The Julia Gillard government has committed Australia to closer war ties with the US, more US bases and billions for US defence contracts at the annual AUSMIN talks in Perth on November 16.
The Gillard government is well aware of the huge public opposition to the US-led wars in Iraq and now Afghanistan. It knows that a majority is critical of Canberra’s unquestioning policy of “all-the-way-with-Obama’s next wars”.
Nonetheless, they have given the US the go ahead to deploy its war machine in more places in and around Australia, and increase Australia’s aggressive posture in Asia. Last month, it was revealed that US drones had been using the Royal Australian Air Force base in South Australia since 2001.
Most of the measures agreed were put on the table when President Barack Obama visited Australia last November, such as the stationing of 2500 US marines in Darwin. However the AUSMIN communique revealed more measures.
There will be more military exercises and “additional naval cooperation at a range of locations, including HMAS Stirling [in WA]”. The annual US-Australia Talisman Sabre military exercises are to be “strengthened” with a “strong Australian and US civilian agency participation”.
The Cocos Islands are set to become one of the US’s new bases where military aircraft, including drones undertaking surveillance operations over the South China Sea, are to be stationed.
The US has had its eyes on the Cocos Islands, ever since a successful campaign forced the US to leave British-owned territory Diego Garcia by 2016.
There’s also support for the US’s “ballistic missile defence” which, we’re told, “will allow missile defence to be adapted to the threats unique to the Asia Pacific”.
All this is what is referred to as the “pivot” or “pivot to Asia” policy — which beefs up the US military in the Asia Pacific while expecting a huge increase in trade with the rising powers of India and China.
Understandably, the Chinese government doesn’t view this closer war partnership between Australia and the US very enthusiastically.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has demanded that the Gillard government make public a 2010 deal that outlines the rights, role, and responsibilities of US forces in Australia.
“For two years the government denied it existed, now they won't tell the Australian people what’s in it”, Ludlam said. “The agreement that governs this militarisation is to be withheld, presumably until such time as it is leaked in the public interest. It’s an extraordinary insult to Australian sovereignty.”
A new coalition, the Independent and Peaceful Australian Network (IPAN), protested outside AUSMIN.
“With no threat from any foreign power, it is not clear why an apparent urgent build-up of US military might is taking place on Australian soil”, said IPAN spokesperson, Professor Richard Tanter.
“Australia has a track record of fighting wars on behalf of the superpower of the day, with disastrous results from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan”.