Reports on Pine Gap Protest

14 October

Report from GN Representative

- By Bill Sulzman
Report on Protest Action - By Jacob Grech
Huge media coverage of protest - Alice Springs News, 9 October
Report from MAPW - By Giji Gya, 9 October
Report By Greens MP - By Giz Watson, 9 October

MAPW Media Release

- By Judy Blyth, 8 October

Police confident of peaceful protests at Pine Gap

- ABC News, 6 October

Four arrested at Pine Gap Protest

- Herald & Weekly Times, 6 Oct

Four arrested at Pine Gap

- By Liz Gooch, The Age, 6 Oct

300 protest outside Pine Gap

- The Australian, 5 October

National group joins in protest to Expose the Gap

- Friends of the Earth, 4 October

Australian Doctors Say "No" to Pine Gap

- MAPW Media Release, 4 Oct

50 Years of an Atomic Outback

- Friends of the Earth, 3 October

Alice Springs preparing for national peace protest

- OzPeace, 3 October

Doctors delegation to Pine Gap

- MAPW Media Release, 30 Sept

GP to take on US base

- By Daniel Fogarty, Geelong Advertiser, 25 September


14 October
REPORT from GN REPRESENTATIVE
from Bill Sulzman


Day one October 2nd arrival in Sydney  6AM -  As per usual I could not sleep on the plane but did watch all 6 in flight movies several of which in normal circumstances would have put me to sleep but not this time.  I was met by Jules Andrews who Hannah Middleton (GN rep for Australia) had arranged to be my "minder" in Sydney. Jules like all of my hosts in Australia was outstanding.  I got settled, took a 2 hour nap and was accompanied by Jules to his office for some prearranged radio interviews.  The first was a live interview on the local ABC radio station (ABC radio and TV are similar to BBC in Britain).  Though it is a local affiliate it is possible that parts of the interview got picked up for national broadcast.  Later I had a taped interview for a news program on the station which serves the Arabic ethnic residents of Sydney.  The Sydney Morning Herald had an interesting story on a speech by Richard Butler former UN arms inspector in Iraq criticizing the US for its hypocrisy on Nuclear weapons.  Hear, hear!!

Day two October 3 Sydney :  Jules took me on a sight seeing tour of the Sydney harbor ending with lunch at Manly beach.  Beautiful sunny day.  It was school holiday time so there were lots of children taking the ferry ride.  Chance to get a little flavor of Australian life and society.  Then it was off to Jules' office for an extensive interview for his newspaper the Guardian of Australia.  Then it was time for a presentation at the offices of People for Nuclear Disarmament one of the many peace groups that make up the movement in Australia.  2 hours of lively discussion.

Day three October 4 trip to Alice Springs :  It's a 3 hour flight at least 1500 miles.  Distances for all those traveling to the demonstration from the major cites of Australia were huge.  Many came in by bus often taking two or three days to get there.  So the 400 who made the trip really had to make a commitment to be there.  I got to the airport about noon and was picked up and taken directly to the "Bush Camp" (everything in the outback is the "bush) set up about 5 miles or so from the gates of Pine Gap.  Several media outlets were there for a 1 o'clock press conference.  In general there was massive media coverage of the event October 4-7.  The major newspapers and wire services were there,  ABC radio and TV,  SBS radio and TV (the second nationwide network, generally more progressive than ABC), local media from Byron Bay, Darwin, Alice Springs etc.  Independent media of various kinds doing documentaries on the event.  I spent at least an hour and a half at the camp meeting people and doing press interviews.  Jacob Grech who came to the Berkeley meeting and who will be the main host of the May meeting in Melbourne was in charge of setting up the press con etc.  A man of boundless energy and talent.  Then it was back to the "town camp" next to the Airport motel where the Anti Bases campaign had secured me a motel room for the period of the demo.  The aabc bus from Sydney, with Hannah and Denis Doherty, head of AABC aboard, arrived shortly thereafter and I joined them for dinner and gave a presentation about the GN and fielded questions for an hour or so.  They were quite exhausted from their 2 1/2 day trip so everybody retired for the evening in preparation for the next day's events.


Jacob Grech chairing a meeting at the bush camp

Day four October 5 the action starts:      We departed early from camp to get to the Bush Camp by 9.  By now the camp was crowded with many more having arrived from all over Australia, Perth,  Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin and many other locations.  Lots of excitement in the air.  A decision making meeting got underway as plans for the day were finalized.  Legal teams and medical teams gave briefings. I  was introduced to the group and gave a short presentation explaining how this demonstration fit into Keep Space for Peace events around the world.  I spent the next several hours doing press interviews and providing information from a makeshift workshop site I set up with the assistance of Gareth Smith from Byron Bay who let me use the side of a small trailer he had towed up from Byron Bay with his camping gear and supplies.  Was able to post our Aerospace Battlefield and Space Command Charts and hand out some literature.  Very informal but functional given the circumstances.  At about 2 we set off for the gates of Pine Gap.  Our bus took us to the roadblock which had been set up about a mile and a quarter from the gate.  Form there we(500 +)  marched to our destination.  It was a blistering hot day.  Medical personal reminded everyone to use sun screen and drink plenty of water.  At the gates, which are out of sight of the radomes and the main facilities of Pine Gap, we were met by a massive police presence.  Local police forces had received backup from special national police forces.  Jacob emceed a rally with speeches from various groups including present and former members of parliament, labor leaders, student groups,  local Alice Springs activists interspersed with music.  A terrific array of banners got posted on the fences surrounding the site.  Even before our rally had concluded the police detained two persons who were carrying paint balloons.  A chaotic scene developed with 2 more arrests occurring as demonstrators tried to block the police vehicles as they exited with arrestees.  In general the police were rough with demonstrators as they tried to clear roadways etc. but they were not armed and they did not use mace or tear gas at any time.  We still had to walk back to the roadblock and return to our various camps. 


Locals take center stage

Day five October 6 At dawn I had a live interview on SBS TV right in front of the gate.  The police and a group from the Bush Camp doing a silent sunrise meditation were my backdrop as I was able to explain the demonstration as part of the Global events of Keep Space for Peace week with an explanation of how Pine Gap fits into the U.S. war fighting scheme for Iraq.  Then back to the camp for more meetings and preparations for another march to the base and a second rally and planned CD event.  Those planning to make entry to the base by bypassing the fenced in area in front of the gate had to change their plans due to a major upgrade of the fence.  It had been made higher , more substantial and extended a great distance in both directions.  This coupled with a huge police presence led them to decide on a sit down action blocking the main road.  But the police just ignored them after a brief skirmish at the beginning.  After a 3 hour standoff, Denis, Hannah and the others decided that they had made their point and  rejoined the rest of us.  There were many fine presentations including from the Green Party Senator representing Sydney in the national government, a rep from IPPNW(anti nuke doctors),  the local peace group who chanted "locals say no".  They also had my favorite banner "Bush out of the Bush"  Benny Zabel, world famous anti nuke activist  stood for hours atop a pyramid of "radioactive" marked barrels  that had been rolled all the way down the road.  Many more press interviews. 


Dennis Doherty and others block Pine Gap entrance

Day six October 7 At dawn I was set up to be interviewed live by ABC TV in front of the gate.  A more hostile interviewer than the day before wanting to focus on the activities of some of the fringe groups at the demos.  As I walked back up the road and got my ride back to town we stopped at the Bush camp to observe the action at the roadblock created by using a truck decorated up to look like a flying saucer.  I had left my camera behind but got a first hand look at an hour long campaign to clear the road of demonstrators and the rest of the roadblock.  It got very rough but there were only a couple of arrests and some bumps and bruises.  At first it appeared  that someone had received serious injuries but that was not substantiated.  Overnight 5 had backpacked into the base, got near the radomes and took extensive video footage before being arrested and having their film destroyed.  Then it was back to town for a rally and march though the streets of Alice Spring with stops at the courthouse where several were being arraigned and at a local logistics base for Pine Gap in the town.  It had been cleared of all the vehicles usually parked there in anticipation of our arrival.  Another speech and more press.  Then it was time to say good bye as everyone started back home.

Day seven October 8  Long flight to Brisbane.  There is no direct flight.  The flight left late so the connection in Melbourne was missed and my arrival in Brisbane was even later than expected.  I was met by my host Ralph Summy retired professor of Peace Studies at Queensland University.  He actually started the program. The schedule here became more relaxed and manageable.  Ralph is an American emigre,  His 1950 Harvard class included Henry Kissinger and James Schlesinger 2 super hawks.  His math professor was Tom Lehrer later author of many anti nuke songs.  Interesting conversations late into the night. Ralph himself got blacklisted by McCarthy era politics and ended up coming to Australia in 1961.

Day eight October 9 Lunch with several of Ralph's friends, the old farts he called them.  All veterans of the Australian peace movement.  Good history lesson for me.  2 o'clock meeting with the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Brisbane, a diverse group of staff people working on the full range of justice and peace issues,  East Timor, Aborigines, Environment etc.  Here a more basic discussion of the Gn issues was necessary.  Hopefully planted some interest in the May meeting which no one here was aware of.  Dinner with activist friends of Ralph.

Day nine October 10: 2' o'clock meeting with professors and graduate students in Peace Studies at Queensland University.  Good give and take.  Knowledgeable people struggling with the academic restraints of mainstream  political science.  5:30 potluck supper and discussion with the steering committee of Just Peace a recently formed peace group dealing with issues in the era of the War on Terrorism and the proposed war on Iraq. For me it was mostly discussion.  Not much potluck.  7-9 presentation and discussion open to the public  About 30 or so present.  Showed Karl Grossman's video.   The whole presentation was taped by the same documentary crew who had interviewed me at Pine Gap.  Several people at the talk were meeting each other for the first time.  Very good discussion.  An immigrant student from southern Sudan made a very good contribution about the obsession of America and its allies with their own narrow self interest while Africa and other have not peoples  get scant attention.     I expressed my strong agreement with his position.


Day 11 October 11 23 hour return trip home  Only 5 movies this time. 

Bill Sulzman
P.O. Box 915
Colorado Springs, CO 80901
Ph 719 389 0644
 


13 October
PINE GAP PROTEST
from Jacob Grech


Hi all,
 
First chance I've had to report on the Pine Gap Demo last weekend.
 
But first, just came back from the No War Rally in Melbourne ; official estimate was 45,000 people, but I reckon it was bigger than that.

Pine Gap was a great success. We set out with the aim of putting it in the public arena and we achieved just that, with news coverage on every TV, print and radio news for the entire weekend.

If nothing else, you could not have been sentient in Australia last weekend without learning 3 things:

1.    that there is a large US satellite base in the centre of the country
2.    that it will be used in the war on Iraq and
3.    that there are many people who do not think that this is a good thing.

While some of the media concentrated on the arrests - there were 16 all up over three days most of the media intros referred to the base as a spy or space base and pretty much all made the connection to the War on Iraq and Star Wars.

There were quite a few pretty good interviews with people like myself, Bill Sulzman, Dr Bill Williams from Medical Assoc for Prevention of War, Hannah Middleton, Senators Kerry Nettle (Greens) and Lyn Allison (Democrats).

We had about 300 people camped at Camp XRay on the road to Pine Gap and about another 100 in Alice Springs. A real wide cross section which included everyone from 'Raging Grannies' to preachers to pollies to doctors to ferals, and for the most part everyone got along just fine for the weekend - a couple of media comments about 'the lunatic fringe' notwithstanding.

The demo was a demonstration of diversity of the movement here. A sense that it is the difference that counts and that all these folk could work so well together. After all, if we were all the same we wouldn't need each other and life would be terrible. I think this was in some senses a part of a healing process which has needed to happen within the peace movement here for some time.

Some of the highlights (from my own subjective perspective) were:

The Stormtroopers - a heap of identical oversized cardboard cutouts of stormtroopers from a Star Wars movie that accompanied most actions and parodied the coppers no end.

The MAPW action which  delivered a statement to the Officer in Charge of the base (or at least his nominated proxy) which was about the strongest statement anyone has made about the war, Star Wars and Pine Gap but came out looking so reasonable and mainstream that they could not be marginalised

The Fire Truck: a mob of theatrical ferals built a flying saucer on site: gennies, welders, grinders going late into the night like an out take from a Mad Max film - a twenty foot rotating disk which sat on the roof of the truck and had a small dance stage and flashing lights which blocked Hatt Rd with a non stop techno rave (even if I can't stand dance music) for about 10 hours overnight  before the coppers smashed it.

The Sunday March on the gate - all very peaceful.

The sporadic rolling blockades on Hatt Rd whenever a Pine Gap vehicle tried to pass and the mood was upon us.

Monday's town march which took the demo to town to protest at the court where we had a dozen people appearing on protest charges and at the Pine Gap warehouse in town.

The journos and cameraman who were so on our side this time.

The fact that some of us got in close, undetected and got out with what we believe is the best current video and still footage of the base.

The main outcomes of the demo were:

  1. putting Pine Gap back on the issues map

  2. introducing the campaign big time to the mass media who have even called again today for comment on the Bali bomb.

  3. taken the battle to their chests. It is an empowering thing for young activists here, part of an Australian headspace of rubbing their noses in it, to choose the issue and the time instead of being reactive all the time. Young globalisation activists have now comnneected Pine Gap and Star Wars to the whole war & WTO campaign.

  4. provided us the political weight to ask a few questions in Parliament. played a part in forcing ever so slightly left of centre pollies to come out an inch further.

  5. Built a platform for the May GN Conference.

The demo had a good sense of character, which Bill Sulzman described as 'Australian Freestyle' and left those at least who did the Camp XRay thing with a spirit of solidarity and success that will make this action talked about amongst activists circles for a while to come.

Great to hear news of so many actions all over the place.

Thanks to all you mob in the Global Network for the advice, info and impetus to get this thing re-happening down here again.

I will post photos etc when I get the chance.

Perhaps the worm is turning.


9 October
HUGE MEDIA COVERAGE OF PINE GAP PROTEST
by ERWIN CHLANDA

ALICE SPRINGS NEWS


http://www.alicespringsnews.com.au/0936.html

 

Photo from MAPW

Four arrests propelled national coverage of the anti Pine Gap demonstrations - much smaller than expected - to the top of many television news bulletins on Saturday night. The arrests took place in a violent melee between protesters and NT police near the gates of the base. Police later described paint-filled balloons as an "offensive weapon" and charged a 23-year-old woman with possessing it.

The clashes overshadowed the breadth of the protest. Although attracting 300 people and not the predicted 500, it was largely peaceful and attended by a wide range of interests including Alice Springs community groups, Quakers from Perth, Uniting Church clergy from Adelaide, activists from throughout Australia, unionists and the national Medical Association for Prevention of War. The association, represented by several local and interstate doctors, says it presented to Pine Gap officials a petition signed by several hundred medical professionals from across Australia. The petition called for the United States government to relinquish their lease on the facility in the name of public health to which war is the greatest threat.

Australian Greens Senator Kerry Nettle (NSW) echoed the concerns of most speakers at the protest. She said on Sunday she had just come from the debate in Federal Parliament about Australia's involvement in a possible war against Iraq. She described the debate as "quite farcical" given that "Australia has already committed a significant involvement to an invasion of Iraq" by hosting Pine Gap. Said Sen Nettle: "That involvement is not something that Australian parliamentarians are currently aware of."

"We have the committee that is responsible for ensuring that this facility operates in a way that fits with Australia's national interest [but the committee is] not able to access the agreement with regard to this facility." She said members of the US Congress have "more access to understanding what goes on in this facility than Australian parliamentarians do". Briefings on Pine Gap, and its involvement in any war on Iraq, "are only provided for the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and for the Shadow Ministry".

"This facility has been used in 1991 to provide information on targets" in the Gulf War and later in the ongoing sanctions on Iraq, "sanctions that have led to the death of around half a million Iraqi children" deprived of basic needs. "The Greens in Parliament have continued to provide unequivocal opposition to Australian involvement in an invasion of Iraq, whether it is UN sanctioned or not. "We need to give to the Iraqi people their dignity and their autonomy so that they can determine who should be the future leaders of their country."

Sen Nettle said this "spy base" is looking after US economic and domestic political interests in the Middle East region, China and Asia, and "quite clearly not [looking] after the interests of Australia."

Security precautions were extraordinary when compared to previous protests. There were several hundred NT police and Australian Protective Service officers on duty, a large group of them forming a phalanx three to four deep at the gate of the facility. Protesters were made to leave their vehicles at a roadblock 1.8 km from the gates and had to walk, on Sunday, in 33.4 degree heat, more than four degrees above average. Media were initially told they could drive all the way to the protest site but police later reneged on that undertaking and crews had to carry their gear for nearly a kilometre.

The main protest group, from interstate, was permitted to camp on Crown Land near the turn-off of Hatt Road, which leads to the base, from the Stuart Highway. Activities at the camp ­ for much of the time ­ resembled more a bush party than a plot to threaten world security: a band was playing, and there was lots of singing, dancing and street theatre type acts between attempts ­ largely foiled by police ­ to block "space base" traffic on the road.

The business part of the "action", however, appears to have been conducted professionally. For example, the debrief on Saturday night was attended by about 100 people standing or sitting around a campfire, eating their dinner prepared by a canteen. The meeting was chaired by a man who gave the floor, in turn, to people raising their hands. Speakers who had the floor were not being interrupted by others.

Several people, who had telephoned friends or relatives interstate reported that lead items on commercial TV had been the protest that afternoon, with a heavy emphasis on the violent clash with the police. One man reported that the four people arrested had been bailed, and he gave their names. Two female legal advisers explained the bail conditions and the charges, including failure to give a name, resisting arrest and hindering police. One of the advisers said people giving false names should be aware that new fingerprinting procedures in the NT allowed for instant computerised matches with interstate records.

Several speakers complained that NT laws did not compel police to display name badges nor numbers on their uniforms. (Protective Service officers ­ working for a Federal organisation ­ had numbers handwritten on masking tape stuck to their blue uniforms.)

One man from WA reported that a friend had entered the base compound, carrying camping gear, and was apparently planning to stay there over night.

The activists had been subjected to hysterical coverage by the US controlled Centralian Advocate newspaper for weeks. It reported that some demonstrators would be coming for a luxury tour ­ although they were travelling by bus and sleeping in tents. Later the paper reported protesters would "storm" the base when a spokesman said some participants would be attempting to enter the compound. The misreporting reached a climax when on Tuesday last week the Advocate reported: "Taxpayers will foot the bill to accommodate up to 500 interstate protesters expected at Pine Gap this weekend. The protesters will have a special campground and facilities erected near Pine Gap by the NT Department of Parks and Wildlife. It is believed the campground with toilets will be prepared near the Stuart Highway junction."

The information was entirely wrong: all facilities were being paid for by the protesters.

In Friday's edition the newspaper retracted the report, but claimed it had been given the information by a person working for Parks and Wildlife Minister Kon Vatskalis. The Alice Springs News checked with media adviser at the time to Mr Vatskalis, Dennis Driver. He said: "Maybe they have misconstrued something I have said."

However, the Advocate report also says: "The cost of the temporary facilities was unknown at the time of publication." Mr Driver says the Advocate did not ask him about the costs ­ a question that would have readily cleared up any misunderstanding.

The protest organisers, who have had an office in Alice Springs for about two months, say they had not been approached by the Advocate. The paper's misreporting triggered an outburst from MacDonnell MLA John Elferink, parts of which were picked up by at least one national news medium. Mr Elferink said he was "astonished that the Government was building facilities for protesters". It is even more astounding that they are using Parks and Wildlife personnel and taxpayers' funds to do this. It seems that the Minister is pulling another Kon job on Territory taxpayers and letting his sympathies show. I was in the Todd Mall on Sunday and I met some of these people who have travelled up from other parts to take part in this protest. I was particularly struck by one man who was wearing a cowboy hat, a sequined top and a hot pink mini-skirt. Clearly this person is not the sort of person that we want to accommodate at taxpayers' cost and make them feel welcome so he may demonstrate his intellectual and moral superiority to us poor dumb folk in Alice Springs."

The man in question, it seems, was Supreme Commander Starpower (his legal name for four years), nicknamed Captain Starlight. He was one of the four people arrested on Saturday when he questioned police about why they were apprehending the first two protesters taken into custody, and after taunting police with a "camp" act at the gates. He was thrown to the ground and a police officer pushed his face into the dirt.
Mr Starpower says: "I asked what they [his friends] were being arrested for and they [police] couldn't tell. I asked what I was being charged for and they couldn't tell me. That's why I was arrested. I'm a highly visible performance artist. They pick out members of the crowd they don't like, and later on, when you're taken to the police station, that's when they make up lots of charges."

He says his charges included resisting arrest, hindering police and assaulting police. Before being released on bail Mr Starpower says he was forced to provide a DNA sample, as were his three fellow prisoners. He says he finds it "disturbing" that NT law provides for compulsory DNA testing for any alleged offence that, if proven, carries a maximum penalty of at six months imprisonment or more.

As it turned out, the police withdrew the assault charge, Mr Starpower pleaded guilty to the other two and was fined $400 in the Magistrate's Court on Monday.

However, his DNA samples will remain on record. Says Mr Starpower: "I'm not a murderer, I'm not a rapist, I am a political activist. The only things I've ever been charged for are [political] actions. It concerns me that now the DNA of activists can be forcibly taken."

On a brighter note, CATIA's Craig Catchlove says he's been told at a recent seminar that the protest gained 500 bed nights for town. "Let me say, tongue in cheek, perhaps we should be bidding for a few more controversial establishments for our region. It could become a niche tourism market."

(See more images from the protest by MAPW - The Medical Association for the Prevention of War at http://www.mapw.org.au/nationalmissiledefence/PG_images.html)


9 October
Report on action at Pine Gap US military base, Australia
By Giji Gya
MAPW - The Medical Association for the Prevention of War


MAPW had a fantastic delegation, presence and media response at Pine Gap, in the central Australian outback near Alice Springs 5-7 October 2002 to protest Australia's involvement in the US military war machine, to protest against weapons in space and to protest against Pine Gap's involvement in a war on Iraq.!

We were reported on ABC, SBS, Ch 7, Ch 9 and Ch 10 as well as numerous radio stations and newspapers (even in Malaysia!).

We will also be featured in Australian Doctor soon.

A big thanks also to our Missile Defence project consultant, Dimity Hawkins who has been working on this action, the petition and poster for several months!! Dimity also provided great base support in Adelaide during the action.

MAPW members at Pine Gap were:

Dr Peter Tait - NT coordinator

Dr Bill Williams - Deputy International Councillor - spokesperson extraordinaire for MAPW! Bill was interviewed many times. On the Sunday, Bill and Carole presented the MAPW petition http://www.mapw.org.au/nationalmissiledefence/PGpetition.html , signed by over 200 health professionals from around Australia, registering disapproval of the existence of the US/Australian Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap. "The role Pine Gap plays in destabilising the peace and security of our nation and in international relations, and the potential for this facility to be used in the militarisation of space is of great concern.....Pine Gap is an integral part of the United States nuclear-war fighting system and therefore inevitably involves Australia in preparing for and potentially participating in nuclear strikes, whether pre-emptive or retaliatory."

Bill's comments received great media coverage.

The petition that was accepted by Pine Gap was also recreated for the public and cameras in a long concertina of 14m interspersed with the MAPW poster ! http://www.mapw.org.au/nationalmissiledefence/MAPWposter.html

Bill also launched the Trilateral initiative http://www.mapw.org.au/nationalmissiledefence/Trilateral.html  whereby medical professionals and health workers in three countries which are IPPNW affiliates – the Medical Association for Prevention of War (MAPW) in Australia; the Danish Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (DLMK) in Denmark/Greenland; and Medact in the United Kingdom – all affiliates of the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), launched this joint health and security alert to "Oppose missile defence facilities which threaten our homelands".

Dr Carole Wigg - National Secretary - Carole beautifully opened the MAPW Sunday action by addressing the media and bringing to attention the human element of war fighting and Pine Gap's role in military targeting on Iraq.

A. Prof Lou Irving - MAPW VIC branch coordinator gave some great balance via interviews to the rather erroneous reporting of the police/protestor 'scuffle' on Sat 5th. Lou also spoke to the media about breaking the cycle of violence.

Dr Ofra Fried - MAPW member in the NT

Siobhan Rowe - MAPW member and treasurer in SA

Dr Peter Wigg - MAPW member in VIC

Bianca Billik - a Medical student and MAPW member from WA

Giji Gya – Executive Officer of MAPW - overall organiser!

Pictures: http://www.mapw.org.au/nationalmissiledefence/PG_images.html

Pine gap pages:
http://www.mapw.org.au/nationalmissiledefence/whyPG.html

MAPW commentary: http://www.mapw.org.au/mapw-commentary/comment-index.html

All in all, a great success!

Ms. Giji Gya
Executive Officer, Medical Association for Prevention of War
(MAPW Australia)
giji.gya@mapw.org.au
www.mapw.org.au

Ph: +61 (0) 413 594 717
Fax: +61 3 9427 7920
PO Box 1379
Carlton (Melbourne)  VIC 3053, Australia

MAPW at Pine Gap:
http://www.mapw.org.au/nationalmissiledefence/PG_media_file.html

www.endofexistence.org

NGO recommendations to the NPT:
http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/npt/NGOpres02/14.pdf
 


9 October
Report on Pine Gap Peace Camp
By Greens MP Giz Watson


I went to Alice Springs last Thursday in preparation for the 'Expose the Gap' actions and to connect up with the WA contingent coming overland from Perth. I flew back on Monday morning. My report/eye witness account(!) follows:

The action attracted between 400 and 500 activist. The group was predominantly young activists (aka ferals, anarchists, freaks etc) but there were also doctors and medical students from the Medical Association for the Prevention of War; church representatives; Quakers; Raging Grannies; local (respectable, clean-cut) peace activists; international activist from Spain and the US; even the occasional (very respectable!) Member of Parliament. WA was well represented with about 40 or 50 of us there.

The organisational side was fairly fraught with weather conditions being very hot (40 degrees plus), dry and windy, and therefore very dusty. Some people suffered heat stroke.

Pine gap is about 23 km south east of Alice . The main protest camp was about 12 km from the main gate to the base, devoid of trees, hot dusty and uncomfortable. The NT police had blocked the road to the base about 1.5 km from the gate but were allowing people on foot (sometimes after being searched) to go up to the gate. The base has one main gate which is heavily reinforced with high fencing and razor wire. However this high security fence only extends about 2 km either side of the gate. There are (I understand) two other fences between the outer fence and the facility itself. At the gate there was a heavy contingent of Australian Protective Services (APS) and NT police. There were APS spotters on the surrounding high ground and an ever-present helicopter.

Many actions were planned for Saturday, Sunday and Monday (some were less planned!). A number of us started each day with a dawn meditation for peace at the gate. As the day progressed there were activities in front of the gate. There was dancing; speeches; a presentation of petitions by the doctors; and an attempted entry in an effort to force the arrest of a couple of activists. There was also the incident with the alleged water or paint bombs which lead to two very forceful arrests, on Saturday, which made the TV news. The incident of course was a very small part of the full days demonstration. On Sunday there were five more arrests. These were the crew (most or all from WA) who got onto the base. They were released from the lock-up on Sunday evening and have not been charged with any offence (yet). Some people might have seen Ben Coyne being interviewed on Monday's ABC TV news. So much for base security. I understand that they got very close to the facility itself, spending a long time in the bush throughout the heat of the day. However they were looking pretty pleased with themselves and relaxed when they were returned to us in the evening.

There were also a number of blockades of the road to block the buses ferrying base personnel in and out. The blockade on Monday morning was featured on the ABC Monday night and no doubt lead to many more arrests. The Sydney hard-core anarchists had built (on-site, generator and all!) a spaceship that sat on top of a vehicle and blocked the road. It was an amazing site at first light with fires burning all around it.

The police and APS response was, in a number of instances, very heavy handed. By contrast our crew who were arrested seemed to be treated respectfully - perhaps this says more about the work coming from them and attention to nonviolent principles. My interaction with the authorities was everything from friendly and helpful to the 'speak to my hand I'm not listening' approach complete with dark glasses, batons and heavy gloves.

The media coverage (from what I have seen and had reported) has been mixed. It's so hard to prevent the more extreme images and scuffles being the ones beamed out. I believe we didn't do too badly. I believe the interview I did on Friday made Channel Seven and ABC radio; Kerry Nettle got a spot on Sunday's TV; and the doctors got some coverage. From what I saw the actions were being linked with other international protests which was great. I'm going to try and get some local coverage for the return of the WA crew.

The early indications are that the police and/or APS may not press charges, more than likely to minimise any publicity (and or work!) that would come from court cases. Those arrested and released may yet be charged. Potentially the penalties are high. Even being in the neighbourhood of the base and under suspicion constitutes an offence.

Of course there are many, many more stories to be told. Come and meet the bus when the crew return this Sunday at 4.30 pm at Solidarity Park behind Parliament.

I think it was great weekend of action, fun, challenging and powerful. I loved working with the WA group and now have a stronger sense of what an awesome bunch of nonviolent activist we have and what a fine tradition has been developed. I'm looking forward to the ongoing anti-war activities that we can do together.

Giz Watson
8 October 2002
 


8 October 2002
MEDIA RELEASE
Attention please: Chief of Staff

PINE GAP PEACE CAMPERS RETURN, OCT 13th

Over 40 Western Australians participated in the PINE GAP PEACE CAMP NEAR Alice Springs in the Northern Territory to mark INTERNATIONAL KEEP SPACE FOR PEACE WEEK.They were among the 300 people from around Australia who took part in the camp, a well-planned effort to expose the militaristic role of the ‘joint’ US-Australian base. The base is a critical component of US nuclear war-fighting capacity.

On Sunday, October 13th, the WA peace campers will return by cross country coach and hired mini-buses to a WELCOME HOME BBQ at SOLIDARITY PARK, just behind Parliament House, West Perth. The media is warmly invited to this event, at 5pm. It will be a great opportunity to hear first hand accounts of the creative, spirited, colourful, peaceful actions that took place around the base. The few scuffles that were the focus of media attention were most atypical of the tone of all other actions during the October 5-7 weekend.

Spokesperson for the Anti-Nuclear Alliance of WA, Judy Blyth said, “Exposing the role of Pine Gap has been the motivation for the peace campers who underwent non-violence direct action training prior to their departure in late September. The BBQ on October 13th is to honour their commitment, celebrate their actions, listen to their stories and to WELCOME them home.”

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Joint Defence Space Research Facility at Pine Gap deeply involves Australia in US military activities. This includes a pivotal role in the proposed (and dangerously provocative) Ballistic Missile Defence system. US Space Command states that Missile Defence is part of a “war-fighting system” and is critical to both military and economic instruments of power, the main sources of US strength. BMD aspirations have already caused the US to leave the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty 1972, a cornerstone nuclear arms control agreement, and realising BMD will mean contravening the Outer Space Treaty 1967 and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1969.

Pine Gap was used in the Gulf War in 1991 in which 111,000 civilians died – and is right now monitoring satellites which can prepare logs for the US military to use in a new attack upon Iraq. Regardless of debates in the Australian Parliament about whether we should or should not engage in this (likely) war, our country is already making an enormous contribution via Pine Gap to US capacity to wage that war.

The presence of Pine Gap on Australian soil makes us a potential nuclear target.

Please come along to the WELCOME HOME BBQ at Solidarity Park behind Parliament House on Sunday, October 13th at 5 pm !

For more information, ring Judy Blyth, 9381 6293, or John Schindler, 9335 5029.
 


6 October
Police confident of peaceful protests at Pine Gap
ABC News


http://www.abc.net.au/news/justin/nat/newsnat-6oct2002-2.htm

Northern Territory Police say they are confident protests at the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs will be peaceful today.

A march to the base by peace protesters yesterday resulted in four arrests.

Police estimated around 200 protesters took part in yesterday's action.

The protesters are demonstrating their opposition to a war with Iraq and the joint Australia-United States' surveillance base's military role.

Yesterday, the protesters had to march more than one kilometre from a vehicle road block in 30 degree heat to hold their rally at the base's gates.

Police say the majority of the protesters behaved in a peaceful manner and are confident it will continue that way.
 


6 October
Four arrested at Pine Gap Protest
Herald and Weekly Times


FOUR anti-war protesters were arrested yesterday outside the Pine Gap military facility, near Alice Springs.

The four were among 300 demonstrators camping near the joint Australian-US defence facility to protest against Australian involvement in any attack on Iraq.

Two protesters had been arrested for carrying paint-filled balloons near the satellite communications base, a police spokeswoman said.

A police roadblock was set up yesterday about 2km from the front gate of the facility and only authorised vehicles have been allowed past.

Commander Gary Manison, of the Northern Territory police, described the behaviour of most protesters as orderly.

Protest organisers have been working with police to reach agreement on a number of issues, such as camping spots and roadblocks.

Anyone found outside designated areas would be charged, Commander Manison said.

"Police will move on anyone found in these areas, and trespassers can expect to be fined."

Protest organiser Jacob Grech said he expected the base's perimeter fence to be breached over the weekend.

He warned that a violent clash with armed guards was a real possibility in the post-September 11 environment.

"People are feeling very passionate about drawing attention to Australia's current role in the attack on Iraq, and are willing to take greater risks," Mr Grech said.
 


6 October
Four arrested at Pine Gap
By Liz Gooch
The Age


http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/10/05/1033538811791.html


About 300 protesters rallied outside the joint defence centre at Pine Gap yesterday in a demonstration against Australian involvement in a potential US attack on Iraq.

Four protesters were arrested, two for allegedly carrying paint-filled balloons, near the Australian-US defence satellite communications base near Alice Springs, a police spokeswoman said.

In a related development, the Anglican Church Synod will vote tomorrow night on a proposal that calls on the government to abandon its support for an attack on Iraq. The vote follows criticism from Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Watson and the Uniting and Roman Catholic churches.

"We're urging the government not to support any pre-emptive military action, to work at all times with the United Nations," Reverend Harry Kerr said.

Anglican leaders believe there is strong support within the community for the proposal.

Mr Kerr said the issue of weapons of mass destruction was not confined to Iraq.

"It seems to me that we need to be strengthening the United Nations to monitor all weapons of mass destruction. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Israel, China, Pakistan, India have many more weapons of mass destruction than Iraq," he said.

Church leaders in Iraq have told their Australian counterparts that the Iraqi people are extremely concerned about the possibility of war.

Mr Kerr said no reports to date had confirmed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and he believed the US had another agenda.

"America wishes to dominate the Middle East and I don't think (a war against Iraq) will serve the cause of diminishing terrorism or weapons of mass destruction at all. It may aggravate the situation," he said.

Mr Kerr urged Australia to move away from its close support of the US and take a more critical and active role. "I think we should be making friends of the weaker nations of the world, supporting them for getting a better deal from the world community," he said.

Prime Minister John Howard has attacked church leaders for condemning a war on Iraq after the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania and the Catholic Commission for Justice, Development and Peace said Australia should not support US aggression towards Iraq.

At Pine Gap, a police roadblock was set up about two kilometres from the centre's front gate. Only authorised vehicles have been allowed past.

"From this point, protesters can walk through to the gate at Pine Gap," Northern Territory Police Commander Gary Manison said.

"People have a right to protest, and we will protect that right as long as their actions are lawful."

On Friday night police moved on several protesters who had parked a bus across a road, obstructing access to the centre.

In Sydney, New South Wales upper house Greens candidate Sylvia Hale told a small rally that Pine Gap must be closed as a sign to the US that Australia would not support a war in Iraq. "(Pine Gap) is currently being used, we believe, in planning the attacks on Iraq," she said.

Ms Hale told protesters outside the US consulate that Australia should tell the US it was no longer welcome at Pine Gap. "Australia should have no part in inflicting war on a country with which it has no quarrel," she said.

 


5 October
300 protest outside Pine Gap
The Australian


http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/...

ABOUT 300 protesters rallied outside the joint defence facility at Pine Gap today in a demonstration against Australian involvement in a potential US attack on Iraq.

Four protesters were arrested, two for allegedly carrying paint-filled balloons, near the Australian-US defence satellite communications base, a police spokeswoman said.

A police roadblock was established about 2km from the front gate of the Pine Gap facilties outside Alice Springs yesterday and only authorised vehicles have been allowed past.

Northern Territory Police Commander Gary Manison described the behaviour of most protesters as orderly.

Protest organisers have been working with police to come to agreement on a number of issues, such as camping spots and roadblocks.

"Many people have already set up camp in the designed camping zone on Hatt Rd," Cmdr Manison said.

"This area has been set aside as a camping zone for the duration of the protest, but all other land on either side of Hatt Road is a no-go zone.

"The Kuyumba Conservation Reserve has also been closed for the duration of the protest, at the request of the traditional owners.

"Police will move on anyone found in these areas, and trespassers can expect to be fined."
 


4 October
National group joins in protest to Expose the Gap

MEDIA RELEASE
Friends of the Earth


National environment group Friends of the Earth (FoE) will join other Australian and international groups over the next three days to protest the use of the Pine Gap facilities in US war preparation and the expansion of the War of Terror.

"We stand on the brink of a war against Iraq, and this is a great concern for all Australians," said FoE spokesperson Dimity Hawkins.

"We have seen politicians, military personnel and social commentators decry Australia's involvement in a war against Iraq. This weekend will see ordinary and extraordinary Australian's come out strongly against the war."

"The US military uses environmental satellite imagery to aid strike planning and weapons selection for both Afghanistan and Iraq. We know that military satellites can direct new high-tech weapons to hit targets on the ground. We also know that Pine Gap is integral to these US war fighting systems, and we will not accept any role in that." said Dimity Hawkins.

Despite the on going debate in the international community and while the Federal government says that a final decision has yet to be made on Australia's role in a war against Iraq, our joint defence facilities such as Pine Gap are currently in use in preparation for strikes against Iraq.

"There is very real concern among many in Australia at this Government's willingness to compromise our national sovereignty in favour of US military imperatives," said Peter Barker of Friends of the Earth, Melbourne. "This is one of the key reasons Friends of the Earth will be supporting the peaceful and creative actions planned for this weekend outside the Pine Gap facility. We want to send our government a clear message that Australians and Australian interests are not simply fodder for the US war machine."

Friends of the Earth will join with hundreds of people - politicians, doctors, artists, students, environmental and social justice activists - in peaceful actions against the Pine Gap base, from Saturday 5 October to Monday 7 October.

At the same time there will be actions held in other Australian cities and in at least a dozen other countries worldwide as part of an international week of action to protest the war and the use of space as a fourth dimension in warfare.

For further comment contact:

Dimity Hawkins
Nuclear Weapons Spokesperson - Friends of the Earth Australia
0425 786 301 or (08) 8298 5326
at the Pine Gap protest contact:
Peter Barker - Friends of the Earth
0438 895 471
Bruce Thompson - Friends of the Earth
0417 318 368
 


4 October
Australian Doctors Say "No" to Pine Gap

MEDIA RELEASE
MAPW


A national delegation from the Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia - led by Dr Bill Williams and including doctors >from Victoria, South Australia and Alice Springs - will present a petition to the Commander in Chief at Pine Gap near Alice Springs as part of a national protest against the base at 11.30am on Sunday October 6th 2002.

Around 200 medicos from across Australia have put their signatures to a national petition calling for the dismantling of the Pine Gap communications base in the Northern Territory, on public health grounds.

The petition states "Pine Gap is an integral part of the United States nuclear war fighting system and therefore inevitably involves Australia in preparing for and potentially participating in nuclear strikes"

"This petition reflects the concerns of Australian doctors and medicos about the US bases in Australia and how they will be used in any war on Iraq or any other nation," said Dr Bill Williams, spokesperson for the Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia.

The petition calls on the US government "as a guest of the Australian
people, to relinquish the lease on Pine Gap" and "work towards the total
and unequivocal elimination of nuclear weapons internationally".

In addition to presenting the petition, Dr Williams will be announcing the launch of a "Trilateral Initiative" between medical professionals and health workers in Australia, Denmark/Greenland and the United Kingdom affiliated with the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

"The Trilateral Initiative aims to highlight the concerns of medical professionals in our three key nations against the Missile Defence proposal." said Dr Williams.  "Each of our nations have been drawn into the US proposal for a Missile Defence system through the hosting of US satellite spying facilities at Menwith Hill, Fylingdales, Thule and Pine Gap."

Media / photo opportunity at the gates of Pine Gap, 6th October 2002 at 11.30am.

For more information or for comment:
Dr Bill Williams (Deputy International Councillor)
or Ms. Giji Gya (Executive Officer)
phone:  0417 133 090  or  0413 594 717
 


3 October
50 Years of an Atomic Outback
MEDIA RELEASE
Friends of the Earth


Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the first atomic weapons test on Australian soil. October 4th 1952 saw the first British atmospheric test at Monte Bello Island off the Western Australian coast and in 1953 testing was relocated to sites at Maralinga and Emu Field on mainland Australia.

"The legacy of nuclear testing continues today with contaminated lands, poisoned veterans and displaced Aboriginal communities," said FoE nuclear campaigner Bruce Thompson. "Sadly, the secrecy and indifference of the weapons testing era continues in Australia's current nuclear industry."

In return for opening up our backyard the British Government gave Australia the Lucas Heights Nuclear Reactor. The Federal Government push for a new reactor in suburban Sydney is now the focus of strong community concern and action. The recent documentary 'Fortress Australia' adds to clear evidence that successive Australian governments sought to retain the nuclear option.

"It's a great irony that the land where weapons were tested is now being proposed as the land where radioactive waste from Lucas Heights would be dumped," said Bruce Thompson. "In the name of an ill defined 'national interest' the Federal Government is again preparing to literally bulldoze Aboriginal and community opposition."

Today's anniversary comes as peace and anti-nuclear activists from around Australia converge on Alice Springs for a national protest action against the secretive Pine Gap US military facility. The spy base, which plays a pivotal role in the controversial US National Missile Defence scheme, has recently been placed on a war alert as part of US plans for war on Iraq.

"Australian soil has been at the service to atomic ambitions of others for 50 years and Pine Gap continues this shameful history," said FoE spokesperson Dimity Hawkins. "Australia should play a positive role in seeking peaceful resolution of conflicts instead of allowing a base we host but don't control to target innocent people."

"Pine Gap is key in planning for war on Iraq and this is happening without the knowledge or consent of the Australian people," said Dimity Hawkins. " Atomic experiments and military adventures have no place in contemporary Australia. We need to reflect upon and learn from the mistakes of our history, not repeat them."

National Pine Gap Protest - Saturday 5th - Monday 7th October 2002

For further comment:
Dimity Hawkins National Weapons Spokesperson  Ph: 0425 786 301
Bruce Thompson Nuclear Campaigner    Ph: 0417 318 368
Digital Images Available
 


3 October
Alice Springs preparing for national peace protest
MEDIA RELEASE
OzPeace


Preparations for the national protest against the Pine Gap military spy facility are well under-way in and around Alice Springs today, say organisers.

People are coming together from all across Australia this weekend to protest the use of the Pine Gap facility in US war fighting efforts.

The protest is expected to attract a diverse range of individuals and groups, including representatives of community groups, churches, doctors, lawyers and political parties. There will be colourful and creative actions, including displays of banners and artwork, Giant Puppet theatre and political sports over the course of the three day event.

"People are choosing to come to Pine Gap to be vocal and strong in their stand against war fighting," said a spokesperson from Ozpeace today. "Basic facilities are being worked out to ensure the health and safety of people when they come to this event. This includes a kiosk, water, toilets and adequate shade. Liaison with the local police has been on going in the lead up to the events to ensure that the aims of the protest are clear."

The peace protest will officially begin on Saturday 5 October, but a press conference will be held at the protest site at Pine Gap on Friday afternoon. Representatives from several of the groups will be attending to announce the launch of the protest.

Media and photo opportunities:
Friday 4 October 2002
1pm at the gates of Pine Gap joint defence facility

For media comment please contact:
Jacob Grech:   0402 246 491  or  0418332080
Emma King:   0407 794 085
 


30 September
Doctors delegation to Pine Gap
MEDIA RELEASE
MAPW


The Medical Association for Prevention of War Australia will join hundreds of people from around Australia between 5 - 7 October at a national protest against the US spy facility, Pine Gap, located outside of Alice Springs.

MAPW will be sending a delegation of doctors and medicos to the protest, to highlight the health risks of war and the implications of missile defence to Australia. The national delegation will be led by Dr Bill Williams and include doctors from Victoria, South Australia and Alice Springs.

"The continuing global build-up of nuclear weapons and increasingly sophisticated delivery systems are the greatest threat of all to human health", said Dr Williams. "It is just as important to disarm the existing nuclear arsenals, such as those in the hands of the USA and Russia, as it is to prevent other nations from acquiring these ultimate weapons of mass destruction."

With the potential for war on Iraq an increasing likelihood, and the dependence of the U.S. 'Missile Defence' scheme on communications facilities like the Pine Gap spy base, concern about Australia's role in US war-fighting is increasing across the community.

"Defence Minister Robert Hill has made it clear [in an article in the Centralian Advocate, 16 August 2002] that the Pine Gap Defence Facility will play a role in any military action against Iraq. This is not acceptable," stated Dr Williams.

MAPW will hold a media conference with key members of the organisation at the gates of Pine Gap on Sunday 6th October at 11.30am as part of the national protests. The media conference will feature:

  • Dr Bill Williams, spokesperson for MAPW Australia - speaking on the health effects of war and implication for Australia from the Missile Defence proposal

  • the launch of the MAPW/IPPNW Trilateral Initiative

  • the presentation of MAPW Petition to Base Commanders (or representatives)

Media kits are available at the protest from Ms Giji Gya, Executive Officer for MAPW or by email from Dimity Hawkins, MAPW Consultant: dimity.hawkins@mapw.org.au.

For more information or for media comment:
Dr Bill Williams (Deputy International Councillor)
phone:  (03) 5261 3001 or (03) 5261 6245
Ms. Giji Gya (Executive Officer)
phone: 0413 594 717
 


25 September 2002
GP to take on US base
By Daniel Fogarty
Geelong Advertiser (Australia)

http://www.geelonginfo.com.au/readarticle.asp?articleid=4535

GAP GRIPE: Torquay GP Dr Bill Williams with a petition calling for the closure of the Pine Gap communications facility. Photo: MIKE DUGDALE

 

A TORQUAY doctor will travel to Alice Springs next month to join a protest calling for the dismantling of the Pine Gap communications base.

General practitioner Dr Bill Williams will lead a group of six doctors who will call for the base, which they see as integral to the United States nuclear war fighting system, to be dismantled on public health grounds.

More than 40 medicos from the Barwon region, including every Geelong pediatrician, are among hundreds of doctors and medical students to have signed a petition on the issue.

Dr Williams said the fact that every pediatrician had signed the petition was particularly poignant.

``Children are the innocent victims, not just of horrifying terrorist attacks, but of the carefully planned, so-called legitimate and surgically precise bombing campaigns in Iraq, Kosovo and most recently Afghanistan,'' Dr Williams.

The petition will be presented to the Commander in Chief at Pine Gap, which is 20km south of Alice Springs, on October 6.

Dr Bill WIlliams is Deputy International Councillor for Medical Association for Prevention of War

Ms. Giji Gya
Executive Officer, Medical Association for Prevention of War
(MAPW Australia)
giji.gya@mapw.org.au
www.mapw.org.au
Ph: +61 (0) 413 594 717
Fax: +61 3 9427 7920
PO Box 1379
Carlton (Melbourne)  VIC 3053, Australia

War against Iraq - Implications for civilians
http://www.mapw.org.au/mapw-commentary/briefings/02-09-16iraq2-...

www.endofexistence.org

NGO recommendations to the NPT.
http://www.reachingcriticalwill.org/npt/NGOpres02/14.pdf
 



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