Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is promising that the Coalition if elected will establish a military-led response “to combat people smuggling and protect our borders” – an operation to which he gives the grandiose title Operation Sovereign Borders. He will appoint a “3-star officer” (Lieutenant General or equivalent) to undertake this role.
In support of this proposed measure Mr Abbott insists there is a national emergency on our borders.
A description of the policy can be found on the Liberal Party website at Operation Sovereign Borders, and the policy document may be downloaded from here.
Leaving aside the overblown rhetoric and the questions of whether the proposed new arrangements will be effective or whether it is appropriate to militarise a routine civilian law enforcement and immigration issue in this way, let us have a look at what military officers are normally expected to do to earn their general officer ranking:
Mr Abbott’s proposed border supremo would be at the same rank as the following:
- The Chiefs of Navy, Army and Air Force, and the Vice-Chief of the Defence Force
- Lieutenant General John Monash when he commanded the Australian Corps on the Western Front in World War I
- Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey when he commanded the British 2nd Army, the main British force that landed at Normandy on D-Day.
Mr Abbott’s proposed border supremo would be one rank above Major General Leslie Morshead when he commanded the Ninth Division in North Africa, including of course at Tobruk and Alamein.
One can see why former CDF Admiral (retd.) Chris Barrie said this morning during an interview with Radio National’s Fran Kelly, “I don’t know what the Majors in Afghanistan think about the charade that is going on in Canberra”. Hear the full interview with Chris Barrie here.