With Donald Trump in power, Australia urgently needs to re-evaluate its US bases

Recent changes to the US National Security Council should be ringing loud alarm bells in Canberra.

By demoting the highest-ranking military officer and the highest-ranking intelligence officer, and appointing political adviser Stephen Bannon as a permanent member of the NSC, Donald Trump has seriously escalated the risk of the US launching into ill-advised conflicts. Bannon comes from a role as chairman of the racist, Islamophobic website Breitbart.com, and is reported as having been in charge of writing the recent executive order that has banned US entry for refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations.

It is no secret that Australian foreign policy and defence forces are closely enmeshed with the US. Since Trump has taken office he has loudly proclaimed an "America first" foreign policy, and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, talks of denying China access to artificial islands in the South China Sea. Any such blockade is likely to be seen by the Chinese as an act of war.

Malcolm Turnbull's meek response to the immigration executive order does not inspire confidence that he will stand up to the US.

Historically Australia's foreign policy has also leaned towards "America first", with little differentiation between our ally's interests and our own. In rushing to join the coalition going into Iraq, the thought that Australia may be better off not invading another country on the basis of dubious intelligence was overlooked. Indeed, in the Vietnam War, the CIA knew the war was unwinnable, even before Australia sent troops. Malcolm Fraser, defence minister at the time, was livid when he discovered this many years later. A total of 521 Australian troops died in Vietnam and about 3000 were wounded.

Since World War II, Australia has joined in more US wars than any other ally. With Canberra's current "business as usual" agenda, Australia is at high-risk of joining future US wars that will likely create further humanitarian disasters and undermine our security.

Simultaneously there is talk of expanding US bases in the region. What is Australia going to say when the US asks to increase its bases on our soil? Are we willing to make Australia a target? CIA documents from the 1980s released this month revealed authorities expected the Pine Gap spy base near Alice Springs to be attacked in the event of a US-Soviet nuclear fight.

Australia has US marines based in Darwin, multiple surveillance bases and about 40 senior Australian Army officers working in US Pacific Command. This includes an Australian Army Major-General serving as the deputy commanding general – operations, US Army Pacific. This intense enmeshment reinforces Australia's past behaviour; when the US goes to war, we have little option but to follow. With the US building up its military bases around China, American threats of blockades in the South China Sea are reckless and provocative. A war between China and the US is not in Australia's interests or anyone's interests.

Another example of US influence has been Australia's behaviour at recent UN talks regarding the nuclear weapons ban treaty. Australia has acted as US proxy in trying to thwart these negotiations. So much so that the Australian delegation was dubbed the chief of the "weasel states". Despite Australia's efforts, negotiations for a treaty will go ahead this year. Australia has not committed to participating, which calls into question our government's commitment to the UN.

Australia urgently needs to re-evaluate its American bases and promote steps that defuse rather than intensify regional tensions. Having senior Australian defence personnel integrated into the US defence force hinders Australia acting independently. Do we want Australia to be capable of making strategic decisions in the national interest? New Zealand clearly acts in its own interest and remains an ally.

With Trump now the new US Commander-in-Chief, is it wise that we allow ourselves to be so automatically tied to American foreign policy? War in our region would be a humanitarian catastrophe for all involved.

Margaret Beavis is a Melbourne GP and president of the Medical Association for Prevention of War.

Chinese bomber planes from South China Sea and future missiles could threaten Australia

Chinese bombers will be able to strike Australia from new artificial islands in the South China Sea as part of a major military modernisation that has also prompted calls for Australia to develop a ballistic missile shield.

Chinese H-6K long-range bombers can more easily target bases in the Northern Territory and even installations such as Pine Gap and Harold E. Holt naval communications station outside Exmouth by flying from 3000-metre runways being built in the Spratly Islands, senior analysts warn.

Fears will be heightened further after Chinese air force chief Ma Xiaotian​ announced on Friday China is developing a long-range bomber that will improve its ability to strike far from home.

Former national security adviser Andrew Shearer said China's rapidly improving ballistic missiles bolstered the case for Australia to "get much more serious" about missile defence, including a land-based shield similar to US Patriot missiles or the high-altitude systems being used by Japan and South Korea.

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"The strategic purpose of the ADF for the future will be to protect Australia as a base for long-range allied operations," Dr Fruehling said.

Alan Dupont, chief executive of the security consultancy the Cognoscenti Group, said: "We are a redoubt or a sanctuary if you like for the US. China's strategy, I have no doubt, is to prevent any increased use of Australian facilities by the US."

Dr Davis agreed: "China is not going to permit this without responding."

Former Defence official and now head of Strategy International, Ross Babbage, said the US had limited basing options in Asia. "As a consequence, the Chinese know damned well they can target these facilities and do a lot of damage in the early hours of a clash. That could include, and many people think would include, some places in Australia."

Mission Creep Tony Abbott pushed for US request to join Syria air strikes

The Abbott government pushed for Washington to request that Australia expand its air strikes against the Islamic State terror group from Iraq to its more dangerous neighbour Syria, Fairfax Media has learnt.

Government sources say it was Mr Obama who raised Syria as a topic and then made the first suggestion of Australia's expanded role.

But it is widely known in government circles that Mr Abbott has long been keen to do more in the fight against the Islamic State, which has taken swaths of territory stretching across Syria and Iraq and established affiliates in Libya, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

from humanitarian air drops to begging master to let us off the leash, in 12 months.

Warriors tiptoe around the C word

As a parade of senior Australian and United States commanders and their public affairs teams attempted to stay on message about the “humanitarian” aspects of the biggest military exercise ever in Australia — the shadow of China was cast over every facet of the intensive war gaming.

During a lightning visit to the exercise area on Sunday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted that China appreciated that Australia was an ally of the United States.

Mr Abbott further confused things when he declined to rule out the possible future permanent basing of USA forces in Northern Australia.

The Marine Corps training rotation is scheduled to grow from 1100 now to 2200 in the next few years, but Mr Abbott left the door open for even greater access for USA forces to the deserted and wide-open training ranges of Northern Australia.

When asked specifically if there would be USA forces based in the north the prime minister was noncommittal.

“Let’s see what the future holds. I am not saying there will be more … but they shouldn’t shock or surprise anyone.”

Ask any of the thousands of USA Marines participating in Talisman Sabre — particularly those based on the tiny island of Okinawa in Japan — and they will tell you that the NT and Rockhampton are war games nirvana.

Man cut out of ute after crash with USA Marines truck

A man is cut out of a ute after it crashes with a USA Marines vehicle in Katherine in the NT.

Police said the crash happened at 1:45pm at the junction of the Victoria and Stuart highways.

The 34-year-old man was trapped in the ute for about 45 minutes while emergency services diverted traffic and attempted to free him from the wreckage.

Police told the ABC the man has been taken to Katherine Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The six-wheel off-road truck is called a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement - a vehicle used by the USA Marines to haul equipment and troops.