AUSMIN 2014 – A ROAD MAP TO HELL
Australian Anti-Bases Coalition & IPAN-NSW Statement
August 18, 2014
On 12 August 2014, the Australian Government hosted United States Secretary of State John Kerry and United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Sydney for the 2014 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN). AUSMIN covers military matters, foreign affairs and trade in the region.
Ignoring advice from prominent Australians that we are too ‘close to the US’, the Abbott Government engaged in more abject groveling. Former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Paul Keating and former Foreign Minister Bob Carr have all said that Australia’s interests are not served by servility to the US super power but require greater independence.
Paul Keating was reported as saying in the Keith Murdoch Oration 2012 that “Australia was over deferential to the US” (Diary of a Foreign Minister by Bob Carr p 217).
The combined weight of the Abbott Government and US officials has squashed any tendency towards a more independent Australia. Instead the path of ‘all the way with the USA’ was reinforced by AUSMIN 2014.
Australia’s interests are best served by good relations and co-operation with all countries, especially Indonesia and China. Tension between the US and China is not beneficial for Australia and the region. The most advantageous policy for Australia is to steer an independent course in our region. AUSMIN charts a path that will lead inevitably towards heightened tensions and even the possibility of war between the US and China and hence is a road map to hell.
The teaming up of the US, Japan and Australia in a tight tri-power arrangement is a move to tighten containment of China. Japan has been being congratulated for ‘re-interpreting’ its pacifist constitution so its forces can become more integrated with the US military.
Who will pay the millions, possibly billions of dollars over time for the 2,500 Marines rotating through Darwin has not been clarified, but it is now clear that there will be increased US Navy and US Air Force visits. B52’s – infamous for their bombing of Vietnam – will be allowed into Australia for the first time since they were banned from our skies because they carried nuclear weapons.
The Australian Anti-Bases Coalition and IPAN-NSW have campaigned for information on the rules governing the stationing of Marines in Darwin. But AUSMIN provided no answers to important questions such as “who will pay for the marines?” and “can the US marines undertake military action from Australian bases without Australian government agreement”. Vague general references are made to interoperability, strategic collaboration and the annual huge military exercise Talisman Sabre but the meaning is clear — Australia’s military and military budget are to be skewed to serve the interests of US foreign policy.
Hamish McDonald (Saturday Paper 16/8/14) points out:
Another question left unspoken is about the freedom of Washington to deploy its forces directly out of Australia, and the level of consultation required with Canberra. The distinction between training and basing is blurring.
Missile warfare is given prominence in the AUSMIN statement, this reveals that the ground stations at Pine Gap, and Geraldton and the three Jindalee radar stations in Australia would be the eyes of the US-Australian-Japanese anti-ballistic missile network.
The possibility of anti-missile firings from Australian and Japanese airwarfare destroyers being controlled by the US central command is lauded by AUSMIN. This proposal would mean Australia would lose control of Australian weapons and it leaves open the prospect that Australian missiles could slam into Chinese or Russian missiles without any input from Australia – an appalling, dangerous and depressing possibility.
This approach also risks Australia being drawn into the North versus South Korean conflict and Japanese regional belligerence. Once again, Australia’s interests would be sacrificed by involvement in conflicts that have no relevance for this country but are part of US regional strategy.
Since 2012 AUSMIN statements have included an Indian Ocean component as well as the Pacific one. This is true this year as the Indian Ocean’s importance rises with the rise of India. The AUSMIN statement says:
Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to comprehensive engagement in the rapidly developing Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
The focus on the Indian Ocean brings West Australia and its naval and air bases into the orbit of the US interest. Using these bases the US will be able to throw its weight around in the Indian Ocean as it does around the Pacific, now often described as the ‘American lake’.
AUSMIN also welcomes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). This deal has many in Australian community extremely worked up about its restrictions on Australian pharmaceutical, intellectual property and cultural standards and norms. The AUSMIN communique says the two countries will deepen “regional integration, open new trade and investment opportunities”. The question is for whom? And the answer is clear – for large US. Japanese and Australian corporations. They may reap some benefits but the small countries of the Pacific will have their precious resources ripped off with little or no return to their people.
The same fulsome support for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is evident in the communique.
The AUSMIN statement shows no appreciation of the real needs of the peoples of the region while it pontificates on the kind of stability that is desirable in the region and also commits to maintaining the status quo in favour of US big business and military domination.
On the terrorism of the Islamic State in Iraq, there is no reference to where this bloody organization is getting its weapons and money nor any suggesting of how the flow of these items can be prevented. And there is certainly no apology from the US or Australia for creating the mess that is Iraq today.
Disaster relief is confirmed in the AUSMIN statement as a major justification for increased US troop deployments in the Asia-Pacific region as well as for increased Australian military spending.
US and Australian officials stress that a key focus of the US military build-up in Australia is to have the necessary resources ready to provide humanitarian aid for natural disasters. However, it is not clear what roles aircraft carriers, nuclear-powered submarines and the fighters, tankers and bombers slated at AUSMIN to be deployed to Australia would contribute to disaster relief operations.
However, military humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations provide a popular and convenient justification for maintaining such a massive presence in the Asia-Pacific, helping to showcase the military’s ‘helpfulness’, to legitimise its presence and soften its image.
Because disaster relief is not the military’s primary role or area of expertise, it is not cost-effective, efficient, or transparent. Disaster militarism not only fails to address the underlying causes for the growing rate of natural disasters, such as climate change, it is a significant contributor to them. The US military is the worst polluter on the planet.
On every level AUSMIN is a road map to hell and finds the Australian Government still not learning the lessons of the importance of independence, positive and mutually beneficial co-existence and peace. The Australian Anti-Bases Coalition and IPAN-NSW renew their commitment to bringing about a peaceful and independent Australia.