What a wonderful democracy we enjoy. This week the Liberal member for Tangney, Dennis Jensen, who is deputy chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade wrote for the ABC opinion website The Drum and pulled the JSF program to shreds.
Jensen showed up the gaping holes in the Australian Defence department submissions on the JSF.
Yet it was the Liberals who played such a big part of the disastrous JSF purchase decision. Jensen was in fact saying that the JSF mistake was a joint party one, and both parties must combine to get Australia and the US out of the JSF mess.
Then this month came the all-important appearance before the committee by Lockheed Martin’s general manager of the JSF program, Tom Burbage. Many JSF supporters hoped Burbage might win over the committee.
Burbage explained that air forces in several countries had agreed buy the JSF. However most of these air forces were not outlaying real money – they were being funded by the US.
But members of both major political parties on the committee had done their homework and they started to ask Burbage the difficult questions about the performance and structure of the JSF. Much of their questioning was based on leaked Pentagon documents, which showed the difficult structural situations facing the JSF (Third strike in a defence debacle, December 16).
Burbage had no real answers to many of the questions and often the best he could do was to say that, although the information about the JSF problems was in the public arena, it was confidential and he couldn’t comment on it.
Many members of the defence subcommittee were not impressed with this approach by Lockheed Martin.
Many agree with Jensen that the Australian Defence Department has been papering over the JSF problems for years. Defence ministers have not had the inclination to challenge their department.
But most members of the joint standing committee now realise that if the US loses air superiority the defence of Australia is in tatters.
We would have to do an air defence deal with India or China. In the US there is no body equivalent to the joint standing committee that is prepared to do the detailed work to expose the truths.
There seems to be an answer the JSF problem. You bring together the F22 (a brilliant aircraft) and the JSF and use the magnificent JSF systems with the shape of the F22 (shape is a key weakness of the JSF when opposed to the Russian/Indian and Chinese aircraft).
But the US will need Australia to help them through the jungle of JSF half truths and untruths. Our foreign affairs and defence committee has that knowledge.
Both sides of parliament now know the detail and both sides know that only if they act together and put politics aside can we maintain US and Australian air superiority in the Pacific in the long term.