Viewpoints: Alternatives to ANZUS

Australian Left Review, Oct 2014

A nuclear-free, independent Australia based on a new sustainable economic, social and political order. That's my vision and my hope.

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Viewpoints: Alternatives to ANZUS

Jo Vallentine - ALTERNATIVES TO A N Z U S n u c l e ar - f re e , i n d e p e n d e n t was, first and foremost, an activist, my A Australia based on a new decision to enter the mainstream sustainable economic, social parliamentary process was not taken and political order. That's my vision lightly. The debate within the peace and my hope. It's also the hope of half movement has been lively since the last > million Australians who put nuclear federal election, with some people disarmament at the lop o f their preferring that we stay out of this collective political agenda at the 1984 arena altogether and concentrate, federal election. They are too small instead, in working through the major words, “vision” and “hope” and, parties and encouraging greater unfortunately, much underused in mobilisation of support at the Australia today. Spoken in our federal community level. There are also those parliamentary forum, they are almost who believe that parliamentarians tantamount t o c o n f e s s i o n s o f elected on a single issue platform weakness, both in mind and argument. cannot address the many interconnect­ ing concerns which face our society. Their suggestions focus around the It was exactly this political development of a Green party which nearsightedness that first plunged me would field candidates with broad into the sometimes murky waters of peace, social just ice and emvironmentA u s t r a l i a n p o l i t i c s . A f t e r t h e al policies. Australian Labor Party's 1984 decis­ W i t h 12 m o n t h s ' a c t u a l ion on uranium mining, which gave parliamentary experience, I am more the green light to the Roxby Downs drawn to the notion that I, as an joint venturers, there was a vacuum in independent, can d o my best work the electoral field which was partially concentrating on the issue of nuclear filled by the fledgling Nuclear Disarm­ disarmament and its implications in ament Party. As someone who the defence and foreign affairs area. However, 1 believe it is im portant for us to draw the connections between nuclear disarmament and the broader p e a c e i s s u e s . W o r k i n g as a n independent in the federal parliament on this single issue is, as I see it, the most effective way for me to work for change. If, on my election, people thought that a politician working full time on this issue could effect immediate change, reduce the number of nuclear weapons, manage to persuade the Labor government that it should ban the visits of nuclear warships to our ports, orterm in ate the leases on the three major US bases in Australia, then they would have been bitterly disappointed. Rather, I consider my task in politics to be one of changing attitudes, both of the major political parties and the Australian public. And I think it is in these vital areas that we are making some headway. The main focus of my work, as I head into my second year in the Senate, will be striving to win Australians to the opinion that the only future lies in an independent nuclear-free Australia — and that means offering alternatives to the security blanket of ANZUS. A lot of work needs to be done to convince the seventy percent of Australians who cling to ANZUS that we can survive without an alliance which has moved A lot of work needs to be done to convince the 70 percent of A u s tra lia n s w ho clin g to ANZUS that we can survive without the alliance us far and beyond the terms of the 35year-old treaty. The challenge of d e v e l o p i n g c r e a t i v e a l t e r n a t i v e strategies for our future defence and security needs is one that faces all Australians. O u r psychological, if not physical, reliance on our great friend and ally would have been greatly reduced if we were more actively concerned with these issues rather than leaving them to the academic and military boffins and the politicians. This is an area which the peace m o v e m e n t m u s t a l s o a d d r e s s seriously. It is a difficult task, given that the people involved in the movement have natural and strong reluctance to consider alternative defence in the context of continuing world-wide militarisation. But if we are indeed concerned with achieving the ultimate goal of a nuclear-free Australia, we must address the very real security concerns o f the majority of Australians. Australia's progress along a nuclear-free path must, therefore, be a steady, step-by-step process. The Dibb Report is a positive first step towards this goal as it outlines a more self-reliant defence posture for Australia. But do not think that the report somehow loosens the United States' nuclear stranglehold on us. We are still firmly entrenched in the U S ’ nuclear war strategies and, until we free ourselves from this morally debilitating alliance with one of the world’s great nuclear superpowers, we will never be truly independent. In fact. Defence Minister Beazley. when tabling the Dibb Report in the House of Representatives in June this year, spent the first five minutes allaying ANZUS treaty. It does not commti us Opposition fears that the Dibb R eport to hosting US bases on Australian would offend the Americans. Rather soil; it does not commit us to granting than offending, the Dibb Report landing rights for B-52 bombers; I complies with US policy to the letter. not commit us to allowing our ports to In line with the G uam Doctrine be used by nuclear-powered and enunciated by President Nixon in nuclear-armed warships. All of these 1969, Australia is finally looking “obligations” have come about bv separate and mostly secret agreements between the US government and, on Governments have chosen a many occasions, individuals in various course which maintained our A u s t r a l i a n g o v e r n m e n t s . The j colonial client state mentality development of the alliance has moved and immaturity heavily in the US’s favour ... we don’t even get a guarantee of help in time of threat to our national security. As we towards self-reliant defence — a a p p r o a c h t h e e m b a r r a s s i n g position which successive Australian bicentenary of European occupation governments have chosen to ignore. of Australia, it seems to be a penect Instead, those governments chose a time to look at our sovereignty and to course which maintained o u r colonial examine the alliance to determine client state mentality and immaturity, whether it is beneficial or even relevant refusing to tackle our own defence to our defence. responsibilities. The Australian government has I We must contantly remind argued that we can have more impact ourselves of our position within the on Washington from within ANZUS h i • A N Z U S is a p r o t e c t i o n p r a c k e t . AUSTRALI AN L E F T R E V I E W m ent’s main justification for keeping bases here. It is also a good i n d i c a t i o n t h a t t h e b a s e s ’ peacekeeping roles of monitoring and verification must indeed be miniscule for the government to even suggest that they may be expendable. The current wheat crisis has put our alliance with the US into sharp f o c u s f o r m a n y A u s t r a l i a n s . Generations succeeding the World War have inherited the debt of gratitude of those who fought alongside the US between 1941 and 1945. I think we have repaid that debt many times over, and it is now time we took an independent and equal role in regional and international affairs. The events of recent months have clearly shown that our humble reliance and assumption of preferential treatment from o u r great ally are totally unfounded. The US could not have spelt out its position more clearly: it will look after its own interest first and foremost. It is a great shame that the string of Australian governments since 1951 did not think likewise. It is the spirit of self-reliance that I applaud in Paul Dibb’s report. That such a report was commissioned by a Labor government which has not shown itself to be dynamically different from previous conservative Liberal governments is encouraging in that it suggests it is pursuing a more self-reliant defence posture and seeking a more public debate on defence matters. However, while Mr. Beazley made it clear that we cannot depend on the AJNZUS alliance with any degree of certainty, he continues to argue that we still need the US because it provides us with intelligence information and superior military technology. It may well be true that the US provides us with a great deal ol our intelligence information, but just how much is relevant to the defence of Australia? I strongly submit that very little is relevant unless we intend to do s o m e t h i n g o u t r a g e o u s w i t h information such as troop deployment on the Sino-Soviet border. Australia’s own intelligence gathering service has proven, as recently as the fall of the Marcos regime earlier this year, that it c a n m e e t o u r i n t e l l i g e n c e requirements, and those of our great ally, more efficiently than the indiscriminate vacuum cleaners of Pine Gap and Nurrungar. A s f o r s u p e r i o r m i l i t a r y technology, the first thing to point out is that, depending on our defence strategies, the military shopping list could vary considerably. We need only b u y t h a t e q u i p m e n t w hich is appropriate for the defence of this country. Secondly, the superior military technology is paid for at considerable price. We are the United States’ second biggest buyer of military hardware. We d o n ’t get bargain basement prices for the great costs of having US bases stationed on our soil, US nuclear warsnips or B-32 bombers visit. There is no such thing as a free lunch ... or alliance. 1 agree essentially with Mr. Dibb’s initial analysis of our relative security in the world, which seems to reflect the findings of the 1981 Katter report. However, Mr. D ib b ’s brief did not include the wider political and economic concerns that make for national security rather than purely military options. Nor was there any reference to alternative models of conflict resolution which we could explore from our secure strategic position; nor does he give us any reason why other countries in tne region should not see the Australian military buila-up in terms of security threat and follow suit, thus sparking a regional arms race am ong countries who cannot afford it any more than we can. New Zealand is a shining example ofa regional neighbour doing a serious stocktake of its foreign policy and defence arrangements. The New Zealand government is finalising its community-based defence inquiry which has been overwhelmed by more than 6.000 submissions. In October, my office is organising a conference in Canberra on alternative defence, and the keynote speaker will be Dr. Kevin Clements, one of the commissioners of the New Zealand defence inquiry. 1am convinced that if we seriously hope to wreak any changes in the way we and our governments consider the defence of this country, it can only be achieved by continued and informed input from the people. Locked, as we have been, into a superpower alliance, we in Australia have been isolated in our own region. We are considered by most of our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region as a major annexe of the United States — a country whose interests firmly rest in the palm of a nuclear superpower. Once detached from such an alliance, Australia could be expected to be an important active participant in our region’s economic, political and cultural affairs. At the international level, Australia, as an independent and non-nuclear state has the potential to be a n i m p o r t a n t p l a y e r in strengthening institutions such as the Australia could be a creative United Nations and the International force in this new mode of C o u r t o f J u s t ic e , as well as thinking encouraging alternative models of conflict resolution thus reducing At this embryonic stage of tensions between greater and lesser alternative defence, 1 advocate a step- powers. stepby-step strategy of transarmament There is no denying that we live in which would lead Australia from our troubled times. With the rapid new position of self-reliance within development of nuclear, chemical and ANZUS, to defensive defence outside biological weapons, as well as a ANZUS. to my ultimate goal of frightening proliferation of highly nonviolent social, or civil defence. In "efficient" conventional weapons, the tandem with these new defence ideas, world must make a determined effort Australia should be looking to develop to explore alternative ways of economic security in the region. resolving international conflict. My hope and vision is for Australia to bea creative force in this new mode of t h i n k in g . G ro w in g o u t of the restrictive ANZUS alliance into more tailor-made defence and foreign policies, Australia would emerge as a benchmark for other “bloc” nations, both East and West, to follow suit between and beyond the blocs. Alter almost 200 years of dependence on great and powerful friends and the misguided glamour-image of the Australian Digger going off to fight other nations’ wars, it is time this country reclaimed its sovereignty. The bicentenary is a gooc opportunity to challenge Australians with the concept of real independence an d f o r us to learn a little neighbourliness towards nations in our own Asia-Pacific region — a relationship we have shamefully neglected for 200 years. I work for the day when the sun will rise on a selfreliant, independent Australia ... not as a European outpost, nor as thr 51st state of the USA. JO V A LLEN TIN E is an independtn Senator from Western Australia. A U S T R A L I A N L E F T R E V I E W

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Jo Vallentine. Viewpoints: Alternatives to ANZUS, Australian Left Review, 2014,