Military bases in Australia

Policy approved 11 November 2008 by National Council


MAPW opposes any base or facility in Australia playing any role in preparation for and conduct of nuclear war, or being used for offensive military operations.

MAPW opposes the US Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system and any Australian involvement in it.

MAPW Australia is disturbed at the presence of military bases in Australia when their activities are not open to scrutiny by the Australian parliament.

Therefore MAPW urges that:

  • Military bases in Australia should be used only for purely defensive purposes and the strengthening of international security;
  • Australia’s participation in the US Ballistic Missile Defence system should cease.
  • Australia reviews the functions of foreign and joint military bases in Australia. Information on the functions and control of these bases should be open to parliamentary scrutiny. 


Outcomes of war:
Modern warfare generally leads to large-scale destruction of life, health and the infrastructure required for the delivery of services, particularly health care. As joint US bases have played an important role in recent US-led wars, Australia is complicit in the resultant human suffering.

The presence of foreign and joint bases on Australian soil increases the extent to which Australia is identified with the military goals and actions of our major ally. This is very likely to increase our profile as a target for attack, either by terrorists or by enemy nations.

Participation in Ballistic Missile Defence:
Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) aims to provide a shield to detect and destroy incoming weapons, particularly nuclear weapons. Behind this shield the nation with BMD would then be able to fire its own nuclear arsenal at an enemy. The US is the only country known to be developing BMD. BMD is a misnomer as the program is not strictly defensive but an instrument of offensive warfare.

While there are doubts as to whether the technology will work as planned, greater danger lies in the sense of invulnerability afforded to the nation developing BMD, and the response of other nations that feel threatened as a result. This response is likely to include an increase in the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles, possibly leading to renewed arms races. BMD threatens the delicate existing prospects for nuclear disarmament, thus perpetuating the world’s most destructive weapons and increasing the risk that they will be used.

Concerns have repeatedly been raised that BMD may be technically and economically unfeasible. However, if it were to be successfully deployed and used, there could be significant adverse effects from the fallout associated with any intercepted missile. This could occur over populated or environmentally fragile areas1.

Together with other ground satellite stations in the UK, Greenland and Alaska, the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap near Alice Springs is an integral part of the US BMD system.

Secrecy, and possibly overshadowing of Australian interests, at Joint Bases:

As planning and decision making in relation to military operations carry grave implications for human health and welfare, it is essential that the perceived interests of our ally do not overshadow the interests of Australians and the wider global community.

Most activities at the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap have been kept secret from the Australian public and even Australian parliamentarians. Details of the US presence at this facility are classified2.

Australian parliamentarians stated to the 1999 Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties that they were not permitted the same access to information relating to Pine Gap as members of the US Congress. They are therefore unable to assess the extent to which the facility enhances or undermines the security and welfare of Australians. This is not in the best interests of Australians.

Indigenous land ownership:
There is emerging evidence that Aboriginal peoples living on their traditional lands may have improved health outcomes compared to others of comparable socio-economic status3. There are multiple determinants of health outcomes, but MAPW notes the potential adverse health effects of military bases on Aboriginal lands through both psycho-social and biological mechanisms.

Also refer to:
MAPW Submission: Inquiry into Australia’s Defence Relations with the United States. 20 April 2004.
MAPW Fact File: Understanding US Missile Defence in Detail. May 2002.
MAPW Briefing Paper: US Missile Defence – son of star wars: oversexed-up, overpriced, over here? July 2004.
Trilateral initiative to stop Missile Defence for the health of the people of Australia, Denmark/Greenland and UK. Security Alert, October 2002.
Vision for 2020, US Space Command, 1996.


1 FY2002 Annual report to the Pentagon from the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation programs for the DoD in the United States.

2 Australia’s Defence Relations with the United States. Inquiry Report. House of Representatives Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Canberra 2006.

3 Rowley KG, O’Deai K, Anderson I, McDermott R, Saraswati K, Tilmouth R, Roberts I, Fitz J, Wang Z, Jenkins A, Best JD, Wang Z, Brown A. Lower than expected morbidity and mortality for an Australian Aboriginal population: 10-year follow-up in a decentralised community. Med J Aust 2008; 188 (5): 283-287