We have now reached a time where an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations are ready to outlaw nuclear weapons, just as the world outlawed chemical and biological weapons and land mines.
There is no reason why we should not be providing leadership in the effort to ban nuclear weapons.
Australia must play our part. Malcolm Turnbull should commit to attending the 2017 negotiating conference. If Australia fails to participate, this will tarnish our international reputation as a disarmament supporter and, in doing so, fail to act to promote safety in our world.
AUSTRALIA MUST PLAY ITS PART IN ABOLISHING NUCLEAR WEAPONS ,ANTHONY ALBANESE MP, SPEECH TO THE TOM UREN MEMORIAL FOUNDATION FOR THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO ABOLISH NUCLEAR WEAPONS , 12 Feb 17
In 1961 John F Kennedy told the United Nations:
Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.
It is incredible to think that almost six decades on, this threat still exists. We must continue to dedicate ourselves to eliminating this threat. Every nation has a responsibility to work for a world free of nuclear weapons.
Australia is no exception.
That is why the work of ICAN in Australia and around the world, in helping to progress the disarmament agenda, is so important.
I come to this debate with the benefit of the testimony of a man who saw the horror of nuclear weapons first hand. Tom Uren was imprisoned in a POW camp on the island of Omuta on 9 August 1945. Just after 11am, the US detonated an atomic bomb over the city of Nagasaki about 80km away. Estimates of the death toll ranged between 40,000 and 80,000. That’s men, women and children. Nuclear weapons don’t discriminate.
Tim Wright, the Asia-Pacific director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said Australia was turning its back on the UN at a time when multilateral cooperation was more important than ever. He accused Australia of “taking orders from the Trump administration”.
“Every country in south-east Asia and nearly all countries in the Pacific have declared their strong support for the upcoming UN negotiations. Australia will be sitting in self-imposed exile from one of the biggest and most important international treaty-making initiatives in recent history.
“This will be the first time that Australia has ever boycotted disarmament negotiations.
Anti-nuclear campaigners accuse Australia of turning its back on the UN and ‘taking orders from the Trump administration’, Ben Doherty, Australia will boycott global negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons at the United Nations next month.
Remains of Aboriginal infant, who died after 1950s Maralinga atomic tests, exhumed from burial cave, NT News Nigel Hunt, February 5, 2017 THE exhumation of an Aboriginal infant’s remains from a sacred burial cave in the state’s Far North has provoked outrage from community elders, who are demanding an inquiry to determine how it was allowed to occur.
The State Government has agreed to fund the reburial of the skeletal remains of the child — which a respected Aboriginal elder says died following the Maralinga atomic testing more than 50 years ago.
Coroner Mark Johns has ordered a comprehensive report from police, which will likely determine if an inquest will be held.
Traditional owners of the APY Lands, who are devastated that the remains were disturbed, have engaged a barrister to push for the inquiry and to seek changes to state and federal legislation to ensure such sites are better protected.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher has also written to police and Coroner Mark Johns, asking both to ensure “appropriate policies are in place and followed’’ to avoid future incidents……..
The bizarre case has created tensions within the APY community, with traditional owners and elders upset the remains were removed from the burial cave, near Mimili, in the Sandy Bore indigenous Protected Area.
Traditional owner Rex Tjami, who is also a director of APY corporation, has engaged barrister Rosanne McInnes, a former magistrate, to seek further protection for burial sites from such action………
Mr Tjami’s affidavit states when he went to the cave region near Sandy Bore — after being alerted to the discovery — he recognised the area and recalled the story his mother had told him about the burial cave.
“The child and the parents of the child died a long time ago. They were related to my mother and my uncle and other families. They came from the area where there was nuclear testing,’’ he states.
“My mother and my uncle told me the parents were staying in the large cave. They and the child became sick. The child died. The parents cut their hair, wrapped it around the child and wrapped the child in special plants. They put the child’s body in a smaller cave opening into the wall of the large cave to protect it. They used sticks from a special plant to fence out predators. After they buried the child, the parents left the cave. Before they died, the parents told their relatives — our family — about the cave in the hill where the child was buried.’’……….
“We want protection for our heritage. Not people from Adelaide digging up old graves and taking away the bodies of our people without telling us.’’
Australia urgently needs to re-evaluate its American bases and promote steps that defuse rather than intensify regional tensions. Having senior Australian defence personnel integrated into the US defence force hinders Australia acting independently. Do we want Australia to be capable of making strategic decisions in the national interest? New Zealand clearly acts in its own interest and remains an ally.
With Trump now the new US Commander-in-Chief, is it wise that we allow ourselves to be so automatically tied to American foreign policy? War in our region would be a humanitarian catastrophe for all involved.
Recent changes to the US National Security Council should be ringing loud alarm bells in Canberra.
By demoting the highest-ranking military officer and the highest-ranking intelligence officer, and appointing political adviser Stephen Bannon as a permanent member of the NSC, Donald Trump has seriously escalated the risk of the US launching into ill-advised conflicts. Bannon comes from a role as chairman of the racist, Islamophobic website Breitbart.com, and is reported as having been in charge of writing the recent executive order that has banned US entry for refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.
It is no secret that Australian foreign policy and defence forces are closely enmeshed with the US. Since Trump has taken office he has loudly proclaimed an “America first” foreign policy, and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, talks of denying China access to artificial islands in the South China Sea. Any such blockade is likely to be seen by the Chinese as an act of war. Continue reading →
Defence told to look elsewhere as plan to seize Queensland cattle country sparks outcry
PM tells defence to find other sites to train foreign troops amid anger at plan to expand Shoalwater Bay training area, Guardian, Joshua Robertson, 2 Feb 17, Malcolm Turnbull has ordered the Department of Defence to find alternative sites for foreign military training in Queensland after uproar over plans to take over as many as 60 grazing properties in prime cattle country.
The state opposition leader, Tim Nicholls, on Thursday said the prime minister intervened after a growing backlash over the prospect of compulsory acquisitions, revealed months after an election campaign in which the federal government trumpeted a $2.2bn training deal with Singapore.
The controversy prompted Nicholls to write to Turnbull imploring him to step in after what he said was defence’s mishandling of the proposed training site expansion at Shoalwater Bay and near Townsville.
The federal opposition leader, Bill Shorten, wrote to Turnbull on Wednesday calling for him to urgently review the matter and explain what “alternatives to acquiring prime grazing land” had been considered.
Nicholls’ statement raised doubts about what other options defence, which has compulsory land acquisition powers, had explored to date for expanding training bases to host 14,000 Singapore troops a year………
The parties all warned the loss of drought-resistant grazing land in areas that contain up to 100,000 head of cattle would have a dramatic and harmful impact on the beef industry.
In November landholders in the Marlborough and Charters Towers regions first learned of the possibility their properties would be acquired in letters from defence, which had planned an expansion of about 170,000 hectares.
Defence is yet to decide which properties it will target but the defence minister, Marise Payne, recently ordered the process be sped up with those plans to be revealed next month.
Why is Australia not fully behind efforts to prohibit nuclear weapons? http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/why-is-australia-not-fully-behind-efforts-to-prohibit-nuclear-weapons-20161229-gtjhd6.html, Sue Wareham It’s about time for some good news. Heaven knows, we need it after 2016’s litany of human failures to find peace between ourselves and with our struggling planet. But as a Christmas gift of historic proportions, the UN – which is to say its member states – has taken the most promising action in decades to lead us towards the elimination of the world’s worst weapons. Late on December 23 in New York, the UN General Assembly resolved by a strong majority to begin talks in March on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
To realise the full significance of this, consider the fact that other weapons of mass destruction – chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines, cluster bombs – have all been prohibited by their respective treaties, and the threats posed by these weapons dramatically reduced as a result. But for nuclear weapons, which literally threaten life on Earth, there is currently no equivalent.
One might have expected that our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, who likes spruiking Australia’s commitment to a “rules-based international order”, would welcome the imminent closure of this legal anomaly. On the contrary, however, Australia has been leading the charge to undermine the process.
Australia claims that the ban treaty process has not taken into account the security needs of “all nations” (for which read the US), a curious claim given that our ally stands out as more vulnerable than most to a nuclear weapons attack. In any event, is she really suggesting that the security needs claimed by the nine nuclear-armed nations outweigh the right of the other 187 of us to be rid of this diabolical threat?
That’s a bit like cutting President Bashar al-Assad some slack over his alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria because he has “security needs”. Weapons of mass destruction are not somehow more acceptable because a handful of nations claim that they, and only they, must have them. But, the ban treaty critics say, nuclear weapons are different, and the countries with the weapons will just thumb their collective noses at it.
Not according to a letter in October from the US mission to NATO to its European allies, urging that they oppose the treaty. With an air of desperation to sabotage the whole thing, the US stated that efforts to delegitimise nuclear weapons are at odds with its policy of nuclear deterrence, including extended deterrence for its allies (such as NATO members and Australia). Further, horror of horrors, it “could make it impossible to undertake nuclear planning or training”. Well, yes, that’s the general idea, to delegitimise every aspect of nuclear weapons possession and planning; and all indications are that that goal will be achieved, regardless of who signs the treaty. So much for the toothless tiger notion.
Nevertheless, Australia presses on with its defence of US nuclear weapons, including their possible use on our behalf, not veering from its chosen “progressive” approach to disarmament. This consists of a number of steps that have progressed more slowly over decades than a drunken snail.
The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has languished since it was completed in 1996, with little prospect of ever coming into force, and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty has been moribund for even longer. In other words, we are told that a stagnant business-as-usual agenda is the way to go, even as 15,000-plus nuclear weapons – 1800 of them still on hair-trigger alert – continue to threaten human suffering of the most grotesque proportions, and all warnings point to increasing risk of their use.
Australia will have to decide very quickly whether we support the majority of nations that have come to their senses and are about to outlaw nuclear weapons, or the Trumps and Putins of this world with their chilling Cold War-style ravings. For a nation that boasts commitment to a “rules-based international order”, the choice hardly seems difficult.
The reality of moving one big step closer to stigmatising, prohibiting and eliminating the most destructive, inhumane, indiscriminate devices ever created is cause for celebration. However, there is another cause for celebration, and that is the capacity of civil society – without which the nuclear weapons ban would not be happening – to mobilise, organise, work with supportive governments and set the agenda for a better world. As the politics of violence, division and hatred loom large on many fronts, such capacity is desperately needed for the huge challenges ahead.
Dr Sue Wareham is a board member of ICAN (Australia), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
Government documents from 1988 and 1989 released by the National Archives of Australia reveal that cabinet decided to try and invoke time-limit rules to fight court compensation actions launched after 1988. Continue reading →
As the world pushes for a ban on nuclear weapons, Australia votes to stay on the wrong side of history, The Conversation, Tilman RuffAssociate Professor, International Education and Learning Unit, Nossal Institute for Global Health, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne November 16, 2016 “………Australia’s role in fighting a nuclear weapon ban
In voting “no”, Australia stuck out like a sore thumb among Asia-Pacific nations in at October’s UN committee meeting. All of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members – including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – as well as New Zealand and ten out of 12 Pacific island countries voted yes.
Australia is signatory to all the key international treaties banning or controlling weapons. On some, like the Chemical Weapons Convention, Australia was a leader. Australia’s active opposition and efforts to undermine moves towards a treaty banning nuclear weapons stand in stark contrast.
Australia’s stated arguments for opposing a ban treaty have varied, including that there are no “shortcuts” to disarmament; that only measures with the support of the nuclear-armed states are worthwhile; that a ban would damage the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, causing instability and deepening divisions between states with and without nuclear weapons; that it wouldn’t address North Korea’s threatening behaviour; and that it does not take account of today’s security challenges.
Perhaps the most extraordinary justification of Australia’s position came from Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s first assistant secretary, Richard Sadleir, who said at a Senate estimates hearing on October 20, 2016:
it is not an auspicious time to be pushing for a treaty of this sort. Indeed, in order to be able to effectively carry forward disarmament, you need to have a world in which there is not a threat of nuclear weapons and people feel safe and secure.
Can anyone seriously imagine Australian officials arguing that we need to keep stockpiles of sarin nerve gas, plague bacteria, smallpox virus, or botulism toxin for deterrence, just in case, because we live in an uncertain world?
Yet that is what Australia continues to argue about nuclear weapons. Sadleir is saying that disarmament is only possible after it has happened, when we live in an impossibly perfect world. It’s a nonsensical argument that puts off nuclear disarmament indefinitely.
It’s 71 years since the Hiroshima bombing, and 46 years since the nuclear non-proliferation treaty came into force, committing all governments to bring about nuclear disarmament. But that treaty is too weak: no disarmament negotiations are underway or planned.
Nations like Australia cannot eliminate weapons they don’t own. But they can prohibit them, by international treaty and in domestic law. And they can push other nations to do more to reduce threats to humanity – just as Australia has done with every other weapon of mass destruction.
This is an issue that should be above party politics. In 2015, the Labor Party adopted a new national policy platform committing to support the negotiation of a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. At a public meeting in Perth last month, Bill Shorten said that a Labor government would support the UN resolution for a ban treaty.
Clearly, Australia, Japan and South Korea voted in solidarity with their U.S. nuclear protector and against the overwhelming sentiment of their Asian and Pacific neighbors as well as against global opinion. Being on the wrong side of geography as well as history is not a good look. Their vote might also attract charges of hypocrisy the next time they criticize North Korea’s nuclear program
Rattling the nuclear cage, and look who is terrified, Japan Times, BY RAMESH THAKUR , 4 Nov 16, “…….on Oct. 27 the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly adopted, by the overwhelming vote of 123-38 (with 16 abstentions), Resolution A/C.1/71/L.41, which calls for negotiations on a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading toward their total elimination.” Two conferences will be convened next year in New York (March 27 to 31 and June 15 to July 7). The resolution fulfills the 127-nation humanitarian pledge “to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.”
The strengthening international sentiment was evident at the U.N. working group’s disarmament meeting in Geneva in August when Australia angered many countries by insisting on a recorded vote instead of approving a consensus report calling for negotiations on a ban to begin in 2017. Continue reading →
In the vote in the UN disarmament and international security committee on Thursday, 123 nations were in favour of the resolution, 38 opposed and 16 abstained.
Nuclear powers the United States, Russia, Israel, France and the United Kingdom were among those that opposed the measure.
Australia, as forecast last week, and as a long-time dependant on the US’s extended nuclear deterrence, also voted no.
The resolution now goes to a full general assembly vote some time in December.
The resolution aims to hold a conference in March 2017 to negotiate a “legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”.
Support for a ban treaty has been growing steadily over months of negotiations, but it has no support from the nine known nuclear states – the US, China, France, Britain, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – which includes the veto-wielding permanent five members of the security council.
But Australia has been the most outspoken of the non-nuclear states.
During months of negotiations, Australia has lobbied other countries, pressing the case for what it describes as a “building blocks” approach of engaging with nuclear powers to reduce the global stockpile of 15,000 weapons…….
Professor Tilman Ruff, founding chair of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, said the vote was a “historic step” for the world that “heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament”.
“The numbers are especially encouraging given the ferocious pressure on countries to vote no by the nuclear-armed states, who see that this will fundamentally challenge their continued possession of nuclear weapons,” he said.
The treaty will fill the legal gap by which the most destructive of all weapons – nuclear weapons – are the only weapon of mass destruction to not yet be outlawed by international treaty.”
Ruff said Australia should reverse its opposition “and get on the right side of humanity”.
“Australia is doing dirty work for Washington, and is willing for US nuclear weapons to be used on its behalf, and potentially with its assistance,” he said.
One wonders if the interests of a ‘handful of natives’ might on some future occasion again be deemed subordinate to those of the dominant culture.
Each of these explosions generated considerable radioactivity, by means of the initial nuclear reaction and the through dispersion of radioactive particulate colloquially known as ‘fallout’. In addition to British scientific and military personnel, thousands of Australians were exposed to radiation produced by the tests. These included not only those involved in supporting the British testing program, but also Aboriginal people living downwind of the test sites, and other Australians more distant who came into contact with airborne radioactivity.
While less spectacular than the major detonations, the minor trials were more numerous. They also contributed to the lasting contamination of the Maralinga area. As a result of the nearly 600 minor trials, some 830 tons of debris contaminated by about 20 kg of plutonium were deposited in pits which graced the South Australian landscape. An additional 2 kg of plutonium was dispersed over the area. Such an outcome was unfortunate indeed, as plutonium is one of the most toxic substances known; it dissipates more slowly than most radioactive elements. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. At this rate of decay, the Maralinga lands would be contaminated for the next half-million years.
Perhaps most significant was the secrecy surrounding the testing program. The decision to make the Monte Bello Islands available to the British for their first nuclear test appears to have been made by the Prime Minister alone, without reference to Cabinet, much less Parliament or the Australian public.
Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in AustraliaPublished in: Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “……..In 1950, Labor Prime Minister Clement Atlee sent a top secret personal message to Australian Prime Minister Menzies asking if the Australian government might agree to the testing of a British nuclear weapon at the Monte Bello Islands off Western Australia. Menzies agreed in principle, immediately; there is no record of his having consulted any of his Cabinet colleagues on the matter. A preliminary assessment of the suitability of the proposed test site was conducted in October-November 1950.
The Monte Bello site was deemed suitable by British authorities, and in a message to Menzies dated 26 March 1951 Atlee sought formal agreement to conduct the test. Atlee’s letter did not discuss the nature of the proposed test in minute detail. He did, however, see fit to mention the risk of radiation hazards:
6. There is one further aspect which I should mention. The effect of exploding an atomic weapon in the Monte Bello Islands will be to contaminate with radio activity the north-east group and this contamination may spread to others of the islands. The area is not likely to be entirely free from contamination for about three years and we would hope for continuing Australian help in investigating the decay of contamination. During this time the area will be unsafe for human occupation or even for visits by e.g. pearl fishermen who, we understand, at present go there from time to time and suitable measures will need to be taken to keep them away. We should not like the Australian Government to take a decision on the matter without having this aspect of it in their minds (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 13).
Menzies was only too pleased to assist the ‘motherland’, but deferred a response until after the 195 1 federal elections. With the return of his government, preparations for the test, code-named ‘Hurricane’, proceeded. Yet it was not until 19 February 1952 that the Australian public was informed that atomic weapons were to be tested on Australian soil.
Chapter 16: A toxic legacy : British nuclear weapons testing in Australia Published in: Wayward governance : illegality and its control in the public sector / P N Grabosky Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989 ISBN 0 642 14605 5(Australian studies in law, crime and justice series); pp. 235-253 “…….The security measures taken to restrict access to the testing site were not without flaws. One morning in May 1957, four Aboriginal people, the Milpuddie family, were found by range authorities near the crater formed by the ‘Buffalo 2’ explosion the previous October. ‘Me man, woman, two children and two dogs had set out on foot from the Everard Ranges in the northwest of South Australia, and were unaware that the Aboriginal inhabitants of the Maralinga area had been removed. When authorities discovered them, the family was immediately taken to a decontamination centre at the site, and were required to shower. After this experience, which must have been frightening enough, the family was driven to Yalata.
As one of the site personnel described the experience:
It was a shocking trip down as they had never ridden in a vehicle before and vomited everywhere (Australia 1985, p. 320).
On instructions from the Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Supply, the dogs were shot. ‘ne woman was pregnant at the time the family was taken into custody; subsequently, her baby was born dead. Australian authorities went to great lengths to keep the incident secret, but they appear to have been less concerned with the family’s subsequent health. Commenting upon the fact that no-one appears to have taken the time to explain the experience to which the hapless Aborigines were subjected, a team of anthropologists was to comment:
“……….Another factor which underlay Australian deference during the course of the testing program was the role of Sir Ernest Titterton. A British physicist, Titterton had worked in the United States on the Manhattan Project, which developed the first nuclear weapon.
After the war, he held a position at the British Atomic Energy Research Establishment, and in 1950 he was appointed to the Chair of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University. Among Titterton’s earliest tasks in Australia was that of an adviser to the British scientific team at the first Monte Bello tests. In 1956, the Australian government established an Atomic Weapons Tests Safety Committee (AWTSC) responsible for monitoring the British testing program to ensure that the safety of the Australian environment and population were not jeopardised. To this end, it was to review British test proposals, provide expert advice to the Australian government, and to monitor the outcome of tests. Titterton was a foundation member of the Committee and later, its Chairman.
While Menzies had envisaged that the Committee would act as an independent, objective body, evidence suggests that it was more sensitive to the needs of the British testing program than to its Australian constituents.
Members tended to be drawn from the nuclear weapons fraternity, as was Titterton; from the Defence establishment, from the Commonwealth Department of Supply, from the Commonwealth X-Ray and Radium Laboratory, and from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Although the expertise of these individuals is beyond dispute, one wonders if they may have been too closely identified with the ‘atomic establishment’ to provide independent critical advice. The nuclear weapons fraternity have often been criticised as a rather cavalier lot; no less a person than General Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bomb, has been quoted as having said ‘Radiation death is a very pleasant way to die’ (Ball 1986, p. 8). In retrospect, the Australian safety committee suffered from the absence of biologists and environmental scientists in its ranks……..
In 1960, the British advised the AWTSC that ‘long lived fissile elements’ and ‘a toxic material’ would be used in the ‘Vixen B’ tests. Titterton requested that the materials be named, and later announced ‘They have answered everything we asked.’ The substances in question were not disclosed (Australia 1985, p. 414). In recommending that the Australian government agree to the tests, he appears to have been either insufficiently informed of the hazards at hand, or to have failed to communicate those hazards to the Safety Committee, and through it, to the Australian government. Earlier, before the Totem tests, he had reassured the Australian Prime Minister that
the time of firing will be chosen so that any risk to health due to radioactive contamination in our cities, or in fact to any human beings, is impossible. . . . [N]o habitations or living beings will suffer injury to health from the effects of the atomic explosions proposed for the trials (quoted in Australia 1985, p. 467).
There were other examples of Titterton’s role in filtering information to the Australian authorities, a role which has been described as ‘pivotal’ (Australia 1985, p. 513). He proposed that he be advised informally of certain details of proposed experiments. In one instance, he advised the British that ‘It would perhaps be wise to make it quite clear that the fission yield in all cases is zero’, knowing that this would be a misrepresentation of fact (Australia 1985, p. 519). Years later, the Royal Commission suggested that Titterton may have been more a de facto member of the British Atomic Weapons Research Establishment than a custodian of the Australian public interest.
The Royal Commission’s indictment of Titterton would be damning:
Titterton played a political as well as a safety role in the testing program, especially in the minor trials. He was prepared to conceal information from the Australian Government and his fellow Committee members if he believed to do so would suit the interests of the United Kingdom Government and the testing program (Australia 1985, p. 526)……… http://aic.gov.au/publications/previous%20series/lcj/1-20/wayward/ch16.html
when China looks at Australia, it will see Australia as an American base
“I think fundamentally we have to ask is that really the way we want to go. The signal we’re sending to Americans is that if they go to war with China, sure, we’ll be part of that.”
“It is embedding us in global military operations for which there is little strategic benefit for Australia.”
We are told mass surveillance makes us safer and in our fear we accept growing militarisation….. these facilities most likely don’t protect us, but put us at greater risk….These are the questions we don’t discuss.
Instead of fostering crucial relationships, we are allowing the US to create enemies for us with its growing strategic presence on our soil, say the academics, politicians and campaigners who gathered for the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) conference attended by news.com.au in Alice Springs this weekend.
Under a burning hot sun in the red centre, experts and citizens shared their fears over what is happening in the most remote parts of the country. These mysterious bases may be invisible to the majority of us living in the most populated regions along the coast, but could threaten the fabric of all our lives. Here’s what you need to know:
NORTH WEST CAPE — SPACE WARFARE Perhaps the most frightening of all the bases, North West Cape is at the cutting edge of warfare — in space.
The monstrous structure sits on the northwest coast of Australia, where kilometres of wire surround a soaring central tower and others fanning off it, sucking up huge amounts of electricity.
North West Cape (also known as Harold E Holt Communications Station) was established as an American nuclear submarine communication station, with a very low frequency that could penetrate water, before being given back to Australia in the 1990s.
In 2008-10, the US and Australia agreed it would be upgraded with an advanced space radar and space telescope.
The radar was built in New Mexico by the US, with Australia paying for installation, and the space telescope comes from Antigua in the Caribbean and was once part of Cape Canaveral rocket range in Florida.
The telescope points at the sky, providing what the US calls “space situational awareness”. The rationale is that it will find space junk, as in the movie Gravity. In fact, its primary purpose will be looking for where adversaries’ satellites are in space and what they do, says Professor Richard Tanter from the School of Political and Social Studies at the University of Melbourne.
If a country like Russia, for example, was hiding a satellite’s purpose, the US might photograph or neutralise it.
Professor Tanter warns Australia could become enmeshed in anti-satellite warfare. If there was a war between US and China over the South China Sea and US could not bring a fleet near the coast any more, “the first thing they want to do is blind other side’s satellites”.
We are providing the US with extra capacity to make that happen, says Prof Tanter.
PINE GAP — ‘THE POISONED HEART OF AUSTRALIA’
Pine Gap was established in Alice Springs in 1966 when the CIA came up with the idea of putting satellites 36,000 kilometres above the earth’s surface. These had giant antennae that could listen to very weak signals from Soviet missiles testing, allowing the agency to work out the capability of enemy weapons.
The spy base was placed in isolated Alice in the NT because at the time, the massive amount of data had to be collected over 130km of land.
Prof Tanter says Pine Gap rivals Uluru as the symbolic centre of Australia, with its strange, mysterious power.
“It’s the poisoned heart of Australia and it is increasingly having an effect on our defence policies and the way in which we conduct our foreign policy,” he says.
The establishment of Pine Gap heralded the start of the American early warning system, which involved powerful infra-red telescopes staring at the earth looking for the heat bloom of nuclear weapons. And it continues to grow in strength long after the Cold War, with the number of antennae growing from two or three in 1970 to 33 today.
It has also grown in capability — picking up satellite and mobile phone transmissions that are important for conducting war in Iraq and Afghanistan and monitoring people allegedly carrying out terrorist activities. It spots jet aircraft in the sky and explosions on the ground.
If a North Korean missile takes off, its trajectory can be rapidly beamed to the US, triggering a possible drone assassination. Prof Tanter says such behaviour makes Australia a target.
Australia digs itself deeper into nuclear disarmament policy hole, The Interpreter
20 October 2016
Later this month, the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly will vote on a draft resolution that will ‘convene a UN conference in 2017, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’. The resolution is expected to be adopted with a substantial majority. But the Australian government, in an unprecedented departure from a decades-long bipartisan commitment to nuclear disarmament, plans to vote no.
As reported in The Interpreter in August, Australian diplomats have been fighting an increasingly desperate rearguard action against the move by more than 100 other countries to negotiate a new treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons, with or without the participation of nuclear-armed states. Such a treaty would put Australia in an awkward spot. As a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), there is no prima facie legal reason Australia could not support and join such an instrument. Indeed, it is not obvious why any state that is legally obliged by Article VI of the NPT to ‘pursue negotiations in good faith’ on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament could not vote to ‘convene a United Nations conference in 2017, to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons’. But Australia’s reliance on extended nuclear deterrence evidently poses a problem.
Australia has been curiously reluctant to engage honestly with other governments about its true objection to the ban treaty. Instead of frankly expressing their concerns about the implications that an absolute prohibition of nuclear weapons might have for Australia’s defence doctrine, Australian officials have continued to trot out one flimsy and transparent pretext after another. Ambassador John Quinn told the First Committee that a ban treaty ‘would not rid us of one nuclear weapon. It would not change the realities we all face in a nuclear-armed DPRK’. This is a ludicrous criticism from a country that supports the ‘step-by-step’ or ‘building blocks’ approach to nuclear disarmament. A fissile material cut-off treaty would also ‘not rid us of one nuclear weapon’, but Australia (rightly) supports it as one of a range of measures needed to move closer to a world without nuclear weapons…….
Australia has also joined the US and other opponents of the ban treaty in incorrectly and disingenuously portraying it as ‘abandoning’ their preferred ‘step-by-step’ approach. Proponents of the ban treaty have been careful to emphasise that it is not a replacement for existing measures (such as pursuing a fissile material treaty, entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-ban Treaty, further bilateral stockpile reductions, etc), but, rather, is intended to support and reinvigorate them. There is no choice to be made: any country that supports, negotiates and joins the ban treaty can and will continue to work cooperatively with all states to strengthen the NPT and pursue the ‘practical, realistic’ measures that Australia advocates……
However Australia casts its vote in the First Committee, negotiations on the ban treaty will commence at the UN next year. Australia is manifestly unprepared for this. It would be totally unprecedented (and unconscionable) for Australia to fail to participate in a UN-mandated negotiation of a multilateral disarmament treaty. But if Australia does choose to participate, its record of disingenuous and at times dishonest opposition to the ban, coupled with a dire lack of substantive policy analysis, will leave it poorly placed to steer the negotiations in its national interest. http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/2016/10/20/Australia-digs-itself-deeper-into-nuclear-disarmament-policy-hole.aspx
The project team will be hosting a webinar which will consider the suitability of Australia’s use of nuclear medicine production facilities and cyclotrons and the case around importing and exporting nuclear medicine products. Some topics for discussion may include:
• Productive capacity of cyclotrons and nuclear reactors
• Importing and exporting nuclear medicine
• Waste generation from Australian production
The webinar will be live online from our Sydney office and accessible from any computer. You will be able to send questions to the panel members at any point throughout the discussions. The webinar will run from 9am to 1pm on 23 February 2016.
Please signal your interest in attending this event in person in your area to firstname.lastname@example.org as this will assist us in our planning. If there is enough interest, we may look at hiring a hall.
There is an Election forum coming up on the 2nd of March at the Perth Town Hall – where you can come and ask politicians questions about the environment priorities. You can start lodging questions now through the Facebook page here.