Newcastle, 28 November
Shirley Winton, from Spirit of Eureka and Independent and Peaceful Australia Network, was invited to speak at the Hunter Region Broad Left group’s end of the year event in Newcastle.The broad left in the Hunter Region is organised by 3 local political groups who unite to present, among other things, guest speakers and cultural events. Approximately 100 people attended, including unionists from the Hunter Valley Trades and Labour Council, ALP members and one ALP Federal politician and a local Mayor.
Thank you for inviting me to talk tonight on the US-Australia Alliance, a topic that is increasingly more relevant to Australia today.
When Rod approached me to give a presentation on US-Australia alliance based on a talk I gave in Melbourne we discussed the military alliance. Since then with more revelations about the true nature of the Trans Pacific Partnership our discussion evolved into incorporating some aspects of the economic “alliance” into the talk.
To put the US-Australia alliance in perspective we need to take a quick glance at the current global situation. We live in a world torn by imperialist wars and imperialist wars by proxies. Tens of thousands of innocent people are killed in these wars and many more are injured and thrown into deep poverty. More countries are now living under the permanent threat of war, dislocation, and where tens of thousands are fleeing countries torn apart by imperialist wars, to safer places only to be expelled or locked away in inhumane conditions.
Behind most major wars of aggression, occupations, regime changes, is the hand of the US empire and its multinational corporations, oil monopolies, arms manufacturers, banks and financial institutions – the 1% as so aptly put. At the centre of these wars is the economic system of monopoly capitalism’s insatiable drive and need to expand and capture more natural resources, new markets, cheap labour, and expanded areas of new investments for capital. Sovereign countries that refuse to submit to imperialist powers’ demands are savagely attacked, and in the case of Libya, Syria, Iraq, are crushed. Where there is resistance by sovereign governments and the people of these countries, the imperialist powers install their local fascist puppets to suppress the people; or create, fund and arm the so-called opposition, who are mainly mercenaries, with the sole aim to divide, conquer and loot the sovereign countries’ resources and wealth.
This is what drives wars of aggression and occupation by imperialist powers and their proxies.
By all indicators the Asia-Pacific region is threatening to become another major theatre of economic rivalries and wars in the 21st Century. Australia’s role as a subservient military and economic ally of the US in this conflict is crucial to the US interests in its preparations for war. US presently holds the economic and military hegemony in this region.
Historically the US-Australia Alliance had been put in terms of a formal 67 year old military ANZUS Treaty.
But the US-Australia alliance is far wider than military and involves the economic, political and cultural dominance by the US.
There is the formal ANZUS Treaty that binds and integrates Australia into US foreign policies, the US military establishment, its wars and its industrial and military complex. The ANZUS Treaty makes claims that the two countries’ military interests overlap and are identical. The word alliance creates an impression of equal partnership. But neither is true. Australia is subservient to the US.
Then there is the informal, unofficial and equally insidious US-Australia economic alliance that integrates Australia’s economic lifelines into the US economy and its corporations’ interests – the neo-liberal economic policies embraced and rolled out over past 30 years by both Liberal and Labor governments. The US driven Trans Pacific Partnership clearly exposes this. The TPP formalises and legally binds Australia to this US economic “alliance” whose sole objective is to strengthen and expand the US corporations’ global agenda in Australia and globally.
To make sense of the military US Pivot into Asia-Pacific, and the deeper integration of Australia’s military forces and infrastructure into the US war machine, the economic imperatives behind it need to be understood. The TPP provides that exposure and insight.
The Pivot was first publicly announced by Obama in 2011 in Australian parliament, to the grovelling and gushing acclamations by both the Labor government at the time and the LNP opposition. Twelve months’ later, the former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton also graced our shores for a couple of seconds to praise and encourage the compliant Australian government and the opposition for their obedient loyalty to US military war agendas.
The TPP and the US military Pivot into Asia-Pacific are two sides of the same coin. They are the economic and military consolidation and expansion of US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region.
The truth of this is no better illustrated than by the famous quote by Thomas Friedman, the neo-liberal economist who wrote in the New York Times in 1999, “The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist of the military. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15 war planes. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
Friedman demonstrates that the US global economic power cannot be sustained and enforced without the backing of the US military.
China’s rapidly growing economic development and influence is threatening US economic hegemony and dominance in the region.
In past few years the US has shifted more attention to Asia Pacific. Kurt Williams, assistant secretary of US Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, told the US House of Foreign Affairs committee in October 2011, “…we are witnessing the re-emergence of the Asia-Pacific as a key theatre of global politics and economics…As Asia rises, so too must America’s role in it.”
Hilary Clinton refers to the pivot as “forward deployed diplomacy”, “expanding trade and investment, forging a broad based military presence ….”.
Whilst Obama was announcing the Pivot and Australia’s key strategic role in it, the US military officials revealed their plans to relocate more than 60% of US military naval and air forces, presently stationed around the world, to Asia-Pacific. New bases will be built, existing military and defence facilities and bases in host countries will be upgraded and expanded, and the previously decommissioned bases closed down by the people’s movements will be re-opened – eg in the Philippines where new bases will be built and US marines brought back.
The Pivot is turning Australia virtually into a US military base and a launching pad for its predatory imperialist wars. Since the visits by Obama and Clinton in 2011 and 2012, Australia’s military and intelligence facilities are being extensively upgraded and expanded, to accommodate US war ships, nuclear powered submarines, US airforce, increased intelligence gathering and spying on other countries and people, launching of killer drones into other countries and stationing thousands of US marines. The joint US-Australian military facilities are joint only in name and in reality operate as American run facilities with the US in command.
The upgrading of existing Australian military facilities with high tech military equipment, establishment and maintenance of new bases and hosting US marines, in preparation for the US launching pre-emptive wars, will be paid for mainly by the Australian people through our taxes, just as the people of Japan have been paying for the gigantic US military base on Okinawa for more than 60 years.
There are more than 20 highly secretive, so-called joint military and intelligence bases and facilities in Australia, in reality under the US command. They are based mainly in West Australia and the Northern Territory. I won’t give details on all of them right now, but mention most important. There ‘s the North West Cape military base, fondly remembered for the Long March in 1974 by anti-war, peace and and independence activists. It was abandoned by the US in the late 1980s early 1990s, but now the Americans have returned to install their high tech space surveillance telescope and high tech equipment, spying on other countries planning attacks on other countries, in preparations for war. The Geraldon satellite communications base in West Australia is a premier spy station that has doubled in size since 2010 to accommodate US spying and listening devices across Asia, the Pacific and the Middle East. It’s critical to US operations Asia and the Middle East.
Then there’s the Stirling naval base in West Australia outside Perth being upgraded and expanded for increased visits by US warships.
And of course there’s the famous and very secretive Pine Gap, near Alice Springs, in Central Australia. It is the most important base of all the US overseas installations and bases for launching US wars, sending killer drones and gathers intelligence from around the world.
Pine Gap was established 50 years ago in 1966. In recent times it has doubled in size. It collects data from all over the world, including listening and collecting information from mobiles, emails, etc. It produces and sends data to all levels of the CIA around the world, and to the US military planning its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also the main and central intelligence base for the CIA’s targeted killing drone operations that kill mainly innocent people or, extra-judicial killings in countries with which neither Australia, or for that matter the US, is officially at war, including Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria.
Pine Gap also makes critical contributions to planning for nuclear war. Pine Gap is now corporatized and has key operational involvement of some of the biggest US arms manufacturers, such as Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, IBM and Hewlett Packers, who profit immensely from keeping the wars never ending.
Pine Gap’s significance to the US was briefly unveiled, and almost immediately covered up again, during and immediately after the dismissal of the progressive Whitlam government. But I’ll return to that later.
Richard Tanter, from the Nautilius Institute at Melbourne University, and Desmond Ball from ANU, (and other overseas researchers) have been researching Pine Gap for many years and provided much of the public information on its activities, particularly in the last few years.
Then there’s the Bradshaw military base near Darwin and the stationing of 2,500 US rotational marines. No wonder the sale of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese billionaire raised such ire from the Americans who were outraged that Australia did not consult with them, but more accurately, seek approval from the US.
The two main parliamentary parties enthusiastically welcomed the permanent rotational stationing of 2,500 US marines at Bradshaw Military Base near Darwin. However, it is accepted that the number of US marines stationed in Australia will be significantly higher.
Recently, the future of Aboriginal owned Tiwi Islands’ Port Melville was in the headlines when it was revealed that the Port was being expanded and upgraded to accommodate future US naval activities, including the stationing of 80,000 US marines. This information was disclosed to a MUA official by a former US military official involved in the upgrading of the port.
In early April 2015, US Lt. Col. Dougherty excitedly proclaimed Australia as an empty place, “You guys have opened up your homes to us. We’re living in your guest house. The outback truly is out back, with vast wide open spaces. There’s things we can do here we cannot do back in the States. [In the US] it’s very restricted; you have to worry about safety considerations like not shooting other units as you train. Here you don’t have those issues. It’s a blank slate”, he declared, unable to restrain his enthusiasm. No recognition of local Aboriginal communities, the environment and other local communities. The Terra Nullius of British colonialism in 1788, continues to be repeated, but now replaced by US.
In May this year, during testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Defence Department Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, David Shear, announced that in addition to the movement of US Marines and Army units around the Western Pacific region, “we will be placing additional Air Force assets in Australia as well, including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft’ designed to carry nuclear weapons.
The US Pivot is re-affirming Australia as a major US military client state and a military base, a launching pad for its murderous drones, overseas military incursions, targeted assassinations and eventually major wars in our region.
Political alliance – The strategic and military importance of Australia’s subservience to US military and economic interests was in open view in 1975 when the newly elected progressive Whitlam Labor government of that time dared to question and raise concerns about the US controlled Pine Gap and the role of the CIA in its activities in Australia, and around the world. Recent WikiLeaks documents confirmed that Whitlam government’s criticism of Pine Gap and the CIA in Australia contributed to the 1975 coup that overthrew the government. The Whitlam government also took steps towards making Australia more independent from the US and Britain, economically, politically and militarily. Whitlam government’s policies to “buy back the farm” infuriated US and British corporations operating in Australia.
Our history is filled with political interference by imperial powers, first the British and now the US, in our political, economic and military affairs. Australia’s political elite has a long history of economic, political and military subservience and servitude to big powers, Britain and now the US.
The two main parliamentary parties’ subservience to the US makes Australia its deputy sheriff in the region. Australia’s role as a client state of the US tramples our independence and the rights to make our own decisions on what is in the best interest of Australia’s ordinary people and the environment.
The call for an independent Australia with an independent foreign policy is now frequently raised. The late Malcolm Fraser had been publicly speaking out and warning of the dangers of US-Australia military Alliance to Australia’s people. He called for immediate removal of US troops from Darwin and closing down Pine Gap within 5 years. In his recent book Dangerous Allies (reference to the dangers that US is posing to the interests of Australian people) he wrote “Any political leader who offends, or who is believed to have offended the United States is unelectable. Keeping the US alliance in good health is taken to be the first and most important aim of foreign policy.” Fraser as a former Liberal Prime Minister had direct knowledge and insight into the relationship between US and Australia. In the last 2-3 years of his life he strongly advocated breaking out of the alliance, for an independent foreign policy and an independent Australia. Fraser’s stand illustrates the breadth of the growing united front movement for an independent foreign policy and strivings for an independent Australia.
The Trans Pacific Partnership is the economic side of the US-Australia alliance. The TPP is fiercely and relentlessly driven by the mainly US multinational corporations and banks, and their US government. It was drawn up by 600 mainly US biggest multinational corporations, banks and financial institutions and aggressively imposed on nearly a billion people of 12 Pacific Rim countries, Australia being one of them. The livelihoods of a billion people will be even more tightly controlled by US corporations, giant banks and the US government.
In signing off on this imperialist secretive agreement the Australian government has signed away many of our hard won rights and conditions and our country’s sovereignty, to foreign multinationals and the US.
Free trade is increasingly exposed as a corporate grab and control of the world’s cheap labour, markets and natural resources to maximise profits.
Earlier leaks by Wikileaks of some of the agreement, have now been verified in the released full text. The have confirmed that the overwhelming majority of the TPP, TTIP, TISA have little to do with trade in goods, but everything with removing all obstacles to unrestricted movement of capital (investments), global movement of cheap labour, pushing down wages and conditions in all countries, trampling on sovereignty and people’s democratic rights. The economic rise of China and its threat to US economic hegemony is driving the urgency and aggressive push by the US to lock three quarters of the world under its control through the free trade agreements.
The text of the TPP had been mainly drawn up by 600 US corporations and a few representatives from the US government. Trade Ministers from each of the 12 countries, and the CEO’s of biggest corporations and banks, have been negotiating the agreement. The full text is known only to trade ministers, government negotiators and a few monopoly corporations running the show. Negotiations with the 12 countries commenced about 2008 and it was planned to have the agreement signed and delivered by all 12 trade ministers by 2012. However, the wide public opposition, in particular in New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, US, and more recently in Australia, has delayed finalising the TPP. And this has enabled the movement to spread, grow stronger and build resistance to US monopoly corporations and banks.
During negotiations parliaments and the public of each country are not allowed to see the text before their trade ministers sign off on it. It then goes through a ratification process where local legislation has to be amended to ensure each country’s laws comply with the TPP requirements. Parliaments can’t make any changes to the text, only to their own legislation and have to vote yes or no to the full text. But before the TPP is finally ratified by individual governments of the TPP countries, the legislative changes made by the governments of each country have to be approved by the US government, to ensure the interests of its corporations are not only protected, but expanded. The US has the power to force changes on other countries’ domestic laws if they are not satisfied with them.
Once ratified by governments of each country the agreement is infinite. Any country wanting to pull out or make changes to the TPP must give 20 year’s notice, and the proposed changes have to be agreed to by all 12 countries.
It exposes the sham of parliamentary democracy and asks the question “who really runs the country?”
ISDS – Investor State Dispute Settlement – Underpins the TPP and all free trade agreements.
The US and its corporations are demanding special rights and powers for foreign corporations to sue national, state and local governments when they deem local laws and regulations restrict or obstruct their investments from maximising profit making, including the expected future profits.
A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 2012 noted that in the past 20 years there have been over 600 cases of foreign corporations and investors suing national and local governments. The report also stated that the corporations that launched investor-state cases to date have been predominantly US corporations.
Under ISDS, governments introducing new laws that benefit and protect public and people’s interests against abuse and exploitation by foreign corporations, can now be sued. For example, increasing mining and big business taxes on foreign corporations, laws and regulations that protect workers’ conditions, health and safety, environment, cost of health and medicines, etc.
The multi-million US owned Occidental Petroleum Corporation operating in Ecuador took the Ecuadorian government to the tribunal claiming damages for environmental restrictions imposed by the Ecuadorian government. The Ecuadorian government was ordered to pay multinational Occidental Petroleum Corporation $1.8 billion in compensation that rose to $2.4 billion with interest and fees, which is roughly the Ecuadorian government’s annual expenditure on health care for the country. The Ecuadorian government is refusing to pay.
Dow Chemicals, one of biggest US chemical monopolies stated, “US companies just can’t compete in foreign markets when those governments give an unfair advantage to their own infrastructure and labour pool, rather than favouring US imports and foreign investment.”
And there are many other cases, including Phillip Morris suing the Australian government for introducing new laws on plain cigarette packaging.
And there are many others – Germany, Canada, and so on.
ISDS extends the rights of foreign corporations to sue local, state and federal governments on issues like local town planning regulations, employment of workers, environmental regulations on air and water emissions, laws on coal seam gas, procurement of materials from local small businesses, health standards in child care centres, regulations on workplace health and safety.
The threat of being sued by a super rich global multinational corporation inevitably acts as a deterrent for governments to enforce their own local standards and regulations and introduce changes that improve the lives of the people and protect the environment.
Slashing workers’ wages and conditions across the globe is one of the main aims of the TPP and other free trade agreements. Like ChAFTA there is no labour market testing in the TPP.
We don’t need to look far for examples of how free trade is used to crush wages and conditions.
The most famous is the case in Egypt where the Egyptian workers’ and their unions long struggle had forced the Egyptian government to raise the measly minimum wage in that country. The French water and waste management multinational corporation Veolia is suing the Egyptian government for reduced profit. Egypt and France have a free trade agreement.
However, public resistance to the TPP over past 6 years in most of the TPP countries has forced delays on the US government and its corporations in finalising the agreement. The plan was to sign off the TPP by end of 2011. The delays due to public opposition enabled the public campaign against the TPP to grow and broaden. A diverse, grass roots people’s movement from all walks of life – workers, unions, farmers, artists, academics, health workers and many more – has sprung up across New Zealand, US, Malaysia, Japan, and in Australia. The movement is particularly strong in Malaysia, US, New Zealand and Japan.
ACTU Congress – TPP Unions and Community Roundtable Coalition.
It is time Australia started to move towards genuine independence from big power domination. We badly need an independent foreign policy to get us out of US bloody wars that inflict so much death and suffering on millions of people around the world. An independent foreign policy that upholds our sovereignty, rejects our support and involvement in aggressive wars of big powers and promotes peace and justice. We need an independent foreign policy that builds a national defence industry for our country’s defence, not as a servile client state of US war mongering.
We need economic independence based on sustainable local value added and manufacturing industries that create secure and long term jobs; build a self-reliant and modern economy. Australian workers are the sole creators of the immense wealth of this country. Most of this wealth is sent overseas by multinational corporations through tax evasions and profits transfer to their head offices overseas.
These profits and taxes kept in Australia can be put into building a self-reliant, environmentally sustainable economy that protects the rights, conditions and living standards of working people. Provides decent jobs, good quality free education, child care, health, welfare and community services to all working people.
It’s time we moved towards an independent, genuinely democratic and just Australia. That is the people’s alternative.