’s understanding of that country has grown little. Doubtless many Indonesian villagers still get their perception of Westerners from C grade American television from which they learn that we are all rich, greedy and promiscuous. However the Indonesian elite have grown to understand Australian society very well, mostly by virtue of living and studying here, but also through trade and diplomatic ties, and cultural exchange. They know our pressure points.

Eventually we will return to a reasonable dialogue, and we will all, like squabbling villagers, get busy getting along. SBY will emerge as the Pak Raja who brought the consensus about. Abbott will look foolish even though the spy scandal was none of his making.

In the longer term Indonesia appears to be embarking on a policy of military and diplomatic containment of its troublesome southern neighbour – but first it has to contain Abbott.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Bus in the Bush

When I was little and we had first migrated to Australia we lived in the woods in a bus and a kombi van. It was a place called McGuires Marsh and you can read about that story in my book. After 30 years I went back there. Nothing had really changed. The bus is still there. I found wild deer, a Tasmanian Devil's den, and wombat holes. Surprised a couple of kangaroos but really there was just sun and wind and clouds and grass and a fast running creek, and gum trees stark against the sky.

I have made a picture essay below.

Turning off towards Osterly and the highlands we encounter newly shawn sheep

Three chimneys tell their own story of ambition and loss at Osterly


The farmhouse where we lived. Still sound but the water tank is gone, the fence is broken down, and the flower garden is no more. Not currently lived in.

The bus we lived in at first is still there - near the creek on the edge of the highlands

The bus is now a little worse for wear but the door still opens

Time for a walk across the hills. This is high sheep country but wild deer are also found here.

This tree has seen some seasons come and go

The view from the top - looking back towards the Wellington range and Hobart

 The farm gate where it all began. This trail leads to the Ouse river.

Monday, 14 October 2013

USA Financial Crisis – Lessons, Responses, and Social Engineering in Australia

It would be an understatement to say that the US is having financial difficulties and an overstatement to say that the end is nigh. The US government spends each day significantly more money than it receives in taxes or other revenue. It plugs the gap with borrowings which mostly take the form of bond auctions that are mostly bought by the Chinese. The Americans pay interest on the bonds which is fixed, not by contract, but by the market. In order to meet its interest bills the US sells more debt, that is, it borrows more money.
Think of it like having a credit card, not being able to pay the interest, but then getting another credit card to pay the interest on the first credit card… The technical term for this is ‘bankruptcy’ or ‘insolvency’. Under Australian company law, a firm behaving this way would be wound-up and the directors jailed for insolvent trading. On the other hand if you are the world’s biggest economy with the world’s biggest military you get to write your own rules – to a point. The point at which people stop buying bonds is the point at which the US has to either provide capital to itself (print money) or live within its means.
People are still buying bonds so at the moment the US can continue to borrow from its children by pushing itself into a debt spiral, plus printing money (quantitative easing), plus devaluing its currency and hence the real value of its loans (a subtle form of default).

If this guy was a company director in Australia he would be jailed for insolvent trading.
 Clearly this is unsustainable but the good news is that the fiscal crisis is solvable. If a business cannot pay its debts it sells off assets, cuts costs, and finds ways to increase revenue. There is plenty for Congress to cut back on without increasing the number of homeless. The US spends as much on Offence – ahem, I meant ‘Defence’ as all of the rest of the planet combined. In addition there are vast black budgets for all manner of vaguely security related projects that never see congressional review and are rarely acknowledged. There are nine official security/intelligence agencies – seriously – nine! Then there are the massive bail-outs to the people who caused the GFC. Then there is the ‘global war on terror’, then there is the domestic war on dissent – ahem, I meant ‘homeland security’. Then there are domestic subsidies to uncompetitive industries; then there is vast rorting by defence contractors of which this link provides one example.
The US could halve all of these budgets and still be armed to the teeth. It could then tax the rich, move wealth down to the middle classes to encourage spending and investment, build the economy and pay down debt. It might take 20 years of careful and painful budget management but there is no fundamental reason for the US to go insolvent….but it probably will in some form some-time soon.
The Americans may have put man on the moon but we have health care, and we won the America’s Cup, and we actually know how to do counter insurgency….
What lessons are we in Australia learning from this? To be honest, Aussies tend to be a bit smug about these sorts of things. The Americans may have put man on the moon but we have health care, and we won the America’s Cup, and we actually know how to do counter insurgency…. but we shouldn’t be too smug too soon.
If we dig a little, many of the maladies affecting the US can be found in operation in Australia. Here is a short list:
·         A breakdown in Parliamentary oversight and ministerial accountability for – well – anything at all really.
·         An inefficient taxation system that punishes the middle classes but subsidises the very wealthy.
·         An expensive, incompetent, and corrupt Defence and intelligence bureaucracy.
·         Pointless subsidies to uncompetitive industries (e.g. cars and coal).
·         Loss of productive industries through foreign ownership or unfair foreign competition.
·         Loss of government revenue through privatisation.
·         Excessive foreign ownership of the economy and consequential capital flight.
·         A culture of outsourcing.
·         Failure to invest in education and R&D at levels comparable with the OECD.
·         Blind faith in market mechanisms to solve complex social, economic, and environmental problems, leading for example, to a national housing crisis.
The good news is that we do have a half sensible social security system, compulsory superannuation, affordable health insurance, a better regulated financial system, and though we are highly indebted we do not have a debt crisis.
…crisis is on the way
However crisis is on the way. Treasury and health departments around the country have been warning for two decades that we cannot afford our ageing population. The real economy is shrinking, the tax base is shrinking, and our economy, from cars to call centres to higher education, is being outsourced. The true impact of this has been camouflaged somewhat by the mining boom but won’t be for ever. On the mining boom, for every dollar of mineral wealth produced about 11 cents stays in the country. Trans-national corporations pay five per cent tax. In real terms I pay fifty per cent. Basically we are giving away the national wealth for ‘mirrors and beads’. The message from academics and others is clear: our fiscal path is not sustainable.
So what to do? Well, the State has been doing plenty but hasn’t told you what or why. In the short term there have been nasty cuts to higher education, science, and single parents – stuff that Australia’s lumpen proletariat don’t really care about. The longer term stuff is about social engineering….. which is why if you want to stay at home to parent your kids in this country you get really screwed.
My wife isn’t eligible for the Superannuation co-contribution (government subsidy to low income superannuation accounts) because she is not waged. While there is a small tax rebate for families, there is no income splitting for married couples so the tax policy is systemically anti-marriage. The new government will institute a generous paid parental leave scheme – for working women only. Parents who work are eligible for subsidised child care. Parents who save the State this burden and care for their children at home get nothing. When my wife met our (then) local senator to point this out she was told that it was government policy to “encourage” women into the workforce to help the economy. Not for any other reason. When it was suggested that the economy is supposed to be there to support families rather than the other way around she got a look which suggested that two planets had just made contact.
I once attended a briefing by Treasury officials in which the need to increase productivity was explained in these terms: a birth rate of 2.3 per couple is necessary to maintain a stable population. Australia’s birth rate is 1.7. That is not enough productive people to pay for everyone’s retirement so in addition to micro economic reform (aka making it easier to do business within the country), we need to get all the women into the workforce.
At this point I suggested that if women were supported at home to have their babies instead of being forced into the workforce the birth rate might increase. This was followed by a tense silence, like I had farted during a eulogy, and the Treasury official resumed talking as if I wasn’t there.
The other aspect of social engineering is immigration. During the war Australia’s population was seven million. Now it is 23 million, a 300 per cent increase in 60 years. Rudd wanted to increase to 30 million and this has been advocated by business interests. It’s not so much ‘populate or perish’ as ‘grow the economy or perish’. Bottom line: it’s cheaper to import skilled migrants than to support Australian women to be mothers and train their off-spring. Australia’s mothers can work; we’ll put the kids in childcare, and import more workers. I doubt whether those in the Left who spruik multiculturalism as a moral value actually realise that they are serving a neo con business agenda…..but back to tax.
Australians like the good life but we expect fiscal conservatism from our leaders – and we punish those we perceive as borrowing too much. In Australia a borrower like Obama would simply not have got elected; so how to plug the fiscal gap? Australia is a vastly wealthy country but most of it heads off-shore to line the pockets of the already vastly wealthy. The answer touted by business via various think tanks and research institutes is to increase GST (Goods and Services Tax currently ten per cent) by half as much again and become a high taxing nation – but only for those in the middle. Heaven forbid we keep our national wealth at home.
New models of 'family' may better serve the economy of the future
The traditional, some would say God given, model of family is now at odds with our socially engineered economic model.
All this tax is of course inflationary and puts further pressure on families. One solution is to re-model the family to better serve the economy.  A strong traditional family unit in which economic interests are subordinate to moral and social interests is potentially more resistant to economic control. Better to have isolated units of production and consumption – a largely androgynous society, in which sex is entertainment, relationships are disposable, and children are raised by the next ‘significant care giver.’ There is increasing tension and incompatibility between the traditional, some would say God given, model of family and our socially engineered economic model. Enter gay marriage.
Now for the first time in the history of Western Civilisation we are being conditioned to believe that ‘mother’ ‘father’ ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are redundant concepts and any ‘significant other’ will do as parent, even if the ‘significant other’ is fairly transitory.  In this context gay marriage – something that a minority within a minority group of two per cent of the population want - suddenly becomes important. That’s not because it’s a social justice issue.  The marginalisation of GLBT people has always been a social justice issue with multiple complex facets. Rather the “marriage equality” issue is a wedge that can drive a broader social agenda to tear down traditional models.
Australia weathered the previous GFC pretty well – but our Keynesian response cost us our national savings. We are now poorly position to weather another global storm. Should the US debt debacle result in a melt-down in the near future expect more radical ‘solutions’ from the business think tanks – but don’t expect them to look out for your family.
Tag line: US financial crisis, debt crisis, Tea Party debt, Obama Debt, marriage equality, Goods and Services Tax increase, US treasuries, US bonds, Abbott paid parental leave scheme, FEMA, martial law in US

Monday, 7 October 2013

Election 2013 - is there Life Under Abbott?

Why Labor and the Left Lost the Unlosable Election

Labor and the Left lost.

World heritage areas and national parks are no longer safe, marine reserves may be repealed, environmental protections will be gutted, renewable energy will be targeted in favour of coal, climate science has been junked, the Great Barrier Reef is in jeopardy; chainsaws are revving up for a final assault on Tasmania’s forest strongholds. Environmentalists and other truth speakers will be purged from the civil service.

Election night - Abbott wins the election for the Tories

This should have been the unlosable election for progressives. Under a Labor government Australia weathered the GFC better than any other nation in the OECD. We kept a AAA credit rating. We tackled carbon and the sky didn’t fall in, costs didn’t skyrocket and our industries didn’t close. In fact lots of people got jobs in renewable energy and our superfunds invested in them. True, Labor was taking water over 'boat people' but then Labor Prime Minister Kevin, in a tactically brilliant move, pulled the rug out from under Abbott and sent them all the PNG. So why did Abott win?

The talking heads have dissected every tactical error in the Labor campaign but ignored the deeper issues. As someone whose social circle includes political candidates for both the Greens and Family First; my lesbian neighbours, the politically correct, Liberal voting business men, and conservative evangelicals, I would like to offer an explanation.

Basically, Australian’s don’t like Wowsers. In the early days of settlement (OK invasion for those on the Left), we had Wowsers. They were usually religious people who harboured a great personal horror at the thought that someone somewhere might be having a good time. They preached against drinking, whoring and gambling, and exhorted husbands to be faithful. In short, they were regarded as a pain the arse.

No one listens to religious people much in Australia any more but nature abhors a vacuum and the Left has rushed to fill it. Let me put it this way:

What if urban working class blue collar red neck Australia doesn’t want multiculturalism - or at least object to the wholesale taking over of suburbs by defined ethnic groups? What if many Australians don’t want gay marriage? What if people actually want the freedom to speak their mind without being reported on, fined, reprimanded, or sacked? What if people don’t want homosexuality promoted as a life style choice through the school system? What if most people deep down would prefer Caucasions to remain a statistical majority? What if people wanted recidivist sex offenders jailed for life or shot? What if most Australians just don’t want more refugees or other migrants flooding into the poorer parts of crowded cities? What if some migrants' cultural values (wife burning and clitorectomy for example) are not in-fact compatible with our values? What if some people think that being a mother is as valid as being an employee? What if we all did become human at some time prior to passing through the birth canal? Is it OK to encourage mothers to have their babies instead of aborting them? What if closing down an entire industry in the top-end and pissing off a well-armed and hungry nation of more than 200 million people to satisfy some animal rights activists wasn’t very smart?  What if some people are really worried about their teenage kids if drugs are legalised? Are people who hold those views bad people?

According to the Left they are. And that’s why the Left lost.

It’s not so much that the educated middle classes have a different set of values from most Aussies. It is that they are utterly condescending and disparaging in the way they put their values forward. Forget dialogue. Forget respect. Having received an electoral thumping the Greens have just discovered that being ‘right’ doesn’t get you elected, being popular does. Forgot to listen - whoops!

The majority of Australians would relate to most if not all of what I just wrote. To them it’s common sense. For them there is a real sense that we are losing our country, losing our morals, and losing our way. Who is ‘right’ and whether these things are objectively true is beside the point.

To make the divide greater those who implement policy seldom have to live with the consequences of it. Blue collar workers have no choice but to live with, or be pushed out by, migrants with whom they compete for jobs. The latte set don’t have to put up with ethnic gangs, are safe in their suburbs, and would never send their kids to public schools filled with ethnic students. When the Northern Territory cattle industry was decimated no-one in the Australian Public Service lost their job.

This divide climaxed recently with the proposal by human rights lawyer and refugee advocate Julian Burnside that Australia’s entire refugee intake should be housed in the Island State of Tasmania. He reasoned that Tasmania started out as one big penal colony so why not send all of Australia’s refugee boat arrivals there? We are talking anywhere up to fifty thousand traumatised people in a State of half a million centred around two large towns. Having dropped that bomb shell Julian flew home to his wealthy urban life. Hmmm. Didn’t seem to have occurred to him that Tasmanians may not want to become again another vast penal colony, or that the social fabric is already stretched, or that we would need to build a whole new hospital, or that we might have spent a hundred years trying to break free from the past.

Tamania is home to many refugees from many places, as well as economic migrants like my parents who emigrated from the UK. Migrants are a welcome and valuable part of our community. There are practical limits though to any society's capacity to absorb large numbers of people from other cultures. Julian is entitled to his views – it’s just that he doesn’t live here and he didn’t ask anyone.  See here.

Not to be outdone local Greens leader Nick McKim then rushed off to his Party to endorse Julian’s suggestion as party policy. That’s OK, it’s just that he is a member of Cabinet and a leader in a coalition government that is ‘on the nose’ and, um, he didn’t consult with the community first.

So where to from here? If we want to build a civil society, whether from the left or the right we need to stop lecturing and start building bridges. We need to care as much about boorish beer swilling blue collar working people as we do about refugees. It’s going to be tough. The Green movement is going to have to abandon the Greens and their social agenda and campaign again as a-political patriotic Australians for the environment. The Left are going to have to BBQ some sacred cows and the right are going to have to grow up and realise that the 'market' isn't going to solve our problems on its own. The market is after all about maximising private profit which is not a benevolent activity.

The Greens can represent the far far left if they want to, but in so doing they need to accept the reality that eighty per cent of Australians will never vote for them. However eighty per cent of Australians still care about the environment and about climate change. Right now Australia needs a movement for the environment from across the political spectrum, not just a manifestation of the social left which is today's environmental movement.

Tag line: Julian Burnside Tasmanian refugee proposal, asylum seeker policy, Christine Milne election, Tony Abbott climate change, Labor election 2013, secondary boycott laws, SLAPP, Greens human rights, gay marriage, marriage equality,

Monday, 30 September 2013

Why Environmentalists Should Care about Defence

So why have I just posted five articles on Australia’s vulnerability to invasion on a left leaning environmentalist blog? The answer quite simply, is that you can only protect what you can defend; be it the environment, human rights, or any other value.


On the rare occasions that environmentalists talk about Defence it is usually in an eye rolling ‘I can’t believe they spend so much money on this stuff for no reason’ kind of way. This is usually followed by concerns over disposal of toxic stuff (aircraft fuel, depleted uranium rounds, spent nuclear rods etc), the effects of sonar on whales, and sometimes a grudging aside that the military can be helpful in disaster relief because they have lots of helicopters…and that’s about it. This was, more or less, the response I got from Christine Milne when I spoke to her recently at a celebration of the World Heritage Area extension, (that’s the one Abbott wants to repeal, and which environmentalists have been fighting for since 1973). The Greens have a Defence Policy but it is really just a statement of principles and lacks any real substance.

Underlying this intellectual sloth is a kind of unspoken assumption that if we (rich Western people) were nicer to the rest of the world wars wouldn’t happen, so we wouldn’t need to worry about defence. Didn’t work so well for the Celts when the Romans showed up, or too well for the Romans when the Goths showed up but hey…. After spending five years trying to even talk to any Green politician about Defence without success I have given up.

With all respect to the eco-anarchists, if you want national parks, marine reserves, restrictions on extractive activity etc, you need a nation state that is able and willing to enforce those restrictions. It really doesn’t matter how many marine reserves Australia declares in the Coral Sea, if there is no naval presence, international fishing interests will just keep fishing.

War is indeed unhealthy for children and other living things but war is a fact. In 1985 an Indonesian official bluntly asked Kim Beazley what Australia would do if Indonesia invaded Papua New Guinea. Beazley to his credit said that we would fight to the last man. A key reason why Indonesia did not invade PNG, and did not send its army against UN forces in Timor Leste, is because we had the F-111 bomber (that was so beloved of Beazley). Now we don’t and on current trends Australia will not be able to defend PNG in 2030. What of human rights? What of PNG’s super diverse environment? Why do the Greens and the Left generally oppose Australia having an offensive military capability? What exactly do they think will happen?

Facing no serious military threat to their existence most Western nations now see military matters in terms of policing, and coalition operations against developing nations. Australia does not have that luxury. It’s an uncomfortable and unacknowledged truth that the greatest threat to our natural treasures may not be global warming, but Javanese expansionism. Invasion is the ultimate form of privatisation. War is trade by other means.

So is there any real possibility that the Javanese empire (aka Indonesia) could extend their transmigration program to Australia, or as Indonesian generals prefer to call it “Iryan Selatan” or “South Iryan”? The future intentions of any nation, and the Javanese in-particular, are inscrutable. What the preceding five articles show is that, on current trends, invasion is possible. If we do not build a defence force that provides a reasonable power balance, we put at risk both ourselves and the smaller countries to our north and east. It’s time the Left and the Greens in-particular grew up, left the ideological sand-pit, and started dealing with the world as it really is.

Indonesian special forces with the bodies of the GAM guerrillas they killed. Photogaph taken near Nasi Besar Island in May 2003. While Australian politicians and Defence bureaucrats play their little games, the Indonesians play for real.

Tag line: Greens security policy, Christine Milne, Australian defence policy, pacifism, ABRI, TNI, transmigration, human rights Iryan Jaya, human rights Timor Leste, F-111 bomber, PNG security, Pacifc Rim security and strategic policy.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Deterring Invasion – towards an evidence-based defence strategy for Australia

The previous four articles considered how Australia would fare in a war with Indonesia circa 2030 based on current trends. These articles found that Australia would be convincingly defeated in a high tempo conventional war based on known facts and reasonable projections. Further, the assumptions in the articles were weighted in Australia’s favour and did not allow for the likely proliferation of stealth fighters, cruise missiles and ISR capabilities across South East Asia.

This article considers what, in light of this, the ADF needs in order to deter regional aggression and to ensure victory in the event of open conflict with our northern neighbour.


PAK-FA deadlier than anything in the Western air inventory except the F-22. Arriving in our backyard soon.

Structural Change

After a decade of wasted opportunities and tragic bungles Defence is now demonstrably incapable of evidence based rational defence planning or acquisition. A recent list of debacles includes:

  • retiring the F-111 based on known untruths about its maintainability;
  • ordering the Joint Strike Fighter without reference to price, delivery schedule, capability, or reference threats;
  • ordering the Superhornet as a gap filler without reference to capability or reference threats;
  • repeating known untruths to Parliament;
  • repeating known untruths to the Minister;
  • failing to maintain the Collins submarines in a reasonable state of operational readiness;
  • failing to acknowledge the existence of Russian and Chinese stealth aircraft; and
  • ordering anti-submarine torpedoes from a European consortium but failing to check that the instruction manuals were in English.
While some of these decisions were ultimately made by government they were made based on advice from, and in some cases long running campaigns by, the Defence bureaucracy.

In the short term this institutionalised incompetence and intellectual vacuity can be turned around only if independent expert boards reporting to the Minister and to Parliament are established to critique Defence analysis, and provide alternative analysis, questions, and direction.

In the longer term the current leadership of Defence needs to be replaced with individuals with relevant technical qualifications and operational experience. There have been numerous reports into how to better structure Defence, a discussion of which is beyond the scope of this blog.


Depicted is a consequence of replacing analysis with supposition - the Fall of Singapore

Air Power

Ultimately choosing an air power platform is a matter for experts but some observations can be made here. The evolved Sukhoi is now the baseline for air power in the Asia Pacific. The only aircraft that can reliably shoot down a late model evolved Sukhoi is a late model evolved Sukhoi. In a rational universe the RAAF would be crying-out for large numbers of these affordable aircraft, and to be a follow on customer for the Indo/Russian PAK-FA stealth version of that aircraft. Indeed, in the ‘stealth on stealth’ multipolar world of coming decades only nations with stealth aircraft in the class of the PAK-FA, J-22 or F-22 can guarantee their security without a nuclear deterrence. The JSF has no relevance to this environment (see further here and here). Air Power Australia cites a loss exchange ratio of 50 'legacy' aircraft including the Superhornet for one PAK-FA. The loss exchange ratio against the JSF is quoted as exceeding 4:1 in favour of the PAK-FA. (Note that this analysis is now a little dated and the known deficiencies in the JSF program will push the exchange ratio higher in favour of the PAK-FA).

However it seems that for emotional and diplomatic reasons no one in the Defence community and no Australian government will ever buy military equipment from Russia.

The American F-22 Raptor is in many respects the superlative combat aircraft of our time enjoying all aspect stealth, thrust vectoring, and a respectable weapons load. Unfortunately production was stopped short of  200 units. Even if Australia were to acquire some, supportability would become an issue in the longer term unless the Americans were to re-start the assembly line and commence building significant numbers of these aircraft. Who knows whether this will happen, and time is running out to replace the RAAF’s legacy Hornets.

As noted previously, neither the Joint Strike Fighter nor the Superhornet are survivable in the air power environment of the Asia Pacific now, far less in 2030. For some recent 'Deep Throat' revelations on the Joint Strike Fighter that were published in Vanity Fair, see here.

That leaves Australia with a choice of the F-15 series which is still in production (Korea purchased the F-15K), and the Euro canards. The F-15 is not a match for the Sukhoi but is a twin engine Mach 2+ modern combat aircraft. In sufficient numbers it could make life difficult for Indonesian Sukhois, more so if recent difficulties with the standard USAF air-to-air missile (AIM-120 series) are fixed.

Of the Euro canards there are three. Of these one stands out for affordability, sustainability, and a growth path that includes supercruise (the capacity for sustained supersonic flight without the use of afterburners). That is the Swedish JAS Gripen which also has the distinction of being able to land and take-off on short strips of road, and maintain a high tempo of operation. One of the attractions of the Euro canards is the superiority of European air-to-air missiles over those carried by US aircraft. See further http://www.saabgroup.com/en/Air/Gripen-Fighter-System/

For countries with limited budgets mobile surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs) provide an affordable force multiplier to aircraft. When integrated with ground based radar, AEWACs and fighter planes, you have what is called an ‘integrated air defence system’ or ‘IADS’. This is the smartest and most affordable approach for defence of Australia’s military and economics assets across the north – far more so than investing in very expensive air warfare destroyers.

So on my reckoning an effective RAAF could field 72 JAS Gripen from hardened air fields and dispersed runways across northern Australia in addition to around 36 twin engine interceptors. Ideally these would be the PAK-FA or if circumstances allowed, the F-22. If neither of these is possible the next best option is the F-15. These would be supplemented by mobile SAM systems protecting land forces, military bases, airfields, and key industrial assets. This force is affordable, deployable, available, flexible and deadly.

What about the Superhornets and JSF? Australia is committed to the purchase of 14 JSF. Since that aircraft has no operational relevance, the best thing we could do is sell them back to the Americans at half the price and claw back some money. The Superhornets on the other hand could occupy niche roles. As a naval platform they are designed for naval strike and could be fielded in that role. They might also fill a role in tanker and AEWACs escort. As a second tier ‘second day of war’ plane they could usefully be tasked to the close air support role. This would help fill some gaps in the ADF force structure, namely lack of modern artillery, lack of land missiles, and lack of armour. They could conceivably come under command of the Australian Army.

Sea Power

The defence of Australia will occur on, over, and under the shallow waters to our north. That requires investment in 8-10 ‘off the shelf’ conventional European subs based in Northern Australia. If Australia wishes to obtain a capability to engage in military operations in the Northern hemisphere or to hold at risk sea lanes far afield for extended periods, an ‘off-the-shelf’ purchase of the US Virginia class nuclear attack submarine fills that niche with none of the expense and risk of a home built/modified machine. A combined force of conventional and nuclear subs allows Australia to operate each capability to its maximum advantage. Further, if one platform develops a problem the whole fleet is not lost. Investment in a capable submarine force and capable air force obviates the need for expensive surface combat vessels. The Air Warfare Destroyers should be sold off. Australia’s need in surface vessels is primarily for anti-submarine warfare and border protection which calls for modern frigates.

Land Power

To a large extent investment in a capable submarine force and capable air force means savings can be made to land forces as well, if it is assumed that invasion could be stopped short of Australian soil. However it is self-evident that ongoing support is needed to see the ADF land forces ‘hardened and networked’. Further investment in C3I capability will be needed to fully realise the potential of new and existing ADF platforms.

It would make good sense in light of planned acquisitions by the TNI to replace the oldest ASLAVs with a wheeled platform that carries either a tank killing artillery piece or capable anti-tank missiles. This would also add useful capabilities to counter insurgency operations.


Italian light tank – one of several tank killing platforms that would be relevant to Australia.

In addition to an integrated air defence system, it is time defence planners thought seriously about mobile air defence for deployed ADF land forces using a platform such as Pantsyr . The days of assumed air superiority and battlefield intelligence superiority are over.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

If defence acquisition continues as presently planned, or goes in the direction advocated by the Left, Australia will have no conventional means to stop coercive diplomacy or invasion. In that event our choices are few and unpleasant. Nations like Syria or Norway that cannot deter a more powerful aggressor through conventional means have two choices. One is an armed population organised around mass popular resistance supported by a small professional army that can imbed itself in the population. That is the option Norway has chosen. The other is to invest in WMD – biological, chemical, and nuclear agents in order to deter an aggressor. That is the path taken by Syria and Pakistan. I am not advocating either option. I am just pointing out that this is the only alternative for nations unwilling or unable to field a credible military capability. Australia is currently one of those nations.

The good news is that Australia can build a flexible and affordable force capable of safeguarding regional stability – but it can only do so if it considers the evidence.


As a middle ranking power Canada has similar defence challenges to Australia but the level of debate and public engagement is much higher. For a detailed analysis of comparative aircraft options see these well researched articles:

Those looking for Australian content will find more on this blog here:

and here

For further analysis on an alternative path for the ADF see the following sponsored links:

Tag line: Australian military strategy, Australian army, network and harden ADF, Land 117, JSF RAAF, Superhornet RAAF, Joint Strike Fighter Pacific, Defence force reform, TNI, ABRI, Indonesian military.



Monday, 23 September 2013

How Australia Lost the War of 2030 - Conclusion

The previous three articles considered how Australia would fare in a war with Indonesia circa 2030 based on current trends. These articles found that Australia would be convincingly defeated in a high tempo conventional war based on known facts and reasonable projections.


Does nasty things to Joint Strike Fighters – the Indo/Russion PAK-FA

Despite the warnings of academics and subject matter experts Defence and a revolving door of Defence Ministers continue to live in a fantasy land. In this parallel reality the Joint Strike Fighter is a superlative combat aircraft that can defeat all future threats, the TNI is a primitive third world force – the kind that we defeated in Iraq but less equipped. Russia is still the enemy and Russian equipment is always inferior. The army is only really needed for low intensity conflicts in far-away places, not for national defence; and our real security lies in the US alliance. Indonesia is a future ally against China not a peer threat. None of these beliefs are true. However they have resulted in an acquisition path which will leave Australia unable to project force, defend its near neighbours or guarantee its national sovereignty. Further, that path is not fiscally sustainable so further inadequacies are inevitable.


A plane for pilots to die in – the Joint Strike Fighter

The Left of Australian society are even more disconnected from reality when it comes to defence issues. They see the strategic environment of the next three decades as essentially benign. A senior policy analyst for a central government agency once told me that if Australia spent more on foreign aid it wouldn’t need a military. While regional instability is sometimes acknowledged it is assumed that Australia’s role is to assist in policing or UN stabilisation missions, and to offer a home to the human overflow that washes up on our shores. The lessons of World War Two have been entirely forgotten.

 In this context Australian defence planning is exactly where it was in 1938. Then it was assumed that Asians were racially inferior, could never develop a military capability to defeat Western nations, and no one would dare to attack both the British Empire and American interests in the Pacific. Consequently Australia ignored the military rise of Japan and invested in irrelevant and out dated military capabilities. As a result we came close to being overrun.

 Today South East Asia is in the grip of an arms race, fuelled in part by the rise of China. This arms race is not a temporary shopping spree but a long term trend towards developing modern, balanced and supported military forces fielding world’s best equipment. The fact is that poor countries can develop formidable military capabilities very quickly. Australia has proven itself unable to do so, but continues to invest in irrelevant platforms like the Joint Strike Fighter while assuming that no one would ever threaten Western allies in the Pacific. This reveals an underlying racism in Defence’s attitude to regional capabilities. As a result we have a gold plated train wreck with potentially tragic consequences.

The scenario modelled in the previous articles is weighted heavily in Australia’s favour. In coming decades South East Asian nations will invest in top tier ISR capabilities including UAVs, and air borne early warning and control aircraft that are equivalent or superior to Australia’s Wedgetail. Cruise missiles will be standard inventory items, may be manufactured locally under licence, and may include stealth features. Existing Sukhoi customers such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam will in coming decades be flying the PAK-FA stealth fighter which comprehensively defeats every aircraft in the Western World except the F-22. China will be mass manufacturing a larger navalised stealth fighter bomber the J-20, which also comprehensively defeats every aircraft in the Western World except the F-22. As mentioned previously, the F-22 is out of production – shut down to release more funds for the Cuckoo in the defence funding nest – the Joint Strike Fighter.

 In the next post I consider an alternative path. This path provides Australia with an affordable, supportable, and balance military that can counterbalance the exponential growth in regional capabilities.

Tag line: Australian defence strategy, Joint Stike Fighter, TNI, ABRI, Sukhoi, PAK-FA, T-50, J-20, stealth aircraft, Pacific Rim defence, Defence White Paper

Thursday, 19 September 2013

How Australia Lost the War of 2030 - Part 3

The Land War

In a previous article I speculated that global financial difficulties could impose severe hardship on poor countries that are not self-sufficient in food or fuel. This could, given the right circumstances, lead to war on our doorstep and even invasion.

While no one knows the future we can make real world predictions about how a conflict with our northern neighbour might play out based on the current known strategy and the military acquisition paths of both nations.  In the previous two articles I examined the air war and then the sea war. These articles found that Australia would lose convincingly in a conflict with the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) on current trends post 2030. This article considers the subsequent land war in this scenario.

Force the surrender of opposing ground forces

Let’s for a moment take air power out of the equation. Perhaps both sides have air parity, or perhaps Australia has invested in mobile surface to air missile systems that provide theatre air cover for the army (NB: there are no current plans to do so). How do the ground forces stack up?


The primary weapon of ground forces is the main battle tank. Australia has 59 second hand American Abrams main battle tanks. Due to budget constraints some have recently been put into storage. Indonesia has or will acquire between 100 and 200 ex NATO Leopard tanks of similar vintage. The two are roughly equivalent since both were designed to defeat Soviet armour. Either way, Australia is outnumbered close to 2:1 or 4:1. Without tanks, any other armour Australia has is irrelevant unless Australia were to invest in another tank killing platform such as the Italian light tank when it considers replacing the older ASLAVs. [Ed note: since this was written Indonesia has signed a contract with Germany for purchase of 103 Leopard tanks and associated equipment and has begun taking delivery. This is in addition to its existing inventory of light armour.]


Australia is currently taking delivery of a fleet of 22 'Tiger' helicopter gunships. These are significant force multipliers carrying two anti-tank missiles each in addition to rockets and cannon. Indonesia currently has no such capability but is on the market for helicopter gunships including the American Apache. That’s an interesting choice because the Apache is a dedicated tank killer designed from the outset to defeat massed attacks by Soviet armour. In other words, you only buy an Apache if you want to engage in nation state conflicts with countries that own main battle tanks. In the local context, that means Australia and Malaysia.

Note that helicopters are not survivable in a contested air environment and Australian helicopters would be easy prey to opposing combat aircraft including ground attack aircraft of which Indonesia intents to own 80 – 36 Hawker, 12 F5E, 16 Tucano and 16 Yak aircraft.


The Apache attack helicopter being sought by the TNI


Australia has replaced its towed artillery but has put on-hold investment in modern mobile artillery/rocket systems. Indonesia is pressing ahead with modern investments in this area including the French Caesar system. The Caesar long range mobile artillery system being acquired by TNI. Australia has no equivalent. See further here


Australia has 80,000 infantry including reserves. Reliable statistics for the TNI are difficult to come by but it appears Indonesia has around 470,000 soldiers of which at least 180,000 are ‘front line’ professional soldiers. Depending on how many troops can be moved and how many needs stay at home we get odds of between 2:1 and 5:1 which doesn’t sound particularly promising. Currently Australian infantry have better night vision and communications equipment but the TNI is developing better capabilities in this area and has only to equip a fifth of its infantry to match then outnumber, the ADF. Being numerically inferior is not a problem if you have superiority in tanks, armoured vehicles and aircraft. However if you only have parity then you have a serious problem. If you are overmatched, you lose.


TNI Marines in combat – Indonesia has a large professional army

Sustainability and supply chain

It is an open secret that the ADF lacks depth in sustainment. What that means is that we don’t have enough reserves of fuel, ammunition, spare parts, technically trained personal, and human infrastructure to sustain a high intensity conflict aka open war.

Rather we are trained and equipped for counter insurgency and coalition operations. We use stuff up and then replace it. Our capacity for sustained national defence against a determined aggressor with modern weapons is doubtful.

Australia is beginning to address this through investments to ‘network and harden’ our land forces. Essentially this is a rolling series of programs to replace and upgrade transport vehicles and communications equipment. If future governments continue to commit substantial funding to this process it will yield results in the 2020 - 2040 time frame but it won’t happen without bi-partisan support.

The TNI on the other hand has its own challenges. Logistically hundreds of vehicles and nearly half a million people are not easily coordinated, supplied, and moved over water. A very substantial naval transport infrastructure would have to be assembled. However Indonesia is developing its blue water capability including capacity for beach landings. A maritime nation with thousands of islands would be expected to do so. It is not cause for alarm but does require careful monitoring. Also, once a base was established on Australian soil the 64 Hercules transport aircraft Indonesia intends to buy could move a lot of kit very quickly. In all likelihood, if the TNI gained air superiority they would cross either the Timor Sea or, having first taken Papua New Guinea and established a forward base, cross the Coral Sea to the eastern side of Cape Tribulation North Queensland. They can ignore Darwin, bomb our northern bases, but move their land forces down the east coast of Australia, establishing military bases and supplying them by sea as they go.


Indonesian soldiers during combat operations in Ache. I once went shooting with guys like these at a target range in Ambon – about which you can read more in my book.

What Happens After ‘Ten’?

We started with the ten points of modern warfare. Number ten was “Disarm surrendered forces and send them home (or massacre them).”

There is no need to speculate about what would happen in Australia if the TNI were to take control. East Timor and Iryan Jaya provide real world examples. The TNI’s habit of ignoring Islamic violence against minorities within Indonesia should also provide a clue. I will spare the detail. It’s not hard to google.

This is not an alarmist post. Indonesia, like all nations, has a natural right to self-defence. From their perspective they have extremely well-armed neighbours to their West, a large and relatively lawless archipelago that harbours extremists to their north, there are separatist movements in Ache and Iryan Jaya, and they lost East Timor following an invasion by UN forces led by Australia. In addition Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic country. They are concerned by the rise of atheist China in Asia and by the US habit of invading Muslim countries on false pretexts without UN support. They have 13000 islands and hundreds of ethnic groups to manage. It is unsurprising that they are investing in a capacity for shore landings, submarines, a mobile professional army, and affordable combat aircraft.

What is needed in our region is a reasonable balance of forces. This can be done affordably and without offence by Australia if rational policy decisions are allowed to replace rent seeking within the Defence bureaucracy. This is the topic of my next and subsequent posts.


Tag line:  Australian army, TNI, Indonesian military capability, GAM Ache, network and harden ADF, Australian Abrams tanks, Australian defence policy, Australian and strategic defence policy.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Defence Force Pornography Meets the Real World - part 2 of 'how Australia lost the war of 2030'

Part 2 - the Sea War

In a previous article I speculated that global financial difficulties could impose severe hardship on poor countries that are not self-sufficient in food or fuel. This could, given the right circumstances, lead to war on our doorstep and even invasion.

Most recently Dr Robert O’Neill of the Australian National University Strategic and Defence Studies Centre warned of a “growing threat from large nations with huge populations but diminishing food and resources.” See here.

While no one knows the future we can make real world predictions about how a conflict with our northern neighbour might play out based on the current known strategy and the military acquisition paths of both nations. 

The first article considered the air war and found that, based on a review of the open source technical literature; the RAAF would be wiped out by the Indonesian forces in little time. This article considers the sea war.

These pictures show what happens when a medium sized vessel such as a frigate or an air warfare destroyer is hit with a torpedo. Similar results are obtained with air launched anti ship missiles.

Take Control of Strategic Sea Approaches

With the RAAF out of the way (see previous article) Indonesian pilots, while grieving some losses, continue their busy day. The Sukhoi carries the Russian Moskit and the Indo/Russian Brahmos anti-ship missiles. These are released at wave top height just as the Sukhoi pops over the horizon at around 30 nautical miles from the target vessel. The missile advances at supersonic speed allowing just seconds for missile defence systems to track and engage. According to standard Russian military doctrine a number of Sukhoi’s would release salvos to overwhelm ship defences.

Take out RAN surface vessels

No Australian vessel could realistically survive a sustained aerial assault in this fashion. Our air warfare destroyers are not designed to. The AWDs were developed as a force multiplier to operate under continuous air cover, either from shore based aircraft, or as part of an aircraft carrier battle group. In this scenario their powerful tracking radars and long range missiles provide theatre defence while friendly aircraft patrol against sneak attacks. A couple of vessels sitting like ducks in the open ocean without air cover are highly exposed. They have to contend against ‘pop-up’ attacks from just over the horizon that render their radar effectively useless because no radar can track a target once it retreats back below the horizon.

The critical issue therefore in this engagement is who sees who first. If the Indonesian pilots flying at height are picked up by the AWD’s they will likely be shot down. However, once they get a fix on where the AWD is, an attack can be coordinated. Some aircraft losses are acceptable if the RAN can be wiped out. Getting a fix on the AWDs is a matter of coordinating HUMINT, SIGINT, ELINT, submarine tracking, and direct observation from air patrols. Air power may also be supplemented by up to 10 Indonesian frigates which may well be armed with the cutting edge Indo/Russian Brahmos missile.

In all likelihood with the RAAF wiped out, the AWDs will park themselves as close as possible to northern military bases, or to population centres such as Cairns, in an attempt to provide some sort of air defence. They would be observed and informed on pretty quickly and Indonesian forces deployed accordingly. For a recent article on the AWDs see here.

Submarines – what submarines?

With RAN surface vessels sunk the only military impediment to a seaborne invasion is then Australia’s submarine fleet -at this point queue derisive laughter. Officially Australia will build 12 state of the art bespoke long range, quiet conventional submarines. These will lurk around key waterways, discharging special-forces and raining cruise missiles on our enemies, before slipping away. That is Department of Defence pornography. In the real world the RAN is struggling to crew six vessels. How they will crew the new air warfare destroyers and another six submarines is an open and unanswered question. Submarine crews are not easy to find.

In the last 30 years Australia has proven itself unable to build or maintain an operational submarine force capable of sustained engagement in a high intensity conflict. That is the politest possible way to say it. On one occasion the entire fleet was laid up for repairs. By 2030 our current fleet will either be retired or struggling to maintain operational readiness. The obvious solution of purchasing an off-the shelf replacement fleet has been ruled out in favour of a make-work welfare program for Australia’s domestic industry. There is no reason to believe therefore that by 2030 (or at any future time) Australia will have a credible submarine force. Indonesia in contrast has only two submarines currently but will increase their fleet to between six and ten quiet conventional off-the shelf vessels. See further here: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/Submarines-for-Indonesia-07004/


Large, expensive, and seldom operational – Australia’s Collins class submarine

Australian defence planners feel the need to have a machine that can take part in coalition operations in the northern hemisphere, and, seeing lots of water around Australia, see a need for a machine with great range and endurance. That means bigger, costlier and noisier and hence less survivable subs. Indonesia sees things rather differently. Without global ambition the shallow seas of the island arc to Australia’s north are perfectly suited to submarine warfare by small quiet European and Russian subs. Quite affordable. Very deadly. No problem.

What About Stealth?
In all likelihood Indonesia will acquire the stealth version of the Sukhoi, known as the PAK-FA, within relevant time-frames. This aircraft is a joint project between India and Russia designed for export and to compete with the American F-22 stealth fighter. It will be a natural follow-on purchase for local Sukhoi customers - Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

The PAK-FA is a genuine stealth design meaning that it will be invisible to ship borne radar, including the aegis radar on Australia's Air Warfare Destroyers.
In order to remain undetected by radar all ordinance must be carried internally which will likely preclude carriage of anti-ship missiles. However the PAK-FA will carry guided bombs which can be released from altitude above the target vessel. Effective stealth means that the TNI will be able to largely replicate the very successful strategy used by the Americans in the Pacific win WWII in which Dauntless dive bombers devastated Japanese combat vessels. Curiously Defence has made no public acknowledgement of the existence of the PAK-FA that I am aware of despite wide publicity surrounding trials of mature prototypes.

The details of using stealth aircraft in the naval strike role are discussed here http://www.ausairpower.net/Raptor-ASuW.html

In the multi-polar stealth-on-stealth world of the Pacific Rim circa 2025 purchasing air warfare destroyers is about as sensible as investing in more cavalry before the outbreak of WWII.

Bomb Everything…

With the Australian airforce and navy out of the way expect a deadly bombing campaign. I will spare you the technical detail. Modern combat aircraft carry lots and lots of nasty things that fall from the sky. As Saddam Hussein discovered, ground forces cannot survive long if the enemy owns the skies. The Australian Army has no indigenous air defence apart from the RBS 70 shoulder fired missile.  This weapon is designed for point defence against helicopters and poses no threat to tactical aircraft. After a few days of bombardment the Australian army would be forced to retreat south or surrender. Most likely they would pull back to Sydney out of Sukhoi range. Given sufficient will they might attempted ‘scorched earth’ and then use guerrilla tactics to try and interrupt the TNI’s supply line. On any scenario, Northern Australia will be over-run. Once over-run the TNI can build or capture airfields to provide deeper air cover to their advancing forces.

Next article: what happens to the army – how do we fare fighting on our own soil?

Indonesian Marines conducting a beach landing during combat duty in Ache

For further reading on the debacle that passes for a sea power strategy these days I recommend the following sponsored link: http://newaustralia.net/defence_navy.html
For some visuals of what a TNI army/marine force looks like see here.

Tag line: TNI, ABRI, Royal Australian Navy, RAN, naval strategy, Collins submarine, Air Warfare Destroyers, replacing the Collins, Indonesian military build up, Brahmos missile, Australian defence vulnerability, Pacrim security.