Ex-spy boss calls on Australians’ sacrifice to defend the country

A former head of ASIO says Australians should sacrifice their standard of living to enable more spending on defence amid building global tensions.
Former spy boss turned ANU professor Duncan Lewis said the 2-3 per cent of GDP set aside for defence would not come close to getting Australia where it needed to be.
Mr Lewis acknowledged the bump in spending would have an impact on Australians’ “personal prosperity”.
“I have a concern that we have bought nothing much that goes bang for many, many years in the defence capability portfolio,” Mr Lewis told the ANU National Security Podcast this week.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during the election campaign Australia should spend “whatever is necessary” to defend its national interests – committing to maintain a figure above two per cent of GDP.
The figure, according to Mr Lewis, should be much higher.
“If we think that 2-3 per cent of GDP is going to pay for nuclear powered boats and for the defence capability that I believe we are going to require in the not too distant future, we’re kidding ourselves. It will require a much larger sum of money,” he said.
To achieve a higher level spending, Mr Lewis said the Australian government would need to get the community onside in order to make the necessary sacrifices.
“At a time when we have great debt, spending more on defence is obviously going to impact standard of living and essentially the kind of the personal prosperity of Australians,” he said.
“That is going to require a particular social licence to be obtained by government.”
Mr Lewis added the country could no longer afford procurement “blunders” such as the doomed Seasprite project or more recently a bungled submarine contract with the French that cost taxpayers $5.5 billion with zero return.
He said abandoning the deal in favour of acquiring nuclear powered submarines was the right decision, despite playing out under less than ideal circumstances.
“I would like to state how much I agree technically with the decision to pursue nuclear powered submarines into the future. My regret is the decision is 20 years late,” he said.
One of the justifications for increased spending was the threat of countries such as China with which Australia has ideological differences.

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