Woody is a sailor in the Australian Navy. He spends most of his days rescuing asylum seekers from leaky boats and/or the ocean. When he has time, he writes to us about our border situation. As you may have guessed, this is against Navy rules, which is why Woody is not his real name.
I’m stunned to even say this but I think I actually care about this federal election. As a bloke in the Navy assigned to Operation Resolute, my day job entails picking up suspected asylum seekers as they drift into Australian waters. Given that makes me a future employee of whatever party wins this Saturday, not to mention someone who is directly involved in one of the major issues the election is being fought over, I thought I’d share some of my views on the subject. Not as a way of telling you who you should vote for, more of a way to vent after coming off too many long, slow shifts of work and feeling majorly fisted by it. So what follows is a guide to this year’s election issues as they pertain to me, Woody, and maybe to some of you generally as well.
As you could probably imagine, for those of us unlucky enough to be stationed on the other side of the country from our friends, family, as well as decent places to go and watch movies and bands and stuff, the internet is pretty important. So the fact that Australia’s internet speed rates well outside the top 20, lower than places like Latvia and Bulgaria, kind of sucks balls.
Labor claims that the NBN will cost somewhere around 44 billion. The Coalition called bullshit and estimated it would be something like 90 billion. Unfortunately it’s hard to estimate a solid figure right now but we do know the Coalition plan involves using the existing copper wire network. The Greens fully support the Labor NBN plan and criticise the Coalition’s plan of a part privatised contract. The Greens also want to ensure that any future moves to privatise the NBN will be subject to a review and require the approval of parliament, which to me sounds on the money.
No party aside from the Greens really want to go anywhere near this one. Although Labor has hinted at new laws targeting the Japanese government, it’s still unclear if anything will result. Same can be said about the Coalition. They recognise the problem and even shake their heads at it, but they have bigger fish to fry as it were. The Greens would like to see lethal whaling research abolished in the Antarctic. Former Greens leader, Bob Brown, was committed to end whaling all together, as evidenced by his position on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s board of advisors. Basically, if you want to see whaling end your best hope of this happening would be to side with the Greens.
This issue only came to be a concern of mine about five years ago. I wouldn’t call myself a tree hugger but the characteristics of one are there. The fact that the whole whaling issue is occurring in Australian waters is enough to piss me off. It’s an issue that affects me personally and at times makes me lose confidence in our laws and politics. If we take a stand on it, my faith in a government would certainly be restored.
Now, defence affects all Australians whether you’re in the ADF or not. For me, I’d like to see our capability expanded and new military hardware brought in. Take it from me: our current stock is getting old and in need of replacement. With new technology comes specialised training which can only benefit the ADF and in turn our nation as a whole. On a more personal note, it’ll also give me the opportunity to further develop my skills in the defence sector and ultimately make me a more desirable candidate for future positions inside and out of defence.
The 2013 Defence White Paper called for expanding air superiority and introducing a new class of submarine to replace the current Collins Class. The Coalition is currently supporting these expansions but would like to see more funding flow to the ADF. Labor on the other hand wishes to decrease defence spending, which a habit of theirs which has angered many ADF members like me. Then there are The Greens, who see no need to expand the RAAFs fighter jet capability and would like to scrap the purchase of the proposed procurement of 12 additional fighters.
Both Labor and the Coalition see the need to leave a small contingency of troops in Afghanistan as trainers for the Afghan National Army and police. Both parties also agree on keeping an Australian Special Forces presence in Afghanistan. The Greens want a complete withdrawal of Australian forces and do not support leaving troops there as mentors for the Afghan army. They also want to propose an amendment bill regarding the declaration of war. The amendment would require parliamentary approval for the declaration rather than the decision rest solely with the executive of the government of the day.
My own thoughts on the above are simple: war is too complicated to be left to politicians. The whole Afghanistan campaign is a shit situation, but when politicians try to win hearts and minds by slipping it into their own political campaigns, it starts to piss me off. These are decisions for those who are best informed—the generals. I’m not a believer in a full withdrawal of our forces. The Afghan forces are desperate for help and in serious need of training. If we leave it’ll only make the Taliban stronger.
And now to an issue I’m unfortunately heavily involved in. Labor’s current solution to this problem of illegal arrivals is to send those who come by boat without a visa to PNG. This controversial policy has been called a disgrace by the Coalition and The Greens. For what it’s worth, as I wrote last month, the plan does seem to be working.
While the Coalition agrees with Labor on mandatory detention, they want to see that temporary protection visas be reintroduced. These visas would see that genuine refugees be released into the community. However, much to my disapproval, the Coalition wants to introduce a military led response to the issue. Operation Sovereign Borders is the Coalition's plan at targeting people smugglers. The plan is to setup a new joint task force and put a three star commander in charge who would report directly to the immigration minister. Tony Abbott hopes that this new operation will lessen the strain and operational tempo for those currently serving on Operation Resolute. I can only see the tempo increasing for sailors like myself if the new operation is enacted. It seems that Mr Abbott’s plan is simply to throw more people at the problem in hopes it will go away.
The Greens plan is to halt all offshore processing and end mandatory detention. They also want to give asylum seekers access to work rights, healthcare, legal aid and welfare. The boosting of extra funding towards fast-track processing is also in the cards and is estimated to cost $70 million.
At the moment I’m siding with Labor on this one. I don’t want to see another operation in our northern oceans. If the proposed op is given the green light, it will basically be a goatfuck for those like me on border protection duties. This is a delicate issue that no party will really be able to solve.
Side note: whatever is done about it will affect how the public view me in uniform. I’ve been slandered before in public and branded a phoney humanitarian. Things like that can really have an effect on you when you’re on the job. Hopefully something changes.
In reality it’s all up in the air. Over the next few days I’m sure you’ll see many new claims be made in regards to government policy. My only advice to you as the confused voter would be to research each party and their views for this year’s election. While you may be using the South Park analogy of “what’s the point of voting between a giant douche or a turd sandwich?” Just remember that while the political leaders are always going to be two-faced, lying bastards, it’s really only the policies that should be compared. So do yourselves a favour and try and look beyond all the bullshit.
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