Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Manning Clark House address no 1 July 5 2013

Session 1          The military facilities
In the 1980’s I lived in Alice Springs and worked with Aboriginal people in various roles.
Alice Springs had town camps for the different groups of Aboriginal people and these were my area of concern. They were totally inadequate. Sometimes as many as 50 adults and children were dependent on a single tap.
In contrast the staff of Pine Gap was housed in a different part of town with all the mod cons of middle class suburbia including sprinklers for their front lawns.
The disparity of treatment between our indigenous people and the staff of Pine Gap was part of what drove me to question the role of the bases and finally to join the Anti-Bases Campaign. 
US military facilities in Australia
The Anti-Bases Campaign defines a base as any land or facility that is set aside for the use of the US military at any time it deems necessary. There are approximately 50 US military facilities in Australia today of varying sizes and functions. They range from the large Pine Gap facility near Alice Springs to much smaller facilities.
A large percentage of Australian bases have been and are part of what is called 4CI, command, control, communication, computer and intelligence.  To these have been added training, battlefield, and logistics bases and now a troop base.
US bases were established in Australia in the 1960s to meet the needs of the US military. They were described as “joint facilities” but this was a fiction to cover what was in reality US control of their running and of the intelligence they gathered on military, economic, political and diplomatic matters of friends and foe alike.
As the technology of war grew Australia’s position grew in importance. Satellites controlled from Australia had their eyes on areas of considerable economic and political significance for the US – from the Middle East oil fields to far the far north of China.
The US military facilities in our country damage our citizens. They deny Aboriginal land rights, they undermine our democratic rights as militarism grows, they deny us the social services we need as military spending escalates, they put our lives at risk by making our country a target.
US involvement in Australia was intensified by US President Obama’s visit to Australia in 2011. 
At that time he announced that the focus of the US military would be redirected to Asia and the Indo-Pacific regions. It was clear to all commentators that China was central to this realignment.
This US strategy includes the stationing of US troops in Darwin.  But the experience of US bases around the world and the interests of our people combine to make us insist that there are profound security, social, economic and environmental reasons for Australia to resist the stationing of foreign troops on our soil.
The bases and the stationing of foreign troops in Darwin have been sold to the Australian people as a form of security.
Security comes from having food, employment, housing and education. Reliance on ever increasing numbers of increasingly sophisticated weapons robs our people and the people of nearby states of all those things that engender security. 
Tertiary education was raided when money was needed for the Gonski reforms while at the same time the military was awarded a funding increase in the latest budget. 
Full knowledge and concurrence
Minister Stephen Smith recently described the Australian Government’s relationship with US military facilities on our soil as “Full knowledge and concurrence”.  This is simply unbelievable.
Negative impacts
This secrecy and lies are an example of how the existence of the US bases and our support for the US military undermines our right in a democratic society to know what is being done in our name.
Aboriginal rights are undermined. The use and abuse of the traditional lands of indigenous people is based on the military’s view of Aboriginal lands only for their potential to provide training ranges and military bases,
While $25 billion is spent annually on the military, funding for indigenous health, education, job creation and other services is woefully inadequate.
Services that our community has a right to expect – public health, public housing and much more – are painfully underfunded while exorbitantly expensive white elephants like the F-35 strike planes stay on the shopping list.
The US military has an appalling record of running roughshod over indigenous rights. We have only to look at the fate of their own Native Americans as well as Okinawans, Marshall Islanders, Hawaiians, the Chamoru of Guam, and many others.
We must recognise too that policies resulting from Australia’s force posture review – which was done virtually in conjunction with Obama’s force posture review – mean increasing militarisation in Australia’s north and north-west. There may have been some token consultation with Aboriginal people the changes to our “force posture” I am not aware of compensation for these lands and arrangements for cultural continuation on those lands.
As militarism flourishes, the democratic rights of our community are also under threat. We only have to look, for example, at the raft of recent ASIO and associated legislation and the new laws to protect “communications facilities” – another polite term for the bases.
It is beyond question that money invested in civilian projects creates far more jobs than the same funding spent on the military.
The US military’s list of chemicals toxic to humans and to land and marine life is a long one – depleted uranium, red and white phosphorous, cadmium and lead, to name just a few.
The National Cancer Institute stated: “The military is a major source of toxic occupational and environmental exposures that can increase cancer risk…”
For over a decade the US has refused to accept responsibility for asbestos and diesel fuel contamination at the North West Cape base.
The bases have been resisted right from their start of their introduction into Australia in the 60’s and it continues to the present.
The Australian Government knows this and uses secrecy, disinformation and language to protect the bases. They are never “bases” -- joint facilities has a better ring to it. The US marines are not based in Australia, they are rotating through Darwin, similar to the use of ‘collateral damage’ instead of killing.
There was resistance in the 60’s and 70’s but it grew in the 80’s when Foreign Minister Hayden admitted that the bases made Australia a target in a nuclear exchange.
In 1983 a large women’s camp was established outside Pine Gap, and this was followed some years later with formation of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition (anti-bases for short).
Anti-Bases has organised protests at US facilities, against war games, in solidarity with indigenous people across the Pacific, against exorbitant military spending and on other issues and continues to organize and agitate for the removal of US bases from our soil. 
Anti-bases has a commitment to always seeking permission from indigenous elders for our protests and Aboriginal cultural and religious rules are respected. We charge rent for the use of the land – a small symbolic sum each day from each protester with the money given to a local Aboriginal organization. We have always tried to have indigenous speakers at our actions and we have funded visits by indigenous representatives from Kanaky (New Caledonia) -- who was later shot and killed by the French – from Bougainville, Hawaii, North American Indian, the Philippines and Guam
The anti-bases campaign has recently been at the forefront of promoting and encouraging a new configuration of forces to oppose the base in Darwin and the pivot to Asia and the Indo-Pacific by the Obama regime.
We have contributed to the establishment of the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) which has branches in most Australian capitals including Darwin.
It is possible that you have not heard of either Anti-Bases or IPAN but that is because we have a budget of around $500 while the other mob have $billions.
We believe that the closure of these bases would be a positive step towards world peace and disarmament and well as to the economic and social development of Australia and the human and democratic rights of all Australians.

I have left information on the table and I would urge you all to take some and read it, and to become active in the fight for peace with justice.

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