INCOMING Liberal Senator Jim Molan, a former senior military officer, has warned Australian forces would be rendered almost useless in just 19 days.
Mr Molan said if Australia’s current stockpiles of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel ran dry then the military would effectively be grounded in that time.
Molan was the chief of operations for coalition forces in Iraq and will enter federal Parliament next month, replacing former deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash who was forced out of the Upper House over the citizenship scandal.
After he quit the military, he was the driving force behind the Abbott Government’s successful Operation Sovereign Borders that stopped asylum seekers reaching the mainland.
Australia was one of the few places in the world that didn’t have a government-mandated strategic reserve of fuel, Mr Molan said.
“There are things that we can probably never build in this country, such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the most advanced missiles,” he told the ABC.
“But we should guarantee their delivery to Australia, which you can rarely do, or we should have them in warehouses.”
The fuel threat had been assessed by former air force vice-marshal John Blackburn in 2015 who found if Australia’s sea lines were blocked through terrorism or conflict in the South China Sea, supplies would be depleted within weeks.
He also warned Australia’s pledge to boost defence spending over the next decade by $30 billion — to the 2 per cent of GDP Donald Trump has been urging NATO allies to commit to — might not actually be enough.
“You can’t just hit 2 per cent and achieve military perfection. You’ve got to stay at that level of expenditure.”
He believed a much better case needed to be made by Canberra for boosting defence spending, by clearly spelling out the risks to the country in not doing so.
Writing in The Australian, Mr Molan said it was also not a guarantee that the US could or would come to Australia’s aid.
“Until I deployed to Iraq with the US military in 2004-05, I made the common mistake of assuming US power was infinite,” he writes. “The US was indeed powerful after 1945 and even more powerful winning the Cold War. But the US Army had only 10 full-time combat divisions and … was furiously trying to increase its strength.”
Further cutbacks since then had weakened their forces even more — to the extent that only three brigades was now combat-ready.