By ERWIN CHLANDA
The Pine Gap military base has been affirmed – yet again and as previously reported in these pages – as a nuclear target in the event of superpower hostilities.
For a long time the threat was from Russia; now we must add China.
The issue was canvassed in last night’s Four Corners the flagship current affairs program of the ABC.
The program dealt with the growing risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan and what it means for Australia, analysing in particular the possible role of military installations in the Territory, including Pine Gap.
It revealed for the first time that nuclear-capable B-52 bombers will be stationed at Tindal RAAF base near Katherine.
Alice Springs News co-founder Kieran Finnane (pictured) appeared in the program.
The author of Peace Crimes, published by University of Queensland Press, Ms Finnane made the point that Pine Gap is feeding surveillance directly to military operations which makes it a military base.
Paul Dibb, former head of Defence Intelligence who had a high level security clearance at Pine Gap for 30 years, and is an Emeritus Professor of strategic studies at Australian National University, said: “If it looked as though that crisis was going nuclear China may want to take out Pine Gap as being the ears and eyes of America’s capability to know precisely what nuclear capabilities and where and where not the Chinese have.
“The Russians, in any case, including the Soviet Union, in my experience for the last 40 years, have had Pine Gap as a very significant nuclear target.
“Outside of America it is the most potent intelligence collection facility that America has anywhere.”
Ms Finnane said: “We know from information around town that there is a big infrastructure expansion at Pine Gap, and had that confirmed by authorities.
“It’s been described as a midlife upgrade for the old girl.
“That the base is out of sight, out of mind really does help to keep it out people’s consciousness most of the time, and so questions around it don’t have to be dealt with.”
Speaking with reporter Angus Grigg at a hill overlooking the base Ms Finnane said: “I lived here for almost three decades before I took myself to the treks to a vantage point where you see it in the landscape.”
Asked would it be possible to get closer she said: “You are potentially facing seven years in gaol.”
PHOTOS from the program. At top: Reporter Angus Grigg with Ms Finnane.