Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Unfit for Service

From today’s Courier Mail –

After a $1.4 billion "upgrade" the navy's front-line fighting ships can­not defend themselves and are unable to be sent into battle. A navy whistleblower says send­ing the 4000-tonne Adelaide Class Guided Missile Frigates to war would be like sending a VK Commo­dore to race at Bathurst.

Senior officials admit the 1997 FFG upgrade project was a "debacle" created by the Howard govern­ment's decision to maximise the sale price of the Sydney-based contractor Australian Defence Industries when it was sold to the French firm Thales. The project is four years late, includes four ships not the original six and they just don't work. The navy informant told News Limited, which publishes The Courier-Mail, that the situation was so bad sailors were quitting because their ships could not be sent to the Middle East or any other conflict zone. Late last year, navy chief Vice-Admiral Russ Shalders refused to accept the first ship in the program, HMAS Sydney, for "operational release" because its war fighting systems did not function properly.

Whilst this story has all the characteristics of a beat up, there is plenty of evidence that defence procurement is in a parlous state. How it got to be that way results from a mix of circumstances, but confusing alliance with equipment selection was a hallmark of the Howard years. We’ve finished up with unsuitable heavy armour (M1A1 Abrams tanks), underperforming subs (Collins class vessels which whose hulls are OK, but are dogged with Raytheon fighting systems when Atlas ISUS 90 would have been more suitable) and Brendan Nelson’s individual decision, against the advice of the RAAF to procure Superhornets.

Surely defence procurement is one area which ought to be quarantined from political decision making or commercial vested interest. Our men and women in uniform deserve the best.

Another way of looking at the issue is to develop our own defence industry to the point where we don’t have to rely on anyone else. It’s possible, given time and resources, and would help us avoid the desperation that developed in the early months and years of the Second World War. Remember the “Boomerang”?

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Help for Brigitte

For years I’ve been hooked on French cars – real ones with engines in the front driving the rear wheels. Currently I own two – 1969 Peugeot 404 and a 1984 Peugeot 505. The 404 sits forlornly in the shed waiting reproachfully for me to begin a restoration project. It’s been waiting for eight years now. This was to be a retirement project, but I seem to have less spare time now that I’m “retired” than when I was working.

The 505 was being driven by my son, but he’s moved interstate, and it was extremely unlikely that it would have survived the journey. It’s covered nearly 300000kms, so doesn’t owe me much. Problem is, the alloy motor has been eaten away from the inside by Toowoomba water (not in my ownership – I always used the recommended coolant) and both the engine oil and coolant have both assumed the characteristics and appearance of mayonnaise. These two vital fluids are mixing somewhere in the motor, and Brigitte's condition is terminal.

A major rebuild is beyond my time and ability, so a replacement long motor would be the way to go. The rest of the car is in good nick. So far, enquiries through all my usual channels to acquire such an exotic lump have proved fruitless.

It there anyone out there who knows where I could find a ZDJL 2.2 litre with Bosch K Jet Tronic Injection? The car is a 505 STI with automatic transmission.

I can’t live without her.

A Pinch of Common Sense

Courtesy I found this posted in Facebook a few weeks ago, when the faux outrage about mandated vaccination first began to ...