Sunday, June 16, 2024

The freedom of the press still furnishes that check upon government which no constitution has ever been able to provide – Chicago Tribune.

HomeVolume 28Pollies mum on "Pine Gap goes" in Taiwan war

Pollies mum on “Pine Gap goes” in Taiwan war


Will the Northern Territory be dragged into a war over Taiwan? Two major national newspapers say this may happen, but the two Labor parliamentarians representing The Centre in Canberra will not answer questions.

Lingiari MHR, Marion Scrymgour (at right), and the ALP Senator for the NT, Malarndirri McCarthy (below left), are not available to comment as The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald quote expert opinion: “If China seriously wants to go after Taiwan in a military sense … that means Pine Gap goes” – in the first 72 hours.

The sister newspapers, in massive spreads over several pages and three days, also mention the RAAF bases in Tindal and Darwin as vulnerable.

“America would defend Taiwan by fighting from bases in Australia,” says one of the experts quoted.

“Especially those shared with or controlled by the US are obvious targets for an adversary” – clearly covering the defence ‘assets’ in the NT.

It is also suggested that 150,000 American troops would descend on the NT, an instant massive increase to its current population of 250,000.

“Why would China use its limited resources to attack Australia instead of focussing solely on seizing Taiwan? Because of the strategically crucial role Australia is expected to play for the United States in the conflict,” suggests one of the articles.

A spokesman for Senator McCarthy says she is “not available” to comment.

As it happens she and her government’s head, Anthony Albanese, are in the same place, in the US where he is negotiating spending 170 billion of Australian taxpayers’ dollars on nuclear submarines – and when haven’t there been blowouts in expenditure on complex projects like this?

Senator McCarthy’s mission in the US is a few notches below that of her boss: She is leading an Australian delegation of nine women-issues experts to an 11-day meeting in New York of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The priority theme for CSW this year is “innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for women and girls,” according to a statement online.

It could be claimed the possible nuclear immolation of Senator McCarthy’s constituents is of a graver nature than that UN event. Yet she can’t spend 20 minutes on the phone to answer some vital questions.

Also concurrent is discussion in two recent books, Our Exceptional Friend by Emma Shortis and No Enemies, No Friends by Allan Behm.

Both authors deal in part with what the 70 year-old ANZUS (Australia New Zealand United States) Security Treaty means in terms of Australia’s obligation to follow the US into wars, usually unsuccessful.

Experts in their fields, they both argue that ANZUS obligations are nowhere as clear as usually assumed by Australia.

Ms Shortis quotes Article IV of the treaty: “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.”

She comments: “A promise to ‘act’, after all, could mean absolutely nothing.”

Mr Behm refers to Article I: “The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any international disputes in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

He comments: “The loftiness generated by terms like ‘any’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘justice’ lend an unrealistic breadth to ‘endangered’, effectively eviscerating the first part of the paragraph.”

And he writes: “Drafted in terms that are at once high-minded and intentionally imprecise, the treaty affords the Americans enormous amounts of wriggle room.”

The News emailed both Ms Scrimgeour and Senator McCarthy on Wednesday: “What will you tell the PM to say to Mr Biden with respect to your electorate? 

“Do you want him to offer Australia’s support in any war over Taiwan?

“Do you consider that would be Australia’s obligation under ANZUS?

“What is your comment about Pine Gap in that context, and the remarks in today’s Sydney Morning Herald about the base being an obvious target?

“I’m going to write a comment piece on Friday and look forward to including your thoughts.”

Both acknowledged receipt of our email but gave no reply, despite follow-up calls.

Note: Dr Emma Shortis is a historian who focuses on US and global environmental politics. Allan Behm is Head of the International and Security Affairs program at The Australia Institute.

PHOTO: US Marine Corps Sergeant Jacob Montana during a simulated fire mission at Mount Bundy Training Area, NT. US Marine Corps photo by Corporal Lydia Gordon.


  1. This article is rhetorical bullshit and not based in reasonable fact or even speculation. I expect more from you Erwin.
    ED – Hi Peter and Geraldine: Please articulate which aspects or details in my comment piece you did not not like. Regards, Erwin.

  2. “Capital city newspapers urge nuclear war by Australia against China: God help us.”
    This was the title given to an article by a former Prime Minister [Paul Keating] on the same day denouncing these newspapers.

  3. Is Emma Shortis quote correct is it ‘noting’ or ‘nothing’ a typo?
    ED – The quote is “nothing”. Many thanks, Chris.

  4. Canaries in coal mines play a useful role. One can always hope the canary is wrong but we shouldn’t stop them singing.
    Politicians not answering questions are nothing new. Unfortunately neither is it news.

  5. I am certain the Yanks, because of its importance, have a defence system in place that would prevent any missile striking Pine Gap or the Alice.

  6. @ Ian Rennie: My understanding is that there is no Pine Gap missile defence system but there is an early warning system. Pine Gap personnel will have about 20 minutes notice of an incoming missile strike and they will immediately evacuate and drive south.
    But while Pine Gap will be taken out in the event of war with China it is most unlikely to be targeted by a nuclear tipped ICBM. No-one wants to start a nuclear war and for a small target like Pine Gap the use of a nuclear weapon is an overkill.
    A non nuclear ICBM or two could easily do the job.
    For example, a Dongfeng 5 or DF-5 missile has a range of more than 8,000 kms and could be launched from a submarine off our coast.
    Most of the blast would be absorbed by the terrain around Pine Gap and there would be no radiation.
    Buildings in Alice Springs would be shaken but there would likely be no injuries.

  7. @ Susan Sidler: Your understanding is that there is no Pine Gap missile defence system, however because Pine Gap is a highly secret US-Australian military installation, you cannot be certain of your comment. I also have my reservation about the personnel going south: would they leave behind their family? Wife, husband, children?

  8. Evelynne, there is no evidence of any missiles at or near Pine Gap for either defensive or offensive purposes (despite what one excited protester from down south claimed at a peace demo out at the base in the 80s! ICBMs she claimed.
    We know much about the base. Australian experts have for decades trawled through US Senate and Congressional Hearing documents (which is how we first learned the true nature of the base years ago).
    The watched the construction of the various additions to the base via aerial and satellite photos. It would be impossible to install missiles at the base without many locals knowing.
    You may argue that “no evidence” is not proof, but it is far beyond reasonable doubt.
    The best defence of the base is the information it collects, and the evidence it collects of military preparations and activity overseas.
    A major aspect of the defence of Pine Gap is the US Pacific fleet, and, one day, our nuclear submarines.
    The objective is not to fight a war, but to deter it from happening. The enemy know we know what he is doing.
    It is likely that we will harden our northern bases such as Darwin, Tindall and Broome with defensive missiles over the decade … and perhaps even Exmouth and Pine Gap.
    If that ever happens we will all know about it. It won’t be a secret.

  9. Underground silos are for ICBMs, to able to absorb a first strike attack and to hit back. No need for those at Pine Gap, plenty of ICBMs in silos in the USA and on submarines.
    And if there were any missiles in silos at Pine Gap we would know about it. As we know about the silos in America. Easily visible on Google Earth.

  10. I do not think that there would be an evacuation of Pine Gap in the event of a possible strike on it.
    Remember, there are a lot of Alice Springs residents working out at the base and the Alice ‘grape vine’ would ensure that trying to get out quickly would be made impossible as these Yanks would find themselves in a New York traffic jam.
    That would make it highly unlikely they would get out of range of an atomic strike, so nah, they would be digging themselves in using the already constructed bunkers.
    Besides, to evacuate one of the most important intelligence centres the Americans have? That would be very much the equivalent of the British men and women evacuating their air defence control rooms during an air strike in WW2.
    But having said that, we must admit that the British were made of much stouter stuff.

  11. Years ago it was pointed out that there are at least two mountain ranges between the base and the town and the facility was placed there to deflect damaging effects of a blast upwards into the atmosphere. That is visible on google, but let’s hope it is never necessary.
    Also there was story circulating in the 80s that the Ti Tree school is plumbed with stainless steel to meet the specifications of an American field hospital.
    If this story is true why would anyone want to head south?
    The short sighted approach to planning will also come to the fore when it is realised that to protect this country from attack from the North West the shortest route there in via the Tanami.
    The strategic importance of this road has never been recognised nor is it likely to be because of the politics. Perhaps the floods in that area will not go un noticed.
    There was a report again some years ago of Chinese oceanographic survey ship off the Kimberleys. No one noticed. They are after our resources!

  12. Hello Trev, I don’t think China has the intent or even the capability to invade us. They are not even sure they can take Taiwan yet.
    However, they have shown that they are quite prepared to bully us to bend to their will. The infamous “14 points” issued late in 2020 by their diplomats in Canberra gives us a clear idea of what they want. We would be lose much of our sovereignty and become a virtual client state, wide open to Chinese investment in mining, agriculture, housing and tourism … on their terms.
    They have shown they are prepared to wage trade warfare against us, even if it hurts them as well as us.
    Barley and wine were small potatoes, a warning shot. We have shown we won’t accept this, the major parties have adopted a bipartisan approach on this.
    As result of China’s actions, and the supply issues caused by the pandemic, we have begun to diversify our economy.
    The AUKUS deal is part of this economic strategy, as well as giving us a stronger military capability. I expect we will see a lot more investment in missiles and drones and the like.
    And I also expect we will see more “trade war” against us. They are indeed after our resources, but not by military conquest.


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