The rampant militarization of Australia continues apace. Howard has just announced that a much-anticipated Navy contract will be going to a company 100% owned by the Spanish government. Aussie taxpayers will be paying for three air warfare destroyers, at a cost of $8 billion, plus two landing ships for a further $3 billion.
Howard stressed the importance of these vessels for, umm... "disaster relief efforts":
"They will be able to land over 1,000 personnel along with their vehicles - the new M1 Abrams tanks, artillery and supplies, and using integrated helicopters and water craft."Howard boasts that a quarter of the construction work will be performed in Australia, generating about 600 jobs and providing $600 million in revenue. Isn't that great news? We send $11 billion to the Spanish government, but we get $0.6 billion back, and six hundred people get a job for a few years.
The Adelaide consortium doing the assembly work includes notorious US-based company, Raytheon, the fifth largest military contractor in the world, who are currently building a heat-based weapon for urgent deployment in Iraq. At low intensity, the Active Denial System burns the skin of targets, forcing crowds to disperse. At higher intensities... well, nobody wants to talk about that. Expect to see them on the streets of Sydney by the next time an APEC meeting comes around.
It's interesting that Adelaide seems to be a growing hub of activity for the War Of Terror.
UPDATE: More analysis from Richard Tonkin at WebDiary. Tonkin notes that Howard stole the limelight by making the big announcement personally rather than leaving it to Brendan Nelson. Tonkin is surprised the contract did not go to Halliburton Inc and their US military-industrial buddies, but that's globalisations for you, innit? Nevertheless, while the actual ship is Spanish, "the technology that makes it so effective is to be installed by the Pentagon's favourite defence companies". The AEGIS system seems to be the critical part of the deal, as it will allow Australia to work more closely with US military units. And Tonkin thinks the Australian contract-holders in Adelaide could soon find themselves in foreign hands:
The ASC is due to be sold next year. "Local companies" BAE and KBR have experience in ship (and sub) construction in the UK. When KBR left the UK's Devonport dockyards recently, BAE was attempting to take it over with the help of everybody's friends, Carlyle.
I wonder who'll be sniffing around to buy Adelaide's "choc-full o' conracts" defence construction firm?