Catallaxy commenter Dr Carlo Kopp had an interesting piece in yesterday’s Age. It appears Brendan Nelson is telling porky pies about the F22A Raptor, and Australia’s ability to acquire the aircraft. Money quote:
At this point the minister’s claims become bizarre. A news release issued the same day contained the statement that ‘the Government has not asked the United States for access to the F-22 Raptor’, thereby confirming that the minister had not requested that the LOEXCOM process be performed to establish whether export is permitted. Another incongruity is that Gordon England, known as an outspoken advocate of the Joint Strike Fighter, is not the party responsible for managing this process. This task falls to the US Air Force.
The minister thus used a letter from a party who is not authorised to decide on export to argue that export of the F-22 to Australia is not permitted. This while the formal US process for export approval has not been completed.
Unless the minister can present good reasons why Australia would fail the LOEXCOM assessment, this looks much like speculation presented as fact. Is this a diversion to shift attention away from criticism aimed at the proposed Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18F Super Hornet purchases by numerous experts?
What the minister did not disclose is that during the 1999-2001 period, the US did initiate the F-22 LOEXCOM protocol for its trusted ally Australia, but our Defence bureaucrats brought it to an abrupt halt after they sold the Joint Strike Fighter idea to then minister Robert Hill. The first and most important stage of the assessment was completed, concluding that Australia presented no greater security risk than the US Air Force itself.
Since Defence never sought the findings of this assessment, these were not public knowledge until disclosed in Parliament in March last year.
The minister’s ill-considered statements produced much collateral damage to public confidence in our US alliance, judging from editorials, irate public feedback and media speculation. In turn, he has not aided his cabinet colleagues, the Prime Minister or the nation in the midst of a heated debate on the benefits of the US alliance.
What gives? And in an election year to boot?