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When will we ever learn …?

This is Paradigm Shift broadcast on 4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon and I’m Ian. This week we ask: “Is deployment of US Marines to Australia a question of sovereignty”? The US marines announced on 20 March 2020 that they were suspending their annual deployment to Darwin that has been part of a joint agreement between the Australian and United States governments since 2016.

Ten days later, on 30thMarch 2020, Australian Minister of Defence Reynolds issued a press release saying the Australian government had deferred the rotation.

The relevant press release  is no longer on Minister of Defence Reynold’s website nor can you find it on her twitter account. 

Does that mean the Australian government merely fell into line with a decision already made by the United States government as a result of Covid 19?

Peace groups* and activists petitioned the Australian government after the US marines announced they would not be coming but prior to Minister Reynolds’ claim that it was the Australian government that was stopping US marines from coming to Darwin during the covid-19 lockdown. IPAN posted on their facebook page: “She (the minister) only moved after IPAN and others applied pressure…”
However the decision was already taken by the US authorities. Those of us in the Peace movement need to rethink how we go about seeking change. How can we appeal to just masters when there are none?

The relevant marines are currently in Okinawa and could not deploy for active service in Darwin even if the Australian government invited them. US Marines would be in contravention of its own 14 day quarantine period.

The same issue arises with deployment of US personnel to the not-so-secret spy base at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory. These deployments have been taking place since the late 1960s.

What are the US troops and personnel already here doing?
One thing is certain, no one (except the decision maker) can claim credit for a decision that has already been made (or forced on it).

The Campaign for International Co-operation and Disarmament asks: “How should the peace movement respond to COVID-19”? Before we go to Bevan and Andrew on sister station 3CR in Melbourne lets have a listen to Pete Seeger singing ‘We Shall Overcome’.

COVID-19. How should the peace movement respond?

(Music fade in and out)

Andrew: Welcome to this edition of Alternative News, produced by CICD, the Campaign for International Co-operation and Disarmament and broadcast at 9:15 am every Sunday morning on Melbourne’s Community Radio station 3CR.

My name’s Andrew and I have with me Bevan Ramsden from IPAN, the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network. Today we’ll discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and how IPAN and the wider peace movement have responded to this dire emergency.

Bevan, IPAN recently voiced its concern regarding the planned arrival into Darwin this month of the next rotation of US marines. IPAN pointed out that if this went ahead, it would directly contravene the governments’policy of closing our borders to guard against the coronavirus. What exactly did IPAN say?

Bevan: The IPAN committee noted that, because the United States is rapidly becoming a major hotspot for COVID-19,the annual US Marine deployment into Darwin could bring the virus with it.IPAN further noted that, although the Australian Government had ruled that no foreigners be allowed into Australia, it had not specifically included the US Marines in this prohibition and felt that, in order to protect the residents of Darwin, the Government should totally rule out US Marines arriving at this time. IPAN published a media release voicing its concerns as well as contacting the Defence Department and the Minister of Defence by letter, email and phone to urge cancellation of the troop deployment.

On 30thMarch, the Minister of Defence made this announcement: “After careful deliberation, the Government has decided not to proceed with the 2020 Marine Rotational Force – Darwin (MRF-D) deployment at this time, given ongoing restrictions associated with COVID-19.”

IPAN feels that its campaignmay have had a hand in bringing about this very necessary and sensible decision and reaffirms that, when the pandemic is over, it will continue to campaign for the removal of US troops from Darwin and termination of the Force Posture Agreement with the U.S, which underpins this deployment.

Andrew: Apart from the U.S. Marines in Darwin, are there any other U.S. military personnel whom IPAN feels should not enter Australia?

Bevan: Indeed there are.IPAN is also campaigning to have the Australian Government specifically rule out entry to Australia of U.S. personnel destined for Pine Gap, the US satellite spy base near Alice Springs, and the U.S airmen operatingfrom RAAF Tindal air base, near Katherine in the Northern Territory.

Andrew: Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, made an appeal on March 24th for those nations engaged in warfare to call a ceasefire in order to allow concentration on defeating the global pandemic. Speaking about this threat to health he said: “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.” How has IPAN responded to this appeal?

Bevan: This appeal by Secretary-General Guterres represents a precious opportunity for global peace to be achieved, even if only for a short of time, and has received a very positive response.

Russia has agreed to carry out this ceasefire and the parties to the war in Cameroon have also responded positively, as has Pope Francis. For its part, IPAN has written to Prime Minister Morrison and the ministers for Defence and Foreign Affairs urging them to endorse the UN Secretary-Generals’ appeal, ensure that Australian forces end their participation in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and stop the involvement of Pine Gap in the U.S. drone warfare program. This could be done by stopping the transmission of targeting information from Pine Gap to the U.S. drone control base at Creech Air Force base in Nevada. IPAN believes that all peace groups, unions, faith groups and other community organisations should support this call by the United Nations and pressure the Government into doing likewise.

Andrew: A worldwide ceasefire, even for a short time, would indeed be a great achievement and one that could possibly be extended after the pandemic if there is goodwill and a mass mobilisation for peace by the worlds’ people. An indication of what is possible has been shown by the inspirational acts of solidarity and compassion which have arisen in response to the pandemic.

Bevan: Cuba has sent a team of 36 doctors, 15 nurses and logistic experts to Italy to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in the Lombardy region. The Russian army has sent medical teams and equipment to help Italy battle COVID-19, a goodwill gesture labelled ‘From Russia with Love’. China has gifted 1000 badly needed ventilators to New York, the worst-affected region in the US and has pledged to share all its information on COVID-19 with the United States while calling for an improvement in relations between the two countries as part of a common effort to defeat the virus. Venezuela has also sent medical teams to Italy despite experiencing great difficulties as a result of ongoing US sanctions.

Andrew: Here in Australia many neighbourhood solidarity and self-help groups have been set up to keep people connected online and organise mutual support and assistance. These online community solidarity groups include Westside Melbourne Corona Virus, Northside Melbourne Corona Virus, The Kindness Pandemic Network amongst many others nationwide.
 A Facebook group named 4103/4104 COVID-19, so named because of the postcodes it covers, has been set up in Brisbane to organise essential supplies for people who are unable to leave their houses. 
In South Australia organisations such as the Anti-Poverty Network, Love Your Neighbour South Australia and The Pear provide social support and supply of scarce items. Migrant organisations have joined with other community groups to provide food and financial support for stood-down migrant workers on temporary visas who are stranded here with no family or government support.  

Bevan: On Wednesday 1st April the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres referring to the global fight against the coronavirus said:“Sanctions imposed on countries should be waived to ensure access to food, essential supplies and access to COVID-19 tests and medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion.”

Taking this lead from the UN Secretary General, IPAN as written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs  saying: “As part of the fight against the coronavirus, economic sanctions imposed on Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Iran should be lifted, so that these countries can obtain the supplies necessary to defeat the virus and save their communities”.

I think it is vital that peace groups, faith organisations, trade unions and community groups demand that the Australian Government shows compassion, supports this call and urges the US government to end its sanctions regime against Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea.

Andrew: The International Peace Bureau, founded in 1891, is one of the worlds’ longest-established peace federations. Recently the IPB made an appeal regarding military spending. What did the IPB say and how should organisations like IPAN respond?

Bevan: The IPB has called on world leaders “to dramatically reduce military spending in favour of healthcare and all social and environmental needs.” This is a call which IPAN and all peace and faith groups can unreservedly support. IPAN has been campaigning for some time to have the government cut military spending and divert the savings into areas of social need and the COVID-19 crisis has made this more urgent than ever. IPAN believes that all peace activists, faith organisations, trade unions and other peoples’ organisations should get behind this appeal by the IPB. It’s time the government cut the 250 billion dollars currently earmarked to be squandered on military hardware such as submarines and the F35, for example, and spent the money instead on defeating the coronavirus, upgrading our run-down and understaffed public hospitals, providing affordable housing and rectifying the NBN mess amongst many other pressing social needs. After all, this threat to our health is real, whereas the supposed military threat which the 250 billion dollars has been allocated to meet, is non-existent and contrived to boost the superprofits of the military industrial complex.

Andrew: Thanks Bevan. That brings us to the end of todays CICD Alternative News on Melbourne’s Community Radio 3CR. As always, CICD welcomes listeners’ comments and suggestions, which can be sent to peacecentre@cicd.org.au, that is peacecentre@cicd.org.au. Good morning and thanks for listening.

Ian Curr
16 April 2020

References
See https://www.contactairlandandsea.com/2020/03/30/marine-rotational-force-darwin-cancelled/ and https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/coronavirus/2020/03/21/marine-rotation-to-australia-on-hold-over-covid-19-concerns/ 

See https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-30/us-marines-cancel-2020-rotation-to-nt-due-to-coronavirus/12103768 

See https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-30/us-marines-cancel-2020-rotation-to-nt-due-to-coronavirus/12103768 



*These are the Peace Groups that petitioned the Australian Government not to allow US Marines into Darwin during Covid-19 lock-down. They did so under the umbrella of IPAN (Independent and Peaceful Australia Network):Alternatives to Violence Project Qld (AVPQ)

Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine (AJPP);

Common Ground

Medical Assn for the Prevention of War ACT;

UnionsACT;

Pax Christi (National);

Wage Peace

Australia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends;

Lismore Rembering and Healing;

Newcastle Peace Group;

Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition;

Pax Christi NSW;

Marrickville peace Group;

Progressive Labor Party (NSW);

SEARCH Foundation;

Ngara Institute;

Alice Springs Peace Action Think-Tank (ASPATT);

Basewatch;

Ecumenical Social Justice Group Western Suburbs;

Year for Peace Sandgate ;

Union of Australian Women;

Australian Non-violence Projects;

St Marys in Exile;

Qld Quakers;

Just Peace Qld;

Electrical Trades Union (Qld) TU;

Maritime Union of Australia (Qld);

Graham Smith Peace Foundation;

Spirit of Eureka, SA;

Quaker Peace & Justice Committee TASMANIA;

War Resisters International (Hobart);

Pace e Bene, Australia;

Australian Western Sahara Association;

Unitarians Victoria;

Campaign for International co-operation and Disarmament (CICD);

Spirit of Eureka -VIC;

NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union);

Quakers WA;

Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (BUMP);

People for Nuclear Disarmament WA;

WA Anti-Nuclear Alliance (WANFA);

Footprints for Peace WA;

Mayors for Peace (WA);

Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA;

Electrical Trades Union (Vic);

Maritime Union of Australia (Vic);

CFMEU (Vic);

NSW Teachers Federation.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Retired Members Branch (Qld)

Earth First! Australia

Ian Curr
Paradigm Shift 4ZZZ fm 102.1 (fridays at noon)
16 April 2020

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