While we certainly share the concerns of Christopher Wright (Echo 9 Nov, 2022), as long time anti-war, peace activists, we feel the need to elaborate on the presence of US war fighting/spy facilities.
For a long time now, we have had visits by nuclear capable warships, from various countries, that have these capabilities. And they always met with some opposition, although admittedly these efforts never achieved an end to these visits.
As for the satellite bases, there have been many placed strategically around Australia, some were closed as their use became obsolete, with the advances in technology.
As for Pine Gap itself, built in 1966 and operational at the end of 1969, the U.S. government paid a ‘peppercorn rent’ for the lease. Originally built to spy on Russian missile testing activity, it has over time changed its usage as technology advanced.
When the Whitlam government came to power in 1972, it considered closing the base, which led some to believe that was one of the motivations for the dismissal in 1975.
There has always been considerable opposition to the existence of this facility – from the Arrente people (traditional custodians), local residents of the area, and a broad cross-section of Australians, which led to the first mass gathering of protesters. First Nations women led 700 women to the gates of Pine Gap on Nov 11, 1983, where 11 minutes of silence was held to commemorate Remembrance Day and solidarity with the women’s action at Greenham Common, England, where U.S. cruise missiles were to be placed.
In 1986, the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition was formed from a broad spectrum of unions, peace groups, churches and concerned individuals, which led to the next mass gathering at the gates of Pine Gap in 1987.
Since that time there have been ongoing mass gatherings and forums addressing the escalation of Australia’s militarisation, which included large gatherings at the ‘Talisman Sabre’ joint military training exercises, Shoalwater Bay.
Over time there have been courageous attempts to expose the truths about the use of Pine Gap and such places. There are some excellent books on the subject e.g. Peace Crimes by Kieran Finnane, 2020; Project Rainfall: The Secret History of Pine Gap by Tom Gilling (2019), also books and papers by Professor Des Ball (ANU). An interesting movie to see on this subject is The Falcon and the Snowman (1985).
Coming to us soon is the IPAN National Conference in Canberra – Charting our own course: Next steps towards an Independent and Peaceful Australia.