Page 101 - Australian Defence Magazine Dec 2018 - Jan 2019
P. 101

Considerations for 2019
be sad to see the energetic Christopher Pyne depart but Shadow Defence Minister Rich- ard Marles comes across as knowledgeable and sincere.
Labor may be inclined to fewer defence ministers – there are now four. Labor says it’s at one with the Coalition at taking de- fence spending to two per cent of GDP and on the current spending trajectory that mostly meaningless milestone will be achieved in 2021-22, two years ahead of what the Coalition forecast following its election victory in 2013.
In this area Labor has form. Who can for- get Kevin Rudd’s promises of vast defence spending, which vanished within weeks, with subsequent defence budgets white- anted as the government thought it more important for its re-election prospects to try to return the overall budget to surplus?
2019 could also bring an end to Austra- lia’s training mission in Iraq, with the task force now in its eighth rotation. For much of that time, the joint Australian and NZ taskforce in Taji prepared Iraqi forces to re- cover Mosul with that successfully achieved in July 2017.
On the capability front, the contest for project Land 400 Phase 3 is under way with the request for tender closing on March 1. That will be followed by six months of evaluation to trim the contenders down to a shortlist of two, which will be announced in third quarter.
As with the Phase 2 contest for the Com- bat Reconnaissance Vehicles, expect a whole lot more posturing from those states which missed out on hosting a new armoured ve- hicle factory. From this distance, the sen- sible solution might be to co-locate with Rheinmetall’s Queensland CRV plant, cre- ating a single centre of excellence, not two of eventually marginal viability.
Then there’s submarines and the delay in negotiation of the Strategic Partner- ship Agreement, which was signed off in late 2018. Fair enough that this will cover most of half a century and should be got right now.
But the delay lead to dark speculation of cultural differences and maybe technical problems – after all the French nuclear at- tack boat Suffren, on which the Australian Shortfin Barracuda is based, is running three years late.
Your correspondent speculates that one sticking point could be in agreeing on re- mediation pathways for profound technical problems, which could involve the US por- ing all over secret French technology.
Could 2019 be much like 2018, with further global trade tensions as the US ramps up import tariffs on Chinese goods and escalating strategic rivalry between the US and China with a potential flashpoint in the South China Sea?
YOUR correspondent has no particular idea but is drawing on the Stratfor annual fore- cast for 2018 and the enduring principles of geopolitics, so here we go.
For Australia, the big event will surely be the federal election, pitting a stumbling Co- alition against Labor. Plenty of poor polling governments have survived elections that most everyone said they would surely lose, but at this time Labor is looking pretty good.
This will be earlier in the year, rather than later. The announcement that Prime Min- ister Scott Morrison is breaking with con- vention and releasing the Budget on April 2 is news in itself. ABC election analyst An- thony Green says May 18 is effectively the last possible date for a concurrent half Sen- ate and House of Representatives election.
So get ready for election campaigning from January 1 and not that much serious governing until after mid-year. Picking the election date is especially popular with the pundits who inevitably claim expert knowl-
edge but the reality is that this is solely a matter for the PM who, in the face of dis- mal polling, will surely seek to maximise government advantage in the chosen date.
That’s something of a black art. Long weekends aren’t favoured (too many people away) or grand final weekends (more a prob- lem for late in the year). Nor would it pick a Saturday straight after the Reserve Bank’s monthly meeting, from which it could an- nounce an interest rate hike.
A Saturday immediately after some fa- vourable numbers would allow the Coali- tion to trumpet its economic credentials.
While Australia will be in election mode, the rest of the world won't care. The biggie for everyone else will be the US presidential election of November 2020 and the pros- pect of Donald Trump winning a second term or getting the boot.
On the defence front, a Labor election victory shouldn’t make too much of a differ- ence, in theory. Your correspondent would | December 2018 – January 2019 | 101

   99   100   101   102   103