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Back in Sydney to the Obama questions

Lee Rhiannon 28 Nov 2011

Blog post by Senator Lee Rhiannon

After a two week stretch in parliament I’m always keen to taste the reality of normal life. Catching up with family and friends is always a top priority, along with a bit of shopping and attending various local events.

Politics is never too far away as understandably those I meet are interested in how the Greens view the latest news out of Canberra. The changing of the guard in the Speaker’s chair and the Mining Tax have evoked some interest. But the big issue has been the visit of the US President Barack Obama.

While some of the questions have been neutral, just asking what we think of the plan for a permanent US military presence in Australia, a common theme of the questions has been “Why didn’t the Greens object more strongly?”.

The fact that I have fielded a number of these questions from people who tend to follow the news closely is a reminder how, at times, it is still hard for the Greens to penetrate the media with our message.

For the record our MPs raised objections on a number of occasions and here are a few links to what we said.

Senator Bob Brown commented on the US military base plan on a number of occasions. He has called for Australia to chart an independent course in the Asia Pacific this century, and reiterated the Greens position that all military plans should be debated in parliament.

Senator Scott Ludlam made an outstanding speech, spelling out clearly how there is nothing “rotating” about this US military build up. That is just the latest word game to try and play down what is a massive attack on our independence. Scott said “Once established, the facility will take whatever the shape the US government requires it to, as has happened at literally hundreds of installations from Subic Bay in the Philippines to the sprawling complexes of Germany, Japan and the UK and dotted right across the Pacific. Without a whisper of consultation, the Australian government has taken us into uncharted territory. There are, we are aware, more than 1,000 US bases around the world.”

I also had an opportunity to spell out the Greens opposition in an interview on ABC Capital Hill. We don’t want a US base in this region as it will undermine peace and security in our region and it will send the wrong message to our neighbours, particularly India and China. 

Since the Obama visit Defence Minister Stephen Smith has been on the record talking about developing joint military facilities on Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean once the Stirling naval base in Western Australia is upgraded for the US. This significant announcement came out a few days after Obama’s visit. This news further underlines how few details have been made public about new US military bases and operations in Australia.

While I felt I could satisfactorily answer the questions about the Greens’ response to the Obama military plans for Australia, the next big question is what are we going to do about it?

The answer goes far beyond the Greens. Our MPs have shown that we are ready to take up these issues in the parliament.  What we now need is a broad based peace movement to oppose the dangerous military build up plans. That’s our challenge. 

And for the record, for those people who have asked about the Greens official policy you can check out our Peace and Security policy.  In summary the Greens are calling for an end to the ANZUS treaty “unless Australia’s membership can be revised in a manner which is consistent with Australia’s international and human rights obligations”.  We also advocate closing all existing foreign bases on Australia territory and an end to foreign troop deployment, training and hosting on Australian territory. Our policy stipulates that the Australian Defence Forces should only be deployed for defence and peace keeping and not for offensive action.

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