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Budget 2003: Yankee Doodle defence: plug and play with the USA.

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Senator Andrew Bartlett Leader of the Australian Democrats Spokesperson for Defence and Veterans Affairs 14 May 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/310

Yankee Doodle Defence Plug and Play with the USA

The 2003-2004 Defence Budget confirms the Government’s priorities and plans are for acting with the United States in going to war against other countries, the Leader of the Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett said today.

“This Budget is the bill for the Howard Government’s shift from defending Australia to backing the US.

“Our defence policy is increasingly ‘made in the USA’

“More than $2 billion for air-to-air refuelling of jetfighters indicates military actions outside our region.

“When they talk about more funds for interoperability and hi-tech communications it just means ‘plug and play’ with the USA.

“This is not a Budget about defending Australia or even for likely low-level conflicts in our region.

“The Democrats do welcome the increased domestic anti-terrorism capacity.

“The Democrats accept the need for operational readiness, but we oppose the operations the Government is choosing.

“The hundreds of millions for the war on Iraq was a bad choice the Government made. It cost hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of Iraqi lives. Saddam Hussein disappeared but it doesn’t appear to have made anyone more secure.

“We are paying back the US for bombs we bought to drop on Iraq for their war.

“The Government's misuse of defence funds and forces is of concern to the Democrats,” Senator Bartlett said.

“The Government will continue to waste defence funds and misuse defence personnel in turning away asylum seekers at sea. There is another $18 million put towards more Tampa and ‘children overboard’ debacles after throwing $41 million dollars out to sea over the last two years.”

For interview with Senator Bartlett contact Katrina Beikoff on 0419 867 649