New Permanent US Military Presence On Australian Soil – ‘Biggest Operational Addition To Alliance Since 1980s’

Rudd mum on US troop boost, takes aim at Greens (ABC News, Nov. 12, 2011):

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has refused to give details of the extra military ties expected to be announced when US president Barack Obama visits Darwin next week.

Media reports suggest Mr Obama will announce the US will begin rotating Marines through a base in Darwin, with a new permanent presence on Australian soil.

Mr Rudd was asked today if he would confirm the report and he was very diplomatic in his response, but less so in comments directed at the Greens who have suggested any decision to boost US troop numbers should be put before Parliament.

Australia and the US have been working together for a year on ways to boost military cooperation.

They want to bring in more US troops to strategic areas including Darwin, as well as increase the number of joint exercises and the amount of training.

Mr Obama will announce the details during his visit. Defence Minister Stephen Smith has called it the biggest operational addition to the alliance since the 1980s.

But Mr Rudd was tight-lipped when questioned about the deal on the sidelines of talks leading up to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hawaii.

“It’s important to await for the president to visit Australia and for the president, together with the Prime Minister, to confirm what further defence cooperation arrangements we may have planned between the two countries,” he said.

Mr Rudd would not say if China has been advised about the change or confirm reports that US Marines will be stationed at Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

“It has always made national security sense to have a strong strategic alliance with the United States,” he said.
Gloves off

While Mr Rudd zipped it on the US base speculation, he unloaded on the Greens who want Parliament to consider any plan to boost troop numbers in Australia.

“The Green party does not direct Australian national security policy. The Green party does not direct Australia foreign policy,” he said.

“These matters are matters of fundamental national interest in which we, as the Australian Government, engage in the deepest analysis and consideration and take decisions in the national interest.

“I believe that is the right course of action and the one that has been pursued by the Australian Government under the leadership of the Prime Minister.”

The gloves were also clearly off too with regard to Tony Abbott.

Mr Rudd was asked about the Opposition Leader’s suggestion that Australia should not contribute to an IMF bailout in Europe.

Mr Abbott has since said Australia should not shirk its international responsibilities.

“I believe Mr Abbott is a policy risk for the country. Period. And I don’t simply make that observation randomly. I would not say that about all senior Liberal leaders,” Mr Rudd said.

“I do make it about him because this is a person who rapidly and readily changes his mind from one day to the next depending on who he’s with and, apparently, what piece of public opinion poll research he’s read.”
Strong messages

Just about everything Mr Rudd says these days is analysed to within an inch of its life, but his criticisms of both the Greens and Mr Abbott are interesting and sounded very much like a prime minister.

Internationally they are important statements, as they send strong messages to our allies and partners about the Australian Government’s firm position on both issues.

Domestically though, the twin attacks could win him brownie points with Labor backbenchers who are uncomfortable with Labor’s alliance with the Greens, and those who think he may not have Mr Abbott’s measure.

But Mr Rudd clearly enjoys the international stage and he was talking up the prospects of this weekend’s APEC conference and the expectation that nine of the 21 member countries are soon to agree on a blueprint for further trade cooperation.

“This is an important exercise which is the product of Australian diplomacy, by-and-large more than 20 years ago under Australian Labor government predecessors, in particular under Labor prime minister Hawke,” he said.

“These economies are highly significant for Australia. We are also, if you did the numbers, have in Australia something like a benefit of $20,000 per year as a result of our trade with the APEC economies.

“This is a significant region for the future of the Australian economy and for Australian jobs.”

Mr Rudd met US secretary of state Hillary Clinton for a one-on-one chat to detail next week’s presidential visit.

He says Ms Clinton gave an important speech this morning in Honolulu, outlining America’s future vision.

“What she said very clearly was that in the future, if and when you see the draw-down occur both in Afghanistan and in Iraq, that any military resources released by that should be further deployed elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“I simply draw your attention to what is contained in her important speech today.”

Mr Obama is expected to arrive in Hawaii tomorrow night to host trade reform talks. When that is over he will jet off to Australia.

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