The leaked version of the upcoming White Paper once again
brings up the contentious issue of possible base closures.
Of course, this is
not the document to go into the details of such a move but the issue is never
an easy one to deal with.
The political implications of base closures affect all three
levels of government, with each fighting to keep their bases regardless of the
national interest or even those of Defence.
In this era of constrained defence
budgets, costs must be cut where they can.
''Australia very clearly faces a new fiscal reality in which
we need to balance both fiscal and national security and ensure that Defence
resources are focused on the most important priorities,'' the white paper
''The government believes that these actions are essential for
Australia's defence capability.''
Various reviews into the defence estate have made various
recommendations over the years into which bases could be sold off or reconfigured.
Those that sit near prime real estate around the nation (and there are more
than a few) will no doubt receive more than their fair share of attention.
Once these assets are sold, getting them back should Defence
needs change, is near impossible.
Defence sites that were once far from
population centres have found themselves surrounded by an ever-growing suburbia
that sees aircraft as a nuisance despite the fact that defence was there first.
Prime Minister Gillard is due to make a security
statement later today and hopefully this will set the tone for the coming five
years as to what role Defence and related departments will play.
a federal election on the cards this year, these priorities may change more
quickly than the five-year horizon to be outlined.