Stop National Missile Defence
by Hannah Middleton and Denis Doherty Over the years Pine Gap (NT) has quietly been converted into a front-line base for the controversial US National Missile Defence (NMD) system. The Australian Government supports the use of the US military facility at Pine Gap for NMD — even though the Government does not know what it is supporting. On July 16 last year, the then US Defence Secretary William Cohen said in Australia that Pine Gap had been "very much" involved in NMD since October 1999. Yet two days later on July 18, Alexander Downer said the Australian Government did not know" if Pine Gap had been involved in National Missile Defence tests — an astonishing statement by the Foreign Minister of an ostensibly sovereign state. The parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties said in 1999 that MPs were kept in the dark about information that was given to the US Congress or was publicly available. Members complained that although US Congress officials had visited Pine Gap and received classified briefings about its functions, the Treaties Committee was "entrusted with less information than can be found in a public library". In fact Pine Gap has been used to collect data on ballistic missile launches for over 30 years. In May 1992, the then US Defence Secretary Dick Cheney confirmed that the US bases in Australia had a role in the Strategic Defence Initiative ("Star Wars"). The satellites controlled by Pine Gap monitor missile telemetry and the exhaust plumes of missiles. These two pieces of information reveal the type of missile, its range, speed, trajectory and number of warheads — all of which is crucial information if missiles are to be shot down with an NMD system. NMD has the potential to trigger a new nuclear arms race in the Asia- Pacific region and seriously undermine global disarmament and non- proliferation agreements. Australia's security will not be advanced by such developments. A February 16 Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that even the geographical remoteness of Australia will not save it from the adverse consequences of the undermining of strategic stability and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Labor Party has been critical of NMD and supported a Senate resolution introduced by the Democrats on June 29, which calls on the US not to deploy NMD. However, ALP opposition is clearly cautious and qualified. Labor Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, and Shadow Minister for Defence, Stephen Martin, said in a media statement on July 17: "Labor in government will very carefully review the issue of possible Australian involvement in the NMD program..."