Social Market Solutions: Peace Now
Denis Bright invites discussion on the prospects this year’s anti-war gatherings in Central Australia under the umbrella of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN). Are there alternatives to the continuing electronic shadow of the Pine Gap Base in the formation of a more independent defence and foreign policy for Australia?
Australians from all sides of politics should welcome critical discussion of the key roles of the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap.
Since planning commenced for the Pine Gap Base as early as 1965, Australia’s evolving and complex security relationships with the US have become more clandestine.
Former Prime Minister Keating has made a timely warning to Australian political elites to achieve a peaceful accommodation to the rise of China and seismic changes in global geopolitics associated with just a generation of recent globalization.
The federal LNP seeks to keep the lid on the culture of political secrecy in the details of Australia’s defence and foreign relationships. The Pine Gap Base is merely a symbol of this wider secrecy.
Even the administrative aspects of Australia’s asylum seeker protocols with Indonesia have been shrouded in secrecy since the election of the federal LNP in 2013. The caveat of not being allowed to discuss intelligence matters is standard canny retort from the Australian Foreign Minister during challenging interviews.
This coyness about the detailed specifics of our security relationships with the US and even the UK has crept into Australian politics under both major political parties.
During the Chifley Era (1945-49) arrangements were put in place for the testing of nuclear weapons in Australia without a full cabinet discussion of the implications and the possible health risks to the Australian community. Underground and atmospheric nuclear tests followed between 1952 and 1963.
Security arrangements with the US under the 1951 ANZUS Treaty were initially more open. Implementation of the Treaty needed to be consistent with the UN Charter and a desire for peace across the Asia-Pacific Region in both the Preamble and Article VI of ANZUS.
Article III also insisted on full consultation between the US, Australia and New Zealand over threats to the peace in the Pacific. This consultation is hardly possible if elected representatives are committed to a culture of secrecy to conform to the more traditional All the Way with the USA Paradigm.
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has been in the forefront of warning Australians about need for public clarification about the contemporary roles of the Pine Gap Base.
It was Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke who welcomed the formation of the Australia-US Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN) to improve the transparency of negotiations within the Australia-US Alliance.
AUSMIN was cynically created to lessen internal dissent in Labor’s ranks over President Reagan’s plans to test the accuracy of long-range MX Missiles to intercept targets in the Tasman Sea.
Considerable support also existed in the Labor caucus for New Zealand’s ban on nuclear weapons on visiting allied naval ships and submarines. Prime Minister Fraser had restored such visits in the late 1970s. A ten year ban on such visits had been initiated by Prime Minister Gorton to the dismay of conservatives within the federal LNP who later toppled him as leader in 1971.
AUSMIN is far from being an instrument for peace and consensus-building in international affairs. The once Cold War insurance for Australia through commitment by the US to the security of the Asia-Pacific Region has evolved into political accord with a commitment to non-security issues.
The communiqués from the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) demonstrate the evolution of the Australia-US Alliance into a steadfast political accord which goes far beyond the scope of the original Treaty agreement negotiated in 1951.
While the Australian Foreign Minister upholds the notion of secrecy in our intelligence sharing with the US, the communiqué from the last AUSMIN Meeting in Boston on 13 October 2015 shows the dangerous intrusion of domestic politics into the security discussions between the defence and foreign ministers of both countries:
Noting that 2015 marks the tenth anniversary of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, both countries welcomed the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including significant business engagement and substantial two-way investment, which serve to boost productivity, innovation and economic growth.
The United States and Australia reiterated their intent to work together to deepen regional economic integration, and welcomed conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). They agreed to continue working toward bringing TPP into force in order to reduce business costs, and to promote growth, job creation and higher living standards across the region.
Commitment to a market ideology as advocated by the US Free Trade Agreements with Australia and the European Union through the TTIP is a contested political agenda in both Australia and the US.
Despite several austerity budgets from the federal LNP, Australia is well represented on the league table for arms imports.
On the more fundamental issue of international arms spending, Australia is largely silent about the excesses of its key allies in the development and export of weapons of mass destruction.
Australia’s position on a fault-line between the developed and developing worlds justifies less talk of the heroic value of militarism and more commitment to development assistance particularly to Papua-New Guinea and Timor Leste.
The recent feedback from Timor Leste’s independence leader Xanana Gusmao at the World Court in The Hague to review his country’s maritime boundaries with Australia is hardly a flattering endorsement of the federal LNP:
“Australia used to tell others to respect international law,” he said. “They must now show us that they also abide by international law” (ABC Online 31 August 2016).
The involvement of the Australian Intelligence in espionage activities against Timor-Leste during negotiation with Australia over the oil and gas treaty in 2006 justifies a senate inquiry into the possible misuse of signals intelligence:
East Timor’s most senior leaders have accused Australia of committing a crime and acting immorally after a spying scandal that rocked the relationship between the two countries.
The ABC’s Lateline has revealed new details about the bugging of an East Timor cabinet office during negotiations over an oil and gas treaty worth an estimated $40 billion.
In a diplomatic bungling of the highest order, after the scandal came to light in 2012, the Gillard government sent a representative to Dili to deal with the fallout. But former East Timorese president Xanana Gusmao told Lateline that person had been directly involved in the operation, causing further offence to East Timor.
Lateline was also told there was concern in senior Australian intelligence circles that the operation was a misuse of intelligence resources (ABC Online 26 November 2015).
While this intelligence gathering in Dili in 2006 seems to have been an old-fashioned ground operation involving the use of listening devices, the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability provides evidence of the involvement of the Pine Gap Base in regional surveillance tasks to support routine operations of the Australian Signals Division at Shoal Bay near Darwin.
Advocates for a more independent and peaceful Australian foreign policy should consider supporting the 2016 Alice Springs Convergence. Despite warnings from the Australian foreign minister to hush up discussion of intelligence matters, the consequences of over-commitment to militarization and inappropriate intelligence gathering against the interests of our neighbours is pretty obvious to a country whose futures lies with the Asia Pacific Region.
Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in developing pragmatic public policies for a contemporary social market that is highly compatible with current trends in contemporary globalization.
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We are lock step with the United States!
“It also means personnel where increasingly large numbers of Australian military personnel are embedded in the US military and defence establishments – especially in the Pacific Command in Hawaii where recent visitors have noted a significant increase in Australian uniforms around the US headquarters. Prominent among the latter, is Major General Burt who occupies the position of Deputy Commander, US Army Pacific, wearing his Australian uniform. His placement was never announced by the usually hyperactive Defence Department media machine.”
Again, I agree with Michael Lacey, and while ever Australia has conservative governments and double digit unemployment (10.2%) as we currently have as reported by Morgan’s we are prone to follow every war the US commits itself to.
Peace Now should be Australia’s mantra as all these wars in the name of exporting US style democracy have ended in disaster.
So much goes on that is unreported. This article challenges the know it all mentality which follows too much addiction to mainstream current affairs. Common-sense is nonsense if the details are not fully reported. The US Alliance has tightened its grip and Australians are stuck with the possibility of a Trump victory.
Australia in tandem with the US military and multinational corporations as the Force for Good? No wonder Julie doe not answer questions about intelligence matters. The answers are not classified but too awful to.communicate. Thanks for this interpretation, Denis.
Interesting article, we must also remember how we are taking billions of dollars from East Timor , who helped us so much during WW2.
We do not know 99.9% of what really goes on in intelligence
Thanks Lalnama. The LNP is usually against the Nanny State but not in fundamental discussion of economics and foreign policy. The US Alliance has moved into steering our thinking in both these areas. Is a name change in order to explain the fusion-The United States of Anglo America
Globalisation means that new players like China and India are emerging as super powers with rising military powers. The LNP must make the appropriate adjustments to our economic and foreign policies.
Great article Denis. An interesting topic for discussion.
Transparency is absolutely paramount for any legitimate government in the long term. The rhetoric used to not answer politically sensitive questions regarding Australia’s asylum seeking policy is farcical and frustrating to the engaged citizen.
History will not be kind to those governments that keep secrets for political points.
The LNP has been playing khaki politics for a century from its over-commitment to Britain and now the US.
Ireland’s model of neutrality is one option to avoid future conflicts in Asia and the Pacific.
Strangely, most of the Khaki LNP leaders have never been in military service. Menzies actively avoided conscription in the Great War and the role call of pacifists includes Howard, Abbott and now Turnbull.