Thursday, September 29, 2016

Quaker Grannies for Peace at Pine Gap

Three ‘Quaker Grannies for peace’ have set up breakfast on the road to Pine Gap and are inviting military personnel to sit down with them and negotiate.

Dawn Joyce, Helen Bayes and Peri Coleman this morning before setting up breakfast to share. Photo: Glenn Todd

The grandmothers have set up a table and chairs and prepared tea and croissants in order to engage in dialogue with personnel arriving for work at the base.

‘We are asking Australians whether it is appropriate for a foreign country to be operating a secret facility with no transparency on Australian soil; a base that may well be implicating Australians in wars that our government has not entered into’, says Helen Bayes, longtime Quaker, grandmother of thirteen and founder of the Quaker Grannies.

Pine Gap collects various kinds of data, mined from the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, which is used for drone strikes in nations where Australia is not meant to be at war.

‘Our Quaker peace testimony from 1661 says “We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretence whatsoever”.’ says Bayes.

Grandmother of five, Dawn Joyce said “This is sovereign indigenous land yet the US claim that all their bases are US soil. I support the claim of the Arrernte people who did not agree to this base being placed on their sacred lands”.

The action is one of a series marking the 50th anniversary of the secret US military facility at Pine Gap. Groups are advocating that it is time for the base to be closed.

Last year the Grannies appeared at the entrance to a military training area at Shoalwater Bay, outside of Rockhampton, during the largest US/Australian joint military exercise in history.

Quaker Grannies last year at Shoalwater Bay. From Left: Dawn Joyce, Jo Valentine, Helen Bayes. Photo: David Bradbury

Professor Richard Tanter from the Nautilus Institute will be present in Alice Springs for the Independent and Peaceful Australian Network (IPAN) Conference (29 September to 2 October).

He points out that from China’s perspective, the US-Australian military alliance is likely to raise the supposition that “Australia is not so much hosting US military bases, but is becoming a virtual American base in its own right”.

Anti-militarism advocates at Pine Gap this week are not the only ones who have been trying to raise these concerns. Malcolm Fraser wrote a book not long before his death called Dangerous Allies, which argues that the time when it was in our strategic interest to have a strong military relationship with the US is over, and that now Australia would be better off with a more independent foreign policy.

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