Having been forced to abandon its Crow Valley bombing range in the Philippines, the United States is now considering Australia or Thailand as likely sites for a new range. Crow Valley was attached to Clark air base, extensively damaged by the Mt Pinatubo volcanic eruption. The US is also looking for a new location for its Subic Bay naval base following the refusal of the Philippines Senate to approve a 10-year agreement for the US to stay on. It has been given three years to close down the Subic base.
While defence minister Robert Ray says the federal government has not been approached about the range, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been told Australia is under consideration.
The United States should be told firmly that Australian territory is not available for bombing ranges, foreign military bases or any other militaristic activities. Humanity presently has an opportunity to drastically reduce the ruinous spending on the international arms trade and to greatly reduce the dangers flowing from a historically unprecedented level of militarisation. This should be the focus of all governments' international policies.
Yet, at this very time, the Australian government is encouraging the armaments industry through its participation in the Aidex '91 arms bazaar, and is continuing to involve itself with the aggressive network of military alliances centring on the United States government.
Australia has already had more than enough experience of being a proving ground for other powers' weaponry. Sections of our country are still poisoned by radioactivity as a result of British testing of nuclear weapons at Maralinga, the Monte Bello islands and elsewhere during the 1950s. Unknown numbers of people have suffered illness and death as a result of those tests, at least one of which sent a radioactive cloud across large areas of eastern Australia.
This is not to say we wish the USA's bombing range on Thailand. The US has long been the main military power in the Pacific, and it has used that power recklessly. It has treated the Marshall Islands as its military base, shifting whole populations so their island homes could be used for nuclear weapons testing. Populated islands have been radioactively contaminated as a result of these tests. It has mercilessly bullied the people of Belau because they want to declare their country nuclear free. It is responsible for economic and social dislocation wherever its bases exist, and particularly the huge brothel towns around its bases in the Philippines. It is responsible for the presence of nerve gas and other weapons of mass destruction on Johnson Atoll. The list could go on.
This record of dealing with our Pacific neighbours should alone be enough to persuade the Australian government to have nothing more to do with the US military machine. It is not wanted or needed in the Pacific, and Australia should follow the lling it so.