Friday, 14 March 2008
The Silvertails are crying fibro. A miniscule $1.44 million of government funding for ground improvements over the past 10 years - from a total outlay of over $900m - has been directed to the Sea Eagles' home ground, Brookvale Oval.
"The people of the peninsula deserve better" says a submission to government by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who has been enlisted to win funds to upgrade a ground described by its own patron as "definitely the worst in the NRL".
Kerry Sibraa, Manly's patron and a Labor senator in the federal parliament for 17 years, is appalled at the discriminatory treatment of the NRL club, which sits in an electorate that is taken for granted by state and federal Liberal governments and deemed unwinnable by Labor governments.
"From 1997 to 2007, there has been over $900m of state and federal government funds spent on grounds where NRL games are played, yet the home of the 2007 NRL premiership runners-up has received only $1.44m," Sibraa said.
"We got $400,000 from the state government for an electronic scoreboard in 2004 when [Premier] Morris Iemma was sports minister and $1m from the federal government in 2006 when [local federal member] Tony Abbott got us ground lighting.
"We expected $9m for a new grandstand in the lead-up to the last federal election but because the promise was made during the caretaker period of government, we missed out."
Compounding Manly's anger has been the likely flow of $11m in grants to their traditional fibro foes, Wests Tigers. "I nearly choked when I read that Campbelltown will receive $8m in federal funding and Leichhardt $3m," Sibraa said. "They play only three games at each ground and now they want more."
Asked whether the Sea Eagles were the victims of being located in a safe conservative seat, wooed by neither Liberal nor Labor, Sibraa said: "There is no doubt about that. We've been taken for granted at both state and federal level."
Sibraa pointed out that Manly's opponents tomorrow night, the Sharks, have done well from the political influence of former treasurer Peter Costello being aligned with the now-retired local federal member, Bruce Baird.
Furthermore, Manly's geographic position means the Sea Eagles can't accept the $2m guarantees on offer to other NRL clubs who disappear into the giant vortex at Homebush Bay that is ANZ Stadium.
South Sydney, the Bulldogs, St George Illawarra and Wests Tigers will all play the majority of their games at ANZ Stadium this season and Parramatta are considering a move there.
"We don't have the option of playing out of Homebush because we are not on a train line," Sibraa said. "How do our fans get access to it?"
Traditionally, Manly fans don't travel to away games, meaning the only way their dollars can enrich the code is by the NRL club building its proposed eastern grandstand.
"We did have a very good meeting with Morris Iemma and we expect to get some money in the next state budget," Sibraa said. "Warringah Council said they will match it.
"David Gallop [NRL chief executive], Grant Mayer [Sea Eagles CEO] and myself went to see the Premier and he said Brookvale was his No.1 priority and Campbelltown number two. Now, it would seem, Campbelltown is No.1 but we are still confident the Premier will deliver."
With Eels chief executive Denis Fitzgerald and chairman Alan Overton having uneasy relations with the Parramatta Stadium Trust and considering a relocation to Homebush Bay, the Panthers, Sharks, Roosters and Sea Eagles could be the only Sydney NRL clubs left playing in their neighbourhoods.
The result is match-day traffic travelling ludicrously in opposite directions, like the Los Angeles freeways in peak hour.
Silvertails living near Santa Monica travel into their city offices in the morning, while Latinos leave inner-city suburbs for work as domestic helps and gardeners on the beaches.
In the late afternoon, both groups make the return journeys, with traffic jams in both directions twice a day.
Tonight, Souths and Roosters fans will leave the fringe of Sydney's CBD and the east for Homebush Bay in the west, while Dragons and Tigers fans will travel on Sunday from the south and west to the Sydney Football Stadium in the heart of the city.
Thursday, 13 March 2008
Leaders of Salafi-jihadist organisations hypocritically preach about the benefits of martyrdom, but rarely, if ever, conduct suicide operations themselves, or send their loved ones on such missions. It is a fact that Al Qaeda and associated groups offer no vision for Muslims other than perennial jihad, hardly an appealing prospect
Jihad is now an industry among scholars, including those who masquerade as scholars but are actually in the service of more shadowy outfits, and those who believe that by blowing up people praying in mosques or families out shopping, they will not only serve God but win a point-to-point ticket to the pastures of heaven where seventy-two swooning virgins await their arrival.
The tabloid approach to jihad in particular and Muslims in general, being easy, is often employed by the Western media. There is also an epidemic of books aimed at denigrating Islam and simply ignoring or distorting its spiritual majesty, the magnificence of its history and its contribution to civilisation.
The easiest thing to do today in America is to publish a book on Islam, but the book has to be negative and it has to reinforce existing prejudices. The basic idea is to equate Islam with violence and to prove that it is not a religion of peace at all, as it advocates the establishment of a khilafat where the infidels will either be liquidated, or converted or reduced to the status of serfs.
Unfortunately, it is not the work of the serious scholar that now defines Islam in the West but the words and deeds of the lost tribe of jihadis. Islam has been hijacked by the prototype represented by Osama bin Laden and his like. They have become its image-makers and they are the ones viewed by the non-Islamic world as its real representatives. That is the fight, and it is a fight that Muslims first have to win from among their own ranks.
But to maintain that there is nothing rotten in the state of Denmark is to ignore reality. How can a remedy be found without first recognising that there exists a condition that needs a remedy?
One serious and scholarly publication that has come up with incisive analyses of the phenomenon of terrorism and what ails many Muslim societies is brought out by the Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point, the famous US military academy.
Its monthly publication, CTC Sentinel, declares on its masthead that it is “objective, relevant and rigorous.” Tall though the claim may sound, the Sentinel does make an earnest effort to be all three. The current issue carries two worthy articles, one on the “return of the Arabs” to Afghanistan and the other on Salafi jihad as a religious ideology.
Brian Glyn Williams, an American university professor who studied at SOAS, London, makes what he calls a preliminary effort to sift through vague rumours in order to gain a clear picture of Al Qaeda’s actual role in a Taliban guerrilla war that has, to all outward appearances, morphed into an Iraqi-style terrorist insurgency.
He concludes that while it is difficult to estimate the number of Arab fighters in the region, it seems obvious that Al Qaeda central is determined to play a key role as a fundraiser, recruiter and direct contributor to the military efforts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Moreover, unlike the earlier generation of “gucci jihadists” who made little if any real contribution to the jihad against the Soviets, the current generation seems determined to remind the West that the “Lions of Islam” have not forgotten.
According to Williams, since 2002, one of Al Qaeda’s main roles has been diverting wealth from the Arab Gulf States to funding the struggling Taliban. One recently killed Saudi shaykh named Asadullah was described as “the moneybags in the entire tribal belt.” Men like Asadullah have paid bounties for Taliban attacks on coalition troops, provided money to Taliban commanders such as Baitullah Mehsud to encourage them to attack Pakistani troops and launch a suicide bombing campaign in that country, and used their funds to re-arm the Taliban. Local Pashtuns in Waziristan and in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province have claimed that the Arab fighters pay well for lodging and food and provide money for the families of those who are “martyred” in suicide operations.
But there are also tensions between the Arabs and the Afghans, to ease which, Mustafa Abu’l-Yazid, the Egyptian head of Al Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan, has proclaimed that he recognises the authority of Mullah Omar.
Assaf Moghadam, an Islamic scholar, in his analysis of “Salafi jihad” argues that it is more akin to an ideology than to a religion because like other ideologies it is a by-product of the industrialisation that swept through Europe, beginning in the 19th century and is hence an outgrowth of modernity. It is intimately linked to the dislocating and turbulent effects of globalisation, which introduced rapid changes in the social, political and economic realms of life.
The Salafi-jihad is an ideology because its functions are essentially congruent with those of other ideologies. Analogous to the first, explanatory function of ideology, the Salafi-jihadists’ goal is to raise awareness among Muslims that their religion has been on the wane. Whereas Islam used to be at its peak during the first centuries of its existence, Salafi-jihadists urge Muslims to understand that the tide has turned, and that Islam is in a constant state of decline in religious, political, military, economic and cultural terms. Salafi-jihad provides a new sense of self-definition and belonging in the form of membership to a supranational entity.
Finally, according to Moghadam, like all ideologies, Salafi-jihadists present a programme of action, namely jihad, which is understood in military terms. They assert that jihad will reverse the tide of history and redeem adherents and potential adherents of Salafi-jihadist ideology from their misery. Martyrdom is extolled as the ultimate way in which jihad can be waged — hence the proliferation of suicide attacks among Salafi-jihadist groups.
Westerners are commonly described as infidels, while moderate Muslims and Arabs are labelled apostates. To the most extreme Salafi-jihadists, Muslims who reject the tenets of Salafi-jihad are tantamount to infidels, thus deserving of death. They interpret their violence on other Muslims as religiously sanctioned, ignoring sections of Muslim holy texts that prohibit internecine fighting or the killing of civilians. They single-handedly blame the West for each and every misfortune that has befallen Muslims.
Moghadam urges the United States and its allies to understand that they are not facing the religion of Islam as their main enemy, but an ideology, namely the Salafi-jihad.
It is equally a fact, he maintains, that leaders of Salafi-jihadist organisations hypocritically preach about the benefits of martyrdom, but rarely, if ever, conduct suicide operations themselves, or send their loved ones on such missions. It is a fact that Al Qaeda and associated groups offer no vision for Muslims other than perennial jihad, hardly an appealing prospect.
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent. His e-mail is email@example.com
The group, led by retired air vice-marshals Peter Criss and Brian Graf, has written to the Senate foreign affairs and defence committee arguing that the Defence Department has not fully explored the case for alternatives to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is planned to become the RAAF's main strike fighter beyond 2014.
In particular, the group, which includes defence aviation analyst Carlo Kopp, has questioned the recent $6billion purchase of 24 F/A-18F Super Hornets and believes the Defence Department has not adequately scrutinised alternatives to the F-35, such as the F-22 fighter.
They want a "quality assurance review" to test the veracity of some evidence presented by senior Defence officials at a Senate estimates committee hearing last month.
"The reason for this review is that if the Government accepts the statements made at face value and acts on them in good faith, then it is our professional judgment that Australia will be at risk of loss of sovereignty," they said in a letter to the chairman of the Senate foreign affairs and defence committee, Labor's Mark Bishop.
"A sound and timely quality assurance process can detect and correct such serious errors."
The group has queried a $400million cost estimate for cancelling the Super Hornet contract provided by Defence and also argues that the Super Hornets may not be capable of defeating the latest Russian fighters being bought by air forces in Southeast Asia.
They also contend that the Defence Department has never undertaken a proper evalution of alternatives to the F-35 fighter, particularly the F-22 Raptor.
The US Congress has barred sales of the F-22 to foreign countries, butthe Rudd Government is interested in exploring whether the aircraft could be made available to the RAAF.
"Regional capabilities are being fielded, or are expected to be fielded in future, that will defeat the F-35, but not the F-22A. So the requirement for the F-35 has been overtaken by regional capabilities that outclass the JSF whenever introduced to service," the ex-RAAF officers said.
Senator Bishop told The Australian last night it would be up to the Government to consider the group's call for an independent review of advice provided to senators by the Defence Department.
Fighter price taking off, US report says
Tom Allard National Security Editor
THE cost of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has risen dramatically, with more rises likely, the US Congress audit office said.
The Australian Government is planning to buy up to 100 of the so-called fifth-generation stealth fighter jets for about $15 billion. Much of the order is to be filled in the early phase of production. This will mean Australia will pay more than the average cost for its F-35s, and will be more vulnerable to delays.
A US Congress Government Accountability Office report said the Pentagon has acknowledged the total cost of the program had risen 10 per cent or $25 billion in the past year alone. Since 2004, the cost had risen 28 per cent, or $60 billion, to almost $300 billion.
More worrying still, the report said independent analyses suggested the figures underestimated the cost blow-out by another $41 billion and that "the development schedule is likely to slip from 12 to 27 months".
"We expect program development and procurement costs to increase substantially and schedule pressures to worsen," the report says.
Of particular concern was a decision by the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, to reduce testing early in the development phase to save money.
This "carries the risk of design and performance problems not being discovered until late in the operational testing and production phases, when it is significantly more costly to address such problems", the report says.
The Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, said: "It's more bad news. It causes me great concern. You have to wonder what the previous government was doing over the past decade."
Under the air combat plan devised in 2002, the F-35 was to be Australia's sole fighter jet until the middle of the century, replacing the F/A-18 Hornets and the F-111 long-range bombers. The plan, which is under review, has been heavily criticised, not least because of the risk of the F-35 program unravelling.
According to Andrew Davies, an analyst with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the report bolsters the argument for buying the fighter later in the production cycle "when the technology was more mature and the costs have come down".
Mr Davies said it was important to adjust the figures for inflationary effects, but there had still been significant cost increases.
news and politics
Joint Strike Fighter
Released Tuesday, the report from the Government Accountability Office offers a sobering assessment of the ambitious effort to deliver a modern series of aircraft known as the F-35 Lightning II to the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Tasked by Congress to conduct an annual assessment of the program, the GAO said costs have gone up by $23 billion since last year alone.
Close to $300 billion is needed to acquire 2,458 aircraft for the three services and another $650 billion will be needed to operate and maintain the fighters that are expected to be flying well into the 21st century, the report says.
Operating costs, projected at $346 billion just a few years ago, have been driven upward by changes in repair plans, revised costs for depot maintenance, higher fuel costs and increased fuel consumption.
The GAO's auditors said they expect development and procurement costs "to increase substantially and schedule pressures to worsen based on performance to date."
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, is the prime contractor for the Lightning II, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, also sees many of the problems as self-inflicted.
"The contractor has extended manufacturing schedules several times, but test aircraft delivery dates continue to slip," the report states. "The flight test program has barely begun, but faces substantial risks with reduced assets as design and manufacturing problems continue to cause delays that further compress the time available to complete development."
Auditors criticized both the military and the contractor for pressing into the jet's development's phase before key technologies were mature, started manufacturing test aircraft before designs were stable, and moved to production before flight tests showed the aircraft was ready.
"We do not know the basis for the GAO estimates and until we receive and analyze their data we will be unable to comment on them," Lockheed spokesman John Smith said in an e-mailed statement.
Smith, however, said the company has been careful stewards of U.S. tax dollars by trimming costs wherever possible.
"We continue to apply the same kind of oversight, budget alignment and lean thinking to the program," he said.
Production of the Lightning II has begun and the Defense Department is scheduled to buy the aircraft through 2034. U.S. allies are also buying hundreds of the jets and are contributing $4.8 billion in development costs.
The Lightning II is being produced in several different models tailored to the needs of each service. The new jet will replace the Air Forces F-16 Falcon and the A-10 Warthog aircraft. A short takeoff and vertical landing version will replace the Marine Corps F/A-18C/D and AV-8B Harrier aircraft. And the Navy is buying a model designed for taking off and landing on aircraft carriers.
Joint Strike Fighter