Australia vulnerable to “desperate” world, says Salt

Western Australia could find itself at the centre of growing international tension over its mineral wealth. And governments aren’t prepared.

Leading Australian demographer Bernard Salt made the prediction at a forum of WA Vocational Educational Trainers in Perth this week.

“The world wants and needs what we have, and there’s going to be a made scramble for all of these things,” Salt said.

“We have what the world wants. That makes us valuable, but also vulnerable.”

Alarmingly, the scramble will come sooner than later.

“Most people are predicting this will happen around 2070, but I think it will come by 2020,” said Salt, who was addressing 200 VET industry representatives in a forum sponsored by the Department of Workforce Training and Development.

“For me, this is the biggest issue facing Australia, and governments are doing nothing about it.

“Look at where our military presence is. We have Lavarack Barracks in Townsville. It was built in the sixties. What’s it protecting now? We have Robertson Barracks in Darwin, which was expanded during the East Timor crisis.

“But there’s no military assets of note between Darwin and Perth – an area that contains pretty much all of Australia’s wealth – about $43 million worth of gas and oil.

“The Chinese have already demonstrated they need the raw materials. Gorgon was about China shoring up its assets.”

Salt was quietly scathing of government inaction, saying while we had aligned ourselves militarily with the US, we expect our financial support to come from China.

“China is now the emerging power, but it remains to be seen how governments deal with the dilemma.”

Salt called for a massive boost to infrastructure, including a larger military presence with at least 5000 soldiers, and a regional town of 150,000.

“It only makes sense to put the military hardware where you are most exposed.

“This is the biggest issue confronting us.”


Step in the right direction

Defence Minister Stephen Smith has taken a step in the right direction by announcing an independent enquiry in to the Australian Defence Force Academy. He will also hopefully be able to follow up with an independent psychological assessment of many senior officers and NCOs. Seems like massive cultural change is necessary. The immediate threat is to recruitment. Would you encourage your son or daughter to join? Peter Cosgrove, where are you?

Break out the beer

I have to ‘congratulate’ the makers of VB (a beer) – from a PR perspective. Every year around ANZAC Day they roll out the Raise A Glass campaign, which is run in conjunction with the RSL. Previously they used Maj Gen Peter Cosgrove. This year they’re using recent VC winner Mark Donaldson, from the SASR. Call me cynical, but I’m against this campaign, as I see it primarily as a selling tool. I might be labelled un-Australian. Not so. I served in the Army for 22 years (four in the Regulars and 17 in the Reserve). My gripe (whihc I expressed two years ago to the RSL in writing) is that with alcohol abuse such a problem in the Defence Force, this product is not really the ideal vehicle for fundraising. While part proceeds of beer sales go to the RSL (of which I’m a member) the cynic in me sees it purely as a company riding on the coat tails of Defence and Australian patriotism around ANZAC Day. I suppose the beer needs all the help it can get, as it’s a pretty boring drop. If you want to support the RSL, make a direct donation.

Sunday, silly Sunday

Weekends are reserved in government PR circles for announcing those issues that would not usually rate highly, or which are controversial. Part of the logic is that if they are announced on weekends, they won’t get noticed in news bulletins, amid the fires and sport.

And so it was this weekend (the Easter long weekend) when Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon struck with an announcement on Sunday that we need more women in uniform, and in higher positions. Hardly news.

FItzgibbon must be kidding if he thinks a few hundred women in more operational positions will solves the military’s recruitments problems.

Sure, elements of macho culture exist within Defence. But let’s be honest; the sharp end of the military is no place for the feint-hearted. If that fosters a macho culture, then so be it.

I have served in the army for 20 years and have worked for he air force. There are Rambos out there, but you get this in any walk of life. Having fewer women on the front line will certainly skew the options for them reaching higher rank. Maybe that’s not fair. But then, there’s nothing fair about war.

Because this was announced on a weekend, I’m assuming the government PR boffins took the view this was something that should best escape under the radar.

Rather than playing the populist, I’d suggest the Minister start getting tough with the people who have been responsible for major blunders with Defence equipment contracts (Abrahams tanks, helicopters, jet fighters, destroyers), which have cost us billions.

More PR comment at

Defence PR silence deafening

Yet again the Defence PR machine swings into silence over the alleged death of Afghan civilians (Defence silent on civilian deaths, SMH, 1 December).


This is typical of the way the Department has been run for the past eight or so years. “No comment”, is the usual response over anything controversial.


You’d think with more than 180 people employed in PR they’d be able to come up with something better than that.


The trouble is that these people are simply doing the government’s bidding. They are the front-line example of the way the Liberals controlled information to excess.


Over to you, Joel Fitzgibbon.


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