Letters – Federal Ministers

Below is a selection of letters to Federal Ministers, including the Prime Minister, that have been sent by MPG members relating to foreign policy and defence issues. Below the table are commentaries on some of these letters and the exchanges that have taken place.

DateTopicToFrom
20170206War PowersFaz Varjavandi, Office of Minister of Defence
20160721War PowersMalcolm Turnbull MP, PM
20160610US-China conflictAngus Kirkwood, Department of Defence
20160510US-China conflictSen. Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Defence
20160504US-China conflictAngus Kirkwood, Department of Defence
20150814US-Australia alliance; US military bases in AustraliaKevin Andrews MP, Minister for Defence
20150702B-1 bombers in NTAngus Kirkwood, Department of Defence
20150526B-1 bombers in NTKevin Andrews MP, Minister for Defence
Letter to Marise Payne on the US proposal to station B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft in Northern Territory – 10 March 2016

At high-level discussions in Canberra held during the week beginning 7th March 2016, the US said that it wants to regularly rotate long-range, nuclear capable, heavy bombers through Australia in response to China’s growing presence and activities in the South China Sea.

Commander of US Pacific Air Forces, General Lori Robinson, said that US and Australian officials are “in the process of talking about rotational forces, bombers and tankers out of Australia (Tindal and Darwin)”.  She also called on all nations in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, to conduct freedom of navigation operations in disputed areas in the South China Sea.

Alarmed by these developments, MPG wrote to the Minister for Defence, Sen Marise Payne, stating that “it is now absolutely clear that the US intends to protect its interests in SE Asia, through military means if necessary.”

Read the letter here.

Follow-up letter to Kevin Andrews on US-Australia alliance and the danger it poses to Australian sovereignty – 14 August 2015

Given the failure of the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, to substantiate his claim about US run and funded ‘joint facilities’ on Australian soil and his assertion that the US-Australia alliance contributes to “peace and stability” within our region, MPG decided to send him a follow-up letter.

This letter substantially draws upon the research findings of Australia’s leading defence analysts, Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter.

MPG’s letter can be read here.

More information about the risks posed by the US-Australia alliance to national security and human security within the Asia-Pacific region in particular, was provided by speakers at the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network’s (IPAN) public forum in Brisbane on July 8, 2015. All three presentations to this public forum can be heard here.

Reply from Angus Kirkwood on behalf of Kevin Andrews to MPG’s letter on B1 bomber mis-speak – 2 July 2015

On behalf of the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, Angus Kirkwood (Assistant Secretary Major Powers, International Policy Division) replied to MPG’s letter dated 25 May 2015.

In relation to MPG’s concern about David Shear’s ‘mis-speak’ and the United States’ interest in stationing B-1 bombers in Darwin, Mr Kirkwood noted that “(c)ontrary to Ambassador Shear’s testimony … there are no plans to base B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft in Australia”.

In relation to MPG’s claim that Australia has “gone so far down the path of military alliance with the US that it will be impossible to remain neutral in the event of actual hostilities breaking out” e.g. with China, Mr Kirkwood made the following points:

  1. Australia’s alliance with the United Sates has promoted “peace and stability” in our region
  2. “There are no foreign military bases on Australian soil” and
  3. “The Australia-US Force Posture Agreement, entered into on 31 March 2015, provides the necessary framework for both countries to maximise the benefits of the force posture initiatives while also protecting our sovereign interests.”

In relation to the first point, Australia’s support for US engagement in the Vietnam War 1962-1975 was definitely not an exercise in promoting “peace and stability”. The same can be said for US support for General Suharto taking power in Indonesia in 1965 and the subsequent massacre of opposition forces led by the Indonesian military, described as “one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century”. The same applies to Australia’s support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 which resulted in the spread of sectarian conflict and the rise of ISIS.

Much to Australia’s shame, the alliance has demonstrably contributed to state terrorism and instability within the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere around the world.

In relation to the second and third points, the letter fails to refute claims about US run and financed ‘joint facilities’ in Australia and how the unprecedented integration of the ADF with the US military has undermined Australia’s sovereignty.

MPG stands by Malcolm Fraser’s claim that the alliance with the United States has already dragged us into a number of wars which “have caused great hardship, great loss of civilian life and which have been of no direct benefit to Australia.”

The letter from Angus Kirkwood on behalf of Kevin Andrews can be read here.

Letter to Kevin Andrews on B1 bomber mis-speak – 25 May 2015

MPG has written a long letter to the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, following the extraordinary statement made (and then retracted) by US Defence Department Assistant Secretary David Shear. Read the letter here.

Reply from Attorney-General Brandis to letter on David Hicks – 4 Apr 2015

MPG has received a reply from the Attorney-General’s Department on behalf of Attorney-General George Brandis in response to our letter dated 25 Mar 2015.

Read the reply here.

Here is a summary of the contents:

The defence – “The Australian Government notes that the review by the Court was about the validity of the US law under which Mr Hicks was convicted, not about whether he carried out the activities of which he was accused.”

The cop out: “The Australian Government’s dealings with Mr Hicks have, at all times, been in accordance with Australian law” –  the fact that the US and Australian governments abandoned the basic values of due process and equality before the law simply isn’t a problem!

MPG will now review what further action is available in order to hold the Federal government accountable.

Addressing the Injustice Done to David Hicks – 25 Mar 2015

To counter the injustice suffered by David Hicks, and to help rectify the damage done to his physical health and reputation, the MPG sent a letter to Attorney-General George Brandis asking the Federal Government to:

  1. Unequivocally acknowledge that David Hicks was not a terrorist and was not guilty of the charge of “providing material support for terrorism”;
  2. Apologise to David Hicks for the indifference shown by the Federal Government to his predicament at Guantanamo Bay compared to the governments of other detainees who made concerted efforts to secure the repatriation of their nationals;
  3. Fully compensate David Hicks for all dental and medical treatment arising from the torture and mistreatment received during his 5½ years of incarceration at Guantanamo Bay.

Read the letter here.

Major General Richard Burr – Aug to Oct 2014

On August 11, 2014 MPG wrote to the Minister for Defence, David Johnston, to ascertain which government the Major General Burr answers to – the Australian or the U.S. Major General Burr is an ADF officer, but he is also deputy commander of the US Army in the Western Pacific. How this arrangement works has not been explained. Read the letter here.

The Minister replied in a letter dated October 8, 2014. In his letter the Minister agreed that Major General Burr effectively serves two masters. He indicates that Major General Burr takes his orders from the U.S. government, but that his first allegiance is to Australia. Apparently this is of little concern to either the Minister or Major General Burr – not to mention the Federal Government. Read the Minister’s reply here.

Elimination of Nuclear Weapons – Sep to Dec 2014

On September 6, 2014 MPG wrote to Anthony Albanese MP seeking a meeting with him prior to the International Day of Peace (21 September) and the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons (26th September). We also urged him to endorse the Global Parliamentary Appeal for a Nuclear Weapons Ban. Read the letter here.

After receiving no response to our letter, MPG visited Anthony Albanese’s office in Marrickville on two occasions during October to see if he was intending to reply to our letter and request for a meeting. Staff assured MPG that he had received the letter and that our request for a meeting would be discussed with him. Throughout October and November, still no response was forthcoming.

Then on 11 December 2014, MPG received a letter via email from Anthony Albanese. In this letter, he stated that “I do not sign petitions, regardless of their content” and that “I have consistently advocated for a nuclear weapons ban and peace”. This means that he will not sign the Global Parliamentary Appeal for a Nuclear Weapons Ban, unlike other Labor politicians such as Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek who do not refuse to sign significant petitions. Our request for a meeting continued to be ignored. The reply from Anthony Albanese can be accessed here.

Marines in Darwin – Sep 2012

On the International Day of Peace 2012, MPG corresponded with the Prime Minister, expressing its opposition to the presence of US Marines in Darwin. (MPG is working with the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) on this matter.) Read the letter here.

Max Brenner Protest – Nov 2011

On November 14, 2011 MPG wrote to John Kaye MLC, in recognition of his response to the peaceful protest in Newtown, Sydney against Max Brenner (worldwide chocolate restaurant and retail brand headquartered in Ra’anana, Israel). The letter can be found here.

AUSMIN – Oct 2011

On October 31, 2011 MPG wrote to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Minister for Defence Stephen Smith in response to the communique that followed the recent AUSMIN conference in San Francisco. Identical letters were sent to the PM and Minister. The full text of these letters can be read here.