From the 1960s onwards a strong movement against US military bases developed in Australia. Peace organisations, unions, political parties, church organisations, solidarity groups and indigenous movements contributed to a growing awareness of the many US bases and associated intelligence facilities in Australia and the region.
In the 1970s attention was focused on the North West Cape in the north of Western Australia, a naval communications base mothballed in the 90's and then reopened when the US began its offensives in Iraq and Afghanistan. A long bus convoy across the continent to the US base brought the issue to public attention. In 1981 a National Peace Seminar in Alice Springs attracted over 100 participants and placed the bases issue firmly on the agenda of the peace movement.
The women's movement also played an important role. Inspired by the UK Greenham Common peace camp, the Women for Survival Peace Camp at Pine Gap US satellite spy base in 1983 attracted over 700 women, and was the first action at the base to result in mass arrests and to capture national attention. In 1985, Women for Survival went on to establish a protest camp at Cockburn Sound, WA. The trial of the US spy Christopher Boyce in 1977, public disclosures by senior ex-CIA employees, and tireless research by anti-bases activists provided indisputable evidence of the role of organizations such as the CIA and America's National Security Agency in the functioning of the US bases.
The Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition (AABCC) was formally launched in December 1986 at a national conference attended by over 250 activists. A secretariat was set up in Melbourne, which operated till the demonstration at Pine Gap in 1987. The secretariat then moved to Sydney and has remained there ever since.
The AABCC is committed to writing, speaking and acting for peace and justice, using lectures, meetings, leaflets, submissions, card campaigns, lobbying, non-violent direct action and any other form of action appropriate for particular campaigns.
The AABCC recognises that the starting point of our struggle is the recognition of the sovereignty of the original inhabitants of this land, the Aboriginal people, and respect for Aboriginal elders past and present. The AABCC supports their fight for land rights, compensation and self-determination.
The AABCC has organised many demonstrations at US military facilities: at Pine Gap (1987 and 2002), Nurrungar (1989, 1991 and 1993), North West Cape (1988). It has actively campaigned against other US military facilities in Australia, including Smithfield in NSW; the Watsonia spy network, which includes facilities at Cabarlah (Qld), Shoal Bay (NSW), Pearce (ACT), Harman (ACT) and Victoria Barracks; the Omega Station in Victoria; seismic monitoring stations, portable geodetic posts, NASA tracking stations; and more recently new training bases established in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The AABCC organized the Notice to Quit demonstration in Canberra in 1995, held to draw attention to the fact that the lease on Pine Gap was up for renewal.
Campaigns against military exercises
The AABCC has organised protest actions against joint US-Australian military exercises held in Australia including the Kangaroo series, Tandem Thrust (1997) and most recently Talisman Sabre (2005, 2007 and 2009). Asia-Pacific region.
The AABCC, in recognition of the struggle for independence and self-determination of peoples in the region, has developed links with organisations in the Philippines, South Korea, Bougainville, Belau, West Papua, Kanaky and throughout the Asia-Pacific region. More recently links have been developed with Hawaii and Guahan (Guam) in the western Pacific.
Over Christmas 1988-9, the AABCC sent a large delegation of Australian activists to the Philippines to participate in a series of demonstrations against US bases in the Philippines.
In 2005, the AABCC brought a delegation of indigenous Hawai'ians to Australia. In 2007 a delegation of indigenous Chamorro from Guahan (Guam) were brought to Australia, with Quaker funding, for an extensive speaking tour. The AABCC initiated a return visit of one of the Chamorro delegates, Dr Lisa Natividad, to take part in the 2010 Sydney conference of the International Peace Research Association. In 2009 the AABCC brought American Judith Le Blanc, indigenous Caddo woman and Organising Co-ordinator of United for Peace and Justice, to Australia for a speaking tour and to participate in protests against the Talisman Sabre war games.
In 2007 the AABCC was an active participant in the process leading to the Quito (Ecuador) Conference, attended by over 400 delegates, which established the International Network Against Foreign Military Bases. The AABCC continues its research into the militarisation of the Asia-Pacific region and solidarity with peace groups across the region, particularly in Guam, Hawaii, Korea and Japan.
Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Recognising that the role the US base at Pine Gap played in the attacks on Iraq was far more significant than the small number of Australian land and sea forces deployed, in 1991 the AABCC was the Australian co-ordinating body for the actions across Australia against the first Gulf War, and then a major contributor to the coalition built to oppose the second attack on and invasion of Iraq. The AABCC has also contributed to the on-going campaigns against Australian military involvement in Afghanistan and for an end to that brutal war. Arms trade
In November 1991 the AABCC was a major player in the demonstrations against AIDEX, a giant arms bazaar held in Canberra. No further arms bazaars like this were held in Australia for another 17 years.
In 2008 the AABCC participated in plans for protests to stop APDSE, an arms fair to be held in Adelaide. The event was cancelled. Campaigns against military spending
The AABCC set up the Blue Paper Project which was a response (in 1994 and 2000) to Australian Government white papers on military policy and spending. In 2008 we began a campaign to encourage peace, environmental, community and other groups to send submissions to the government's inquiry into its defence policies leading to its new Defence White Paper.
By 2009 over 70 percent of the Australian people wanted less money spent by the government on the military. Missile defence
In recent years, the AABCC has adopted the campaign against Star Wars (missile defence) as a major focus of its work and one of its members is the Australian representative on the Board of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. Militarisation
The AABCC campaigns against the militarisation of Australian society and the introduction of new US bases on Australian soil. In 2007 AABCC members wrote and produced a 9-part program on the militarisation of Australia which was broadcast on community radio stations.