Peace groups: 'Stop US troops from arriving in Darwin'

Image: Mr Punch and Prof Ratbaggy (Emeritus)

Peace groups want the deployment of United States marines to Darwin to be stopped, arguing there should be no exceptions for military personnel in the COVID-19 crisis.

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) sent a letter to Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds on March 23, saying it was too risky for 2500 US marine personnel to arrive in Darwin next month.

IPAN spokesperson Justin Tutty said the restrictions on non-Australians arriving in the country should be applied consistently. “There should be no special exceptions made on the basis of whether or not an individual happens to be a member of the USA’s armed services.”

“Any marines in Darwin should immediately be returned to the USA, and no further marines permitted in Australia in the foreseeable future.

“We note that US forces in Europe already have cases of COVID-19 among their number. Clearly, military personnel are no more or less likely than ordinary citizens to contract or transmit the disease, which is indiscriminate in whom it infects.

“We have therefore called on the minister to preclude the arrival of the marines scheduled to arrive in Darwin from the beginning of April, and asked her to indicate that they will not be coming during this time of crisis.

“Furthermore, the movement of foreign personnel through Pine Gap is particularly urgent for the people of Alice Springs, who include many vulnerable indigenous people...

"The emergence and spread of the COVID-19 requires that the government take this step to protect the nation from the spread of coronavirus.”

Meanwhile, Reynolds said on March 23 that Australian troops will “temporarily” relocate from Iraq and Afghanistan to an unspecified Australian base in the Middle East, and that those close to the end of their deployment would return to Australia.