Article 26 of the UN Charter calls for the “least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources”. 

Security is often interpreted to mean military security -- the capacity to identify and meet perceived threats to a nation by military means, by the use or the threat of the use of force. However, Australia's true security would be enhanced by attention to economic recovery, social cohesion and humanitarian issues. 

Resources committed to developing the military mean less money for employment programs and the health, education and housing needs of Australians and our neighbours. We need an expanded concept of security defined as the security of individuals and communities from threats to lives, livelihoods and dignity, such as extreme poverty, hunger, natural disasters, armed conflict, pandemics, and political and criminal violence, as well as future fatal consequences from climate change and other environmental threats.

A McKinsey report in 2010 found Australia's military spending was among the least efficient in the world. In a list of 33 major countries, we tied with the United States for worst at getting value for our Defence dollar. A 2010 Defence audit report on explosives procurement, for example, documented poor budgeting practices, poor lines of responsibility, poor contract management, and poor project administration. 

There are compelling reasons why diplomacy, rather than an arms race, is the best way to achieve security for the Australian people. While defence of a state is necessary, the cost can be too high (economically, socially, democratically, environmentally, etc.). An impoverished nation has little or nothing left worth defending. 

The world is full of problems — climate change, war, poverty, hunger, pandemics, refugees and more. People across the world face growing insecurity. Violent conflict is spreading and intensifying, economic inequality is widening, and the natural ecology on which human life depends is in jeopardy. The world’s poorest people bear the brunt. The United Nations has defined security as freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity. This suggests societies in which we have access to decent pay and working conditions, food, health care and education, a safe place to call home, and communities of people who help each other in times of need. The ruling class, however, remains focused on militarised responses to conflict, refusing to come to grips with the long-term drivers of insecurity, such as climate change, economic injustice, dwindling natural resources and mounting military spending. But military responses to national security issues by any of the countries in the region will be disastrous for peoples over the planet. 

Military spending reduces public and private investment, diverts funds and people from civilian research and development, and holds back economic development. It diverts resources from other productive activity that can generate greater employment and social benefits. The state has responded to an insecure world by taking sweeping new powers over our citizens, such as intrusive surveillance, elimination of democratic rights, greater police powers and more. 

Defining security 

Security is often interpreted to mean military security — the capacity to identify and meet perceived threats to a nation by military means, by the use or the threat of the use of force. However, security is multi-dimensional and it cannot be enforced by ever greater numbers of more sophisticated weapons. It is widely known that real and enduring security comes with jobs, steady food supplies, homes, clean water, warmth, education, health care, and democracy, all which are fundamental human rights. Solving issues of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, pollution of our environment and other problems in our community is necessary for Australia's security. Excessive and inappropriate military spending siphons off the resources needed for their solution. 

Achieving Security

A long-term approach would focus foremost on tackling the causes of insecurity through greater social, economic and ecological responsibility. Rather than projecting power to control and dominate the global environment, security will depend increasingly on how well power is used to co-operate with others – and not just with the powerful – for the sake of our common interests. Our security also depends on changing our political and economic systems which encourage competition and reward the already-powerful while marginalising cooperation and power-sharing for common benefit. This means challenging the powerful corporations, groups and individuals who run capitalism and ultimately collectively building a new civilized socialist society committed to peace and security for all citizens. 


The US-Australia military alliance distorts our society. Instead of a focus on sustainable development, socially useful production and the needs of the community, priority is given to supporting US foreign policy, military spending and increasingly repressive social control. The beneficiaries are not our citizens but the US and Australian militaries together with huge US corporations and some Australian companies. Instead of a military alliance with the United States, Australia needs friendly and mutually beneficial relations with all countries. Militarising Australia and delivering unfaltering support for US aggression and threat to use force against other countries cannot ensure security for Australians. It makes us poorer but not safer. 

Regional Engagement 

Australia cannot afford a continued cold war paradigm which defines regional engagement as interoperability with the United States in conflicts. “Cold war” thinking is propelling us along the path of expanding our strategic strike and force projection capabilities, maintaining a ‘knowledge edge’ over regional states and remaining a substantial maritime power. Australia simply cannot afford such an approach, not economically, not socially and certainly not strategically. Australia's economic well-being and security require a foreign policy which upholds peace and supports disarmament and is based on the principles of peaceful coexistence of states with differing social systems. US military bases The 30 or more US-controlled military facilities on Australian soil destroy Australia’s security by making our country a target for nuclear and terrorist attacks. The bases pose major dangers to our environment, including unique habitats and endangered species, from effects on air quality, fire potential, noise, electromagnetic pollution, waste disposal and spills, erosion from military movements, and chemical contamination from bombing, weapons firing and repair and maintenance programs. 

A Rational Alternative 

Australia can maintain its current aggressive "defence" philosophy, using its military strength for economic and diplomatic leverage, pursuing the high technology path with reliance on the United States for advanced systems and logistics support, supporting US military interventions overseas, increasing the militarisation of our society, and pushing the arms trade with a consequent rise in poverty, insecurity and conflict. Alternatively, we can rethink and reform the security agenda, develop positive relationships with regional states, reassess the weapons systems required to satisfy our security interests, develop conversion programs, and support and increase aid to our regional neighbours to address their human security needs. A reformed peace and security approach should see Australia cutting the military budget, breaking the US military alliance and abandoning AUKUS and the Quad, removing the US military bases from our soil, ending hosting US marines in Darwin and joint military exercises, signing the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, developing confidence building processes in our region, rigorously controlling the arms trade, converting military-related industries to socially useful and environmentally sustainable production, and breaking Australia’s involvement in the US military machine 9 through weapons purchases, interoperability, hypersonic weapons research and space programs. There is a need for a radical rethink of both security and industrial policies based on broader concepts of sustainable security and disarmament that encompass environmental, social and economic dimensions such as global warming, where Australia could make a major contribution to a new political economy of common security. This would require a peace budget underpinning significant restructuring of the armed forces and the military-industrial base, in addition to alternative security policies, arms conversion and effective controls on the arms trade.