“The positive trend towards less violence…has been broken.”
This is one of the gloomy conclusions of the annual Yearbook, published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on April 5. The SIPRI report shows that global spending on all things military rose by 1% in 2015 – making this the first year of growth since 2011.
The figures paint a disturbing picture of the level of expenditure on armaments, world-wide. More alarmingly, military spending in Asia and Oceania (our near region) rose by 5.4% over 2014 levels and was heavily influenced by China. Heightening tensions between China and various countries in the region contributed to substantial increases in expenditure by Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam, and triggered the start of a reversal of the long-term downward trend in Japan’s military spending. However, all this expenditure must be seen against the backdrop of the United States’ ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific, the US remaining by far the biggest spender in the world.
In Australia the recent Defence White Paper (DWP) would indicate that Australia is contributing to this regional trend of escalating militarism. According to the DWP, Australia’s military budget will rise by $29.9 billion over the next decade, reaching $42.2 billion (2% of Gross Domestic Product) by 2021. This is despite the fact that the DWP states that there is no more than a remote prospect of a military attack on Australia by another country in the foreseeable future.
The SIPRI report also identifies Australia as the sixth largest importer of major weapons, globally.
The DWP argues that Australia has a responsibility to commit to defensive operations well beyond local borders – in the near region and in the world at large.
Opponents of military spending are marking the publication of the SIPRI Yearbook by taking action on the Global Days of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS). Kathy Kelly, spokesperson for the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), has said
“Globally, just over 1% of military spending could meet the amount requested by the UN for all its humanitarian programs, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This global supertanker of military spending needs to be turned around, starting now.”
“Our Australian Defence Forces are increasingly embedded with the US forces, and the lack of an independent foreign and defence policy is clear to the world. Some say the US Alliance keeps us safe, but this view doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Rather, the opposite is the case. When we follow the US into its conflicts around the world, we create more enemies at every stage. If we weren’t the US’s deputy sheriff, Australians would be more secure. An independent stance from Australia in the growing US-China conflict, for example, would do more to protect Australians, for less financial cost,”.