IPAN calls for US-Australia Force Posture Agreement to be ended

October 24, 2023
A US Marine during Exercise Talisman Sabre 23 in Queensland. Photo: US Marine Corps

The devastation of the wars on Ukraine and Palestine confront us on a daily basis.

Peace-loving people are crying out for a ceasefire in both wars to enable, hopefully under United Nations auspices, conferences of affected parties to find solutions to meet the security needs of all parties and free non-combatants from the horrors of war.

Alongside these concerns we should not forget about the enthusiastic complicity of successive Australian governments to prepare for a war on China under the auspices of the United States.

There is bipartisan support for the US-Australia military alliance. But this pales into insignificance when compared with the US-Australia Force Posture Agreement (FPA).

The FPA emerged under President Barack Obama’s “Pivot to Asia of the US armed forces” in 2014. The agreement included stationing US marines in Darwin to train for war with the Australian Defence Forces.

The “pivot” was a strategy designed to “contain” China and maintain US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific. It was enthusiastically supported by the major parties.

Subsequently, Julia Gillard's Labor and Tony Abbott’s Coalition governments, in conjunction with US defence counterparts, produced a greatly expanded concept. The FPA provided an "operational posture” for US forces in Australia — a gateway for US militarisation of Australia.

Abbott signed the FPA in 2014. It allows for the stationing in Darwin, for six months each year, of up to 2500 US Marines. They are trained and equipped for immediate deployment and, while in Australia, train for war with the ADF, under the US Indo-Pacific Command.

The FPA allows the US unimpeded access to Australia’s airfields and airport facilities. This includes US fighter planes and bombers, including up to six B-52 bombers at RAAF Base Tindall. (B-52 bombers were used to devastate Vietnam in that war and some are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.)

It allows for US naval vessels, including nuclear submarines at HMAS Stirling in WA, unimpeded access to Australia’s seaports.

It allows storage facilities to be established for aircraft fuel, spare parts and munitions. This includes huge facilities at East Arm, Darwin, and logistics facilities for equipment, munitions and spare parts at Bandiana, Victoria.

In short, the FPA opened the door for US military intelligence operatives to be embedded within Australia’s defence intelligence organisation, now called the Combined Intelligence Centre-Australia.

A US command centre in Darwin now controls US aircraft operations and a different command centre controls US marine operations.

In other words, the US could launch and control its military from Australia.

Article IV of the FPA states: “United States Forces and United States Contractors shall have unimpeded access to and use of Agreed Facilities and Areas for activities undertaken in connection with this Agreement” and “Australia hereby grants to the United States operational control of Agreed Facilities and Areas”.

Part 3 of Article VII states: “As mutually determined by the Parties, aircraft, vehicles, and vessels operated by or for United States Forces shall have access to aerial ports and seaports of Australia and other locations, for the delivery to, storage and maintenance in, and removal from the territory of Australia of United States Forces’ prepositioned materiel.”

Activities under Article IV include “training, transit, support, and related activities; refuelling of aircraft; bunkering of vessels; temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels, and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; prepositioning of equipment, supplies, and materiel; deploying forces and material; and such other activities as the Parties may agree.”

The FPA agreement runs for 25 years from the date of its signing. But there is a clause to terminate if either party gives one year’s notice.

IPAN is campaigning to have the FPA terminated. It would be a step in the direction of keeping Australia out of another US-led war.

IPAN’s E-petition can be signed until November 15.

[Bevan Ramsden is a long-time peace activist, advocating for Australia’s independence. He is the editor of IPAN’s monthly e-publication, Voice.]

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