Friday, February 16, 2007

For Australian Independence - No More US Bases!

On February 15 2007, Australian Defence Minister Dr Brendan Nelson announced that Australia would host a new US military satellite communications base at Geraldton, in Western Australia.

Various capitalist media spinelessly followed Nelson’s own press report and wrote it up in these terms: "The base will be built at the existing Australian defence facility at Geraldton and will be used by the Americans to monitor regions like the Middle East."

Notice the passivity of the role assigned to the base in this language: it is related to our "defence" and will passively "monitor" various regions. Defining those regions as "like the Middle East" is intended to close the discussion and let us all go to bed safely at night.

But first of all, what is the existing facility at Geraldton?

Here’s Wikipedia’s explanation:

The Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station (ADSCS) is located at Kojarena, inland near Geraldton. The ADSCS is part of the US signals intelligence and analysis network ECHELON. The station has four satellite tracking dishes which intercept communications from Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pakistani regional satellites[1] and international communications satellites (INTELSATs and COMSATs), throughout the Indian Ocean and South-East Asian regions. Staff are drawn from the American National Security Agency and the Australian Defence Signals Directorate, and the site is operated under the UKUSA Agreement.[2]
On 15 February 2007, it was announced that a new US military communications base would be built in Geraldton, after three years of secret negotiations between the US and the Australian Federal Government.[1]

It’s worth following the link to ECHELON, also on Wikipedia, to get a complete picture of how the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are working together like five fingers on the one hand to intercept electronic communications everywhere in the world, and how, when this is not being done for political or military purposes, the U.S. has been able to utilise it for industrial and commercial spying.

So what will the new U.S. base really do?

In an email to Perth’s, Loring Wirbel who studies space intelligence systems in the US, based in Colorado Springs writes: "There's a difference between Pine Gap and Geraldton, in that the US will be using its portion of the base for a largely unclassified (but dangerously first-strike) warfighting voice communications system, MUOS."

There’s also a Wikipedia description of MUOS (Mobile User Objective System) if you want to check it out, but this report, from Aviation Today, puts it into very clear terms.

The deal further enmeshes Australia in the web of its military relationship with United States imperialism.

Visiting fellow at the Australian Defence Force Academy Philip Dorling said that once the base was operating, it would be almost impossible for Australia to be fully neutral or stand back from any war in which the US was involved.Dr Dorling said the base would have direct military significance and would be a military target, similar to the submarine communications base at North West Cape and the joint facility at Pine Gap with its missile early warning system.

"You knock out the ground station and you knock out the system," Dr Dorling said. "Once again the Howard Government is extremely eager to add another strand to Australia's alliance with the US. If the Americans are involved in conflict anywhere in the Indian and Pacific oceans, basically our half of the hemisphere, Australia will be directly involved by providing vital intelligence and communications links."

He said the Geraldton base would be the link through which the United States would control the satellites. "Geraldton is as far west as you can get on the Australian land mass. That means they can put the satellite as far west as possible so that the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf, and south Asia will fall within its footprint," Dr Dorling said.

A couple of years ago, then Assistant Secretary of State for the U.S., Rich Armitage, lectured Australians on how they would have to shed blood alongside the U.S. if it went to war with China over Taiwan Province. Armitage cited the Anzus Treaty. However, bases like North West Cape (the Omega navigation system), Pine Gap (see previous post) and Geraldton (MUOS) indicate that Anzus or no Anzus, Australia cannot be neutral in any act of aggression perpetrated by US imperialism

Foreign military bases on Australian soil violate our national independence, undermine our national sovereignty, and violate our territorial integrity.

We must revitalise the Campaign Against Foreign Military Bases in Australia, which was such a strong movement in the early 1970’s and bring new legions of young people into the struggle against imperialism, and for an independent and socialist Australia.


Rhyolite said...


Congrats on a very concise and well argued post.

Would I be correct in inferring from the last para that you were involved in the Campaign Against Foreign Military Bases (CAFMB) in the 1970s. As it happens I have been researching CAFMB as part of a larger historical project on the establishment and early years of the US facilities in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, and have recently accessed some very interesting historical records relating to the CAFMB postests at North West Cape in 1974 and Pine Gap in 1976. If you were involved I would be very interested in talking to you about it and can be contacted at


Philip Dorling
Visiting Fellow
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
University of New South Wales @ ADFA
Canberra ACT 2600
Ph: 02 6205 0513

Morris Mandarino said...

Hi Mike,
I'm wondering what you make of this -

Any suggestions on where to press or seek action would be much appreciated. I feel these actions employed by the US are first and foremost unpardonable and abhorrent and to have them occur from a base in our sovereign land invoke a deep sadness and shame within me.

What can we do?


Morris Mandarino