The tantalising totem of 2% of GDP on defence

By Graeme Dobell*

Come back with me to a wonderful time when the Cold War had been won and Australia was cashing in the peace dividend. Spend money on the military? Naaah! Squeeze ’em. The release by the National Archives of the 1994 and 1995 cabinet records of the Keating Labor government is our annual compare and contrast moment. This is defence, so, as always, start with the money. The archives show that the ‘peace dividend’ moment in the mid-1990s was when Canberra really started to argue about what’s since become a totemic issue: whether Defence should get 2% of GDP.

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