Abbott to acquire $12.4 billion jets

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced last week his Government will purchase new jet fighters to boost Australia’s air defence capability. Australia will spend $12. 4 billion for 58 Texan-built F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter jets.

Boasting the fighter planes’ capability, the prime minister gave some specs: a top speed of 1960km/h, fire air-to-air missiles, guided bombs and a cannon using the most sophisticated avionics and sensors.

F-35 is built on the premise that “it will see first, shoot first and kill first,” according to a phrase from a US Pentagon official in charge of their development.

Abbott said Australia is sure to dominate the skies when another war breaks out. “You just don’t know what’s around the corner,” he was quoted as saying.

He defended the decision by citing Australia’s past war-readiness and military capability such as the 1990 coup d’état in East Timor, the 1999 invasion of Iraq, and the decade-long military commitment in Afghanistan from 2002.

in a joint press release, the prime minister and the Minister for Defence said Australia will purchase the fifth generation F-35 which they said is the most advanced fighter ever made anywhere in the world. Both are confident F-35 will make a vital contribution to Australia’s national security.

Along with the Super Hornet and Growler electronic warfare aircraft, the F-35 aircraft will ensure Australia maintains a regional air combat edge. The F-35 will also provide a major boost to the ADF’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service with the Royal Australian Air Force in 2020.

Australia has been working with the United States as a partner in the Joint Strike Fighter programme since the Coalition joined in 2002. Acquiring F-35 aircraft will reinforce the ADF’s ability to operate seamlessly with US forces and Australia’s capacity to continue supporting our shared strategic interests under the US alliance.

The F-35 aircraft will bring significant economic benefits to Australia, including in regional areas and for the local defence industry with more jobs and production for many locally-based skilled and technical manufacturers.

The total capital cost of $12.4 billion for this acquisition includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.

Around $1.6 billion in new facilities and infrastructure will be constructed, including at RAAF Base Williamtown in New South Wales and RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory.

As a result of the Howard Government’s decision to join during the development phase, Australian defence industry has been awarded over $355 million in work and stands to win well in excess of $1.5 billion in JSF-related production and support work over the life of the programme – creating long-term advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.

The F-35 will replace the F/A-18A/B Classic Hornet aircraft. For over three decades, the Classic Hornet has been the backbone of Australia’s air combat capability. These aircraft have delivered exceptional service to Australia’s security but will be withdrawn from service by 2022.

The new 58 F-35 aircraft, in addition to the 14 already approved in 2009, will provide the RAAF with a total of 72 aircraft to form three operational squadrons and one training squadron.

The Government will also consider the option of acquiring an additional squadron of F-35 aircraft to replace the Super Hornets in the future.

The Government remains committed to building a strong, capable and sustainable Australian Defence Force.

Anti-war activists gather in Canberra

Not everybody is happy with the announcement. A peace group gathered in the Tent Embassy in Canberra — outraged with the purchase calling it provocative and extravagant.

Anti-war group rally at the Tent Embassy in Canberra to oppose the purchase. (Photo: Supplied)

The Independent Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), an anti-war group claims more than a hundred joined their peace rally this week focussed on Australia’s defence spending. According to the group, they will collect signatures to petition against the acquisition. Around 700 signatures have been collected this week, the group said.

Justin Tutty, executive member of the IPAN said “We are supposed to be in deep financial hole – so how on earth can we afford such an extravagant military purchase?”

IPAN is convinced that in a time of peace, Australia should be investing in education and health and cutting back defence spending.

Adding the controversy is a statement coming from Pentagon. Tutty said that even the project manager at Pentagon finds the planes to be “risky, risky, business because they are unreliable and need too much maintenance”.

“No Australian Defence strategic study has said we these strike fighters. The USA buys these for foreign wars but we do not need them. They are provocative in this time of global instability, and build fear rather than security. If we want peace, we need to invest in aid to our region, not aggressive military posturing” he concluded.

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Tent Embassy’s 40th year highlights Aboriginal struggles

The official poster of NAODIC Week 2012

The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) observes the spirit of Aboriginal struggles this week since the founding of the Tent Embassy 40 years ago.

Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said NAIDOC Week should be a reminder that despite inroads made to  date, there’s still a long journey ahead to ensure equality between Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians,

Speaking ahead of the start of NAIDOC Week with the theme, Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on, Commissioner  Gooda said it was an opportune time to refocus energies and pursue the dream of  a fair and equal Australia.

“The Tent Embassy has maintained a presence in Canberra over  the past 40 years and remains a powerful symbol for advocacy in Indigenous  affairs,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“It provides a constant reminder to us to keep the  challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the  forefront of our leaders’ minds and adds much needed visibility for our  struggle for equality and justice.

“It is crucial that we acknowledge the legitimacy of the  discrimination, disempowerment and frustration experienced by many Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islander people and focus our efforts and our energies on  securing the equal enjoyment of rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islander peoples.”

The Tent Embassy was established on 26 January 1972 when  four men placed a beach umbrella into the lawn of Parliament House in Canberra  in an iconic protest against the refusal to acknowledge Aboriginal land rights.

This act represented for many a symbol of strength and  defiance against injustice. The Tent Embassy’s protest on government policy,  along with the Wave Hill walk off by the Gurindji people and the Gove land  rights case of 1971, have been cornerstones in the history of the land rights  movement in Australia.

“The Tent Embassy has helped to make self-determination an  overriding factor in the thinking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  affairs. However, of most significance is the place of the Embassy in the  collective understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recent  history,” Mr Gooda said.

“It is a symbol of struggle, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait  Islanders’ power as a people to protest for positive change and to reclaim the  pride undermined by centuries of dispossession and discrimination.

A series of events was held to mark the 40th founding year of the tent embassy earlier this year.

“It also reminds us of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander  people’s ability to unite to campaign for better outcomes, bringing concerns  and the struggles for equality to the forefront of public attention and  political debate.”

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

Angry tent people mob Gillard on Aussie Day

In one of the most dramatic moments to celebrate Australia Day, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard lost a shoe and was dragged by his bodyguard when an angry mob of indigenous people rounded up a restaurant in Capital Hill hunting for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Bodyguard bundles up Julia Gillard from the angry mob

The prime minister and the opposition leader were in The Lobby restaurant to present the national emergency service medals  as part of the Australia Day celebrations.

The drama unfolds as the celebration began. A man in black T-shirt emblazoned with Aboriginal flag watched the proceedings through the restaurant’s glass façade. Then  a woman barged in to scatter petals of roses before she shouted when Gillard was presenting 26 service medals.

About half of the 200 protesters circled the restaurant, banged the glass windows, and chanted “shame” and “racist” while calling for Abbott to come out.

About 200 protesters from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy nearby have gathered to mark its 40th founding year today. A series of cultural performances and entertainment has been planned through the weekend to celebrate its founding but marred by such an “extraordinary” incident.

A series of events has been planned to mark the 40th founding year of the tent embassy

The protesters rounded up and stormed The Lobby to confront Abbott following the opposition leader’s comment earlier during the day. The SBS said Abbott has called for the disbandment of the tent embassy noting time has changed and therefore it is no longer relevant. The SBS quoted Abbott as saying, “I can understand why the tent embassy was established all those years ago,…  think a lot has changed since then, and I think it probably is time to move on from that.”

Riot police came to rescue Gillard and Abbott while trying to pacify protesters. But protesters said they stormed in to confront Abbott without knowing he was with Gillard. They insisted Abbott incited the riot, not the Aboriginal people of the tent embassy. Towards the end of the day, the protesters are demanding for Abbott’s apology.

News Link: Asian Correspondent