PM had cold feet on Base plan

Author: Peter Hartcher INTERNATIONAL EDITOR
Date: 05/11/2012
Words: 573
Source: SMH

 

 

 

Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: News and Features
Page: 1

 

AUSTRALIA had an attack of last-minute “cold feet” about the historic announcement that US Marines were to be based in Darwin and suggested a delay until after Barack Obama’s visit last year.The incident produced serious concerns in the Obama administration, throwing planning for the presidential visit into confusion. The delay was firmly rejected by the US.”It was squeamishness on the Australian side,” said a USofficial involved in the discussions. The arrangements had already been fully agreed and thoroughly planned. An Australian official involved in the talks said it was “political nervousness” as the Gillard government contemplated the possible reaction of the Labor Left. A US participant said it was a case of “cold feet”. “As you get closer, you realise the momentous nature of it.”One reason for the US surprise and concern was that Canberra first proposed the idea of US troop deployments in 2010.

The permanent rotating deployment of up to 2500 Marines was announced jointly by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the US President, Barack Obama, as planned, on November 16 last year.Australia’s tremulousness struck between September and November.The deployment was a hallmark of the Obama administration’s “pivot” away from the Middle East toAsia. “We are here to stay,” the President told a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament after announcing the Marine decision.

The winner of the US presidential election on Tuesday will make decisions on the second phase of the new intensification of the Australian alliance, which will be decided in 2016.

The US did not explicitly threaten to cancel Mr Obama’s visit but a US official said it was made clear that “the President was not going to Australiato announce some temporary measure or 250 Marines. “It was pretty clear that it would not be good for anyone for the President to have that sort of visit. This was very important to the White House.”

A separate illustration of Australian political nerves arose when a US official suggested the Pentagon send 7500 Marines to Australia, three times the number ultimately agreed. Deployments were discussed in multiples of 2500 because this is the minimum size of an independent Marine fighting force, defence officials said. This idea was eventually killed off by both sides, officials said. The Gillard government was concerned it would look “too big” politically, that the government would be seen to be conceding too much to the US. And the US Defence Department dismissed the idea as operationally undesirable: “It was too many in one place. We’ll have four sets of these forces, two in Japan, one in Guam, and one in Australia. It’s a better dispersal than having three inAustralia.”

Australian governments have been suggesting more US military use of Australia since the 1980s, chiefly to secure US commitment to the defence of Australia.

But when the Obama administration agreed to send Marines permanently, it was the first time since World War II the US had taken up an Australian offer to base its forces here. TheUS remains keen to do more inAustralia in the next phase, including basing big combat navy vessels inWestern Australia. Although both governments say the US presence has nothing to do with hedging against the possibility of an aggressive China, a US expert on Obama foreign policy, James Mann, writes in his book The Obamians: “The administration did not hide the fact that China’s growing assertiveness had prompted the new policy” of the Asia pivot.

letter to Defence Minister Smith 2012

Dear Minister Smith,
On International Day of Peace 2012, the Independent & Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) will be launched to promote an independent Australian foreign policy that builds peace and nonviolent resolution of conflict in our region.

We are opposed to the establishment of foreign military bases and the deployment of foreign troops in Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

 

In particular, the network is opposed to the stationing of up to 2,500 US marines based in Darwin by 2016-17, the possible upgrading of Stirling Naval base, the stationing of US aircraft at RAAF Base Tindal and the militarisation of the Cocos Islands. We object to the increasing integration of Australian and US military forces.

 

We remain gravely concerned that this military build-up has enormous potential not only to damage relationships with our neighbours, but also to accelerate regional arms races and embroil us in further wars on behalf of a foreign power.

 

These developments are not in Australia’s national interest; US military posturing whether through containment or adventurism is a handicap in our relationships with trading partners, costing us in financial, social and environmental terms.

 

IPAN would rather see Australia have an independent foreign policy, based on good relationships with our neighbours and trading partners and for Australia to be proudly free to do what is best for our country and region.

 

Our network is comprised of non-government organisations, unions, churches and community groups seeking to promote democratic, transparent and participatory decision-making on Australia’s peace and security options.

 

We would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience, and seek your advice on how our network can participate in the development of the forthcoming Defence White Paper.
Member organisations IPAN.

 

The organisations who have come together in IPAN have a range of concerns regarding an independent foreign and defence policy for Australia, for example

 

• Do Australians really want US aircraft carriers based in Perth, drones and surveillance aircraft operating from our territory in the Cocos Islands, US marines deployed in Darwin and US nuclear armed ships docking regularly in Brisbane?

 

• Will the basing of US troops in Darwin for 6 months of each year compromise Australian sovereignty and our relationships with other Asian countries,especially as it is a containment of China?

 

• Will the major communications and spying facilities operated by US forces in Australia, such as Pine Gap, Geraldton and North West Cape draw Australia inevitably into any conflicts in which the United States engages?.

 

• Is Australian involvement in the ANZUS Agreement really in the interests of Australian peoples, and likely to contribute to peaceful relations within the Asia-Pacific region?

 

• Will the increasing proliferation of smaller and more “useable” nuclear weapons make our region safer?

 

• How will the Trans Pacific Partnership reduce Australian government regulation of our foreign investment, our financial system and our health system?

 

• Do we want an Australian Government defence policy based on defence of Australia or on an offensive involvement in a US war with China?

 

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network is a way for us to work collectively to address these concerns, as well as working with peoples of the Asia-Pacific countries to assist.

 

 

 

 

 

Plibersek Demo Poster Thursday July 12 2012

MONEY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH

NOT FOR WAR

Join us to demand more money for
public health, not for war

Thursday 12 July                          4.30 – 5.30pm

Electoral Office of Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek
150 Broadway, Chippendale (near Broadway shopping centre)

Rally with drones, submarines & marines on sticks

 

Demo at Plibersek’s Office July 12 2012

Money for public health, not for war

Media Release

 

Money for public health, not for war

 

US Marines, drones and submarines will dominate a rally demanding a cut in military spending to be held outside Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek’s Sydney office at 4.30pm on Thursday 12 July.

 

The Keep War From Our Door – Wave of Hope (KWFOD) network will be presenting a letter to Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek, arguing that part of the present military budget of $80 million a day should be spent on public health.

 

“The Federal Government remains committed to big military spending,” Professor Jake Lynch from KWFOD said.

 

“Australia’s military spending will continue to be the highest regionally and, per capita, second only to theUSA, the world’s biggest military spender.

 

“There are moral, social and economic reasons to transfer part ofAustralia’s military spending to meet outstanding public health needs such as the critical shortage of nurses that is predicted to hit 109,000 by 2025.

 

“We are concerned about the serious consequences for Australians of the Government’s agreement to host US Marines inDarwinand to expand US military bases and training facilities inAustralia,” he said.

 

“We agree with former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser who says:

 

Australia should not do anything that suggests that we could be part of a policy of military containment of China, but marines in Darwin, spy planes in Cocos Island make us part of that policy of containment.

 

This is the wrong way to preserve peace and security. We should not be part of it.

 

“For genuine military and economic security inAustralia, our foreign policy needs to be built upon mutual trust and understanding between the peoples ofAustraliaand the Asia Pacific,” Professor Lynch continued.

 

“We wish to share a safe home in a region built on friendship, trust and the peaceful resolution of disputes and differences.”

 

For more information please contact Professor Jake Lynch on 0420 980 010

And visit our website www.keepwarfromourdoor.org

Thursday 12 July                                       4.30 – 5.30pm

Electoral Office of Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek
150 Broadway, Chippendale (near Broadway shopping centre)

Keep War from our door material

Position statement

 

We wish to share a safe home in a region built on friendship, trust and the peaceful resolution of disputes and differences.

 

However, US troops are on their way to be permanently stationed in Darwin –the “new forward-staging base”, a clear signal to China that “the US has quick-response capability in Beijing’s backyard” (The Wall Street Journal 27 Jan 2012).

 

Australia’s Defence White Paper, (2009) identifies China as a potential enemy and talks about South East Asia being “a conduit for the projection of military power against us by others.” But China, our leading trading partner, believes “Australia should beware lest it be perceived as a lackey of Washington”(The Australian 22Mar 2012).

 

Indonesia, our near neighbour, has warned that an expanded military presence would generate a “vicious circle of tension and mistrust.” (SMH 17 Nov 2011)

 

Such developments should ring alarm bells for Australia.

 

Australia has a long history of involvement in global peace efforts. We helped draft the United Nations Charter, which makes it illegal to wage aggressive warfare and were one of just eight countries to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, we have been involved in numerous peace-keeping exercises around the globe.

 

This is the proud record we should be continuing to expand, not our military capabilities. Therefore,
– We oppose the continuing military build-up in our home region, which threatens to bring war to our doorstep;
– We call on the nations of the Indo-Pacific to reduce their force levels and military spending;
– We call on governments to build regional mechanisms to resolve disputes, under the auspices of the United Nations, to stop our differences turning into flashpoints or pretexts for war.
– We call on the Australian government to base the US-Australian relationship on our non-military ties.
The increasingly militaristic posture of the US-Australian alliance undermines our national sovereignty and our standing in the region.
Let’s replace confrontation with cooperation.

Let’s replace fear with friendship.

Let’s join a new wave made of hope and optimism

Let’s Keep War from our Door.

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