This May-June, 12,000 Australian soldiers and nearly l4,000 US troops and sailors will bombard our shores and fragile landscape, storm our beaches gunning down "terrorists" in the newly-built urban guerrilla warfare training centre, and test their latest laser-guided missiles and "smart" bombs in some of the most pristine wilderness on this planet.
Idyllic Shoalwater Bay near Rockhampton will cop it all: live aerial bombing, ship-to-shore naval firings, underwater depth charges exploded in areas where turtles and dugong breed, nuclear submarines using high-level sonar frequency that zaps the hearing of sea life and mammals, nuclear aircraft carriers inside the so-called Great Barrier Reef marine national park, and land-based artillery blasting the hell out of areas where the most amazing biodiversity is to be found.
Shoalwater Bay, which covers 740,000 hectares, is unique; it is a cross-over point for tropical, subtropical and temperate zones, and it's where a variety species of flora and wildlife, birds and sea creatures are found.
Anyone who has seen Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth has to ask why are we allowing such wanton misuse of resources to further add to the already huge level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The live munitions actions at Shoalwater Bay will run simultaneously with US bombing runs by Stealth, B1 and B52 bombers from Guam to drop their live payload from five kilometres high on Delamare bombing range near Katherine in the Northern Territory. (Just one B52 bomber carries 30 tonnes of bombs and needs three semi-trailers to load it up.) Live fire exercises will involve many Abrams tanks rumbling across the Bradshaw tank range, which is surrounded by Bradshaw National Park south of Darwin. This target practice will take place against the wishes of senior Aboriginal elders, custodians of that country.
The military exercises in both states will be beamed live via satellite from tiny cameras on the tanks, bombers, landing craft and army commanders' lapels to the coordinating "War Room" at Newcastle, where the US and Australian generals will call the shots. Son of Star Wars has arrived in Australia!
British Aerospace and the other arms manufacturers have big plans to turn the depressed Rockhampton area into a big arms manufacturing industrial estate. Not only will we export our soldiers to adventurist wars overseas, we are about to see an explosion of manufacturing and exporting of the weapons of war.
Around Australia, activists are organising against these exercises. Planning for a big concert and non-violent actions at Yeppoon has begun. With the help of musicians and others we want the concert to spill into an evening of films and speakers to raise awareness of just what Australia has signed up for with the secret treaty that then-defence minister Robert Hill and foreign minister Alexander Downer signed with Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell in July 2004.
It is this secret treaty that is allowing the US to come here and do what it wants without so much as an environmental impact study either before or after the exercises.
This is a call to communities along the eastern seaboard to get active in this campaign for a convergence in May. We have to send a big message to the government that we oppose these military exercises.
If you would like to be added to the organising email loop, email Dimity Hawkins from Medical Association for Prevention of War at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. For more information, visit <http://www.peaceconvergence.com>.
[David Bradbury is a documentary film-maker and activist. You can contact him at <email@example.com>.]