In November 2011, US president Barack Obama announced that the military focus of the US was “pivoting” to the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, as part of this “pivot”, he announced that US marines were to be stationed in Darwin.
Following those announcements, a ripple of discontent spread around the nation. Numerous peace groups, academics, faith-based groups and unions began talking to one another about this “pivot” and the threat it represents.
In April 2014, during the Peace Convergence on Canberra, interested groups and individuals came together for their first conference, under the banner of the “Independent and Peaceful Australia Network” or IPAN. The consensus was that Australia has become far too closely allied with the US, and that this alliance is no longer in Australia’s best interests. IPAN’s position is very much the same as that taken by the late Malcolm Fraser, in his book Dangerous Allies.
IPAN’s main concern is the loss of Australia’s sovereignty. As things stand, in the event of hostilities breaking out in our region, Australia would be unable to maintain any semblance of neutrality. If the US decides to go to war, we will be unable to decide otherwise. The decision has been taken out of Australian hands.
As China grows in economic strength, it has become more assertive. Unfortunately, the US finds China’s new assertiveness too threatening to its own interests for it to go unchallenged. IPAN wants to provide accurate information and logical arguments about such matters, as well as opportunities for people to raise their voices in protest.
IPAN has organised a forum in Brisbane on July 8. The forum will be addressed by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, one of the few politicians prepared to speak the truth and ask difficult questions about Australia’s military stance.
Professor Richard Tanter, from Melbourne University, will update us on the latest developments in the realm of spying – especially where new, US-controlled, electronic facilities have been built on Australian soil (for example, at Pine Gap and Kojarena).
The third speaker will be the new president of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Professor Kozue Akibayashe from Okinawa, Japan.
Following the forum, on Thursday July 9, IPAN will hold its second general conference. There will be workshops and a general meeting where the structure of IPAN will be discussed. The idea is for organisations or groups to become IPAN “affiliates”, with a coordinating committee, composed of representatives of each state and territory, at the centre.
IPAN’s forum and conference have been timed to coincide with the start of a massive military training exercise that is to take place in the North of Australia. Code-named “Talisman Sabre”, these exercises take place every two years. This year they will involve 34,000 military personnel from the US, Australia, and, for the first time, New Zealand and Japan. Much of the military activity will take place in the Shoalwater Bay training area north of Yeppoon on the Central Queensland coast. As the nearest city with a suitable airport, Rockhampton will become the centre of both military activity and the actions of protesters.
Some activists will attend the events in Brisbane and then travel north to take part in the protests in Central Queensland. The protests are viewed as an opportunity to actively hamper military activities, while simultaneously drawing attention to the huge scale of the exercises.
The public forum to open the National IPAN conference is on July 8 at 6.30pm at The Edge, State Library of Queensland Cultural Precinct, Stanley Place, South Bank. You can book online at trybooking.com/HZIA.
The conference is on July 9 from 8.30am at Queensland Council of Unions, 2nd Floor, 16 Peel Street, South Brisbane. You can book online for the conference at trybooking.com/HZIJ.
You can follow the activist events in Rockhampton and Yeppoon on the Facebook page Peace Convergence 2015.