THE federal government continually reminds us that we are living beyond our means while they grapple with a budget deficit worsened by plummeting global iron ore prices.
Yet following the recent "submarine conference" in Adelaide, the government is soon to commit to the largest defence procurement in Australia's history which the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimates at $36 billion for only 12 submarines, thereby adding severely to our budget deficit.
One senior defence consultant said "Australia is the only navy in the world that flogs its diesel submarines thousands of kilometres across oceans before going on patrol". So surely we must ask, are submarines really appropriate for our defence needs, and is a $36 billion cost justified particularly at this time of budget crisis?
Further, when was the last time an Australian submarine fired an "angry shot", and in what region of the globe?
Back home, our Great Barrier Reef is considerably endangered primarily due to climate change, but also from nutrient and sediment run-off from agricultural production. Further stress upon the reef arises from the dumping of dredge spoil from numerous port expansions.
The federal and Queensland governments recently released a final version of their long-term plan to "save the reef", announcing a $100 million commitment towards improving water quality. This $100 million allocation announcement is coincidently timed to ward off the likelihood of the United Nations World Heritage Committee upgrading the reef's status to "in danger".
So, $36 billion dollars for submarines versus $100 million for the reef. The Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area provides an economic contribution of approximately $6 billion annually, together with approximately 74,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
Compared with such positive benefits derived from the reef and enjoyed by many Australians, surely $36 billion of submarine purchases is a questionable expenditure indeed, and one which will far worsen our "budget crisis". And is a token $100 million the best we can do to ensure the long-term sustainability of our world heritage Great Barrier Reef?
If wisdom prevails, future generations will be pleased that we reassessed our expenditure priorities and committed to ensuring the sustainability of our magnificent reef and not the wasting of $36 billion on war machines of dubious value.