A motion put before Council’s finance committee this week will see over half a million dollars worth of public funds go towards paying for a celebration of military force if it is supported by the full meeting of Council. While numerous candidates in the Council elections last month promised that they’d cut back on spending if they were elected I was saddened to find that I was the lone voice speaking out against the plan to donate $640 000 to the International Fleet Review, an exhibition of warships from around the world to be held on Sydney Harbour next year.
I feel it’s entirely inappropriate for the Council to be giving away such a vast sum of money to glorify the military – an institution that throughout history has itself sucked away so much money and dedicated it to destroying human life, money that could have been spent feeding or housing the developing world, invested in scientific innovation or gone towards countless more worthy goals.
The catalyst for the celebration is the centenary of Australia’s Navy entering Sydney Harbour for the first time in 1913. While it is said that this was a great moment of national pride, when thousands of citizens lined the shores and cheered, the grave misuse of the military by successive governments over the 100 years since is less cause for pride.
The fleet’s first foray into the harbour in 1913 was shortly followed by World War I, generally thought of at the time as the war to end all wars. Sadly the 20th century went on almost to be a century defined by wars.
While some of these wars were certainly justified others were simply exercises to strengthen the power of the political and economic elite. Successive governments in Australia and throughout the world abused the good intentions of military personnel, who signed up for a dangerous job in order to protect their country, by shipping them off to bloody and unnecessary conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, resulting in hundreds of thousands of casualties, both military and civilian.
It is for all these reasons that I spoke out against this very significant expenditure this week. In the same way as the world’s governments could spend their billions on far better causes than the military, the City of Sydney could do much better things with $640 000 than blowing it on a crass display of destructive might.
Update 17/10/12: As expected, this massive grant was approved by Council this week. You can check out my speech on the issue here.