Sunday, 3 May 2009

On the day the defence white paper - the first since 2000 - was released by the prime minister on board a navy ship docked at Garden Island, police raid a Kogarah, Sydney, apartment and find a huge stash of weapons including automatic guns, explosives, and bullet-proof vests. It’s an odd convergence of the national to the domestic. A man in his twenties was simultaneously arrested in the Sydney CBD over the find.

Considerable planning, time and funds had to have been expended to accumulate such a large cache of weaponry. The find has been linked to bikie gang activity. A recent spate of shootings and the now-infamous Sydney airport brawl - when dozens of bikies fought each other in the air terminal, resulting in the death of one of them - led to the establishment of Strike Force Raptor in the police. The police are focusing attention on this rogue element in society. In South Australia it is already a crime for bikies even to meet one another, under new illegal assembly laws.

On the national front, military spending by Australia will also concentrate on changed circumstances - geopolitical ones. While the white paper says that the US will remain the dominant regional power until 2030, plans are clearly being made to counteract the growing military stockpiles of Asian nations, particularly China.

China is not a rogue state - it’s not yet a bikie gang in the local community of nations - but largesse in the arms sphere over recent years has got its neighbours thinking about the possible necessity of a deterrent force. Australia will therefore concentrate on defending the ‘air-sea gap’ - the corridors leading to the continent from the north. Our southern approaches are defended by distance and the south pole.

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