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Collective security should be the future

Comments on Hugh White “Australia’s strategic future after the white paper”, 19/06/2009, http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/06/19/australias-strategic-future-after-the-white-paper/

There seem two important issues raised in Hugh White’s article for Australia to consider. One is how Australia should position itself strategically for the future and the other is how Australian government and the defence department can improve the effectiveness and efficiency in defence expenditures.

Strategically, and ideally, the best outcome for every country including Australia would be a well designed and implemented collective world and international security system. The current power politics and superpower balance and deterrence have their historical roles. But looking at the long term future, the original idealism of the UN and UN Security Council system should be revived. This is especially important given the end of the cold war, the lessons learnt from the Iraq war and the changing international economic dynamics and the consequential international power structure.

In that light, the UNSC system should be strengthened and reformed to make it an important and effective world collective security institution. As the UNSC system strengthens and become more effective in international security, cold war military systems, organisations and structures should be gradually dismantled. The Australia – US alliance should be viewed in that strategic context.

The efficiency of Australian public expenditures, as those in many countries, is a big public policy issue. The efficiency of Australian defence expenditures is no exception, and perhaps more of an issue than other civilian expenditures, because of its less accountability due to the military nature. Ideally, there should be some parliamentary committee to oversee public spending, including military spending to make them more value for the money.

Government should be much more accountable for its decisions, especially when taxpayers’ money is concerned. Even for military spending where fewer people understand what should be and how they should be done, there should be an appropriate balance between secrecy and accountability.

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