Today’s $270 billion defence boost is a colossal amount of money being wasted on things we don’t need and will never use, says Sam Dastyari.
Today’s $270 billion defence boost is a colossal amount of money being wasted on things we don’t need and will never use, says Sam Dastyari.

'Australia’s huge $270b waste of money'

COMMENT

Today's $270bn defence announcement would be better spent on free gym membership than missiles. At least that would give Australia a gun show we can appreciate.

In case you missed the big news today, a bunch of former high school misfits turned politicians are planning to compensate for everything they lack by spending another $270 billion on defence. This time on missiles. A "anti-ballistic missile shield" which sounds just like what it is - a bunch of words designed to sound impressive.

$270bn is not a small pile of cash. Particularly for missiles we don't need and will never use. The idea came from the usual crowd of think tanks and bureaucrats trying to justify their own jobs. That's the Canberra game. Write a paper claiming the apocalypse is near, then get the Government to fund equipment that will be obsolete by the time it is actually built.

It's a mugs game and for the companies that make weapons - it's also big business.

The fools are us, the Australian public, who foot the bill.

Let's break the numbers down. That $270bn is $10,000 per person for new weapons. This at a time when we can't afford to keep JobKeeper; the ABC is getting the chop and welfare recipients are living near the poverty line.

A colossal shower of money being pissed up against the wall.

Unfortunately there is nothing new in this. In Canberra it's called ''the gun show'. Parade in front of a few weapons. Look important. Talk up national defence. Make a few statements for the evening news. Make sure you do it with people in uniform standing behind you. Try and look "Prime Ministerial", if that's even a thing.

This is a lunacy that can only come from Canberra. A place so weird it's residents wouldn't be believed in a Star Wars bar scene. I would know - I spent my adult life trying to be a Politician there; and I wasn't even the strangest of them.

If we are going to start funding everything with guns, let's at least give us a gun show we can all use by subsiding gym memberships.

I'm serious. There is value in it.

The best long term investment we can make to health care is to get Aussies out from their COVID-19 weight gain and into a fitness programme.

Air Warfare Destroyer HMAS Hobart successfully firing a Harpoon Blast Test Vehicle in the East Australian Exercise Area.
Air Warfare Destroyer HMAS Hobart successfully firing a Harpoon Blast Test Vehicle in the East Australian Exercise Area.

The numbers stack up; save billions in long term health care costs, address mental health and suicide and; frankly, build the infrastructure for Australia win a few gold medals in a decade or two.

It's also not that expensive. The Government could set it at $500 a year. Call it the "Australian Government Fitness Subsidy". Over 10 years that's $5000 a person. Half the costs of a weapons programme announced today. The cost will be even less if you apply it under a "use it or lose it" basis. That is, if you aren't averaging a visit to the gym, health club, pool, pilates or spin class every week - you can't claim the money.

Get fit or get lost. The marketing campaign writes itself.

It's like no-jab-no-play (compulsory vaccinations) but for adults. Heck, if the Government is going be paying me to vaccinate my kids (which they rightly do); why can't I get few bucks to pump iron.

The fitness industry took a real beating during COVID-19 and could do with the boost.

Former senator Sam Dastyari says the money is better spent elsewhere. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Former senator Sam Dastyari says the money is better spent elsewhere. Picture: Jonathan Ng

They contribute over $3bn to the economy, and the 6,500 gyms alone employ over 35,000 people. The latest Fitness Australia report showed that 16,178 people died prematurely due to a lack of physical activity last year.

Is paying $500 a year towards everyone's gym going to solve all our health problems? Not at all. But it will do a hell of a lot more than buying missiles that are going to just sit there.

The industry could do with the support, and Aussies could do with losing some weight.

Heck … I certainly could use a few missiles on my left and right shoulders too.

Sam Dastyari was an Australian Senator from 2013-2018 and definitely should be going to the gym

Originally published as Australia's huge $270b waste of money