Government rewards barbarity

Australia’s special military forces will enjoy an additional $3 billion in funding over the next two decades as part of the government’s commitment to spending 2 percent of GDP on “defence” by 2021. The combined military will receive an extra $200 billion in funding over the next 10 years. This is the largest increase in defence funding outside of war since the colonisation of Australia. Labor has gone on record supporting the increase.

In the 2019-20 budget, defence was allocated $32.24 billion. Compare this to government schools, allocated $8.3 billion, or the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which has been underfunded by $1.6 billion. Or the less than half a billion that will be spent on youth mental health and suicide prevention, despite the shocking rise in the number of Indigenous children killing themselves over the past year.

The boost for the SAS – the special operations section of the Australian Defence Force – was announced as an inquiry into the misconduct of Australian special forces during the war in Afghanistan continued in Kabul this month. Defence spokespeople have steadfastly refused to comment on the investigation, which began in 2016. But hundreds of pages of internal defence documents leaked to the ABC provide some insights into the atrocities committed by Australian troops.

The “Afghan Files” contain formal reports of at least 10 incidents in which SAS soldiers unlawfully shot and killed children and unarmed men. The problems became so widespread that senior officers warned that the SAS had developed a dangerous “warrior culture”. Internal investigators also described soldiers as “desensitised” and experiencing a “drift in values”. 

In one incident, a 13-year-old boy fetching water from a well was shot in the back of the neck. Another report detailed an unarmed man and his 6-year-old son being killed by SAS soldiers during a house raid. 

The initial response to these crimes from the top brass in the defence hierarchy was to issue a series of memos instructing soldiers to make sure Afghans were “directly participating in hostilities” before shooting them. The Morrison government’s response to these atrocities has been to reward the SAS with an extra $3 billion to buy new killing machines and body armour, which can only make them feel even more like invincible warriors.

For those who are battling to survive on Newstart payments that are below the poverty line, there is no such boost in sight. Morrison described the $277.85 a week Newstart allowance as “modest” and said last month that he had no plans to engage in “unfunded empathy”. By contrast, Morrison described his $3 billion boost to SAS funding as “one of the most important investments that I can make as a prime minister ... to keep Australians safe”. 

A recent Australian Council of Social Service report found that 30 percent of those trying to survive on Newstart skip three or four meals per week. A $75 per week increase to Newstart would cost $3 billion. The failure of both sides of politics to raise the rate of Newstart, while giving bipartisan support to a massive expansion of military funding, is not an oversight or a mistake. Barbarity is built right into the system. People have value only insofar as they help make the rich richer, by either working or advancing the interests of the capitalist class through imperialist war. Rewarding cruelty while refusing to provide housing or food to keep unemployed people safe is second nature for a government that presides over such a sick system.

Read more
Andrews was no socialist
Mick Armstrong

Dan Andrews, who has just resigned after nine years as Victorian premier, was probably the most controversial Labor leader since Gough Whitlam or indeed Jack Lang. Andrews was detested by the right as “Dictator Dan”, a man out to destroy all the “freedoms” so beloved by arch reactionaries and libertarians, such as the right of business owners to put profits above basic health measures.

Marcia Langton is correct
Daniel Taylor

A couple of weeks ago, Marcia Langton—usually one of the more conservative voices in Indigenous politics—became overnight a figure of hatred for Australia’s frothing right-wing journalists and politicians. Why? Because she said something mind-numbingly obvious about the upcoming referendum: “Every time the No cases raise their arguments, if you start pulling it apart you get down to base racism—I’m sorry to say that's where it lands—or sheer stupidity”.

Everybody knows the reef is dying
Everybody knows the reef is dying
Cormac Mills Ritchard

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek last week welcomed a UNESCO World Heritage Committee decision not to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger”. But what is “great news” to Plibersek is not great news for the reef. 

Campaign continues against Melbourne’s neo-Nazi gym
Campaign continues against Nazi gym
Monica Sestito

Chants of “Black, Indigenous, Arab, Asian and white—unite, unite, unite to fight the right!” echoed across the streets of Sunshine West on Saturday, when 500 anti-fascist activists and local community members gathered to protest against Legacy Boxing Gym.

Refugees organise a week of protest
Renee Nayef 

Hundreds of refugees rallied outside Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil’s office in Oakleigh, in south-east Melbourne, on Monday, demanding permanent visas for those who have still not gained protection more than a year after the election of the federal Labor government. 

Why the left should vote Yes
Jordan Humphreys

As the referendum approaches, the key dynamic in the debate is clear. The conservative right views a defeat for the Voice as a chance to strike a devastating blow against support for Indigenous rights among the Australian population. In the process, it is reviving every racist myth in the play book: Indigenous people shouldn’t get “special privileges”; opposing anti-Aboriginal racism is actually “dividing the nation”; and the colonisation of Australia had only a “positive impact”, in the words of Jacinta Price.