The Guardian • Issue #2098

Pine Gap on red alert

Part two

Scott Ludlam visits Pine Gap.

Scott Ludlam visits Pine Gap. Photo: Greens MPs – (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In October 1973, US bases in Australia were put on ‘red alert’ in case of a nuclear war. The USA did not bother informing the Australian Prime Minister. In part two of a series, Caiden Bartholemew explains what this reveals about US operations in Australia.

Part one Guardian #2097 06-05-2024


Given Whitlam’s attitudes towards nationalisation, world socialism, and American secret military operations within Australia, it is unsurprising that the US had a hostile view of Australia’s Prime Minister. Brian Toohey and former member of the US State Department William Blum, among others, have alleged that foreign involvement in the 1975 dismissal of Whitlam extended beyond the Royals. In his book Killing Hope, Blum notes that both major opposition parties, the National Country Party and the Liberal Party, received CIA funding, as admitted by CIA officers such as Victor Marchetti.

At the time, Whitlam responded to these allegations by demanding a list of CIA operatives in Australia, which soured relations further. Kerr received frequent briefings from Australian intelligence agencies, which continued to receive instructions from Washington.

Kerr had been involved with CIA fronts for many years, as noted by Blum and Toohey. He was a prominent member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, which was tied to the CIA’s Congress for Cultural Freedom. He also founded Lawasia (or Law Asia), an organisation of lawyers funded by the Asia Foundation, an anti-communist CIA front with representatives in all major Asian capitals. Other CIA operations had a huge presence in Australia, most notably the scandal-plagued Nugan Hand Merchant Bank of Sydney. The Nixon administration also appointed Marshall Green, a key figure in CIA coups in Indonesia and Greece, as ambassador to Australia. Christopher Boyce, an American involved in communications between CIA headquarters in Virigina and military facilities in Australia, reported that the CIA considered Kerr “our man.” Allegations have also been made that the CIA bugged Parliament at this time.

Marchetti, who had helped establish Pine Gap, has stated that “a kind of Chile was set in motion,” drawing connections between the coup that overthrew Allende and the dismissal of Whitlam. Whether the CIA was involved in the removal of Whitlam or not, the results remain the same. Riding on an unprecedented media campaign from the Murdoch Press, Fraser retained office. One of his first actions was to end Whitlam’s move towards nationalisation, instead making it even easier for foreign corporations to obtain mining licences. Since the dismissal, no Australian PM has challenged the secrecy of American operations at Pine Gap or beyond.

Australia has continued to play the role of America’s imperialist lapdog. Australians are arrested and threatened with imprisonment for approaching Pine Gap. Australiwaran journalists are tortured for exposing the international American security state, and Australian veterans are dragged through secret courts for blowing the whistle on war crimes committed as part of America’s campaigns of bloodshed around the world. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis Australia forks over hundreds of billions for submarines that may never come. Pine Gap has gone from aiding the bombing of Cambodia to allegedly aiding the bombing of Gaza.

AUKUS exposes Australia’s continued commitment to the American and British war machine. The support of both major parties for political and military aid to Israel reveals that the only lesson learned from the 1973 red alert scandal, which also arose from Israeli military actions, has been to remain silent. Australians must remember our brief attempt at independence under Whitlam. We must remember who our ‘allies’ really are.

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