11 December 2023

Will this election be about defence … or the cost of petrol?  

Archbishop Philip Freier discussed some of the likely big issues for the upcoming federal election in yesterday mornings Conversations with the archbishop. Picture: file.

Stephen Cauchi 

17 March 2022

Military spending and cost-of-living have been mooted as likely big issues in the upcoming federal election while foreign aid likely receive little attention, according to commentators in the recent Conversations with the Archbishop. 

Archbishop Philip Freier mooted the upcoming federal election could be a “khaki election” dominated by massive military spending, but guest, political commentator Michelle Grattan, said she believed cost-of-living would be the bigger issue. 

Also joining the archbishop, Anglican Overseas Aid chief executive Jo Knight said she believed little would be spent on foreign aid. 

The Conversation’s chief political correspondent, Grattan said there had been much talk recently about defence spending in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But she said the political narrative would probably return to cost-of-living pressures.  

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She said this would also likely be the focus of the federal budget, due for release on Tuesday 29 March. 

“What is the national political debate at this instant? It’s about petrol,” Grattan said. 

“Ordinary people are concentrating on cost-of-living and petrol prices and issues of this sort, where the government has been trying to talk up a storm for a khaki election. 

“The government, as it’s putting the finishing touches on the budget, is having to think about this cost-of-living issue rather than the defence numbers.” 

Speaking from AOA’s perspective, Ms Knight said defence spending suited the Coalition’s framing, and played into Australia’s fears. She said in her experience, a federal election focused on such fears were never good for the marginalised in Australia, or nearby. 

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Ms Knight said the pandemic had also been a massive crisis in society, calling on both parties to take action to fight deeply-rooted societal injustice. 

She said there should be as much attention on homelessness, job creation and foreign aid as there was on defence. 

“In my years with foreign aid I’ve seen that particular area decline constantly, yet defence is untouchable and just grows,” she said. 

“We can and must demand a hopeful future. There’s certainly exhaustion but at the end of the day our politicians work for us and we need to call them to account. 

“The last two years of the pandemic have really revealed some of the underlying issues that we face around poverty and First Nations people, how we treat foreigners, how we look after each other, how we relate to government.” 

Dr Freier said “mind-boggling numbers” were being quoted by politicians about long-term military investments, including nuclear submarines, against the backdrop of the war in Europe. 

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 “The numbers just seem to be in the billions and keep blowing out,” he said. 

“Do you think we are, especially in uncertain times, going to have what people are calling a khaki election – something that ratchets up military security and military spending?” 

Grattan noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had also taken a huge toll on the “exhausted” electorate, and on the political process. 

She said campaign-items would likely be dominated by focus-group research, which had many negatives for Australian society. 

She said the government was emphasising themes of economic management and national security, but not coming up with much in the way of bold ideas. 

Likewise, she said Labor was running with a very cautious approach. 

“We’re not really seeing parties put forward very strong and well-defined visions for the future,” she said. 

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