Darwin mentioned in Canberra amid defence committee bill

A senior coalition member has lashed out at a plan by the Greens to cancel defence contracts and shut down military bases, including the likes of Pine Gap, in a bid to stifle foreign military activity.

The Opposition spokesman for Defence Andrew Hastie wants a new defence committee to be restricted to Labor and Liberal members.

"The Greens plan includes ‘Renegotiate the US alliance to secure a new relationship focused on making us a better global citizen’ and ‘Close all military bases that foreign militaries have set up in this country’.”

“Of course, that would include Pine Gap, a really critical part of our alliance,” he said.

“It would also include the closure of any defence establishments in Darwin that support the current footprint of the Marine Expeditionary Force, which works so closely with the Australian Defence Force.”

“Liberals are trying to stop the Greens from joining a new defence committee because of policies like: be a good global citizen; close foreign bases and Pine Gap; the U.S.A. alliance; end AUKUS. Could you imagine if the ALP and Liberals had to consider these very popular policies?”

Greens in push to send Darwin’s Marines packing after election

THE Greens would seek to give Darwin’s contingent of US Marines its marching orders in a bid to become “the Switzerland of the Pacific”, if the party gains the balance of power at the federal election.

But Lingiari candidate, Blair McFarland, said the Pine Gap facility outside Alice Springs could stay, under a renegotiated, demilitarised agreement with the US government.

Mr McFarland said sending the Marines packing could help reset Australia’s relationship with China, in line with the party’s policy of de-escalating tensions with the Asian superpower, including by staying out of any conflict over Taiwan.

“We shouldn’t be engaging in, sort of, militaristic posturing, even if it is good for election prospects, we should be engaged in a process that moves us into the future, so we can be safe and engaged and we can have good relations with China, like we basically did until there was a political reason to start shaping up to China,” he said.

“The Gappies down here have been here since ‘67 and they’re very much part of the community, we think that we should really just renegotiate our relationship with America, and all foreign powers.

NT’s Pine Gap facility could play role in accidental nuclear exchange between US and China as tension rise

HEIGHTENED US-China tensions have increased the risk of an accidental nuclear exchange between the two superpowers — and whether or not the Northern Territory’s Pine Gap surveillance base is playing a role in hyping this up needs to be looked at.

Though the current US-China tensions has fewer nuclear risks than the Cold War-era US-Soviet relationship, the standing dynamics shouldn’t be ignored, according to new a research paper from the United States Studies Centre, based out of the University of Sydney.

As the US and China entered into a period of “intense strategic competition” the risk of accidental nuclear warfare between the two had grown.

Warning Australian politicians to be attentive, Dr Cunningham said Canberra needed to determine whether the country was inadvertently contributing to heightening nuclear risks through joint intelligence facilities on Australian soil.

This includes the Northern Territory’s Pine Gap, a joint US-Australia run station about 18 km out of Alice Springs which houses a US satellite surveillance base and Australian Earth station, and set up in the late 60s in the throes of the Cold War.

Australia’s strategy, Dr Cunningham argued, should be based on three national security interests: avoiding nuclear threats or nuclear use in a future conflict, ensuring that Chinese military actions are adequately countered at the conventional level and preserving the international nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Killerbots, guided by Pine Gap, same as any other weapon?

As Alice Springs hosts a military base that is intimately involved in remote warfare, Pine Gap, residents here have more than the usual stake in a debate unfolding far beyond our horizons – whether to ban or how to control Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, as the United Nations has dubbed them, or “killer robots” in popular parlance.

These are close to becoming a reality. The design capabilities being developed for driverless cars and AI-driven cameras are also being used for developing killer machines.

An Australian Airforce conference last year heard about nano-explosives with 10 times the force of conventional explosives that can be mounted as warheads on small drones. These drones can be manufactured in a 3D-printing process – tens of thousands a day with only 100 printers is already possible. The US and Chinese militaries are already working on launching large numbers in minutes, the conference was told.

The decision, in the conflict zone, of what to hit and what to avoid will have been programmed in at the design stage. Deployment and targeting will still be human-directed. It is the targeting function that makes the Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap relevant, as it is already, and has for a long time been, a key provider of targeting data to piloted and remotely piloted (no-one on board) weaponised airforce assets. As such, JDFPG is part of Australian and US weapons systems and is controversially involved in drone strikes in countries with which Australia is not at war.

“Machines with the power and discretion to take lives without human involvement are politically unacceptable, morally repugnant and should be prohibited by international law,” - Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres.

Pine Gap’s role in tackling terrorism

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has delivered a stunning statement about Australia’s secretive military intelligence facility in Alice Springs that contains veiled warnings for the nation’s allies and “potential adversaries” alike.

It comes in the same week Prime Minister Scott Morrison revealed foreign spies had launched a “sophisticated” cyber attack on Parliament House’s computer network and the nation’s three major political parties on February 7 and 8.

China is the key suspect, according to cyber and strategic policy expects, but authorities say they have yet to determine which country is actually behind the attack.

Today, Mr Pyne made a rare public statement about Pine Gap, a defence intelligence facility in the Northern Territory which Australia operates jointly with the US.

In his speech, Mr Pyne declared America to be Australia’s “most important ally” and notes “potential adversaries” should understand an attack on Australia is an attack on its alliance with the US.