By Carol Dance
There are 109,450 people living in Australia who were born in the USA, according to the 2021 census. I only know about a dozen of them. Some are dual citizens, some are permanent residents, and others, like me, are naturalised Australians who gave up American citizenship to become Australian. This was back in the Cold War days before America allowed American immigrants to have both citizenships.
Of the American ex-pats I know, almost all are concerned that Australia is increasingly a regional outpost of the American military. I am more than concerned. I am horrified.
How did it happen that the Northern Territory is becoming an American ‘military base’, planning to deploy up to six nuclear-capable B-52 bombers at Tindal? How did it happen that we’re likely to buy nuclear submarines with American interoperability? How did it happen that we proposed AUKUS? How did it happen that there is a U.S. Naval Communication Station in West Australia, and an American controlled intelligence and targeting operation at Pine Gap?
This advancing militarisation of Australia happens because there is almost no Parliamentary oversight of our defence matters. It happens because there is little Parliamentary oversight of the bottomless bucket for military expenditure. Yes, there are the Parliament’s Accounts and Audit Committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade which has oversight of the Defence Materiel Organisation, and, thankfully the Media that reports on some military over-expenditure, time over-runs and questionable purchases. But mostly, the Defence Department has a blank cheque because the Parliament has no authority to stop the Prime Minister from sending troops overseas on offensive missions and over military budgets.
What purpose is of having a Parliament if it has no say in how we go to war? Why do we vote for our local members if they have no say? This means we have no say in the matter as we wave our troops off to war anywhere. It just happens and we find out the details after the fact. Why do we call ourselves a democracy when our representatives can’t represent us in these most important matters?
Some American ex-pats would tell Australia not to trust America. The USA doesn’t help a country for that country’s sake, but for America’s. Are we really just a quarry for China and a military base for America? I don’t think so. I’ve been here 49 years and see Australia as a unique independent-minded nation that nonetheless has little faith in its ability to maintain that independence by itself.
But we could – through sensible, independent relationships with other nations both near and far. We really don’t need to rely on America. We need not fear becoming a non-aligned, neutral nation. I, as one ex-pat, fear the reliance on America more than I fear being a neutral nation.
– Carol Dance was the CEO of the Australian Commercial Disputes Centre. She writes book and theatre reviews, and produces plays.
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