lettersby News WeeklyNews Weekly
, May 19, 2001
The article "Defence the way forward" by Peter Westmore (News Weekly, April 21, 2001), which highlighted the Royal New Zealand Air Force's present plight, should not be looked at as an Australian perspective of our close neighbour-in-arms.
In Australian Aviation (November 2000, page 4), Jim Thorn reported a similar state of affairs in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). His article stated that there were at the time of writing, only 11 active pilots for the 33 F111s and only 42 pilots for the 71 FA-18As.
The article also implied that the outstandingly successfuI FFG frigates were locally sourced. In fact, four of the six FFGs were built by Todd in Seattle. The last two were built in Williamstown, Victoria. The penultimate ship HMAS Melbourne, because of that particular Australian virus - industrial trouble - took some four years between the laying and launching.
The then AMECOM took over the yard, and the completion of Melbourne and Newcastle was carried out in a more respectable time.
The current contract for the ANZAC Class frigates is now more than 60 per cent through the contract period. The Prime Minister recently spoke at the launching of Stuart, and said that the Governrnent was aware that there were no further orders in place to keep the workforce at the yard, and it seemed that new orders would be forthcoming.
There was little in the White Paper and nothing of any significance has been mooted elsewhere by the Government.
In fact, the anti-warfare destroyers will not be in service until 2013, when only two of the FFGs will still be in service. This delay is significant, given that HMAS Hobart, the last of the current AAW destroyers, will be decommissioned this year.
There is now speculation that the Williamstown complex should be relocated to Adelaide. It is no secret that there have been many recent redundancies and that the morale in the TENIX organisation is very low.
To keep a highly-skilled workforce, orders should always be in the pipeline. Not only for all employees, but for capital and planning projections for the builders, and of course the need for up-to-date platforms for the Royal Australian Navy.
We simply have too many yards in Australia.
We should study the Netherlands' naval construction policy. The Dutch have realised that to have a substantial construction program, ships should be (and are) decommissioned and sold to foreign navies well before their end of life.
This current Australian approach can also be seen in the lead time in the fighter project. It may be a study for a future article on defence in News Weekly.
Ascot, QldChina trade
The recent confrontation between the USA and China has bought into daylight two issues that are not normally discussed in the mainstream media.
First, there is the question of the big business influence on US politics. When some commentators suggested a boycott of Chinese goods, it was pointed out that such a move would be traumatic for US retailers, because 83 per cent of all sporting goods and toys, 74 per cent of all umbrellas, 62 per cent of all shoes, and so on, are imported to the US from China.
Now, while importing these goods is undoubtedly highly profitable for the owners of K-Mart, Wal-Mart and other retail giants, it is definitely unhealthy for the US economy which suffered a US$83.8 billion trade deficit with China in 2000.
During the same year US businessmen invested some US$40 billion in China. As a consequence of these policies, 271,000 American manufacturing jobs have been lost in the first quarter of 2001 alone.
Secondly, there is the question of loyalty. A substantial majority of Chinese living in the US, including second and third generation US citizens of Chinese origin, expressed their support for the stand taken by the Chinese Government.
Surely, there are some lessons for us to learn from the above issues.
Upper Ferntree Gully, VicMake May 9 Australia Day
It is quite obvious that the present "Australia Day" does not meet the requirements for our National Day. For indigenous Australians it commemorates a day of disaster.
It is really the remembrance of the British Government opening a prison, long before the name "Australia" was even a word.
Australians are showing clearly that they will not agree to making ANZAC Day into our national day, as it is a day dedicated to the remembrance of the fallen of both Australia and New Zealand.
What we need is a day that is about Australians taking control of our national destiny, a day that commemorates the democratic process that brought our nation into being.
It needs to be a day on which we can reflect on our democratic processes, our achievements and our hopes and dreams.
I believe there is a day in our history that gives us that basis for celebration - it is the day on which the first Australian Parliament first met, with Australians for the first time taking control of the destiny of our nation.
The day on which the first Australian Parliament first met was May 9, 1901.
I commend to you that we make May 9 Australia Day, a day to celebrate the process of developing nationhood.
Rev Dr Donald E. Stewart AM,