Australian news, and some related international items

Rare admission from Australia’s corporate media that hosting America’s Pine Gap surveillance system makes Australia a legitimate target for long-range ICBMs

Jennings says Americans would defend Taiwan by fighting from bases in Australia.

Arrows at top indicate militrary “bases” ie; TARGETS in Northern Australia

RAAF base Curtin RAAF base Darwin RAAF base Tindal. HMAS Cairns Lavarack Baracks Townsville

The BIG TARGET is Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap – in the centre

Arrows further South indicate military bases ie; TARGETS

Naval Communications Station Harold E Holt RAAF Base Amberley

Australian Defence Satellit Communications Station Kojarena

Fleet Base West – Royal Australian Navy Fleet Base East Royal Australian Navy

Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap

“Five defence experts assembled by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age for Red Alert, a special review of Australia’s national security, agree such a conflict could break out within three years and would almost certainly involve Australia.

In the first three days of a war, he says Beijing would be tempted to target Australian military bases with a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile attack to minimise our usefulness in the conflict.

“If China seriously wants to go after Taiwan in a military sense, the only way they can really contemplate quick success is to pre-emptively attack those assets that might be a threat to them. That means Pine Gap goes,” he says, referring to the top secret US-Australian base in the Northern Territory that the US uses to detect nuclear missile launches.

…………………………….. Take Australia’s military bases. These facilities – especially those shared with or controlled by the US – are obvious targets for an adversary.

……………………………. Ryan says there is a strong agreement among military strategists that a war over Taiwan would “involve strikes on US bases, on fuel and munitions holdings, ships across the region, including our own country potentially”.

………………………….. Jennings says Americans would defend Taiwan by fighting from bases in Australia.………………………………………………………………………………………………

Passing the Zelensky test

………………………. “How many Australian leaders would pass the ‘Zelensky test’?” he asks, referring to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. “How many could get out there and say, ‘I don’t need a ride, I need ammunition’……………….

March 10, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Nightmare Espionage Act That is Killing Julian Assange and the First Amendment

As for Julian Assange, the urgency behind bringing attention to the case is justified.  According to Shenkman, “We tried to dig through the history to see if a publisher has ever been charged for anything like Julian Assange has been accused of. And the answer is no. This is the first case in U.S. history of its kind. And it would set a precedent that would open the floodgates for prosecuting the press.” by EDITOR March 3, 2023

The use of the century old Espionage Act in the Julian Assange case continues to set the chilling precedent of a bleak future in American journalism, a precedent that endangers even those outside US borders.

arey Shenkman, attorney, author, and litigator specializing in civil and human rights, joins Robert Scheer for this week’s Scheer Intelligence, where Shenkman offers a sobering analysis on one of the most chilling attacks on press freedom exhibited in the Julian Assange case. Using his recently published book, A Century of Repression: The Espionage Act and Freedom of the Press, Shenkman details the history of the Espionage Act and how civil liberties have continued to be eroded as a result of the existence of this law and the lack of revision.

Shenkman talks about the bipartisan disdain towards the Espionage Act in legal circles yet its continued use by bipartisan presidents brings the conversation to its flaws and disreputability: “Over the decades, you have folks that are coming out with law review articles saying that it’s vague, verbose, that it makes no sense, and that ambiguity in the law is being exploited now to go after Julian Assange, to go after government whistleblowers. So there have actually been serious calls for its reform and repeal in recent years.” Assange faces 175 years in a U.S. maximum security prison after being indicted with 17 charges relating to the Espionage Act.

Going back to its inception during World War I, Shenkman explains what its true purpose was and how within the law, “you get a sense that this language of promoting disloyalty, of promoting opposition to the war, was actually used to go after conscientious objectors and folks that opposed entry into World War I.”

As for Julian Assange, the urgency behind bringing attention to the case is justified.  According to Shenkman, “We tried to dig through the history to see if a publisher has ever been charged for anything like Julian Assange has been accused of. And the answer is no. This is the first case in U.S. history of its kind. And it would set a precedent that would open the floodgates for prosecuting the press.”

Shenkman says if Assange is extradited, it will make his case a law school case for all the wrong reasons. Despite all the concern surrounding the overreaching power of the United States, this case could also open the door to countries around the world to extradite citizens from foreign countries for exposing their wrongdoings. As Shenkman mentions, “Assange is not a U.S. government employee. He’s not even a U.S. citizen. And somehow the U.S. government says it has jurisdiction.”

March 10, 2023 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Aukus submarine deal: Australia expected to choose UK design, sources say

Rishi Sunak said to have been ‘buzzing’ about result of 18-month negotiations, part of Aukus defence pact with US

Kiran Stacey and Dan Sabbagh,

An enthusiastic Rishi Sunak has told ministers to expect a positive outcome next week when he travels to San Diego to unveil a deal to supply nuclear-powered submarines to Australia as part of the Aukus pact with the US.

Multiple sources said they believed the UK had succeeded in its bid to sell British-designed nuclear submarines to Australia, a deal that will safeguard the long-term future of the shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness.

A senior minister said Sunak had told colleagues he was delighted by the outcome of the negotiations, which have been going on for 18 months and have presented Australia with a choice between a British or a US design, based on the existing Astute or Virginia class submarines.

“The deal has definitely gone our way. The prime minister was buzzing about it when he told ministers, smiling and bouncing on the balls of his feet,” the minister said.

A second source outside government with knowledge of the talks said they had also been told to expect a British design success when the deal is announced on Monday, although any final submarine will also make heavy use of US technology.

Sunak is due to travel to the west coast for a trilateral summit with Joe Biden, the US president, and Anthony Albanese, the Australian prime minister, on Monday, where he also expected to unveil a refresh of Britain’s integrated review of defence and foreign policy in the light of the war in Ukraine.

Supplying Australia with a nuclear-powered submarine was the centrepiece for the Aukus defence pact, announced in September 2021, with the US and UK agreeing to share secret reactor technology in a surprise deal, so Canberra could dump an alternative diesel-powered design from France.

The expectation, one source indicated, was that Australia would work jointly on a design for a next generation submarine with the UK, evolving from the existing Astute submarine design, although it may not be seaworthy until the 2040s because of the complexity of the work.

Further reports last night suggested that the short-term gap could be plugged by Australia buying up to five Virginia-class submarines from the US as part of the three-way deal.

Meanwhile, an alternative plan that the UK could even be willing to sell or lease the two Astute class submarines yet to be completed at Barrow, HMS Agincourt and HMS Agamemnon, is wide of the mark. Naval analysts say the UK’s submarine fleet is already stretched and could not afford a sudden reduction.

Australia will become the seventh country to have a nuclear-powered submarine, relying on an enriched uranium reactor, propulsion technology that will put the country’s diesel-powered navy on a technological par with China.

But it will require Australia, which is not a nuclear power, to be supplied with a reactor, a move that Beijing has argued is a breach of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. The three Aukus powers say that is not the case, and that any reactors will be supplied “welded, shielded and sealed shut” according to Australian officials overseeing the effort.

The new submarines will not carry nuclear weapons. But James Acton, a nuclear expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it was not yet clear how the nuclear waste generated by the propulsion reactors will be dealt with – and whether that will happen in Australia or the UK or US.

Defence experts said the time it would take to build the new submarines meant that there may be some related short-term developments. The US is keen to be able to base its nuclear submarines in Australia, making it easier to patrol the South Pacific, as it seeks to retain naval parity with China.

A UK government spokesperson said“When we announced the Aukus partnership in September 2021 we said there would be an 18-month scoping period to determine the optimal path to procuring Australia nuclear-powered submarines. The outcome of the scoping period is due to be announced soon.”

A No 10 spokesperson said they could not pre-empt any future announcements.

March 10, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

War over Taiwan: Australia’s Gang of Five

Australian Independent media March 8, 2023 Dr Binoy Kampmark

Diligently, obediently and with a degree of dangerous imbecility, a number of Australian media outlets are manufacturing a consensus for war with a country that has never been a natural, historical enemy, nor sought to be.

But as Australia remains the satellite of a Sino-suspicious US imperium, its officials and their dutiful advocates in the press seem obligated to pave the way for conflict.

The latest example of this came in articles run in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age of Melbourne. The premise is already clear from the columnists, Peter Hartcher and Matthew Knott. Australia faces a “Red Alert”, and, to that end, needs a warring fan club. Not since the domino theory bewitched strategists and confused military planners have Australians witnessed this: a series of articles featuring a gang of five with one purpose: to render the Australian public so witless as to reject any peaceful accommodation.

First, the provocative colouring for the article, “How a conflict over Taiwan could swiftly reach our shores.” The Australian continent is shown bathed in a sea of red. Various military bases and facilities are outlined. For good measure, there is a picture of Australian soldiers firing an artillery piece in “military exercises in 2018 at Shoalwater Bay, Queensland.”

Then, the blistering opening lines of terror. “Within 72 hours of a conflict breaking out over Taiwan, Chinese missile bombardments and devastating cyberattacks on Australia would begin. For the first time since World War II, the mainland would be under attack.” The authors already anticipate a good complement of US troops to occupy the Australian north, some 150,000 “seeking refuge from the immediate conflict zone.”

The Red Alert panellists, anointed as “defence experts”, brim with such scenarios. All, as they state in a joint communique, agree on one thing: “Australia has many vulnerabilities. It has long and exposed connections to the rest of the world – sea, air and undersea – yet is incapable of protecting them.”

Leading the gang of five is Peter Jennings, who has had an unshakeable red-under-the-bed fantasy for years. A former deputy secretary for strategy in the Australian Defence Department, and steering the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) for a decade (that’s Canberra’s revolving door for you), Jennings is adamant and steely. “As I think of a conflict over Taiwan, what I’m thinking about is something that very quickly grows in scale and location.”

There is no reason at all why such a growth in scale or location should happen, but this is not the purpose of the exercise. The point of the Red Alert fantasy is to neutralise the significance of Australia’s natural boundaries – some of the most formidable on the planet – and dismiss them in any conflict with Beijing. “Distance is no longer equivalent to safety from our strategic perspective,” ponders Jennings.

Jennings inadvertently reveals the case against war, which can only be an encouragement to activists and officials keen to reverse the trend of turning Australia into a US imperial outpost of naval and military bases that would be used in any Taiwan conflict. “If China wants to seriously go after Taiwan in any military sense, the only way they can really contemplate quick success is to pre-emptively attack those assets that might be a threat to them. That means Pine Gap goes.” Pine Gap remains that misnamed joint US-Australian signals facility that has facilitated illegal drone strikes in foreign territories most Australian politicians would fail to find on a map.

……….. Lavina Lee, another Red Alert panellist, is also into the business of softening the Australian public for war,………

Australia’s former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, dolls out his own catastrophic scenario………..

Retired army major-general Mick Ryan makes his contribution by wishing Australia to be readied for war. In a message common to most military officers, the civilians should really do more about giving his brethren more cash. ……………

Lesley Seebeck, former head of the Australian National University’s Cyber Institute, completes the crew of five, …………

A few things are worth noting in this frothy mix of fantabulation and establishment fire breathing. In the quest to gather such a panel, no effort has been made to consult the expertise of a China hand. That lobby, able to provide a more nuanced, less heavy-footed approach, is being shunned, their advice exorcised in any effort to encourage war.

Bizarrely, the panellists offer an increasingly popular non-sequitur that has creeped into the warmonger’s manual: Would Australia’s leaders, in war, pass the Zelensky test? This somehow implies that the Ukraine conflict offers salient lessons over a war over Taiwan, an absurd comparison that muddled strategists are fond of making.

Most of all, Beijing’s own actual intentions over Taiwan are to be avoided. The presumption in ASPI-land is that a war is imminent, and that Beijing would want to go to war over the island as a matter of course. China’s President Xi Jinping’s main advisor on the subject, veteran ideologue Wang Huning, suggests an approach at odds with such thinking.

The Red Alert exercise has drawn necessary and important criticism. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating did not mince his words in a fuming column for Pearls and Irritations. “Today’s Sydney Morning Herald and The Age front page stories on Australia’s supposed war risk with China represents the most egregious and provocative news presentation of any newspaper I have witnessed in over fifty years of active public life.” One might even go further back than that. The war times are coming, and as are those gangs seeking to encourage them.

March 10, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

For Australia, horror of war over Taiwan is not inevitable

Pearls and Irritations, By Geoff Miller, Mar 9, 2023

Contributors to the “War with China over Taiwan” horror show which began in the Nine newspapers this week assume that a war between China and the United States is likely, and some of them then explicitly say that Australia would be involved. Australia should instead regard the Taiwan issue as one for us to “sit out”.

Mick Ryan, for example, says that “we have made our choice. If the United States goes to war with China over Taiwan, we are going to support them one way or the other”. Lavina Lee speaks of “the outbreak of war and Australia’s inevitable participation”.

They speak so glibly that one wonders whether they have thought at all about what a war between two nuclear powers, the biggest and second biggest economies in the world, would be like. Nor do they seem to have given any thought to what various government Ministers have said is Australia’s prime strategic goal in the Asia-Pacific, and that is to prevent war.

Why all this drama at this time? There are some events coming up which may have an influence; the releases of the Defence Strategic Review and the nuclear submarine study are two of them, and the coming budget is another. They will all involve spending very large sums of money on defence projects, and both the Defence organisation and firms which stand to benefit from Government spending may well welcome some “preparing of the audience”.

Our ally, the United States, may also have an interest. Under various defence arrangements we can expect to see an increasing amount of United States basing and military involvement in Australia. This has not been universally welcomed in the past, and the United States Government, and its defence firms which would be involved in an expansion of the US military presence in Australia as well as in an increase in our own defence spending, could well welcome the dramatisation of the “China threat” the Nine newspapers are providing this week.

How real is the China threat? It’s certainly seen as real by some Americans, who see China as the “peer competitor” they cannot tolerate. According to some accounts China is already clearly ahead of the US in a number of key technologies, which gives added emphasis to the military in US eyes, since the US is clearly superior militarily; despite the recent planned increase of 7% in Chinese military spending the US increase is even bigger, at 8%. The urge to maintain their predominance in the Pacific, and elsewhere, is probably why some very senior American military commanders seem to be anticipating and even looking forward to a war with China before long, with Taiwan as its probable rationale.

Australian Ministers and senior officials, on the other hand, have frequently spoken of the need to find a balance in the Pacific which gives appropriate place and weight to both the United States and China…………………………………………………………….

Taiwan is a very special case. We have no formal obligation to it. We recognised China, acknowledging that it maintained there is only one China, and that Taiwan is part of that. The current situation is complex and complicated: for example despite all the mutual abuse China and Taiwan have a substantial economic relationship; many people from Taiwan live and work in China. Recent polls show that a large proportion of Taiwanese believe that in the end Taiwan will be re-united with China, and are not keen to fight China to prevent that. The current state of affairs has come about as the result of the struggle for predominance in the Asia-Pacific between the US and China, the world’s two largest economies, both nuclear-armed and themselves in a complex and many-sided relationship.

We want the US to continue to play a major role in the Asia-Pacific, but there must be an appropriate place for China as well. As the former Secretary of DFAT, Peter Varghese, wrote in September last year: “If we tether ourselves to the cause of US primacy we leave ourselves exposed to US policies that may make sense for the US but not necessarily for Australia. We risk structuring our defence forces to fight alongside the US rather than primarily for the defence of Australia. We risk buying into a narrative of democracy versus autocracy which, however inspiring, misreads the strategic and historical drivers of China’s actions and has little resonance in our region.”

Australia, with its small and presently ill-equipped armed forces, could contribute almost nothing to a clash between the United States and China that has nothing to do with us. The US is such a large and globally important country that its relationships can in the end be repaired even with countries with which it has been in conflict. That does not apply to us, and if we joined the US in fighting China over Taiwan, not only would we not make any appreciable difference but our relationship with our biggest trading partner would be destroyed for years.

We should regard the Taiwan issue as one for us to “sit out”

March 10, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia ‘to buy up to five US nuclear submarines’ under AUKUS pact

By Richard Wood • Senior Journalist, Mar 9, 2023

Australia is expected to buy up to five US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines in the 2030s under the AUKUS defence pact between Washington, Canberra and London, reports say.

US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said after the annual port visits, the US would forward deploy some submarines in Western Australia by around 2027, the Reuters news agency reported today.

Australia would buy three Virginia class submarines in the early 2030s and have the option to buy two more, the sources said.

Australia’s new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines will be based on a modified British design with US parts and upgrades, the report said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to the US next week to unveil the choice of submarine design for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

More than 10,000 jobs will be created from Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS defence pact, according to the country’s navy.

March 10, 2023 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, weapons and war | Leave a comment