Scott Morrison’s danger zone

11/02/2021

Sovereignty isn’t going to be protected by everyone joining hands and singing Danger Zone in the face of an advancing enemy. But Morrison makes a mockery of reality.

Credit – Unsplash

“This is what sovereignty looks like,” declared the Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he sat, and posed for cameras, in one of Australia’s F-35A fighter jets.

Thus sovereignty has a human face within military hardware. Pity it’s a sham.

Sovereignty is many things. It is the protection of a country’s borders from invasion. It is the freedom to conduct life within those borders according to that nation’s ideals, without coercion or threat from an outsider. It is, quite literally, and agreed international laws notwithstanding, a law unto itself.

What turns the statement of Morrison from one of example to one of foolishness is based in what the photo-op does not reveal. It’s arguable Australia’s military force could not of itself defend this nation’s sovereignty. We need help, which, of course, is the point of alliances. Perhaps Morrison should have uttered: “This is what sovereignty looks like,” with a flag of the United States behind him.

Unless a nation becomes militarised, it can only ever play catch-up. By the time all of Australia’s Stealth fighters have arrived, it will be time to start looking at the next generation of fighters. Similarly, the situation with the submarines on order: due date, decades away. Cost: billions upon billions. A precise figure is not possible. And when they reach our shores, of course they will need to be replaced. And then when they reach here, it is hoped there will be men and women willing to become submariners because there’s scant interest at present.

Still this is peace time and if you can’t make a breezy observation about the nation now then when can you? Morrison arrived at the microphone at Williamtown RAAF Base, north of Newcastle, to the accompaniment of the song “Danger Zone”, a Kenny Loggins composition used in the 1980s American film Top Gun. It’s a punchy, fast-paced rocker that aligns perfectly with jets soaring and sweeping, flaring and turning hard in the skies.

Revvin’ up your engine
Listen to her howlin’ roar
Metal under tension
Beggin’ you to touch and go.

 The PM couldn’t let it go either, saying: “Everyone who’s involved in this project is a top gun in my view.”

The project is the RAAF depot that will be used to maintain, repair and upgrade the jets.

Sovereignty isn’t going to be protected by everyone joining hands and singing Danger Zone in the face of an advancing enemy. But Morrison makes a mockery of reality.

Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes that sovereignty “is one of the most frequently invoked, polemical and misunderstood concepts in politics. Often lost in these heated discussions is that sovereignty has at least three dimensions – authority, autonomy and influence”.

That is, it’s more than a photo-op and a marketing slogan.

The issue of sovereignty arises these days most often in the context of China’s ambitions. The argument goes that by standing up to Chinese aggression we are, ipso facto, defending our sovereignty. In fighting soft power, such as Chinese money to influence our politics, or our education system, this can be argued as a defence of our borders. But sending a couple of ships into the South China Sea cannot.

China has the biggest navy in the world with more than 350 ships and submarines. It has more than 1200 ballistic and cruise missiles. It has the largest ground force in the world at about two million active duty troops. It has about 5000 military aircraft.

Morrison sitting in a jet is like the knife scene in Crocodile Dundee, only Mick this time is Xi Jinping.

In any case, there’s sovereignty and there’s business. Fourteen per cent of Australian farms have been sold to foreign buyers. The Port of Darwin, the most strategic port to Asia, is leased to the Chinese for nigh on a century.

Sovereignty these days is no more nor less than a political word being brandished around like an unsheathed sword. It is two-edged, for domestic and overseas consumption. To believe otherwise is to truly enter a danger zone.

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